October 2020
Focus on Parent Advocacy and Participation

'I urge parents affected by the system to get involved in the parent advocacy movement. To speak up and speak out and to work alongside all other advocates to create the change they want to see. There is no better voice than that of a parent who has experienced it firsthand'.

- Dinah Ortiz-Adames, Parent Advocate and Child Welfare Consultant, from International Review of Parent Advocacy in Child Welfare


The mission of child protection and child welfare systems should be to support parents and families to care for their children, and to enable children to grow up in safe, loving and nurturing families. Yet child welfare systems throughout the world too often fail to protect children, do not provide the support families need, and in some cases harm children in their care. This issue of the BCN Newsletter produced in collaboration with the International Parent Advocacy Network (IPAN) features new evidence and resources highlighting the role parent participation, and parent advocacy in particular, can play in strengthening children’s care and protection. Parent advocacy in child welfare is when parents with child welfare experience promote parent participation and the rights of parents and children through case, program and policy advocacy.

Research findings identified in a new International Review of Parent Advocacy in Child Welfare commissioned by the Better Care Network, indicate that parent advocacy has been demonstrated in high-income countries to reduce the number of children placed into care and the length of time children remain in care, and improve the experience of both parents and professionals in the child welfare systems. 

This new report presents the findings from a preliminary review of practice in increasing parent participation through parent advocacy in child welfare decision-making and it looks at the opportunities and challenges parent advocacy creates; lessons learnt across different settings and contexts, and evidence of the benefits of supporting such engagement as a key element in system reform. It also includes the results of the first international survey of parent advocacy programs.

As parents across the globe are brought together in conversation, there is a realization that the challenges they are facing are not unique and are reflected across many cultures, communities and countries. In order to address the challenges these parents are facing in working with child welfare systems, they are starting to build grassroots advocacy organizations to be a countervailing force to push child welfare systems to change to create better outcomes for children and their families. These parent advocates are being trained as leaders, helping other parents and working to reform child welfare policies and practices.

IPAN is one such organization. IPAN works to build a parent-led movement to transform child welfare worldwide. In this issue, IPAN’s president, Heather Cantamessa, shares her experience of being a parent involved in the child welfare system in the U.S. State of Washington and why IPAN has been vital in building the framework for an international parent advocacy community. This newsletter issue also features a new Parent Advocacy Toolkit, developed by IPAN and Rise - a New York City-based organization that builds the leadership of parents whose families have been affected by the child welfare system - which provides a platform where parents and professionals can learn about parent advocacy and the vital role it is taking in communities around the world, with the understanding that information is power. Other resources included in this issue highlight the roles that parent advocacy and participation are playing in empowering parents, creating stronger families and ultimately achieving everyone’s goal, which is to create healthier, safer, better childhoods.

Taliah Drayak
Administrator, IPAN
Florence Martin
Director, Better Care Network

Focus on Parent Advocacy
Perspective from a Parent Advocate
by Heather Cantamessa
As much of an honor as it is to be the president of IPAN, the most important title I will ever have is Mother. I have six beautiful children, one of them has gifted me with two amazing grandchildren. It’s an incredible privilege for me to be able to have my family together because we have struggled to navigate the child welfare system and spent years working to reunite and then heal our broken bonds.
Without the dedication of allies and parent advocates, who educated me about the system and encouraged me to hold on to hope, I would have been immobilized. They inspired me to dedicate myself to serve parents that are experiencing the hardship of family separation in child welfare.
My parent advocacy journey started about 11 years ago by bringing together a small group of other parent advocates and allies in a grassroots effort to bridge the gap between child welfare and our local community.

When I was invited to collaborate with parents from around the world, I felt like everything that I had developed
personally and professionally had come together for this opportunity. I met parent advocates from Scotland, England & Australia and felt instantly connected when they spoke of their own journey with their families through child welfare. Though we lived on opposite sides of the globe, our experiences were extremely similar and equally disheartening.

