Actress Mary Beth Evans Partners with NFPA

MV5BMTAyNjk3NDc2MjZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDQ1NjA0NDQx._V1_Many of you don’t know that Mary Beth Evans, better known to many of you as Kayla Brady on the daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives, is a CASA volunteer.  This wife, mother, actress, and child advocate is partnering with The National Foster Parent Association to bring awareness to folks across our nation of the importance of foster care, adoption, and child advocacy.  Mary Beth’s blog, Plank, is a forum for discussions ranging from cooking to family to decorating.  Two posts that share the joy and mission of family, fostering, and child advocacy are below.  Please take the time to read and enjoy this insightful commentary.

Scholarship Committee Members Needed!


GraduatesIt’s that time of year again and we need you for the Scholarship Committee.  Every year this committee is responsible for determining the National Foster Parent Association scholarship recipients.  Scholarships are awarded to chosen high school senior foster, biological, adoptive, or kinship children of NFPA members.   If you are interested in serving on this committee, please contact committee chair, Antoinette Sumter Cotman, at

Financial Coaching: Helping Foster Families Achieve Stability

Financial counseling. Financial education. Financial literacy. Financial coaching. These terms are often used interchangeably to describe ways that people learn to manage their money, from developing a budget to saving for a big-ticket item such as a car or house.

But the reality is that they aren’t all the same. For nearly a decade, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has invested specifically in the field of financial coaching. Why? Because financial education and counseling are not enough to help families achieve stability. But financial coaching — which applies principles from positive psychology to managing one’s financial life, building on people’s innate strengths to help them develop their own solutions — is showing promising success in helping people improve their financial well-being.

Setting goals — whether the goal relates to education, career or family — is essential to achieving financial stability. Between setting a goal and achieving it, however, people need a plan, motivation and support. That’s where financial education and counseling fall short. Families struggle not because they don’t know what to do or how to do it but because they need help to change their financial behaviors to meet their goals.

In financial coaching, individuals and families identify their own goals and then work with a coach who helps them turn their aspirations into reality. A key assumption in financial coaching is that people are creative and resourceful but may need assistance in tapping into those positive attributes.

How Financial Coaching Works

Financial coaches work with clients to zero in on behaviors to improve, driven by their goals, and hold them accountable for developing concrete steps to change those behaviors. Using various techniques, they help individuals and families build their capacity to manage their own finances and sustain financial stability within their self-defined goals. Coaches provide regular feedback, support and structure for clients to develop their own solutions. In the long run, coaching helps people develop skills and habits so that they can navigate through subsequent financial situations on their own.

Yet even coaching means different things in different programs. There are no widely agreed upon standards of practice or common measures of client outcomes. The programs that offer training in coaching techniques vary in quality and intensity.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation and others in philanthropy hope to help standardize the field by building partnerships and networks focused on setting nationally accepted practices for coaching programs — and encouraging financial coaches to use them. They’re already on our way: The Center for Financial Security has developed and successfully piloted the Financial Capability Scale, a set of standardized measures.

In addition, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has surveyed nearly 50 organizations that offer financial coaching to better understand how it’s done and identify core practices linked to better outcomes for clients. And they are exploring a platform to monitor the take-up of financial coaching and collect data and feedback.

By coalescing around a set of measures that organizations can readily incorporate into their existing client-tracking system, funders, policymakers and other stakeholders will be able to better understand the impact of financial coaching in helping people achieve financial stability. They are also looking into supporting a professional network for practitioners to interact and exchange ideas on promising practices. For additional resources and information on financial coaching, visit the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s website on financial coaching strategies.

Advocates for Families First




Helping ensure children in kinship, foster, and adoptive families thrive


A warm welcome to all the new subscribers to this e-news list. Please also visit the website at:


 Free Webinars for Group Leaders, Child Welfare Workers, Advocates, Families, Youth, and Community Partners

Improving Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being
for LGBTQ Youth

September 23, 2015, 1:00 pm EST (12:00 pm CST, 11:00 am MST, 10:00 am PST)

Please join us for this informative webinar for anyone parenting or providing services for kin, foster, or adoptive caregivers, and their children and youth. Included will be an overview of our knowledge regarding:

  • LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care
  • The impact of ​family rejection
  • Their struggle for inclusion and safety when in care
  • Lack of affirming resource families
  • Double standards applied to behavior, sexuality, etc.
  • Essential role of support and affirmation in helping youth thrive

Presented by Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children,Youth & Families Program at Human Rights Campaign.

