The federal government invested heavily in a plan to develop the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI), a free web-based curriculum aimed at building the knowledge base among professionals around the unique needs of youth who are adopted.
Now, the Administration for Children and Families plans to invest $10 million over five years to help expand the use of the training, and evaluate it. The agency intends to provide that money via a cooperative agreement to the Center for Adoption Support and Education, the Burtonsville, Maryland-based nonprofit that led the development and launch of NTI.
The initiative’s options include a curriculum for child welfare workers or agency supervisors, and a separate training for mental health professionals. Both have been approved by the National Association of Social Workers, and can count toward continuing education credits for anyone who completes them.
It was piloted in eight states and with the Cherokee Nation with more than 9,000 individuals. An evaluation of the pilot found that participants showed across-the-board increases in competency scores in different modules such as attachment and bonding, race and culture and promoting family stability.
According to the notice published last week in the Federal Register, the new agreement with the center “will allow for the continued scale up of the web-based trainings for the child welfare workforce and mental health practitioners to remaining states in the nation” and for “the refinement and update of the curricula as needed.”
Recent data research and reporting by USA Today put numbers and faces to a fairly blind spot in child welfare, the disruption of adoptions from foster care. Reporters analyzed data from between 2008 and 2020 and found that 66,000 adoptees had entered foster care in that time frame.
Debbie Riley, CEO and co-founder of the Center for Adoption Support and Education, said recently on The Imprint Weekly Podcast that competency training should be mandatory for any professional working with youth who experience an adoption.
“I think every child welfare worker, every supervisor, and every mental health professional that’s interfacing with our kids in care is mandated to take the NTI training,” Riley said, meaning “states will not reimburse a therapist … until they have some level of training.”