Birth Family Support and Engagement

For information and resources related to reunification, click here.

For information and resources related to reinstatement of parental rights, click here.

To access handbooks for birth parents, click here.


  • Working With Birth and Adoptive Families to Support Open Adoption
    The Child Welfare Information Gateway has developed this bulletin for professionals which describes open adoption and ways in which professionals can guide birth and adoptive families who are contemplating open adoption or who are already having post-adoption contact. The bulletin examines trends in openness; explores the benefits of open adoption, implications for casework practices, and implications for agencies; and discusses adoption and the internet. (2013)

  • Openness in Adoption: Building Relationships Between Adoptive and Birth Families
    This factsheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway is intended to support adoptive families in considering and maintaining open adoption. It describes open adoption and various levels of openness, trends towards increasing openness, and the potential benefits of open adoption.  Additionally, this factsheet provides adoptive families with questions to consider in deciding whether open adoption is right for them, strategies to build and maintain relationships with their children’s birth families, and tips for using social media for contact with birth families. (2013)
  • Icebreaker Meetings: Building Relationships Between Birth and Foster Parents
    Building working relationships between birth parents, foster parents, and caseworkers can be extremely important for foster children, and using Icebreaker meetings can be an effective mechanism for doing that. However, to be successful, an agency seeking to introduce Icebreakers must understand how the practice works. This Annie E. Casey Foundation publication is designed to: Give agencies an overview of Icebreaker meetings; describe a work group process for planning and implementing Icebreaker meetings; identify common barriers and roadblocks to successful implementation of Icebreaker meetings; identify implementation steps that are often overlooked or missed; share successes and examples of agencies using Icebreaker meetings; share samples of Icebreaker documents and materials developed by agencies from across the country; and, provide a self-assessment tool to guide planning and implementation. Also, see the Icebreaker Training Video produced to support the use of Icebreaker meetings by child welfare agencies. (2012)

  • Improving Outcomes by Improving Practice: Engaging Children, Youth, and Families
    This newsletter issue deals with a foundational element of child welfare – engaging children, youth, and families. The value of family engagement is widely accepted in the field and would seem to be a natural skill among those who choose a profession in helping children and families. However, in actual practice its presence in relationships between workers and families is often absent or conditional, leading to unsuccessful efforts to support children and families on a path to change. This newsletter by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group explores some of the reasons family engagement is challenging, how it can be achieved, and how its presence can be evaluated. (September 2011)
  • A Family's Guide to the Child Welfare System
    Families entering the child welfare system have a resource to help them navigate its often bewildering complexities. This Guide uses a question-and-answer format and personal stories to describe the experiences, processes, laws, and people who are part of the child welfare system. Also see the companion Training Guide.

  • Handbooks for Birth Parents
    For birth parents whose children have entered the foster care system, the intricacies of the foster care and legal systems can be overwhelming. In response to this, some states have created handbooks for birth parents to help guide them through the process.

  • Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents: A Fact Sheet
    This factsheet discusses some of the emotional issues that parents face after making the decision to place an infant for adoption, in surrendering the child, and in handling the feelings that often persist afterwards. In addition, it addresses some of the emotional issues of parents whose children are permanently removed from them and whose parental rights are terminated. It may be a helpful resource for birth parents, as well as family members, friends, and others who want to support birth parents. It may also provide some insight to adopted persons and adoptive parents who want to understand the struggles faced by birth parents.

  • Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process
    A study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute suggests that the rights and needs of biological parents who place their children for adoption are often misunderstood or neglected. The study reports on the rights and status of birth parents by exploring the context of infant adoption in today's society, examining how laws and practices affect birth parents' rights, and reviewing research on the impact of relinquishment.

  • Rise
    Rise is a magazine by and for parents who have been involved in the child welfare system. Its mission is to provide parents with true stories about the system's role in families' lives and information that will help parents advocate for themselves and their children.

