Foster Care & Adoption In-service Materials


State Foster Care Agencies Take Millions Of Dollars Owed To Children In Their Care

NPR segment and article.

Roughly 10% of foster youth in the U.S. are entitled to Social Security benefits, either because their parents have died or because they have a physical or mental disability that would leave them in poverty without financial help. This money — typically more than $700 per month, though survivor benefits vary — is considered their property under federal law.

The Marshall Project and NPR have found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child's financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.


Mother Jones article: “Mommy, How Come I Only See You on the Phone?” The unending tragedy of foster care during a pandemic.

In a typical year, a little more than half of the children in foster care return to the permanent care of their biological parents. Experts agree that this outcome, called reunification, is by far the best option if parents prove to be safe caregivers. But in 2020, reunifications plummeted, according to public records from more than a dozen municipalities examined by Mother Jones. In effect, many families that normally would have been reunited remain separated.


Book Review on 2/2/21 from The New York Times: What Happens to Siblings Who Survive a House of Horrors?

In the thriller “Girl A,” Abigail Dean imagines the past and futures of seven siblings who endure the unimaginable and live to tell the tale. Dean looks squarely at the sort of parents who humiliate their children, or hit them, or deny them food, and the consequences of such monstrousness.


Film: Instant Family

When Pete and Ellie decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child, but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl, they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hope of becoming a family.

See IMDB description here.


Documentary Film that Explores Emancipation From Foster Care System: Unadopted

What does it mean to be Unadopted? That's what Noel Anaya sets out to discover after reading a copy of his foster care file. Follow Noel in his quest for answers about his family and his experience in the foster care system. The story interweaves Noel’s own journey with three other teens who, like so many foster youth, are at an emotional crossroad that may impact the rest of their lives: whether to emancipate from the foster care system, opt into extended care, or pursue a forever family.

Related: NPR's Noel King talks to Noel Anaya about his film
and: 1/11/17, Youth Radio program with Noel Anaya, After 20 Years, Young Man Leaves Foster Care On His Own Terms



How Many Children Do I Have? It’s Not So Simple

New York Times article by Megan Birch-McMichael​

If strangers ask me how many children I have, my answer is complicated.


I birthed two children and am working on raising them to be really good humans. But I also mothered a third child for a year and a half, and I can’t just erase that relationship. I’ll answer “Two, a boy and a girl,” and then launch into the verbal eruption of: “We’re also foster parents and we had a placement for 18 months and we also do respite care for other foster families, so the number of children is sort of fluid.”



National CASA/GAL Association Network Webinar: Culturally Responsive Child Advocacy Part 2: The Current State and Climate of the Foster Care System

Webinar from the National CASA/GAL Association network

  • Link for webinar (registration required - fill in your contact info and choose "I am a CASA/GAL Volunteer Advocate")

  • Link to webinar slides



He Is 16 and His Mother Died of Covid-19. What Happens To Him Now?

NY Times article by Nikita Stewart


Children who lost their parents in the pandemic are fighting to hold on to what is left of their families.

When the coronavirus pandemic killed thousands of people in New York City, it made orphans of an unknown number of children. At least eight children have been placed in foster care because their parents died from the virus, according to the city Administration for Children’s Services.

The total number is likely higher. Children in families with more money or wider support systems usually handle guardianship issues privately.


Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Book Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig about young girl in foster care with autism, recommended by a CAC volunteer.

  • Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret

  • Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up…

  • After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her.

  • Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

  • Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right…

  • A fiercely poignant and inspirational story a lost girl searching for a place to call home. Ginny Moon will change everyone who spends time with her.


New Mexico Agrees to Revamp Its ‘Broken’ Foster Care System

NY Times article

In a legal settlement set to be announced on Thursday, New Mexico said it would overhaul its foster care system, in what advocates said could serve as a national model.

Under the terms of the agreement, the state committed to several changes aimed at improving childhood well-being, such as early screenings to diagnose and treat trauma. Other reforms include easy access to behavioral health services, long-term placements with families and culturally appropriate communities that nurture relationships, and training for foster parents, caseworkers and mental health professionals on the neurological effects of trauma.


Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care

NY Times article

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Philadelphia may exclude a Catholic agency that does not work with same-sex couples from the city’s foster-care system.

The city stopped placements with the agency, Catholic Social Services, after a 2018 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer described its policy against placing children with same-sex couples. The agency and several foster parents sued the city, saying the decision violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech.


Netflix series: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

Netflix series: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, 2020, 6 episode series

A boy’s brutal murder and the public trials of his guardians and social workers prompt questions about the system’s protection of vulnerable children.


Why Aren't There More Rich Foster Parents?

NY Times article by By Ginia Bellafante

Bureaucracy — no surprise — gets in the way of expanding the pool of volunteers.

