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May is National Foster Care Month



The Facts

  • Nationally there are over 423,000 children and youth in foster care. Over half have a case plan goal of reunification with their parents or primary caregiver.
  • Juvenile and family court systems can influence whether children are reunified with their families or reenter care. CASA Volunteers advocate for the child's best interests and family reunification, when that can be safely achieved, is the #1 priority.
  • Meaningful and appropriate involvement of youth in their court hearings and case planning greatly benefits all participants and leads to more favorable outcomes for families.
  • Competent legal representation for parents is associated with the achievement of timely reunification.
  • A strong support system of professionals and family can help young people address the challenges they face during their transition to adulthood. Virtual engagement tools can be used to establish and maintain that support system by enhancing connectedness for all involved.
  • In addition to supporting brain development, encouraging young people to be active participants in planning their own lives supports the development of leadership skills, improves self-esteem, and helps form critical social connections.

Goals of Foster Care Month

  • Raise awareness of the need to invest in the lives of children and youth in care.
  • Strengthen the capabilities of 1000's of caregivers opening their hearts and homes to provide stability for children and youth.
  • Advocating for the foster care system to be actively centered on strengthening families.

Child Welfare in the News

Family-Centered Community Change (FCCC), launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (the Foundation), supported local partnerships in three neighborhoods with low economic resources over seven years (2012–19) as they developed more integrated sets of services to help adults and children succeed together in a two-generation approach. This innovative effort sought to bring two-generation strategies into existing place-based comprehensive community initiatives in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas. The Foundation also provided training and technical assistance in the third year of the effort to help the community partnerships to incorporate principles of racial and ethnic equity and inclusion. The Urban Institute conducted a formative evaluation of this effort that included qualitative data collection, descriptive analysis of program data, and a cost study.

By the end of 2019, community grantees had enhanced their partnerships and developed new coaching and family supports. They also built out the existing single-generation services available to FCCC families. They achieved many of the tenets of integrated two-generation services, though we describe in this report opportunities for deepening and enhancing the work. Tangible legacies of this work include new mutual commitments among partners; new cultures of data sharing; new models of service delivery (e.g., embedding family services within schools); and improvements in the quality of and/or connections to early care and education (ECE) providers.

Adult and family services: A key service across the three FCCC efforts was family coaching, in which coaches helped adults set goals for themselves and often for their children. Coaches then helped connect families with resources and opportunities to meet those goals. Two of the three communities also offered financial coaching. Other services included housing assistance, employment services, adult education and training, and family events. Mental health was one common area of unmet need, and all three communities were challenged in finding appropriate providers. One community succeeded in developing an adult mental health partnership late in the grant period.

Child services: Each community partnership took a different approach to child services. In one community, the lead organization ran high-quality child care centers and neighborhood elementary schools, so it was able to directly integrate family services in those spaces. Another community struggled for many years with the availability and affordability of ECE slots and eventually doubled down on integrating an enhanced service partnership in the local elementary school, focusing on supplementing the services for young school-age children and their families. The third community took a structural approach, improving the quality of community ECE providers so families and their children would have better options available, but it did not provide many direct child services to participating families. Finally, all three communities offered some form of parenting education or home visiting.

Common service challenges: All three communities had to contend with structural inequities, as detailed in Popkin et al. (2019). These inequities included challenges with job quality and availability, transportation, and housing quality and affordability. In addition, although all three community partnerships wanted to orient services to meet adult and family goals, they sometimes found it difficult to put together the right combination of services to meet the wide range of goals families established. They also struggled to secure funding to supplement the FCCC grants. The challenge of the limited supply of quality and affordable ECE options (and in some cases elementary education options)—an issue well documented in child policy research (e.g., Henly and Adams 2018)—sometimes proved to be insurmountable. Individual communities also faced challenges around shortage of adult training slots, difficulty engaging employers, and staff turnover.

Partnership development: Partners needed to overcome traditional organizational boundaries that naturally define independent organizations. Generally, partnerships were strongest when funding was secure, when partners felt invested in the work, when leaders communicated a clear vision and direction, and when staff felt they understood each other’s contributions and roles. Informed by the FCCC experience, the Urban research team developed a framework to characterize partnership integration in two-generation efforts (McDaniel et al. 2021).

Costs: As detailed in a separate report, combining and coordinating adult and child services and developing an infrastructure to support families requires substantial personnel investments (Gold et al. 2021). The Foundation gave communities flexibility in their FCCC grants to be able to build service infrastructure—a cost considered to be “overhead” in traditional funding models but that is necessary to disrupt traditional models.

