TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2021
1:45 pm – 3:10 pm Eastern Time
Advancing a National Policy Agenda to Strengthen Child and Family Well-Being: The 2021 CWLA Agenda
In this panel session, presenters will discuss some of the key issues that are helping to shape this year’s CWLA legislative priorities. Number one is the challenge of child poverty, its impact on families, and how we can address it. Presenters will also focus on a key priority for families and child development – the need for stronger early childhood education and child care services. Finally, presenters will focus on racial inequality and the ways that the child welfare system has contributed to that inequality as well as a few first steps Congress can take this year to roll-back past failures and actions.
Presenters: Lawrence Berger, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, School of Social Work and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Erin Robinson, Campaign Manager, Early Childhood Policy, Center for American Progress, Washington, DC; Cheri Williams, Senior Vice President of Domestic Programs, Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids, MI; Bahney Dedolph, Deputy Director, Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, Phoenix, AZ; and Christine James-Brown, President and CEO, CWLA, Washington, DC
TUESDAY, MAY 4, 2021
3:30 pm – 5:10 pm Eastern Time
Supporting and Enhancing Child Welfare Essential Worker Performance
In this panel session, presenters will share strategies used to support employees during the pandemic, including effective and open communication, maintaining the continuity of work and teamwork, recognizing secondary traumatic stress, and utilizing self-care approaches.
They also will discuss technological tools that have revolutionized child welfare case management for workers, supervisors, and families, highlighting how leveraging mobile solutions can help maintain continuity of services, produce high-quality child welfare services, and increase job satisfaction in the workforce.
Learning approaches utilized to develop and enhance skills and best practices for workers and staff providing Virtual Family Time will be explored. Strategies include pre-visit planning discussions and post-visit debriefers to strengthen parent engagement and guidance on how to build a foundation for collaboration between parents and caregivers. These enhancements can improve the quality of Virtual Family Time, which often correlates with faster and more stable reunification.
Presenters: Nancy Carre-Lee, Deputy Director of Child Protection and Permanency Operations, New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Trenton, NJ; Sonia Greene, PhD, MIS, MBA, Family Services IT Portfolio Technical Instructional Administrator Supervisor, Virginia Department of Social Services, Richmond, VA; Michael W. Wagner, LMSW, Senior Director of Permanency, Children’s Aid, Bronx, NY; and Emiko A. Tajima, Executive Director and Associate Professor, Partners for Our Children, University of Washington School of Social Work, Seattle, WA
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2021
12:00 pm – 1:40 pm Eastern Time
Utilizing Innovative Resources and Tools to Keep Everyone Engaged, Safe, and Informed
Transparent, comprehensive approaches have been developed to communicate with staff, clients, and the broader community during the pandemic. These inclusive efforts to both receive and provide information have been successful in engaging stakeholders and enhancing agencies’ service work in countless ways. They have been integrated into agencies’ daily activities.
Omni Inventive Care’s COVID-19 Playbook was created to support and provide policies for employees to adhere to during the pandemic to mitigate client and staff infection. Ten protocols were created specifically regarding COVID-19, and the Playbook continues to be an ongoing effort. As recommendations change according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Playbook regularly is updated to stay one step ahead of the next uptick in cases. Webinars and competency quizzes, researched through the CDC, were developed for all staff to complete. Making sure that staff implement and understand the protocols was a priority.
Kingsley House provides workforce development to move families toward economic security through education and training, which in turn can lead to child welfare careers that pay livable wages and supply benefits. Kingsley House’s collaborative approach in these efforts engages community partners committed to helping families thrive. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the racial inequities and disparities that persist in so many communities, focus group session have been held by the community collaborative to develop a robust advocacy agenda focused on racial equity in the areas of health, education, and policy, among others. The community partners understand that collaboration is critical and necessary in developing long-term solutions.
Service innovations have been developed to adapt community-based case management and reunification services, including in-home safety assessments, for children who are unaccompanied and their caregivers. New protocols utilize the expertise of health and safety experts to provide background screenings and supportive education to caregivers. The implementation of COVID-19-conscious practices was successful with the support of staff who engaged in collaborative activities to hear every voice and were flexible with their client engagement approaches. Presenters will discuss these innovations.
Presenters: Ken Mysogland, Bureau Chief of External Affairs, Connecticut Department of Children and Families, Hartford, CT; Arnel Cosey, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Community Services, Kingsley House, New Orleans, LA; Dena Siedenburg, Director of Nursing, Omni Inventive Care, Omaha, NE; and Virginia Fitchett, Associate Director for Family Reunification, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore, MD
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2021
2:00 pm – 3:40 pm Eastern Time
Transitioning to Virtual Strategies to Ensure Continued Service Delivery and Supports for Special Populations
This panel session will explore various technological tools that have been shown to be effective in supporting children and families, as well as the barriers encountered in working with Native populations.