Register for the webinar here.


Behavioral Interventionist Model: Keeping Children with Extreme Challenges Home for Treatment

October 8, 2015, 1:00 pm EST (12:00 pm CST, 11:00 am MST, 10:00 am PST)

Join us to learn about an innovative new program currently operating in Missouri, which has the potential to revolutionize mental health treatment for children and youth who have suffered extreme trauma.  Designed by an adoptive parent whose children were in residential care, but not getting better, this program is based on her personal approach to “What I need to keep my kids safely at home.”  This model program allows for the children’s needs to be met safely within their own homes, rather than in residential treatment centers. This program is founded on the understanding of the impact of developmental trauma on the brain and the importance of nurturing relationships in the effort to heal.  Parents partner with the child welfare agency and their child’s therapists to design a treatment plan which is then implemented with the child in his own home, school, and community.

This webinar will explore the program in depth, discuss services, outcomes, and funding options, and the Director of the Missouri Children’s Division will share his perspective on the benefit of this program for the children and families his agency serves.

Presented by Lori Ross, Tim Decker, and Susan Peach:

** Lori Ross is president, CEO, and co-founder of the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association (MFCAA) – a support and advocacy organization for foster and adoptive families. A foster/adoptive parent since 1985, Lori has cared for more than 400 foster children, served as a teaching foster parent for 28 years, and is the author of the recently published book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff; Advice from the trenches for foster and adoptive parents” .
** Tim Decker is the director of the Missouri Division of Children’s Services. For 30 years, he has served with the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Greater Kansas City Local Investment Commission (LINC); one of Missouri’s innovative public/private community partnerships focused on citizen engagement, local governance, natural helping networks, and neighborhood-based services. 
** Susan Peach is a clinician with Lifeworks and has worked with this model for 2.5 years.

Register for the webinar here.

If you cannot attend in person, you can access a recording. 

Simply register as if you will be attending and after the session is over, 
you will receive a link to the recording.


Advocates for Families First Messaging Toolkit

We know that the media – both news and entertainment – has a huge impact on the public’s understanding and beliefs, often misrepresenting or misinterpreting the issues, the people, and the system. Advocates for Families First has created the Messaging Toolkit to assist you in your advocacy efforts.

The following items can help organizations in kinship care, foster care, and adoption talk with the media and the public about the importance of supported and supportive family relationships.

·      Communication Tips

·      Quick Tips for Working with the Media

·      Building Relationships with the Media to Get Your Message Across

·      Sample Commentaries or Letters to the Editor

·      Brains in Default Mode (from Communications Consortium Media Center)

·      Developing and Communicating Messages (from Communications Consortium Media Center)

We hope these resources will help you in your advocacy efforts to ensure that children who cannot remain at home are placed safely with families who have the support they need. If you have sample op eds or commentaries that you’d like us to share, please email us.

,Resources for Caregivers and Professionals

Teen Success Agreement from Juvenile Law Center

The Teen Success Agreement is a youth-developed written agreement that outlines the age-appropriate activities, responsibilities, and life skills for youth ages 13-21 in the child welfare system, and how the caregivers and agency will support those goals. The plan also outlines the house rules and rewards and consequences for different behaviors. The youth, caregiver, and provider agency should meet every six months to discuss, complete, and update this form.

Completing the Teen Success Agreement will help:

·      Ensure that youth in care have access to the same age-appropriate activities as youth not in care.

·      Ensure that youth and caregivers understand the expectations of the household, as well as any rewards or consequences for meeting, or failing to meet, those expectations.

·      Ensure that youth in care have the skills they need to be successful when they leave care.

·      Encourage open communication between caregivers and youth.

Download the guide here.