Lessons:

Communities need to have a deep understanding of the community-level contextual factors that affect families’ opportunities and constraints. Residents and long-established community-serving organizations are experts on many of these contextual challenges and can provide important insights to orient community-based work, alongside a traditional scan of community data indicators.
Identifying key concepts and goals at the outset would help orient future work. Setting out a framework for two-generation efforts that includes not only the types of services, but also the nature of the coordination and alignment that should bring them together, could improve coherency in family experiences.
Despite the emphasis on racial and ethnic equity and inclusion and resources provided by the Foundation, it was difficult for community partnerships to internalize and operationalize key concepts, especially midcourse. Disrupting racist paradigms requires real power-sharing that not merely includes families and communities but centers them in the development of strategies to break their own cycle of intergenerational poverty and gives them the necessary resources and tools to take action.
This type of work has potential stakeholders at multiple organizational levels. The FCCC experience suggests that engaging policymakers and government service providers, individual organizations, and resident families in planning and design may allow for new, creative opportunities to emerge.
Effective partnerships are complex but critical, and they take time to develop, often through trial and error. Determining key elements of partnerships explicitly in a way that all partners are comfortable with—including funding relationships, organizational culture alignment, development infrastructure, communications channels, and other dynamics—will increase the chance of successful, sustained organizational relationships.
It will be important for researchers documenting future efforts to try to understand how families fared as a result of their participation through an outcomes or impact study. Documenting the effectiveness of an intervention helps inform meaningful change efforts and makes the case for continued investment of energy, time, and financial resources. Such evaluation efforts should also be sensitive to the issues raised here, including the context, the framework and goals (including ideally a logic model or well-specified theory of change), and how community members and the various partners can be appropriately respected and involved in the research process so that the work is not extractive.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession, the renewed attention on racial justice, and the turbulent 2020 presidential election occurred after the end of the grant and research period. As pressures from these changes continue and even after they are nominally over, service providers and other stakeholders will want to consider a purposeful approach to deal with social recovery and processing continued trauma rather than returning to business as usual.

Across the United States, interest has grown in two-generation approaches as a strategy for lifting families out of poverty. These approaches vary in the combination of services they offer and their target population, but they all share a common goal of supporting low-income children and their parents simultaneously so entire families can progress together (Aspen Ascend 2014). Despite the growing prominence of two-generation approaches, less is known about their cost and the size of the investment needed to make them successful. Only one published study has estimated the full cost of operating two-generation programs (James Bell Associates 2018). Yet, no study to date has isolated the specific costs associated with bringing together existing single-generation services (i.e., those for parents only and those for children only), building two-generation services, and coordinating interventions for families within a two-generation framework.

This study seeks to address this knowledge gap by estimating the staff labor cost of the two-generation coordination and integration that holds together Family-Centered Community Change (FCCC). Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, FCCC is a two-generation effort that integrated existing single-generation neighborhood services and developed new family-focused services in three service footprints located in Buffalo, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas.

 This study may be useful for multiple audiences. By providing three case studies of the staff labor costs of two-generation service coordination, this research may help other localities and nonprofit service providers in budget planning and resource allocation when organizing their own two-generation efforts. Funders and policymakers, including representatives of state and local governments, interested in supporting similar collaborative work may benefit from understanding the personnel investment necessary to support cross-organizational partnerships and coordinated service delivery. Researchers may also benefit from the findings, which could benchmark future two-generation cost studies.

Cost Estimates

This study isolates and estimates the staff labor costs associated with the connective tissue of two-generation programs, as follows:

Coordinating and integrating existing child services and adult education and training services in a place-based effort: These costs included time staff spent on outreach and enrollment for two-generation programs; leadership, management, and data activities; and development and maintenance of cross-sector partnerships and relationships over the lifetime of the program.
Directly providing services that had an explicit two-generation focus, such as family coaching and family services and events: These services were designed to support the entire family. The community partners built these as part of the two-generation efforts.
Directly providing new single-generation services: These services were created as a result of the FCCC program. However, the study did not include the full cost of directly providing single-generation services that preexisted FCCC, as these were already funded and operating within each community.