It would be easy to say that the problem lies with the selfish habits of the upper classes; however charitable they might be when it comes to writing checks to well-meaning foundations, they are all too happy to insulate themselves from the messiness of life beyond the bubble.

While there is obviously truth to that kind of judgment, it is also the case that the rigidity of the foster-care system can keep well-meaning people away.


Seattle’s Foster Children Deserve Better

 NY Times Opinion piece By Caroline Catlin

Our most vulnerable children in Washington’s most populated county need safe spaces to heal.

This month The Seattle Times broke the news that Ryther, a therapeutic treatment facility for children with severe behavioral challenges in northeast Seattle, can no longer afford to accept foster youth in its 36-bed residential program. By Wednesday, the foster children living at Ryther — many with histories of prolonged trauma — will have to receive care elsewhere.


Colorado has a big shortage of volunteers to speak up for foster kids in court

Article in the Colorado Sun on 12/30/19


Colorado has a big shortage of volunteers to speak up for foster kids in court. That gap has sparked Colorado court appointed special advocates to make a plea for more volunteers -- they want 2,020 new ones in 2020.

One person in a foster kid’s life isn’t paid to show up.

Attorneys are paid. Teachers are paid. Even foster parents are paid. The person volunteering their time to make sure a child’s voice is heard is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, and only about one-third of children who were abused or neglected in Colorado last year were lucky enough to get one.


Film: Foster Boy

Winner of 10 awards including Best of the Fest, Best Narrative Feature, and Best Feature Film at festivals across the nation, Shaquille O’Neal presents Foster Boy, a pulse-pounding cinematic legal drama that activates reform against corruption in foster care. Written by Jay Paul Deratany and based on one of the most formative cases of his law career, Foster Boy brings to light the dark corners of the foster care system and hopes to start a national dialogue concerning the state of the system.


How Connecticut moved from institutions to families

CT Mirror, CT Viewpoints


No matter what euphemisms – be it “group care” or “congregate care” – were used to describe a highly institutionalized system, this needed to be addressed. 

Commentary by Joette Katz, former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, and a partner at the law firm Shipman & Goodwin


Comparison Between Subsidized Transfer of Guardianship and Adoption

From CAFAF (Connecticut Alliance of Foster & Adoptive Families): Comparison Between Subsidized Transfer of Guardianship and Adoption

Document that compares DCF subsidized guardianship, permanent guardianship and adoption programs.


TV Series on A&E: The Day I Picked My Parents

The Day I Picked My Parents is a documentary series that follows ten foster children who are part of a revolutionary program operated by the nonprofit organization Kidsave in California, as they search to find their forever home. For the first time in their lives, they will have input into their own destiny as they decide where they want to live and who will be their family. Kidsave partners with Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to turn the adoption process on its head. Through a pioneering program Kidsave developed, kids who have been in foster care for much of their lives are being asked what they want, how they want to live and are given the power to picking their own parents.


2 Officials Who Were Both Adopted Clash Over an Adoption Law

Adoption law in New York may be changed to give more rights to birth parents, even when adoptive parents object.

Latoya Joyner, a state assemblywoman from the Bronx, said she was raised by a loving adoptive family after her biological parents lost custody of her. The same was true for Tracy L. VanVleck, the commissioner of human services in Seneca County.

But that is where their similarities end. The women are on opposing sides in an emotionally charged battle over a potential change in New York state adoption law that is awaiting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature. The legislation, called Preserving Family Bonds, would fundamentally shift the relationship that birth parents can have with their children after a court has taken the children away permanently and another family steps in to adopt them.


Materials from CAC's In-service with Jeannie House from FCA

Materials from CAC's 6/19/19 Inservice with Jeannie House from FCA on Specialized Foster Care at Family & Children's Agency


Sesame Workshop Launches New Initiative to Support Children in Foster Care

New videos, a storybook, and interactive activities feature Karli, a new Sesame Street Muppet in Foster Care, and her Foster Parents.
The free, bilingual resources help caregivers and providers support children as they navigate the world of foster care, and they provide simple, approachable tools to help reassure children and help them feel safer. 


HBO documentary film, FOSTER

Drawing on unprecedented access, FOSTER explores the often-misunderstood world of foster care through compelling stories from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the largest county child welfare agency in the country. The documentary mixes firsthand accounts of people navigating the system with insights from social workers, advocates and others, offering a realistic but hopeful perspective on a community that needs society’s support.

Click here for FOSTER toolkit


Moving Kids From Foster Care to Adoption

WSJ Opinion

There are 123,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted, according to the latest U.S. government statistics. The length of time that kids are spending in state custody is growing—from an average of 12.2 months in 2006 to 14.3 months in 2017. Thirteen percent of children in foster care have been in the system for more than three years. In the richest (and arguably the most generous) nation on earth, the question is: Why?