  • Supporting Parents of Young Children in the Child Welfare System
    This report from the National Center for Children in Poverty explores the challenges and opportunities of improving mandated parent training. Drawing on lessons from research and practice, it calls on states, courts and communities to use a more intentional, cost effective, and strategic approach to required parent training. (February 2010)

  • Resources to Help Youth Build Relationships with Parents and Foster Parents
    Below are some resources from Youth Communication to help youth build good relationships with parents and foster parents. Each of these web pages includes the following sections: Stories by Teens, Resources for Teens and Staff, Tips for Staff, and Helpful Links.
    Birth Parents:
    Foster Parents:

  • Facing Termination of Parental Rights: Rise Magazine
    While the majority of children placed in foster care return home to family, many children do not. In some cases in which parental rights are terminated, children and parents may not see each other again. Other times, families stay connected despite termination. In this issue of Rise Magazine, parents write about how they have handled termination. Rise magazine is written by and for parents involved in the child welfare system. Its mission is to help parents advocate for themselves and their children. (Spring 2010)

Resources from the States
To access a list of handbooks for birth parents by State, click here.

  • Maine:
    Parent Education & Training Programs in a Child Welfare Population: A Review of the Evidence


  • Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework Online Training
    The National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds has launched an online training to support implementation of the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework.  This curriculum includes materials on partnering with parents and addresses promising strategies to strengthen families for practitioners in multiple settings. There are 7 courses: Introduction to the Protective Factors; Concrete Support in Times of Need; Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development; Parental Resilience; Social Connections; Social and Emotional Competence; and, Moving from Knowledge to Action: Wrap-up Course.
  • A Family's Guide to the Child Welfare System – Training Manual
    This is a companion to A Family's Guide to the Child Welfare System, a comprehensive resource that answers many of the questions that families face when they become involved with the child welfare system. It was developed as a collaborative effort among the American Institutes for Research, Black Administrators in Child Welfare, Inc., Tampa Hillsborough Integrated Network for Kids (THINK), and the Bridgeway Community Church – Creative Arts Ministry. It is intended to be a “guide to the Guide” and includes training exercises, handouts, power point slides, and audiotapes of the Family Voices in the Guide

Teleconference and Webcasts

  • Children Whose Parents Have Experienced Childhood Trauma – Challenges, Obligations, and Reasonable Efforts for Reunification
    In this forum recording from the Chapin Hall Child and Family Policy Forum, presenters discussed findings from a Chapin Hall report in which researchers identified a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system who have extensive childhood trauma experiences and face multiple challenges or service needs. These findings have implications for caseworker engagement and service interventions, and they also raise fundamental questions about our obligation and approaches to working with parents, protecting children, and promoting well-being. This forum also discussed changes to policies and practices in the child welfare, legal, and human services fields that may be necessary in order to improve the well-being of this group of children and their families. (May 2013)

  • Promising Practices for Addressing the Mental Health Issues Impacting Parents of Children in Foster Care On January 31, 2006, the NRCPFC and CWLA hosted this teleconferences for state foster care and adoption managers, the third in a series on mental health issues. To listen to the audio files and download the handouts, visit our archived teleconferences page.

  • NRCPFC Webcast: Meaningful Family Engagement
    Meaningful family engagement is a prerequisite for helping families achieve their goals. This National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections webcast focused on meaningful engagement of families, particularly birth parents. The discussion included strategies for states focusing on how to successfully engage family members affected by the child welfare system, including fathers and paternal resources. In addition, a birth parent shared her experience as a former client and now a national consultant helping public child welfare agencies better engage families within and beyond the case plan. Using state examples of promising practices with meaningful family engagement strategies, this webcast also discussed utilizing the voice of parents as presenters and in digital stories. (January 2011)

  • NRCPFC Teleconference/Webinar: Reinstating Parental Rights for Youth in Care
    Despite laws that require termination of parental rights when a child has remained in foster care for a specified period of time, studies indicate that relationships with their biological parents/relatives are important to children/youth in foster care. Youth who become “legal orphans” through the court process often make efforts to maintain that connection. In some cases where the purpose for terminating parental rights (i.e. adoption) is not fulfilled, the child, child welfare agency, or parent has asked that the court reinstate the legal relationship between the child and parent. This NRCPFC teleconference discussed how some States are finding permanency for youth by reinstating parental rights or by biological parents adopting their birth children. This session provided an overview of issues, discussed legal actions taken by States, considered possible solutions, and explored the question, “Where do we go from here?” (2011)

NRCPFC Information Packets


  • National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center: Shared Family Care
    Shared Family Care (SFC) refers to a situation in which an entire family is temporarily placed in the home of a host family. The host family is trained to mentor and support the biological parents as they develop skills and supports necessary to care for their child(ren) and move toward independent living.


Last updated 8/9/13