National Center for Adoption Competent Mental Health Services

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Building bridges between child welfare systems and state mental health systems is key to bringing about systemic change to improve the mental health outcomes for children in care and in adoptive and guardianship homes.

Funded by United States Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, Children’s Bureau in October 2023, the newly launched National Center for Adoption Competent Mental Health Services will provide targeted technical assistance and evidence-informed training to strengthen coordination and capacity among child welfare and mental health systems to improve the quality of mental health services provided to children, young adults, and their families while in care and in adoptive and guardianship homes.

C.A.S.E. will work with national leaders as well as parents and young adults with lived experience to deliver new and enhanced support and training to states, tribes, territories, professionals, and peer support to professionals to meet the needs of children and families. The Center will be funded at $4 million for each of the five-year award.

C.A.S.E. is nationally recognized for its pioneering work in adoption-competent mental health services and fostering the development of a highly skilled adoption-competent workforce through its National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI), also funded by ACF.

“This award brings C.A.S.E. full circle. We have been developing and providing specialized mental health services to thousands of foster, kinship and adoptive families for more than two decades. We have seen the positive impact when mental health professionals have the skills, knowledge, and strategies to meet the complex needs of our most vulnerable youth. Leveraging this expertise, we are now able to build bridges between child welfare and mental health systems and enhance the capacity of the workforce nationally. We are proud to model this cross-system partnership to address the mental health crisis plaguing our nation and ensure equitable, accessible, culturally competent, evidenced informed mental health services for children and families.” – Debbie Riley LCMFT, C.A.S.E. CEO

See How the Center Can Help You!

The Center seeks to create transformations that increase the capacity of States, Tribes, and territories to provide accessible and culturally competent mental health services to youth in foster care and those who exited to adoption or guardianship and their families through stronger, sustained collaboration between child welfare and mental health systems. By strengthening the systems’ capacity, families will have enhanced well-being, stability, permanency, and behavioral health. Both child welfare and mental health systems will benefit in the following ways:

Grandfather and grandson doing homework

Child Welfare Systems:

  • Address CFSR indicators and FFPSA prevention efforts

  • Receive free intensive on-site TA to build alliances with the mental health systems and providers and improve accessibility

  • Improve placement stability and re-entry rates

  • Receive support from peer learning communities including those with lived experiences

  • Access adoption competent information that exemplifies best practices, up to date resources, and comprehensive, evidenced informed trainings all in one place

  • Build strong alliances with adoption competent mental health providers

  • Develop strategies for making trauma-based, culturally responsive, and linguistically appropriate competent mental health services consistently and comprehensively available

  • Increase understanding of separation, loss, grief, and trauma among CW staff and supervisors

Multiethnic Group of People in Seminar

 Mental Health Systems:

  • Build the adoption competency level of mental health practitioners

  • Receive free on site TA to build alliances with the child welfare system and the mental health providers to improve accessibility and build a cadre of trained adoption competent providers

  • Enhance the provision of culturally competent, racially equitable mental health services

  • Access evidenced informed adoption competent information, tools and resources, and trainings all in one place

  • Improve collaboration with child welfare professionals

  • Increase understanding of providers in issues of separation, loss, grief, and trauma

  • Receive support from peer learning communities

  • Enhanced wellbeing, stability and permanency for behavioral health for children in care and who have exited the system to adoptive /guardianship families

  • Have access to other free resources specific to your state’s needs

C.A.S.E. is excited to partner with a pool of national subject matter experts and other leading organizations to ensure The Center’s success!


Our Partners

The Baker Center for Children and Families

Family Run Executive Director Leadership Association (FREDLA)

National Adoption Association (NAA)

National Foster Parent Association (NFPA)


University Nebraska–Lincoln Center on Children, Families, & the Law (CCFL)


Click on the partner logos to learn more about each partner.

