National Foster Care Month (May 2015)


National Foster Care In 2013 there were an estimated 402,378 children in foster care (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System). A child can be removed from the home and placed in foster care for a variety of reasons including abuse or neglect, parent-child conflict, and the presence of serious physical or behavioral problems in the child that cannot be addressed in the home. This year marks the 27th anniversary of the observance of May as National Foster Care Month. Originally envisioned by the National Foster Parent Association as a way of recognizing the contributions of foster caregivers, National Foster Care Month expanded into a campaign that draws attention to the needs of children in foster care, spotlights the importance of permanency for them, and celebrates the contributions of those who work to help children in foster care.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has compiled a list of helpful resources for birth parents, child welfare and mental health professionals, and youth that address the needs of children and adolescents in foster care including mental health treatment, permanency planning, and the transition to independence for older foster care youth.


Page Contents

NCTSN Resources

Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System: A Guide for Child Welfare Staff (2011) (PDF)
Discusses how trauma can affect parents, how caseworkers can use a trauma-informed approach to better help and understand birth parents who have histories of trauma, and how child welfare professionals can protect themselves from secondary traumatic stress. Part of a series of four fact sheets addressing trauma in parents who are involved in the child welfare system.

Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys (2011) (PDF)
Provides guidance to judges and attorneys on how to recognize trauma and its effects in birth parents, how trauma can affect judges and attorneys who work in family court, and how attorneys and judges can use a trauma-informed approach when working with birth parents. Part of a series of four fact sheets addressing trauma in parents who are involved in the child welfare system.

Birth Parents with Trauma Histories in the Child Welfare System: A Guide for Parents (2012) (PDF) 
Offers information and advice to birth parents who have a history of trauma in their lives: What is trauma? How can trauma affect you and your parenting? What can you do? How can therapy help? Part of a series of four fact sheets addressing trauma in parents who are involved in the child welfare system.

Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System: A Guide for Resource Parents (2011) (PDF)
Provides suggestions for resource (foster) parents on how to recognize the role that trauma may have played in the birth parents' lives, and on how to more effectively support and work with the entire family. Part of a series of five fact sheets addressing trauma in parents who are involved in the child welfare system. 

Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: A Workshop for Resource Parents (2010) (PPT)
Helps resource (foster) parents understand the link between trauma and their children's behavior, feelings, and attitudes—some of which can sometimes seem baffling. Package includes a Facilitator's Guide, a Participant Handbook, and a Slide Kit. The curriculum guidelines were developed by the Resource Parent Work Group of the NCTSN Child Welfare Committee with the support of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The group is composed of US experts in mental health and child welfare fields who work with child trauma victims in foster care.

Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit (2013) (PDF) (PPT) (Audio)  
Helps teach child welfare workers the basic knowledge, skills, and values they should apply when working with traumatized children in the child welfare system. Also teaches how to apply this knowledge to support children's safety, permanency, and well-being—using case analysis and corresponding interventions tailored for the children and their biological and resource (foster) families. Includes a train-the-trainer manual.

Helping Children in the Child Welfare System Heal from Trauma: A Systems Integration Approach (2005) (PDF)
A report on the results of a survey conducted among child-serving agencies in a number of states. The survey assessed how the agencies gathered, assessed, and shared trauma-related information; and the basic training that staff received on child trauma. The goals were to determine: 1) how various service systems communicate with each other about trauma among the children they serve and 2) whether the staff further traumatized the child or promoted the child’s healing after a traumatic event.

Service Systems Speaker Series: Building Trauma Informed Systems and Practices for Children and Families in the Child Welfare System (2008)  
Explains the elements of a trauma-informed child welfare system. Discusses realistic and practical actions that can be taken to improve the system for the children, the families, and the child welfare workforce.

Zero to Six Child Welfare Speaker Series (2012)
A series that is a collaboration between the Early Trauma Treatment Network (ETTN) and NCTSN’s Zero to Six Collaborative Group. Addresses the complex issues surrounding—and the critical needs of —young traumatized children in the child welfare system and those who care for them. Topics include cultural issues, impact of trauma, attachment issues, medical issues, transition issues, and therapeutic interventions. 

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For Birth Parents

Rise [Stories by and for Parents Affected by the Child Welfare System]
An organization that works to combat negative stereotypes of families in the child welfare system. Trains parents to write about their experiences with the child welfare system, with the goals of: 1) supporting parents and parent advocacy, and 2) guiding child welfare practitioners and policy makers to become more responsive to the families and communities they serve. Publishes Rise Magazine (online and print), which reaches 15,000 parents and child welfare practitioners nationwide; workbooks designed for parent support groups; and related Spanish-language materials. Website includes advocacy resource materials.

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For Child Welfare Professionals

Casey Family Programs
“The nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system . . . [that works to] provide and improve—and ultimately prevent the need for—foster care in the United States.”

