The State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) spent a busy 2013 working with its partners for stronger advocates, better policies, and improved outcomes for kids. SPARC commissioned and released a number of briefs and hosted webinars on a variety of ways we can improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system. Below are the most accessed resources from SPARC in 2013. A special thank you to our funders at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, who made these important resources possible. We look forward to a great 2014!

1. Medicaid to 26 for Youth in Foster Care: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes a provision that allows all young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. This brief, authored by ChildFocus, outlines key steps child welfare stakeholders can take to ensure Medicaid coverage to age 26 for youth in, or who have aged out of, foster care.

2. Medicaid and Children in Foster Care: This brief, authored by Center for Health Care Strategies, details the health care needs of children in foster care and the role of Medicaid in providing health coverage for this population. It also highlights existing policy levers that may help to address some of the ongoing health and well-being issues faced by children in foster care.

3. Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Child Welfare: Child welfare system stakeholders, and the children and families they serve, can greatly benefit from integrating trauma knowledge into their policies and practices and thereby improve outcomes for abused and neglected children. This brief, authored by the ABA Center on Children and the Law, highlights the effects of trauma on child well-being and provide practice recommendations and examples of specific initiatives to guide transformation of the system.

4. Raising the Bar: Child Welfare’s Shift Towards Well-Being: This brief, authored by the Center for the Study of Social Policty, summarizes the research, policy and practice trends driving this increased focus on well-being, highlights promising federal, state, and local efforts from across the county, and outlines initial steps for policymakers and advocates to implement a policy and practice agenda in their community.

5. NACAC State Adoption Fact Sheets: The state-by-state fact sheets from the North American Council on Adoptable Children, derived mostly from 2011 AFCARS data, have information about the number of waiting children, the length of time children spend in care, the race of waiting and adopted children, types of exits from foster care, Title IV-E payments, and more.

6. Child Welfare Financing in the United States: Many sources of public funding are available to help support child welfare activities, making the overall approach to child welfare financing in the United States a web of federal, state, and local dollars. This brief, authored by Child Trends and the True North Group, summarizes key facts and trends regarding national, state, and local child welfare financing in an easy-to-read question and answer.

7. Electronic Information Exchange: Elements that Matter for Children in Foster Care: This brief, Authored by The Children’s Partnership, lays out the case for investing in systems that enable electronic information exchange for children and youth in foster care, reviews existing efforts underway in states and communities, identifies specific elements that serve this population most effectively, and discusses steps that state advocates can take to establish an integrated electronic record of care for foster children and youth in their state.

8. Education Records of Children in Foster Care: This brief, authored by the Legal Center for Foster Care & Education, describes the barriers to educational success that children in foster care often face, and how a new amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) makes it easier for child welfare agencies to collaborate with schools to eliminate these barriers for children in foster care. It provides examples of steps that state child welfare agencies and schools have already taken to implement it, as well as a list of considerations stakeholders should contemplate when implementing the law in their own jurisdictions

9. Therapeutic Foster Care: Exceptional Care for Complex, Trauma-Impacted Youth in Foster Care: This brief, authored by the Foster Family-based Treatment Association, highlights the promising practice of therapeutic, or treatment foster care (TFC) and its success in delivering services to foster youth with severe mental, emotional, or behavioral health needs or for medically fragile or developmentally delayed youth whose physical and emotional health needs require more intensive clinical and medical intervention than can be accommodated in traditional foster care.

10. The Uninterrupted Scholars Act: How Recent Changes to FERPA Can Improve Educational Outcomes for Children in Care: This webinar was hosted by SPARC and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, together with the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education (a collaboration of the American Bar Association, Juvenile Law Center, and Education Law Center-PA).