Resource Parent Curriculum Online
 from National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network

 On this interactive site, you’ll find a wealth of resources – from supplemental training modules, to podcasts and webinars, to group phone consultations and online blogs – all of which support the goal of trauma-informed parenting.

You can access all the training modules to deliver the curriculum; obtain insight from parents and professionals who are walking the walk; and build community as you engage in this journey.

Access the curriculum here.


Reaching In…Reaching Out: Resiliency Resources
The Reaching In…Reaching Out Resiliency Guide acquaints readers with the topic of resiliency and provides an overview of important abilities and skills that support resilience. Access the guide here.

Web-based Resiliency Resources for Parents can be accessed here.

Free Webinars for Group Leaders, Child Welfare Workers, Families, Youth, and Community Partners

You can access recordings and handouts from our first eleven webinars:

Starting and Enhancing Support Groups for Adoptive, Foster, and Kinship Families

Developing a Youth Speak Out Advocacy Team 

Fundraising for Groups 

Effective Legislative Advocacy Strategies

Advocates for Families First Advocacy Agenda

How to Handle Compassion Fatigue and Prevent Burnout 

Hidden in Plain Sight: Accessing Funding for Specialized Youth Permanency Services 

Be Heard! Passage of the Strengthening Families Act Creates Advocacy Opportunities

Effective Collaboration for System Improvement

Transforming the Adoptive and Foster Care Placements of Children through the National ELectronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE)

KinFirst: Making Relatives a First Choice for Children


Advocates for Families First is a collaboration of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Foster Parent Association, and Generations United.



We are grateful to the support of our funders—the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

Lost Childhoods Exhibition in San Fran

Foster Care Legislation To Be Reviewed

555f45230745810d755a31fdc6dbd9c835d600b7_largeWith Congress likely to be discussing appropriations into December there is time for a number of issues and in some cases Congress will have to act. One possibility that was mentioned in early August by Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is a mark-up of child welfare legislation. That is still uncertain and contingent on some bipartisan agreement and likely the need to find some new funding.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced S. 1964 just before the August break. That bill would extend Title IV-E entitlement-mandatory funding to a range of limited services that would prevent the placement of children in foster care and allow for follow up services for families that are reunified. Such a proposal is likely to be calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as increasing costs, something that Congress ha
s always been reluctant to do in most child welfare bills. As a counter to that Senator Hatch’s office is stilling examining ways to restrict “residential” or “group home” care and he appears to have moved away from strict time limits and seemed to acknowledge that in last month’s hearing. In his remarks he acknowledged the need to have a system of alternatives for the children most affected by limits on residential placements. Despite this he will likely seek limitation on such out of home care placements.

In addition to these two members others are seeking changes to child welfare. A bill to expand access to therapeutic foster care, S 429 is sponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WS), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) with a House version HR 835 sponsored by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), Congresswoman Karen Bass and Congressman George Butterfield (D-NC) has strong bipartisan support on the Finance Committee.

Senator Bob Casey (PA) introduced the Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act (S. 1852) that would provide a technical fix to the ACA that extended Medicaid to all former foster youth up to age 26 regardless of what state they move to later.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced S. 1932 shortly before the Wyden bill. The legislation, co-sponsored this week by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), would also expand some services through Title IV-E as well as allow an extension of current child welfare waivers. The bill provides HHS with a great deal of discretion in interpreting which services would be covered. The legislation also de-links current foster care eligibility from the 1996 AFDC eligibility standard however it directs HHSand the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to come up with a way to delink that is cost neutral (i.e. no increased cost in Title IV-E spending beyond current spending).

Finally there is a bill by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 1439 along with Senator Jack Reed (R-RI) a bill that would allow states to use Chaffee Independent Living funds more flexibly if the state extends its foster care under Title IV-E to age 21.

Any child welfare legislation will revolve around funding and resources as well as the time the committee will have to address the issue. Some are likely to suggest the use of SSBG as a funding source but that may get a chilly response from the human service community and may not sit well with some members of the Finance Committee.