Panelists will discuss how the distribution of laptop computers and mobile phones to children in Tribal foster care allowed parents and children to engage in virtual visits. Technological tools also enabled court attendance, schooling, and parenting education – both one-on-one and group-facilitated training – but issues of accessibility to the internet in rural areas, as well as training to understand and use the virtual technology, presented challenges.
International Social Service-USA developed a set of guidance materials for the use of remote assessments in permanency planning for children in foster care – particularly those with family outside of the United States. The guidelines and emerging best practices are in five main areas of remote assessments, including: (1) how to determine when virtual assessments are feasible; (2) developing protocols for agencies to protect staff and clients; (3) conducting virtual assessments with appropriate modifications; (4) conducting safe, in-person follow ups; and (5) completing comprehensive reports. These guidelines can reduce inequity in access to family reunification for children with international connections.
This past year, Children and Family Futures shifted their work with families involved in child welfare and affected by substance use disorders to a virtual environment. Panelists will discuss the research supporting family-centered case plans; provide concrete ways to actively involve the parent, child, and family support system in both case planning and monitoring in a virtual environment; and explain which elements should be included in the family-centered case plan that reflects the strengths, challenges, and needs of all family members.
The Father Center of New Jersey adapted service delivery focused on innovative programs and efforts to support men in meeting their responsibilities of fatherhood by using digital check-in kiosks, issuing smartphones to all direct support staff, and converting the agency’s main phone line to a “hotline.” In-person anger management classes were successfully converted to virtual learning classes in a few short months. Service innovations of virtual case management and a hybridized approach have proven successful, as the agency has surpassed its prior year performance and exceeded annual performance goals.
Presenters: Carter W. Patterson, Program Director, The Father Center of New Jersey, Trenton, NJ; Angela Connor, Director of Foster Care & Adoptions, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Board Member, CWLA, Stonewall, OK; Elaine Weisman, Program and Training Manager, International Social Service-USA, Baltimore, MD; and Kirstin Frescoln, Senior Program Associate, Children and Family Futures, Lake Forest, CA
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5, 2021
4:00 pm – 5:40 pm Eastern Time
Transitioning to Virtual Strategies to Ensure Continued Service Delivery and Supports for Special Service Areas
In this session, panelists will discuss an older child adoption program that the Barker Adoption Foundation is utilizing to break interjurisdictional barriers and provide opportunities for permanency when local resources in the child’s state are limited or not available. The agency has developed 26 state partnerships as their virtual training platforms were made available for caseworkers nationwide to learn how to execute interstate placements for older children who are the most vulnerable. Families also are encouraged to attend virtual workshops to learn more about the process to provide permanency for children in different geographic locations.
Panelists also will explore modification of agency services for their kinship care program to protect the health and safety of their families. The program immediately conducted a needs assessment survey and identified a lack of technology as a primary issue. Working with local community partners, they were able to provide laptops, tablets, and internet/WiFi so children and caregivers could access educational resources and support services. The agency staff supported access to home schooling and food services and modified their psycho education classes for caregivers to be presented virtually. They also noted a silver lining: With virtual presentations, they now are able to provide services to more kinship families across the state, including in rural areas.
Panelists will discuss the development of a service innovation to provide continuing education and post-adoption support to families virtually. Staff participated in adoption competency training and identified it as an opportunity for replication. The virtual psychoeducational training for families who are post-adoption is followed by four weeks of support groups in which families can share their experiences with each other. The agency serves families throughout the United States. The use of virtual technology allowed the agency to be more inclusive and invite all their post-adoptive families to participate in training. It provided equal access to those who live in all areas of the country.
Panelists will highlight the adjustment of USCRI’s home study and post-release services for children who are unaccompanied. The organization’s services were shifted to be almost completely remote, with home visits being conducted via video calls. They also created more digital resources and conducted increased outreach and advocacy with service providers and school districts. The agency was able to identify improved outcomes related to school enrollment and legal representation for the children in their care who were unaccompanied. They also continued to ensure that these children were released to appropriate placements using a blend of in-person and remote home studies, helping decrease their length of stay in federal custody.