Driving better outcomes for children in foster care

Article from Brookings by Ron Haskins

On January 15 and 16, 2019, the CHAMPS campaign and Center on Children and Families at Brookings hosted a national convening with the goal of fostering collaboration and information sharing to help advance the progress on foster parent recruitment, support, and retention. The convening brought together 80 public and private child welfare agency staff, issue experts, advocates, foster parents, and foundation partners and featured several panels and roundtables that highlighted the perspectives of key stakeholders from a variety of disciplines within the child welfare sector, including foster parents, community advocates, state agency leaders, and foster care alumni.

The convening comes at a time when national trends highlight the growing urgency for state leaders to identify solutions for strengthening foster parenting in their states.


Wish Book 2018: Foster child filled with anger gets special attention from CASA volunteer

The Mercury News Article

Story about a trained volunteer with the nonprofit organization Child Advocates of Silicon Valley who was appointed by the Juvenile Court to a build a relationship with a foster child and advocate for the child's best interests in court. 


For N.Y.'s Foster Children, Running Away Can Lead to Handcuffs

NY Times Article

 It is not a crime to run away from foster care. But in Family Court hearings each week, the city is getting arrest warrants for children who do.


The Lasting Pain of Children Sent to Orphanages, Rather Than Families

NY Times Opinion​ by Tina Rosenberg

Many Americans travel to Latin America to help in orphanages, but their presence often only compounds the misery of unnecessarily institutionalizing children. Decades of research shows that institutions — even the best — harm children, who simply do better in every way in a family. What could caring people support that actually helps vulnerable children in poor countries? The same strategies that wealthy countries use: family reunification and foster care.


Handout from CAC's In-Service with Jane Breen, Supervisor of Specialized Placements with Family and Children's Agency (FCA)

In-service handout on the topic of therapeutic foster care


Can an Algorithm Tell When Kids Are in Danger?

NY Times Magazine article by Dan Hurley

Child protective agencies are haunted when they fail to save kids. Pittsburgh officials believe a new data analysis program is helping them make better judgment calls.


Great Resource: Brochure "Moving Around" from the Center for Children's Advocacy

Children without permanent housing have so many questions:

  • Do I have to change schools every time I move?

  • Can I register for school without a parent?

  • Can DCF help me?

This brochure from the Center for Children's Advocacy can help provide answers to these types of questions.


Booklet regarding foster parents rights: Foster Parents and Juvenile Court from the State of CT Judicial Branch

This booklet includes information to assist foster parents when a child they are caring for has a case in the Juvenile Court. It describes their rights including the right to be heard in court proceedings regarding a child in their care, the role of the Judge, court personnel and attorneys, and the type of proceedings typically convened as a child’s case progresses through the Juvenile Court.  


Gun Rights and Foster Care Restrictions Collide in Michigan

NY Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg

A couple have challenged a state law that bars foster parents from carrying concealed weapons in a case that may have nationwide implications.


Foster Parent Diary: Starting Over with a New Foster Child

NY Times article by Meghan Moravcik Walbert

Even once we decided to do it again, even once we decided that this time, we would pursue the adoption of a waiting child in the foster care system, I wasn’t totally sure I was up for it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to grow my family. I wanted to provide a family to a child who needed one and was waiting for one to present itself. But this time, I knew better than to feel ready for something so unpredictable.


Report by the Office of the Child Advocate regarding compliance of Hartford public schools

Investigative report regarding compliance of Hartford public schools with state laws regarding mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect.

In April, 2016, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin requested that the Office of the Child Advocate begin an immediate review of the policy, procedures and practices of the Hartford Public School district (“HPS”) with regard to mandated reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect.

The OCA undertook a comprehensive review of HPS’ policies and practices with regard to not only mandated reporting of suspected abuse or neglect consistent with state law, but also the district’s policies and practices regarding compliance with federal Title IX obligations - namely to prevent, identify and respond effectively to concerns of sexual discrimination, harassment or abuse within the
school community. 


Film: Short Term 12

At a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, Grace is a young counselor trying to do her best for kids who often have been pulled from the worst kinds of home situations. Even then, life is not easy as Grace and her colleagues care for kids who are too often profoundly scarred, even as they try to have lives of their own. Now, things are coming to a head as Grace readies for marriage even as some her charges are coming to major turning points in their lives. To cope, Grace will have to make difficult perceptions and decisions that could put her career, and more importantly her charges, at dire risk.


Book: Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Three Little Words is an International Bestseller and details the inspiring true story of the nearly ten years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system.  Despite all odds against her, Ashley triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice.


Ashley lived in fourteen different foster homes, including two group homes. As her mother spiraled out of control, Ashley was left clinging to the unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system. Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed, trust, and bring justice and hope to others. 


Note: Several copies of “Three Little Words: A Memoir” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter are available if you would like to borrow one from the CAC office.