I am inspired by all the meaningful work they and their allies were doing with families and agencies in their countries.
I knew that if only we could join forces, we could increase our positive impact exponentially and reach families worldwide who are experiencing what we went through. IPAN’s mission is to build a parent- led movement to transform child welfare and that is what we have set out to do, by bringing parents and allies together to build an international community dedicated to ensuring a holistic approach is taken to supporting families to raise their children in safe and sustainable homes. By building resources, such as the Parent Advocacy Toolkit, to educate and empower parents and allies in parent advocacy. And, perhaps, most importantly, by building relationships to create connections that change lives and shape our future. Too often, parents are disempowered and marginalised, from minority communities, and in a state of financial distress. We cannot continue to fail our children by refusing to engage with parents, and parent advocacy is a proven way to accomplish this.
We are excited to highlight the work being done by parent advocates across the world and we hope that you will join our efforts to empower families to become powerful advocates in influencing change.

This report produced for BCN and IPAN, and written by David Tobis, Andy Bilson and Isuree Katugampala, presents the findings from a preliminary review of practice in increasing parent participation through parent advocacy in child welfare decision-making at the case, program and policy level. It looks at the opportunities and challenges parent advocacy creates; lessons learnt across different settings and contexts, and evidence of the benefits of supporting such engagement as a key element in system reform. It includes the results of the first international survey of parent advocacy programs and a literature review showing the developing evidence base on parent advocacy. It identifies over 100 programs in high income countries and includes 5 case studies and 15 profiles of parent advocacy organisations.

Although presently parent advocacy programs in child welfare operate primarily in high-income contexts, the report considers ways that the experience and benefits of parent advocacy might be relevant for low- and middle-income countries, and how the experience in low- and middle-income countries may be beneficial to other countries.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This Practice Brief accompanies the International Review of Parent Advocacy in Child Welfare. It provides a brief overview of parent advocacy and how it benefits children and families. The brief offers a review of lessons learned from research on the outcomes and effective implementation of program advocacy - in which parent advocates design, plan, evaluate and strengthen programs and assist other parents. The brief outlines some ideas for developing a strategy to promote parent advocacy and points to a few helpful resources.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

IPAN and Rise have developed this toolkit for advocacy by parents whose families have been affected by child welfare systems worldwide. The toolkit is designed to be used to advocate for change, support families going through the child welfare system, raise up solutions, improve children’s lives and help build the movement. It includes information and resources that parent advocates and their allies created or use in their work, as well as relevant resources from connected intersectional justice movements.

IPAN and Rise hope to continue to develop and collect “how to” resources, while at the same time creating an even more inclusive toolkit. To that end, they are currently collecting feedback to strengthen and grow the toolkit and invite you to contribute!

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This blog post was co-written by Taliah Drayak, a parent with lived experience of child protection, parent advocate and founder of Scots Mums Guide to Safeguarding and Child Protection and administrator of IPAN, along with Andy Bilson, a retired professor of social work. It describes the benefits of parent advocacy for parents involved in the child protection system and includes a letter of thanks written by Taliah Drayak to her advocate. Read also: We can't afford child protection

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This chapter of the Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work, written by David Tobis, examines an inspiring story of dramatic change in New York’s child welfare system and how parents whose children were in foster care contributed to those changes. It demonstrates how grassroots activism can be suggestive for critical social work.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This evaluation study examined the perceptions and outcomes of the Parent Advocacy (PA) Initiative implemented in Initial Child Safety Conferences (ICSC) by New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). In ICSCs, parent advocates, drawing upon their extensive personal and professional experiences, advocated for, supported, counseled, and guided families throughout the duration of the conference. 