The Baker Center for Children and Families promotes the best possible mental health of children and families through the integration of research, intervention, training, and policy. The Baker Center’s success assisting MH systems to strengthen their programs, policy, and practice to improve outcomes for youth will provide important context for The Center. The Baker Center brings unparalleled expertise in advancing and improving MH access for youth and families, technical assistance in systems transformation, and integrating evidence-based practices informed by research, including SAMHSA grants.

The Family-Run Executive Director Leadership Association (FREDLA) is a national association of executive directors and leaders from family-run organizations (FROs) committed to all children, youth, and young adults with social, emotional, substance use, and multi-systems challenges, their families, and the agencies that serve them. Their role is to reflect the collective experiences of family organizations across the country in their work, and to develop the tools they need to accomplish theirs. Many of its member organizations provide direct support to/services for child welfare and mental health systems. FREDLA has robust experience providing training, TA, and support to state and local agencies. FREDLA will guide The Center in multiple strategies to infuse family voice.

FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care and is recognized as a field-leader for youth engagement in the child welfare system with membership of 40,000 and 250 youth leaders. FosterClub’s strategy engages LEx Leaders to 1) provide direct support to young people who experience foster care; and 2) drive change in the foster care system informed and led by lived experience. FosterClub’s vision is that every young person who experiences foster care has what they need to live their best life. They will help ensure that The Center integrates engagement and voices of youth and families into all parts of our work, both in the creation and delivery of our services and how we work with States, Tribes, and territories to help them view youth and families.

The National Adoption Association (NAA) is the largest and only national association focused exclusively on supporting public and private adoption professionals at all levels, including frontline workers, agency directors, and state adoption managers. Founded in 1982, NAA serves 500 members across the country, regularly convening members, to promote best and inclusive practices and increase competency in applying a race equity lens in all work with all families. For 4+ decades, NAA has built professional relationships with those who administer and interact with CW services, including two decades of operating CB’s program AdoptUSKids. NAA brings tested, effective techniques and dissemination strategies from AdoptUSKids, strong national network, and reputation, to promote the Center’s work, including targeting specific communities with culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate content. NAA’s dissemination activities will build bridges with MH systems to promote further development and training in issues related to separation, loss, grief, and trauma. NAA’s expertise, knowledge, and skills in race equity will help ensure the Center delivers services using a race equity lens.

The National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) is a respected national voice for foster, kinship, and adoptive families across the United States. NFPA will promote the Center’s work and disseminate findings through its networking, education, and advocacy programs including the NFPA Training Institute with 50+ online courses by experts in the field and over 2,400 students. NFPA will leverage its extensive reach including its Council of State Affiliates, a group of leaders of state foster care associations who work collaboratively to provide better support to the foster care community at the state and national level, and its 25,000 Facebook followers.

PolicyWorks is an independent, non-partisan program evaluation and policy research firm founded in 1995 that conducts needs assessments, program evaluations, and strategic policy analyses. It has developed numerous publications, practice tools, and related curricula that strengthen front-line practices in CW, criminal justice, education, and prevention fields and has served as external evaluator for 9 federally funded, multi-year demonstration projects in CW, including CB’s Quality Improvement Center for Adoption. PolicyWorks will produce comprehensive landscape scans for The Center that build profiles of CW and MH systems and Medicaid funding patterns to help assess STT needs and for site selection. She will update scans annually and contribute to the development of the Repository.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center on Children, Families, and the Law (CCFL) was established in 1987 as a home for interdisciplinary research, evaluation, policy analysis, education, and community engagement on issues related to child and family policy and services. CCFL’s mission is “Helping the Helpers: Providing an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to improve systems and outcomes for children and families.” In 2021, CCFL received the Quality Program Award by the National Staff Development and Training Association for its innovative and interdisciplinary Child Protection and Safety Training Program, developed in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS). CCFL will serve as the Evaluation Team for The Center.

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For additional questions or information, please contact:
Mary Wichansky, LCSW-C
Center Director, The National Center for Adoption Competent Mental Health Services



Funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, Grant # 90CO1145

The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funder, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.