Presenters: Saara McEachnie, Director of Domestic Adoption Programs, Barker Adoption Foundation, Bethesda, MD; Bacall Hincks, Clinical Program Director, Dahlia’s Hope, Salt Lake City, UT; Julie Bowman, Social Services Supervisor, Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Fairfax, VA; and Matt Haygood, Director of Children’s Services, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Arlington, VA
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2021
12:00 pm – 1:40 pm Eastern Time
Transitioning to Virtual Strategies to Ensure Continued Service Delivery and Supports – Behavioral Health
In this panel session, presenters will discuss a treatment foster care program’s development of a virtual social group to support the adolescent youth in care. The purpose of the group was focused on addressing the developmental needs of the youth and counteracting the struggles and challenges faced by this population because of the pandemic. Many were dealing with isolation, anxiety, and heightened depression during what is typically a highly social developmental stage. The group serves as a way for adolescent members to safely connect and socialize and provides a source of consistency and stability for youth during uncertain times.
The panelists also will discuss providing comprehensive and effective teletherapy that takes advantage of the benefits of technology. Virtual therapy playrooms are one way to actively and effectively connect with children who are challenging to engage remotely. These virtual playrooms can be individualized for the child so that developmental needs as well as cultural and racial identities can be addressed. Virtual playrooms specifically designed to meet the complex needs of children in foster care will serve as a much-needed tool to assist this particularly high-risk and all too often overlooked subset of the population.
An expanded and broadened reach of highly impactful mental health education and suicide prevention service for youth will be discussed. The NAN Project shifted to virtual by developing workshops and peer/mentor stories to share an individual’s struggle with mental illness and how they found a path to recovery by accessing supports and learning coping strategies. They also created professional development trainings for teachers and parents on self-care, building resiliency, and how to better support youths’ mental health.
Virtual therapy can be provided to children and their families through use of creativity, play, and movement. The panelists will discuss these strategies, which can be used to address various areas of family needs based on resource availability, cultural background, and other preferred methods of interaction with therapist and one another. Establishing flexibility with regard to communication and identifying new strategies that incorporate sensory experiences can successfully support and engage children and parents to achieve family goals—and help maintain or improve use of coping mechanisms needed to manage challenges associated with the ongoing public health crisis.
Presenters: Latoya Lowe, Social Worker, The Martin Pollak Project, Inc., Baltimore, MD; Amy Morgenstern, Ph.D., Director of Psychology, JCCA, Brooklyn, NY; Jake Cavanaugh, Executive Director/Co-Founder, The NAN Project, Lexington, MA; and Carolina Belmares Ortega, Therapist, All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center, Albuquerque, NM
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 2021
2:00 pm – 3:40 pm Eastern Time
Transitioning to Virtual Strategies to Ensure Continued Service Delivery and Supports – Legal
The Infant-Toddler Court Program (ITCP), a national initiative that addresses gaps in systems coordination, has transitioned to virtual platforms for hearings, family team meetings, mental health services, dyadic services, and parent-child contact. Multiple strategies were developed with community support for technology access for families and resource caregivers. Data has been collected from ten evaluation sites across several states to track the progress of each family. Additional virtual supports were launched, including virtual visits, learning collaboratives, and support from content experts in the areas of infant mental health and substance use disorders.
A local child advocacy center was charged with responding to all reports of child sexual abuse. The agency developed creative and effective alternatives for working with children and families, using a combination of in-person and virtual approaches. Given the high volume of children seen daily, the agency had to adjust their intake, forensic interview, family advocacy, medical exams, and therapeutic services while still coordinating the highly collaborative nature of the multidisciplinary program model. The agency is co-located with the police, the public child welfare agency, and medical professionals from a pediatric hospital. Panelists will discuss this collaboration.
The pandemic has made widespread impacts on the child welfare legal system – ranging from how attorneys interact with clients, to remote hearings, to increased use of stipulated agreements among parties. Dependency courts had to maintain court schedules and transition to remote technology to prevent widespread delays in child welfare cases. Panelists will discuss a survey that evaluated the impact of this transition. The resulting data shows some very interesting trends across the country on topics such as visitation, termination of parent rights timelines, and remote hearings. Informed decisions about how to use remote technology in legal proceedings in the future should focus on how to ensure that children and parents’ rights are best protected.
Presenters: Cecilia Casanueva, Senior Public Health Researcher, RTI International, Cary, NC; Paul DiLorenzo, ACSW, MLSP, Interim Executive Director, Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, Philadelphia, PA; Prudence Beidler Carr, Director, American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, Washington, DC; and Rhonda Serrano, Senior Attorney, ABA Center on Children and the Law, Washington, DC