Two-generation programs will incur other nonlabor costs in addition to the costs presented in this study. Service providers may also incur nonlabor costs if they helped participants overcome financial barriers, for example, by covering costs like groceries, transportation, or tuition. We excluded nonlabor expenses from this study, considering they are often discretionary, not well tracked, and vary from program to program and across cities. We also think that many community organizations can estimate nonlabor costs reasonably well using local knowledge, while the cost of the staff time required to enhance existing place-based services with a two-generation model is less well known and harder to estimate. The main contribution of this study is helping program planners estimate these costs on the basis of three case studies. Box 1 summarizes the types of costs tracked.

We conducted this study during the sixth and seventh years of FCCC’s seven-year grant period. The two-generation interventions in each community were continuously evolving over the grant period, and core elements of the programming have continued even after the grant period ended. Therefore, the costs represent a snapshot at a point in time after several years of evolution in each two-generation effort. Given the timing of the study, we do not have information about start-up costs.

Two-Generation Costs Tracked in the FCCC Study

Outreach and enrollment: costs related to interactions with the community’s target population to inform, engage, or bring in prospective clients or currently enrolled clients who may or may not be involved in activities.

Coaching: costs related to all forms of coaching, including financial counseling and job coaching, for enrolled adults.

Training and adult education: costs related to the direct provision of any new training or credentialing program established because of FCCC, as well as costs related to coordinating of any existing training or credentialing program.

Child services: costs related to the direct provision of any new child services established because of FCCC, as well as costs related to coordinating any existing educational services for children, including child care, early education and prekindergarten, and auxiliary elementary school services.

Family services: costs related to integrating the parent and child components of FCCC interventions.

Coordination and referrals: costs related to linking clients with services and resources, which may be part of the FCCC partnership or outside it.

Data entry and analysis: costs related to collecting, entering, managing, and analyzing two-generation programmatic data (excludes costs directly related to the evaluation).

Management and supervision: costs related to management and supervision of employees on FCCC activities.

Leadership: costs that shape the organizational and institutional composition of the FCCC effort.

Key Findings

The three communities were different from each other—each represented a distinct approach to two-generation programming with a different number of organizational partners and staff providing services, various levels of service intensity, and different services offered. All three cities had a similar cost of living (Popkin et al. 2019). The number of families served over the entire FCCC grant period also varied by community, though the official enrollment numbers reported here substantially underestimate the total number of individuals and families that received any FCCC service. Therefore, we do not compute or report a per-participant cost. Findings represent three separate case studies and should only be compared across communities to understand which activities were more or less costly, rather than to compare total dollar amounts.

Buffalo’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $120,600 over a three-month period (October 2018–December 2018). The largest proportion of costs came from data activities (23 percent), coaching (18 percent), management (14 percent), and outreach and enrollment (12 percent). The share of costs spent on data activities aligned with Buffalo’s emphasis on refining its data-tracking procedures and using them for management purposes. Buffalo formally enrolled 274 families over the entire grant period.
Columbus’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $104,200 over a three-month period (October–December 2019). Most costs were related to coaching (22 percent), leadership activities (19 percent), child services (16 percent), and data activities (15 percent). The share of costs spent on coaching aligned with Columbus’s intensive approach to family coaching. In Columbus, 112 families were formally enrolled in FCCC.
San Antonio’s cost of staff labor came to an estimated $295,300 over a three-month period (January–March 2019). The largest costs were related to leadership activities (21 percent), followed by management (20 percent), data activities (16 percent), and child services (14 percent). The share of costs spent on leadership activities aligned with San Antonio’s emphasis on coordination across numerous two-generation organizational and agency partners. San Antonio formally enrolled 461 families.
Nearly all labor costs (92 percent or more) were compensated in every community, meaning that staff were paid for their time (as opposed to working “off the clock”). The staff roles that reported working the largest amount of uncompensated time varied across each community. The tasks that required the most uncompensated work were outreach and enrollment activities in San Antonio and leadership in Buffalo and Columbus.
Data tasks were among the top four most costly activities in every community. Staff used data to track participants’ service receipt and to coordinate service delivery. The communities were also required to report data to outside organizations (including FCCC evaluators) for performance measurement and evaluation. The research team instructed FCCC staff members to record evaluation-related costs separately so they would be excluded from this study, but some community leadership members thought that some evaluation costs may have been captured in the reported totals.
Adult education and training were among the least costly activities in each community, though this is likely because our study captures the costs of coordinating these services, rather than the full cost of providing them.

