Child Welfare Resources

Child Welfare Resources
Intervention and Referral Services
By Cheryl Lusane, CASA Advocate

We know that the frequent placement and education disruptions that children in foster care experience can result in academic, social, and/or emotional difficulties. Research shows that schools can be a protective force in the lives of youth while in foster care and beyond. Foster children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) are legally entitled to targeted approaches to improving their academic outcomes through the help they receive from the Child Study Team (CST) professionals and special education teachers. 

But what about those general education students who do not qualify for an IEP, yet are experiencing difficulties? How can we as CASA Advocates help ensure that our case children who fall within that population receive the help they need to halt the cycle of repeated academic failure, suspensions and other disciplinary actions?

New Jersey Administrative Code 8A:16- 8.1 mandates that every school district establish and implement a coordinated system in each school building for the planning and delivery of intervention and referral services (I&RS) designed to assist general education students as well as well as those needing IEPs. When a student is referred for an issue, a team is assembled that typically includes an administrator, counselor, teacher, reading specialist, social worker, psychologist, and a nurse if a health issue is involved. The team, which may be referred to as an I&RS Team, School Support Team (SST in Newark), or Student Success Team, focuses on early problem identification and development of an action plan and outcome measures. Schools usually try I&RS programs
before going to the CST.

While the services an I&RS team can offer are more limited than CST's, the methodology to assess the student's specific needs is broad. For example, if the problem is academic, the team would examine student assessment data and classroom performance indicators to determine whether the student should receive individualized instruction, tutoring, or other academic assistance. Behavior issues may require classroom observations to identify specific situations and other triggers; a solution might be to implement changes to the classroom environment.

There's a wealth of information online to help you when working with schools on behalf of our children. Your first stop should be this excerpt from the New Jersey Intervention and Referral Resources Manual. It includes a clear overview of the I&RS process, a detailed checklist for each of its 6 phases, and guidance for successful team meetings. If you wish to dig deeper into I&RS, the entire 400+ pages Resources Manual is available here.

For a child in foster care, small successes in school can help them gain some control over their lives and hope for the future. The I&RS process is a powerful tool for finding the source of a child's challenges and creating strategies for improvement.Because of our intimate knowledge of our case children, the CASA advocate is often the person who asks the questions that prompt school personnel to investigate a child's needs. Successful advocacy requires intentionality, awareness of the challenges faced by children in foster care, and utilization of relevant resources and regulations.

Capacity Building Center for States:

• Pathways to Permanency: Expanding on APPLA Provisions and Youth Engagement to Improve Permanency: Click Here
• Building and Sustaining Collaborative Community Relationships: Click Here
• Quality Matters: Improving Caseworker Contacts With Children, Youth, and Families: Click Here
• Buzzwords: Moving to Behavioral Descriptors: Click Here
• Working With Children and Youth With Complex Clinical Needs: Strategies in the Safe Reduction of Congregate Care: Click Here
• Empowering Caregivers, Strengthening Families Video Series: Click Here
• Authentic Voices Video Series: Sharing Our Perspective: Click Here
• Perspectives on Normalcy: Videos and Discussion Questions: Click Here

Child Trends:

• How Mass Incarceration Pushes Black Children Further Behind in School Click Here
• Black innovators shine through history in these animated films for kids: Click Here
• Not on Medicaid? Your neighborhood school might be: Click Here
• Providing access to child care means more than providing enough slots: Click Here
• Executive Summary - Improving Measurement of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Among Middle and High School Students: Click Here
• Foster Care Facts in NJ: Click Here
• Health Insurance Coverage Improves Well Being: Click Here
• Helping Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education: Click Here

Child Welfare Information Gateway:

• Extending Out-of-Home Care for Youth Past Age 18: Click Here 
• Engaging Youth in Foster Care Podcast
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