Working to Improve Outcomes for Parents and Children with Disabilities in Child Welfare
Created in 2011, the DCWC brings together practitioners and researchers from the fields of child welfare, disability, and education in an effort to improve outcomes for parents and children with disabilities in the child welfare system in Minnesota.
- To raise awareness and understanding of the needs of children and parents with disabilities who are served in the child welfare, disability, and educational systems
- To act as a resource to disability service providers, school districts, child welfare agencies, and other service providers so that they are able to work more effectively with young people and their families
- To foster dialogue among service providers involved in supporting children and parents with disabilities in the child welfare system so that they may promote positive outcomes in all aspects of their lives (including educational stability and attainment; permanency and stability in living arrangements; and integrated, supportive, and appropriate disability services)
Downloadable Tools and Resources
- Definitions & Questions about Services: Special Education & Other Services (PDF)
- Definitions & Questions about Services: Child Welfare (PDF)
- Questions to ask during IEP/transition planning meetings to promote permanency (PDF)
- Child Welfare Transition Resources (PDF): There are resources available at the federal, state, and local levels. This is not an exhaustive list but we hope that it gives you a place to start.
- Building Bridges: Connecting Foster Care and Developmental Disability Supports (Minnesota Adoption Task Force, April 2011)
- Collaboration to Improve Services for Children with Disabilities in Child Welfare (Minnesota Social Service Association, March 2013)
- The Intersection of Child Welfare and Disability: Focus on Parents
- The Intersection of Child Welfare and Disability: Focus on Children
- Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice
- Promoting Placement Stability
- Technology and Child Welfare Practice
The online training modules at CASCW present the latest practice-relevant child welfare research from top researchers at the University of Minnesota in a format that is timely, efficient and easy to use. The modules are consistently updated. Topics include: Child welfare practice, child welfare workforce, working with refugees and immigrants, working with disabilities, and adolescent issues.
Developed as part of a LEND fellowship (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities), these two single-page factsheets describe “what the disability community should know about working with child welfare” and “surrogate parent education.”
- What the disability community should know about working with child welfare (PDF)
- Surrogate Parent Education (PDF)
From the MN LEND Program: “This LEND Brief focuses on recent changes around the diagnosis of ADHD from many different perspectives: developmental and behavioral pediatricians, clinical psychologists, school psychologists and parents.”
The report analyzes how U.S. disability law and policy apply to parents with disabilities in the child welfare and family law systems, and the disparate treatment of parents with disabilities and their children. Examination of the impediments prospective parents with disabilities encounter when accessing assisted reproductive technologies or adopting provides further examples of the need for comprehensive protection of these rights.
Frequently Asked Questions
The public child welfare system operates at the federal, state, and local levels. Additionally, many private and community-based organizations are involved in providing for children’s well-being. Thus, the child welfare system varies dramatically from state to state.
When the DCWC refers to child welfare, we are referring to any of the elements of this system. Thus, a family who is child welfare-involved may be receiving services but still be intact (family preservation), or the child or children may be removed from the home, either temporarily or permanently.
View the DCWC fact sheet: Definitions & Questions about Services: Child Welfare (PDF)
For more information about child welfare programs and services, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway at: https://www.childwelfare.gov/
There are many different understandings and definitions of disability and disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, a disability is:
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
- a record of such impairment; or
- being regarded as having such an impairment. (P.L. 101-336)
It is notable that the definition of disability does not specifically mention length of time for impairment, nor does it specify age.
The federal special education law (IDEA) defines a child as a disability as a child with an impairment that falls into one of thirteen categories:
- emotional disturbance;
- hearing impairment;
- intellectual disability;
- multiple disabilities;
- orthopedic impairment;
- other health impairment;
- specific learning disability;
- speech or language impairment;
- traumatic brain injury; or
- visual impairment (including blindness).
In order to qualify for special education services, the child’s education must be “adversely affected” by their disability.
When the DCWC uses the term “disability” we are generally working from the ADA definition.
View the DCWC fact sheet: Definitions & Questions about Services: Special Education & Other Services (PDF)
For more information on the ADA definition of disability: http://www.ada.gov/q&aeng02.htm
For more information on special education definitions of disability: http://nichcy.org/disability/categories
Definitions of child abuse and neglect are part of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Specifically, abuse and neglect refer to “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm” (https://www.childwelfare.gov/can/).
If you suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, you can find information about how to report it here: http://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/how.cfm
If you are in Minnesota, call your county’s child protection and services office.
If it is an emergency, call 911.
For more information about definitions of abuse and neglect: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/whatiscan.cfm
- Return home
- Transfer of physical and legal guardianship
- Termination of parental rights and search for adoptive family
- Alternative Planned Permanency Living Arrangement (APPLA)
Permanency is not a single placement, it is not a plan, it is not a program. It is not what some call ‘long-term foster care’ or ‘permanent foster care’ – there is no such thing, as foster care is designed to be temporary. It is also not an Independent Living Skills class.
Permanency is a knowing, deep within, that you belong somewhere with someone even if you make a mistake, including a really bad mistake. Permanency requires relationships that are life-long and provide what any family might: being in a Last Will and Testament, hearing your name on the answering machine, having your picture on the family photo wall in someone’s house, knowing someone will walk you down the aisle (should you choose to get married and want that), realizing that the term ‘family vacation’ includes you, having people who will visit you regularly even if you are in jail.
If you are a worker in the child welfare field, here is a question you can ask yourself at a youth’s staffing meeting to determine whether or not that youth has permanency: Look around the room. Is there anyone in the room who is not paid to be there (this includes foster parents, guardians ad litem/CASAs, paid mentors)? If the answer is ‘no,’ then that youth does not have permanency.
Increased awareness of disability and disability issues are important for a number of reasons. First, research and anecdotal evidence have both shown that there are high numbers of people with disabilities involved in the child welfare system as clients; thus, it is likely that if you work with the child welfare system, you are already working with people with disabilities. Second, there are a number of community services and supports available to people with disabilities, which may be helpful in assisting clients in reaching their goals. Finally, best practice demands that we provide services that are “meet clients where they are”, meaning that we employ strategies for engagement, assessment, intervention, prevention, and evaluation that are inclusive and respectful of all of our clients’ needs and strengths.
Regardless of the reason, data indicates that there is a high rate of overlap in clientele between the child welfare and disability serving systems. However, it is also clear that there is a great deal of “siloing” among systems, and that we often are not aware of the services, supports, and expertise that are available in other systems of care. As well, we may be making assumptions- for example, that a child has a permanent place to live, or that an adult with a disability is not able to parent, or that if independent living plans exist in one system that it is recognized in another. It is our hope that by raising awareness and fostering dialogue between systems, that we will begin to improve responses to children and families with disabilities who are child-welfare involved.