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This Casey Family Programs issue brief looks at the use of peer mentors (“parent partners”) who work with parents entering in and engaging with the child welfare system in the U.S. The brief outlines these parent partner programs’ benefits and program research evaluation findings, and provides guidance on how these programs are structured and funded. It also provides brief summaries of three parent partner programs.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This series of articles from Rise Magazine exposes the harm of punishing parents instead of addressing the root causes of child welfare involvement in the U.S. The series shares parents’ perspectives and recommendations for strengthening families without surveillance and through community, provides information that parents can use to advocate for their families and communities, and highlights efforts to target community conditions instead of families.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This Churchill Fellowship explored a range of initiatives and programs that aim to build a family inclusive approach to child protection and out of home care (child welfare) practice especially when children have been removed by statutory child welfare agencies and placed in care. The document reviews family inclusion initiatives in the USA, Canada, Norway and the UK in order to explore practical ideas and strategies to be considered for implementation in Australia, and has found that family inclusion is a pathway to better outcomes for children and young people including restoration and permanency. Read also: Family Inclusive practice in child welfare: report of a Churchill Fellowship study tour

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This study from the Children and Youth Services Review examines the outcomes for children of families served by the U.S. state of Iowa's Department of Human Services Parent Partner program. Results indicated that the children of program participants were significantly more likely to return home at discharge from their foster care placement than the children of matched non-participants. Additionally, Iowa Parent Partner program participants were significantly less likely to have a subsequent child removal within 12 months of the child returning home than matched non-participants.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

There has recently been increased interest in the potential for formal and informal networks to aid interventions with biological families in helping them achieve reunification in the context of the child protection system. This article from the journal of Social Sciences analyzes the conceptualization of social support in order to create social support networks.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This qualitative study from the Children and Youth Services Review examines the Minnesota One-Stop for Communities Parent Mentor Program (MPMP) in the U.S. African American parents previously involved in the child welfare system conceptualized and spearheaded this program for parents currently involved in the system to reduce the involvement of families of color in child welfare, provide support and build protective factors.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This study from the Children and Youth Services Review utilizes a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design to assess the causal impact on child welfare outcomes when parents facing an abuse or neglect case in the New York City Family Court in the U.S. were provided interdisciplinary law office representation as opposed to a standard panel attorney. Results shed light on why interdisciplinary law office parental representation effectively hastens reunification for children in foster care as compared to a solo practitioner attorney.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
This article from the Australian Feminist Law Journal documents the author's experiences with the state’s contemporary removal of Aboriginal children in Western Australia (WA) and the practice of Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making (AFLDM), a family led decision making process supported as best practice for Aboriginal families.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
In this study from the Australian Journal of Human Rights, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with parents with intellectual disability who accessed a specialist advocacy programme in New South Wales, Australia. Thematic analysis was used to identify the influence of advocacy on parents’ experiences. The study found that the advocate played a critical role in creating a bridge between parents and professionals. This helped to build parents’ skills and confidence and improve the disability awareness of professionals. 

Related Topics: Parent Participation

The Hand In Hand Parent Meeting was held in Melbourne, Australia on the 19th of September 2018. This meeting aimed to capture the authentic voices of parents with intellectual disability about their experiences with the services and supports available to them to support their parenting. This report is an outcome of that meeting. It shares the stories of parents with intellectual disabilities. It has been written for DHHS workers, NDIS workers, families, health workers, disability workers, advocates and anyone interested in the rights of parents with an intellectual disability. 

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This case study from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and Family Voices provides valuable insights about best practices for engaging families, describes a framework for implementing family engagement in systems-level initiatives and why it is important, and highlights the significance of providing adequate funding for family-led organizations and for individual family leader participants.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 8 child protection workers and 19 parents, this study from the journal of Qualitative Social Work reports participants’ experiences of participatory child protection practices in Ghana. The study findings suggested some measures to be put in place to overcome barriers to ensure the full participation of parents during case meetings.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
Focusing on accounts by women who have children taken into care, this paper from the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law reports on a socio-legal case study in England, investigating the life experiences of nine mothers, whose children have been made subject to care orders under the Children Act 1989.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
The authors of this study from the journal of Child & Family Social Work interviewed 20 parents about their experiences with the Dutch child protection system (CPS). The study shows new insights in parents' experiences, such as their advice to professionals and how their experiences influence their trust in the system and their attitude towards it.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

This article by Dr Gary Clapton from the University of Edinburgh discusses the results of the first Scottish survey of parents’ experiences of child protection. The survey results echo existing knowledge: that parents are poorly served by existing child protection processes.