Opportunities for Future Research

The costs presented in the study estimate the resources staff needed to bring and hold together two-generation programming in three separate communities. Questions remain about the costs associated with planning and setting up two-generation programming and what programs cost per person or per family served. More evidence is needed on the cost of providing the entire package of family services, including child and adult education and training and nonlabor costs. Future research could explore these questions to estimate the full cost of two-generation programs. In conjunction with an impact study, future efforts could also compare the costs against the benefits of two-generation efforts for the families and communities they serve.

This report examines how the pandemic and related economic downturn affected the need for safety net supports; actions states are taking to mitigate the immense hardship the pandemic has caused; implications for racial equity; and challenges, opportunities, and questions facing state leaders as of April 2021. Drawing on interviews with experts on state budgets, governance, and safety net programs between December 2020 and February 2021, and other sources, we examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs; housing assistance; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance; child care; and Medicaid and other health programs. We find that although the timing and depth of the crisis has varied by state, with significant federal help, most states’ situations are now improving. To mitigate the pandemic’s effects, states have, for example, used federal flexibilities to improve access to food assistance; provided emergency rental assistance and established moratoria on evictions and utility shut-offs; implemented online and telephone application and case management systems to help people access cash assistance and other supports remotely; adjusted policies to ensure child care providers can remain in business; and used federal flexibilities to safeguard coverage of Medicaid enrollees, support health care providers, and improve access to telehealth. Following passage of the American Rescue Plan and improved health and economic situations, states now face crucial questions about how to equitably and efficiently spend the large and temporary influx of federal relief funds; address the racial and ethnic disparities and economic inequality that have worsened during the pandemic; prepare for an uncertain future; and determine which investments or innovations of policy and practice to carry forward beyond the pandemic.

Promoting Adolescent Sexual Health and Safety (PASS) is a unique, community-based effort in Washington, DC, to create and evaluate a program for teenagers that is focused on sexual health and tailored to their experiences and needs. PASS is the result of a partnership between the Benning Terrace District of Columbia Housing Authority community, including participating teens, and the Urban Institute.

This report presents an overview of the PASS program model. We begin with a description of the PASS process and the community engagement theory behind the approach. We then present a discussion of participant outcomes and an implementation narrative that represents the experiences of both the PASS facilitators and participants. We also describe changes we made to the PASS model and innovations that occurred at least in part because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The final section presents the lessons learned and next steps for PASS.

This brief provides an overview of opportunities, challenges, and steps to expand the participation of home-based child care (HBCC) providers in subsidies provided by the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which is the major federal-state child care assistance program. Based on expert interviews and a review of the literature, we first provide background on HBCC providers and CCDF to set the context and then summarize findings about the barriers these providers face to participating in CCDF subsidies. We conclude with a discussion of recommendations, possible impacts of improving participation, and areas where we need more information. This information is particularly relevant for policymakers given the increased focus on HBCC during the pandemic, and the recent passage of major new child care investments as part of the pandemic relief packages.

This brief provides an overview of opportunities, challenges, and steps to expand the participation of home-based child care (HBCC) providers in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which is a federal child nutrition program that helps pay for meals provided in child care settings. Based on expert interviews and a review of the literature, we first provide background on HBCC providers and CACFP to set the context and then summarize findings about the barriers these providers face to participating in CACFP. We conclude with a discussion of recommendations, possible impacts of improving participation, and areas where we need more information. This information is particularly relevant for policymakers given the increased focus on HBCC during the pandemic, the pending reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs (including CACFP), and the recent passage of major new child care investments as part of the pandemic relief packages.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, many families with young children have faced and continue to experience an overwhelming amount of material and economic hardship and food insecurity. This not only creates distress in the short term but has significant implications for children’s longer-term well-being and development. Although data may show a recovering economy and decreases in unemployment, stories from parents with young children highlight how hardship endures because of instability in work hours, disruptions to child care, and barriers to food access. We interviewed 16 parents who both had a child under age 6 and reported experiencing food insecurity in the September 2020 Coronavirus Tracking Survey, and we learned the following:

Although some parents had experienced job loss, families more commonly struggled with reduced work hours, and underemployment had become the norm for many families.
Reduced income and children spending more time at home takes a toll on family food budgets. Parents navigated additional barriers to buying enough food for their families, including store closures, transportation challenges, and rising food prices.
Families utilized common food-coping strategies, such as reducing dietary variety, relying on shelf-stable foods, and using charitable food resources such as food pantries, a resource some newly food insecure families used for the first time during the pandemic. Some families faced more severe food hardship, resulting in parents reducing their intake so that their children could eat.
Adaptations to federal nutrition programs made a positive impact on some families experiencing food insecurity, but others continued to experience challenges in accessing program benefits. Difficulty getting to school meal pick-ups, fear of public-charge rules, lack of funds to pay for delivery fees for online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program grocery purchases, and delays in Pandemic-EBT rollout limited the resources available for some families.
Families’ lives have been altered significantly by the pandemic, leading to more limited environments for children and increased parental stress.