  • Improving Family Foster Care (2005) (PDF)
    A fact sheet on the findings from the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study, which studied the outcomes of 659 youth who had been placed in foster care as children (called “alumni”) by three agencies between 1988 and 1998. The study measured educational achievement, personal income, and other major outcomes as adults; and made recommendations for improving the lives of youth in foster care.
  • Improving Outcomes for Older Youth in Foster Care (2008) (PDF)
    A white paper on older youth in foster care that explores two issues: Are the current policies the right policies for youth leaving foster care? Are these policies and practices meeting the needs of these youth? Recommends policy changes that would help these youth attain greater success in preparing for adulthood. 
  • Mental Health, Ethnicity, Sexuality, and Spirituality Among Youth in Foster Care (2007) (PDF)
    A report on the results of a study of 188 youth receiving foster care services from Casey Family Programs on spirituality, ethnic and gender identity, and sexual orientation. Offers policy, program, and research recommendations.
  • Mental Health Practices in Child Welfare Guidelines Toolkit (2009) (PDF)
    Provides guidelines, tools, and resources for child welfare professionals on mental health screening and assessment, psychosocial interventions, psychopharmacological interventions, and parent engagement and support.

Children's Trauma Institute Treatment and Services Adaption Center
The Children's Trauma Institute (CTI), a collaboration between the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) and the New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS), operates an NCTSN Treatment and Service Adaptation (TSA) Center that is dedicated to developing, adapting, evaluating, and disseminating evidence-based trauma-informed interventions for use with child welfare populations.

  • Easing Foster Care Placement Practice Brief (2012) (PDF)
    Practice brief for child welfare providers and other stakeholders seeking to develop trauma-informed practice.  This brief focuses on easing children’s transitions into foster care.

Foster Family-based Treatment Association
A leading advocate (composed of 400+ Treatment Foster Care agencies in the US and Canada) for the development, evaluation, recognition, and expansion of Treatment Foster Care.

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For Educators

National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association
The mission of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, together with its state and local members, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused or neglected child can be safe, establish permanence and have the opportunity to thrive.

  • Educational Advocacy Resources
    Provides lists of publications and links to websites.  The resources will help educators understand and address the needs of foster children in the foster care system.    

National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention
The Resource Center offers resources and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, and local communities to come together to prevent youth violence.

For Foster Families 

Children Welfare Information Gateway
Child Welfare Information Gateway connects child welfare and related professionals to comprehensive information and resources to help protect children and strengthen families. We feature the latest on topics from prevention to permanency, including child abuse and neglect, foster care, and adoption.

National Foster Parent Association
The association’s mission is to support foster parents in achieving safety, permanence and well-being for the children and youth in their care.

For Mental Health Professionals 

Casey Family Programs
“The nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system . . . [that works to] provide and improve—and ultimately prevent the need for—foster care in the United States.”

  • Mental Health Care for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care: Review of Research Literature (2006) (PDF)
    A survey of professional literature dealing with the mental health needs of children and adolescents in foster care. Includes major findings gleaned from studies on the provision of and evidence base for mental health care, and on related legal actions taken on behalf of the children. Outlines steps for improving the mental health services delivered to children and youth in foster care.

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For Policy Makers 

Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
The mission of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is to ensure that young people—primarily those between ages 14 and 25—make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood.

  • Policy Tools
    Tools to help young people, political leaders, service professionals, foster and birth families, and other partners get involved with improving policies.

National Governors Association
The National Governors Association (NGA) is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors.


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For Youth 

Casey Family Programs
“The nation’s largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system . . . [that works to] provide and improves—and ultimately prevents the need for—foster care in the United States.”

  • Casey Life Skills
    “A free practice tool and framework for working with youth in foster care [that] assesses independent living skills and provides results instantly.” Contains tools for assessing the types of behaviors and competencies youth need to acquire in order to achieve their long-term goals. Includes customized learning plans to help adolescents in foster care prepare for adulthood, and develop healthy and productive lives.

Foster Club
“FosterClub's mission is to lead the efforts of young people in and from foster care to become connected, educated, inspired and represented so they can realize their personal potential and contribute to a better life for their peers.”

  • Transition Toolkit
    The toolkit is designed to help youth and their team of adult supporters take inventory of your current assets, identify your resources, and map out a plan for the challenges after foster care.

National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections
“A training, technical assistance, and information services organization dedicated to help strengthen the capacity of State, local, Tribal and other publicly administered or supported child welfare agencies to: institutionalize a safety-focused, family-centered, and community-based approach to meet the needs of children, youth and families.”


Preparing for National Foster Care Month 

National Foster Care Month
Provides links to information about foster care. Includes a link to the 2015 Foster Care Month Toolkit, which can be used to plan local activities to observe the month.

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