Related Topics: Parent Participation
Based on an analysis of 342 complaints concerning foster care reported to the Flemish Office of the Children's Rights Commissioner in Belgium, the authors of this paper from the journal of Child & Family Social Work analysed which “alarming situations” are reported and highlight a number of pressing concerns from the perspective of parents.

Related Topics: Parent Participation

The India Alternative Care Network (IACN) is a collective dedicated to promoting the exchange of learning and dissemination of knowledge on issues related to children without parental care or at risk of separation in India. With online and offline initiatives, their purpose is to strengthen practice and policy for children in different care settings. IACN came into effect in March 2020. It is hosted at Butterflies and is supported by UNICEF. IACN brings together an array of practitioners, academicians, policy advocates and organisations working on improving the well-being and protection of children without parental care or at risk of separation.

IACN launched its website on 21 October 2020, to promote knowledge dissemination, exchange of information and fostering collaborations on issues of children without parental care or at risk of separation. In this video recording of the IACN website launch, the speakers give a brief overview of alternative care in India and the importance of having a national network for advancing knowledge, evidence and advocacy on issues of alternative care. This is followed by sharing sessions on findings of the rapid assessment to understand the impact of COVID-19 on families and children in India, and a global study on kinship care.

Watch the event recording here.
The Better Care Network will continue to share tools, guidance, information, and other resources regarding children's care and protection during the COVID-19 pandemic as practitioners, policymakers, and other key stakeholders work to respond to the needs of children and families impacted by this crisis. For more resources on COVID-19 and children's care, visit the growing collection of documents in the

The authors of this resource from the Center for Global Development rounded up 28 new studies that have been released since their last summary of research studies on violence against women and children (VAW/C) across disciplines and methodologies that had been published since the start of the pandemic.

FICE Israel decided to initiate a short survey to document and share information about the way different countries handled their policies and practices in residential care facilities during that period. This report presents findings and some conclusions from this primary survey.

In this article from the journal of Child & Youth Services, the authors describe the short and long term ramifications of the pandemic for children and youth living in their residential programs in Germany under the auspices of municipal child and youth services.

El presente informe sistematiza la información recabada en encuentros virtuales realizados con adolescentes y jóvenes y con equipos del Sistema de promoción y protección de derechos desde el inicio del aislamiento en Argentina. Se pudo relevar información sobre el impacto social del aislamiento en contextos institucionales, las dificultades que enfrentan en el cumplimiento de las medidas de aislamiento y de las pautas de cuidado, así como también las buenas prácticas que están teniendo lugar en el marco del cuidado de niñas, niños, adolescentes y jóvenes privados de cuidado parental.

This brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy discusses how the infrastructure and partnerships that Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) have developed over years of building their early childhood systems have allowed them to address the needs confronting families with young children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Topics: COVID-19
Understanding the Situation

This report from Disability Rights International documents severe and pervasive human rights violations against children and adults with disabilities in Mexico. Within the country’s orphanages, psychiatric facilities, social care homes, and shelters for people with disabilities, inhumane and degrading treatment is common and many practices amount to torture, according to the report.

This feasibility study was undertaken by a team of academic researchers from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, University of Ghana and Makerere University in Uganda, all of whom are members of the Africa Network of Care-leaving Researchers (ANCR). Given the paucity of research on youth transitioning from alternative care (i.e. care-leaving or leaving care) in Africa, the study sought to develop and test a methodology for a cross-country, comparative study on leaving care in Africa. This amended methodology was then tested in four African countries (Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe) to examine its applicability in these differing political, economic and cultural contexts. Read also the Youth Report and Peer Research Approach paper.

This Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) analysis from the Government of Uganda and the World Bank includes a comprehensive mapping of services for gender-based violence (GBV) and violence against children (VAC) prevention and response across the key sectors of health, police, justice, and social services in refugee settlements and host communities in Uganda.

