Relationship-Building Tools

The Children’s Bureau, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides discretionary funds for projects designed to eliminate barriers to adoption and help find permanent families for children who would benefit from adoption, particularly children with special needs. This page provides a brief overview of each grantee as well as resources related to building relationships with teens; understanding the impact of trauma, separation, and loss; and preparing teens and adoptive families for permanency.


Minority Professional Leadership Development

Logo: Minority Professional Leadership Development Program at AdoptUSKids


Fellows in AdoptUSKids' Minority Professional Leadership Development program design and implement action research projects to address issues in child welfare. The following projects are centered on permanency for teens and youth engagement:

National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative

Logo: NTI, National Adoption Competency Mental health Training Initiative Advancing Practice for Permanency & Well-Being

The National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI) aims to improve outcomes for children and youth in foster, adoptive, and guardianship families by infusing enhanced permanency, adoption, and mental health competency in the provision of casework and clinical practice. NTI developed two state-of-the-art, standardized, web-based trainings to build the capacity of child welfare and mental health professionals in all States, Tribes, and territories to effectively support children, youth, and their foster, adoptive, and guardianship families. The NTI trainings include modules relevant to understanding the impact of trauma and loss on a youth's relationships; building rapport, trust, and openness; and facilitating conversations with youth about grief and loss. The resources on NTI's Resources for Working With Teens webpage are a sample of the information provided in these trainings.

National Training and Development Curriculum

Logo: National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents

The National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents (NTDC) prepares parents who are fostering and adopting with the tools to effectively parent children exposed to trauma, separation, and loss and provide these families with the ongoing skills development needed to understand and promote healthy child development. At the end of the project, States, counties, Tribes, territories, and private agencies will have access to a free, comprehensive curriculum. Resources from the curriculum include a video about effective communication with teens and a podcast on family dynamics. Both are available on NTDC's webpage of classroom based training materials.

National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship

Logo: National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation

The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG) was a 5-year cooperative agreement designed to promote permanence (when reunification was no longer a goal) and to improve support for adoption and guardianship preservation. The QIC-AG worked with eight sites that implemented evidence-based interventions or developed and tested promising practices. The following resources from the Pathways to Permanency model can support relationship building with teens:

The Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency

Logo: The Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency

A commonly heard phrase among children and youth who have been or are involved with the child welfare system is "nothing about us without us." Brought into the child welfare system due to circumstances beyond their control, children and youth often find themselves in a system where they have no voice or ability to make decisions that impact their lives.

Funded by the Children’s Bureau beginning in October 2021, the Quality Improvement Center on Engaging Youth in Finding Permanency (QIC-EY) is charged with advancing child welfare programs and practice to ensure they are authentically engaging and empowering children and youth in foster care throughout the United States, especially in relation to permanency decisions. It is expected that the work of the QIC-EY will bring about systemic changes in how children and youth are authentically engaged, as reflected in intentional policy, practice, and culture shifts in the six to eight pilot sites. Ensuring children and youth in care are authentically engaged, particularly as it relates to permanency, requires a paradigm shift in how the child welfare system understands and views its involvement in decision-making. The QIC-EY will address the system- and worker-level changes necessary to support a vital shift in philosophy and practice nationwide.

The QIC-EY is guided by the following principles:

  • Children and youth must be embraced as experts on their own lives, a source of solutions, and as partners in decision-making
  • To respect, value, and prioritize the engagement of children and youth, intentional policy, practice, training, evaluation, and infrastructure supporting such engagement is required of both child welfare agencies and the courts.
  • A culture of equity and inclusion must be cultivated to ensure children and youth of all ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities can safely and effectively partner in shared decision-making.
  • Permanency for children and youth must be legal, relational, and cultural. All three are critical and interconnected.

Refer to the following resources to learn more about the QIC-EY:

  • Take a few minutes to listen to Maci Kean, member, National Youth Engagement Advisory Council, to find out why engaging children and youth is so important and why you should invest in ensuring children and youth have an authentic voice in child welfare.
  • Read Workforce Systematic Literature Review, which summarizes staff competencies and characteristics that were found to support workers’ engagement with youth in service planning and youth engagement activities.
  • Review the People With Lived Experience Interviews, which provides a summary of findings from interviews that helps us understand whether and how participants were included in planning for their permanency and what changes they recommended to enhance child and youth engagement.
  • Join the QIC-EY email list to receive quarterly updates, including products being released, training opportunities, and other information to help inform your work on youth engagement.