It is not that Congress is without funding sources that don’t take from child welfare or human services. When Congress passed the temporary five month extension of the transportation funding, passed in August, it provided $8 billion in revenue for just that period of time. Those offsets came from the tax code and not transportation. Eight billion in funding would provide a major expansion of child welfare, even if stretched over the five year budget projection period. In addition to the financing challenges of a child welfare bill there are a number of must-pass items on the Committee’s agenda that could clog up the rest of this year’s schedule.

Items for Congressional Action


According to the Child Welfare League of America, once Congress gets beyond appropriations this month they have a number of other areas that either must be addressed or could receive action.  The following areas impact the child welfare and foster care field nationally:

 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF must be reauthorized or at least extended beyond September 30. Earlier this summer there were some positive bipartisan developments regarding a five year extension. That positive momentum was expected to carry over into the Senate if it had passed the House. The momentum on this may have stalled or even died. That would mean it will continue to survive on temporary extensions that last only through the CR or fiscal year.

Tax extenders or a package of growing tax credits and business breaks that are extended by Congress a few years or a year at a time. These actually expired after calendar year 2015 but Congress frequently plays with the fact that taxes do not have to be filed until April 15 and so they could retroactively extend them early next year. That will create havoc for a number of supporters of the package and for IRS instruction. This package could also offer an opportunity for passage of The Refundable Adoption Tax Credit (H.R. 2434/S.950), which would restore the refundability to the exiting tax credit for families that adopt. The refundability would provide a boost to the typical family that adopts from foster care.

Highway funding. The current transportation law has had a series of extensions since the last decade. Gas taxes do not provide enough to keep the transportation trust fund full so Congress has been taking funding from general funds. The current authorization runs out at the end of October with enough funding into December. Congress doesn’t want to raise the gasoline tax (last time increased in 1993) so they looked at options such as selling oil from the emergency fuel reserve.

ESEA. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act or No Child Left Behind, is as close to a reauthorization as it has been in at least ten years but there is still a big difference between the bipartisan Senate bill, the partisan House bill and what the White House wants. This could go into next year, or even lame duck.

SSDI, the Supplemental Security Disability Insurance fund covers the disabled, including some children, the aged and survivors. It is a separate trust fund from the much larger OASI, traditional Social Security. Like Social Security, Congress has known the trust fund would run short since a 1994 trustees report. It is nearing that point and could result in cuts to beneficiaries of up to 20 percent for 11 million people. A quick fix is to move some funding from the bigger trust fund to this one.

JJDPA, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevent Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. S. 1169 was approved by voice vote with no objections to what has been a bipartisan effort. Its sponsorship is also bipartisan with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) jointly introducing the bill earlier this year. The last time the JJDPA was reauthorized was in 2002 with the current programs operating without an authorization since 2007. If the Senate acts, its counterpart committee in the House is the Education and Workforce Committee.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is due for reauthorization this year and it will be on the agenda for the fall session of this Congress. The CACFP is crucial to many child care programs which tend to be on very tight budgets. The program helps to subsidize the cost of meals in a child care setting. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act to expand and strengthen CACFP so even more children have access to nutritious meals. Through CACFP, more than 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the day care they receive.


Advocacy Learning Lab Free Webinar


The Annie E. Casey Foundation is hosting an invitational webinar on the Advocacy Learning Lab, Friday October 9th from 3:00-4:00 pm EDT.

Over the years the national network of child advocates, our national policy partners and the Annie E. Casey Foundation have produced an enormous volume of knowledge about promising solutions for the complex challenges facing foster children and families. This knowledge is housed on hundreds of websites and hard copies are often buried on our shelves. The Advocacy Learning Lab (ALL) has been designed to put the very best knowledge from the field at the fingertips of advocates. We believe this will promote peer learning and accelerate the capacity of advocates to be effective in today’s challenging policy environment. The Advocacy Learning Lab has also been designed so that more people can see the whole of the work. Too often we get caught in silos and have no easy way to learn about all of the competencies needed to influence complex multi-issue debates. A special feature of the site is background on the key federal and state policies in 18 domains of public policy affecting children and families. We also believe that advocates need to be intentional and skillful in the area of race, equity, and inclusion so these competencies and resources  are woven throughout the site.

The link to register for this FREE Webinar is below: < password to register is advocacy).