Related Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect

The Girls on the Move Initiative is a global series of action research from Save the Children that puts girls at the centre. It has been conducted across different regions within existing Save the Children programmes. Each regional study generates targeted evidence to address knowledge gaps in current literature and programme approaches, and engages Save the Children teams to immediately strengthen ongoing interventions for girls in different stages of migration, including unaccompanied migrant girls, notably during transit and arrival.

Related Topics: Children and Migration
In this article from Adoption & Fostering, the authors highlight a framework distinguishing experiences of trauma from experiences of deprivation and use the examples of posttraumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder to demonstrate how greater specificity in our understanding of early adverse caregiving can lead to more accurate and targeted diagnosis and treatment for young children.

Related Topics: Child Abuse and Neglect
Policies, Standards, and Guidelines

This National Child Policy of Uganda has been developed to coordinate the efforts of the different sectors that have a direct and indirect mandate on children and deliver a comprehensive package of services encompassing all the four cardinal rights of the child in a multi-sectoral approach. One of the priority areas of this policy is children's care and protection.

This note was developed by the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, Global Child Protection Area of Responsibility, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, UNHCR, and UNICEF. The purpose of this note is to clarify the linkages and complementarity between INSPIRE seven strategies for ending violence against children and the 2019 Edition of the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (‘2019 CPMS’); and to provide some practical guidance on how to use INSPIRE and the 2019 CPMS in conjunction for preventing and responding to violence against children in humanitarian settings.

The purpose of this manual from the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance - Supervision Interest Group is to offer guidance on supervision to individuals working to provide, manage or coordinate social services. This manual defines what is meant by supervision in social services, outlines the key elements of good practice in supervision and summarizes the different forms of supervision.

This report from Save the Children calls upon governments, donors and other development partners to urgently support an expansion in social protection coverage of children and their caregivers (predominantly women), working progressively towards universal child benefits (UCBs).

Learning from Practice

The goal of this case study from the Alliance for Children Everywhere (ACE) is to demonstrate a working model of family-based care in Zambia which can produce a replicable framework that can be modified for other regions and circumstances.

Drawing on semi‐structured in‐depth interviews with 31 kinship caregivers, this study from the Child Abuse Review sought to explore how the culturally informed traditional kinship care practice in Ghana can be considered an intervention strategy for parental neglect. This study's findings suggest that kinship care options could help prevent severe forms of child neglect and prevent instances of child neglect at their onset.

On 20-21 October 2020, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) held two-day virtual conversations with organizers, activists, scholars, and community leaders in the U.S. to strategize innovative ways to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their families is no longer an acceptable solution for families in need.
This video includes two panel discussions from day two of the event, one of which focused on child welfare in Indigenous communities. Watch the recording of Day One of the event here.

This webinar, hosted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, outlined key elements of good practice in supervision and tools that can be used for achieving quality supervision for social service workers. Presenters shared examples of promising practices in strengthening supervision, including a competency-based child protection case management approach developed by Save the Children Myanmar.

This video series from UNICEF shares the stories of young girls living through COVID-19 – coping with the fears of child marriage, the struggles of distance learning, and the burden of isolation. Armed only with mobile phones, 16 girls from nine countries film their hardships, fears and hopes for a fair world.

Related Topics: COVID-19

2 November 2020
23 November 2020
Udayan Care, University of Hildesheim – Germany, Kinderperspectief, SOS Children’s Villages
June 2021
Brussels, Belgium
June 2021
Rimini, Italy
Job Postings and Opportunities

15 November 2020
15 November 2020
No Deadline Given
31 January 2020

Newsletter participants, currently 4,441 in total, work on issues related to the care and support of vulnerable children across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. The purpose of the newsletter is to enable members to exchange information on matters of mutual concern. If you would like to share a document, raise a specific issue, request a newsletter subscription, or reach out in any other way to the Network, please send the information to us at contact@bettercarenetwork.org or visit our website at www.bettercarenetwork.org. 

Thank you!

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