In this brief, we also share the detailed experiences of four parents with young children, including

Anna, who was able to hang on to her job but went without health insurance throughout 2020;
Gloria, who was caring for a special needs child and navigating a slew of challenges;
Miguel, whose reduced work hours meant he was falling behind on rent and car payments for the first time; and
Elena, whose work as an independent contractor had been reduced and who faced limited options for seeking other work during the pandemic because of a significant health condition.

These stories shed light on how families with young children have coped throughout 2020 with myriad pressures and why additional economic relief under way from the American Rescue Plan as well as sustained commitments to families with young children will be critical to buffering potential adverse outcomes that can persist for years.

This brief takes a comprehensive look at public spending on children from birth through age 18 in New Jersey between 1998 and 2016.  Drawing on the Urban Institute’s new State-by-State Spending on Kids Dataset, the brief finds public spending per child is higher in New Jersey than in many other states, driven by state investments in public education. It also finds that New Jersey children receive less federal support per child than the average American child. The analysis suggests steps that New Jersey policymakers and advocates can take to increase uptake of federal programs and tax credits.

This brief takes a comprehensive look at public spending on children from birth through age 18 in New Jersey between 1998 and 2016.  Drawing on the Urban Institute’s new State-by-State Spending on Kids Dataset, the brief finds public spending per child is higher in New Jersey than in many other states, driven by state investments in public education. It also finds that New Jersey children receive less federal support per child than the average American child. The analysis suggests steps that New Jersey policymakers and advocates can take to increase uptake of federal programs and tax credits.

More than a century of public policies and institutional practices have built a system of separate and unequal schools and neighborhoods in the US. That system has been sustained by the choices white people make about where to live and send their children to school.

Policymakers who want to advance neighborhood and school integration need to better understand these choices to design initiatives that influence white families to make more prointegrative choices. Doing so could produce more diverse neighborhoods and schools in the near term and expand white people’s support for more structural reforms to dismantle the separate and unequal system over the long term. But understanding why white people make the choices they do—many of which go against their expressed values—and how to change them will require better evidence.

We suggest four areas for research that could accelerate potential solutions aimed at influencing white people’s choices and dismantling the system of separate and unequal neighborhoods and schools built over generations:

Measure the long-term impacts for white people of attending integrated schools. Efforts aimed at encouraging white families to choose more diverse neighborhoods and schools would benefit from evidence documenting the circumstances under which integrated schools produce better long-term outcomes for students. New research could take a long-term perspective and examine the kinds of outcomes white parents can expect their children to achieve if they attend integrated schools.
Develop better measures of school quality. Encouraging families to choose high-quality diverse schools will require better measures of school quality that are less likely to confound school quality with the effects of structural racism, as many test-based measures currently do. Research could develop more differentiated measures of school quality that provide families with information about how students from their socioeconomic group fare.
Identify and analyze stable neighborhood and school integration. Local planners and school administrators need to know what actions they could take to expand the supply of stably integrated neighborhoods and schools. A rigorous collection of in-depth case studies focused on census tracts and schools that have achieved and maintained stable integration, particularly the integration of white people with Black people, could help fill this knowledge gap.
Estimate the potential effectiveness of different mortgage financing incentives. One avenue for promoting integration is enticing homebuyers to consider diverse neighborhoods. But we know little about whether incentives like down payment assistance or below-market interest rates would induce homebuyers to choose neighborhoods in which their race or ethnicity does not predominate. One strategy for filling these knowledge gaps would be to launch a pilot program, testing the effectiveness of alternative incentive packages under different market conditions.

Changing white people’s behavior alone cannot dismantle segregation, but meaningful and sustainable neighborhood and school integration is unlikely to be achieved without changing white people’s choices. Changing white people’s choices could contribute to a larger portfolio of tools for dismantling today’s system of separate and unequal neighborhoods and schools. Filling the knowledge gaps we have identified would be an important step in that direction.

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