CWLA 2002 Legislative Agenda
Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program
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- Increase funding to $505 million for FY 2003 for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (Title IV-B, Subpart 2, of the Social Security Act).
On January 17, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 2001 (P.L. 107-133) that extended the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program through 2006. The law also created a new state grant program to provide education and training vouchers for youth who age out of foster care, as well as a mentoring program for children with incarcerated parents.
The new law extends PSSF through 2006 and creates two separate funding categories. For FY 2003-FY 2006, states will receive $305 million in mandatory (guaranteed) funds-the same funding level as FY 2001.
From these annual mandatory funds, $6 million will continue to be provided for research, evaluation, and technical assistance to identify and build on programs that work. New research and evaluation priorities include reunification and post-adoption service models, programs that address parental substance abuse, approaches that target specific needs and age groups, and outcomes of adoptions finalized after the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).
Ten million dollars per year will continue to be provided for the State Court Improvement Program. The law emphasizes the importance of using court improvements to promote ASFA's goals of safety, permanence, and well-being. One percent of total mandatory funding will continue to be reserved for tribal governments.
In addition to annual mandatory funding, Congress may also approve up to $200 million in discretionary funding for PSSF. Congress has to approve these discretionary increases on an annual basis. Of any discretionary funds provided each year for PSSF, 3.3% is dedicated to research, training, and evaluation; 3.3% is available for state court improvement programs; and 2% is reserved for tribal governments. The law now allows any unspent state allotments to be redistributed to the remaining states.
In FY 2002, Congress approved a $70 million increase for PSSF, bringing total FY 2002 funding to $375 million. The President's FY 2003 budget includes a $130 million increase in PSSF, increasing discretionary funding from $70 million in FY 2002 to $200 million in FY 2003. The increase in discretionary funding, combined with the $305 million in mandatory funding, would fund PSSF at $505 million, as the President originally proposed in FY 2002.
The President's FY 2003 budget also requests $60 million in first-time funding for the new state grant program to provide education and training vouchers for youth who age out of foster care, as well as a $25 million in first-time funding for the mentoring program for children with incarcerated parents.
PSSF is an important federal source of funding for an array of support services for families with children, and one of the few sources of federal funds for services to prevent and remedy the difficulties that bring families to the attention of the child welfare system. The program is also central to meeting the goals of ASFA. It helps build capacity in states so services to children and families will be forthcoming.
Prior to 1997, at least 90% of PSSF funds had to be used for family preservation and community-based family support services. When the program was reauthorized in 1997, two additional categories of service were added: time-limited reunification services and adoption promotion and support services. The statute does not specify a percentage or minimum amount of funds that must be used for any single category of service; however, program guidance to states from the Department of Health and Human Services stated that allocation of less than 20% to either type of service would require a strong rationale. Funds are allocated to states according to their relative shares of children receiving food stamps, subject to a 25% nonfederal match.
Family preservation services are designed to help children and families in crisis, including extended and adoptive families. Services include programs to help reunite children with their birthfamilies, if appropriate, or place children in adoptive settings or other permanent arrangements; programs to prevent placement in foster care, including intensive family services; programs to provide follow-up services to families after a child has been returned from foster care; and services to improve parenting skills. The definition of eligible activities for family preservation services also includes infant safe haven programs.
Family support services include a spectrum of community-based activities that promote the safety and well-being of children and families. Intended to assist families not yet in crisis, these services include structured activities involving parents and children, respite care services for parents and caregivers, parenting skills training, and information and referral services. Programs may also include services outside the traditional scope of child welfare, such as health care, education, and employment. The definition of eligible activities for family support services also includes programs to strengthen parental relationships and promote healthy marriages.
Time-limited reunification services are intended to address the needs of children and families involved in the foster care system. Services are provided within 15 months of when a child enters foster care. Reunification services for the child and family include counseling, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, assistance to address domestic violence issues, temporary child care, and transportation services.
Adoption services provided with PSSF funds are aimed at encouraging an increase in the adoption of children in foster care. These services can be used to help children and families prepare for adoption and address their postadoption needs. The statute specifically highlights the growing need for postadoption services.
- In 1999, an estimated 2,974,000 children were reported and referred for investigation to state and local child protection service agencies because family members, professionals, or other citizens were concerned about their safety and well-being. After follow-up assessments, officials were able to substantiate 826,000 of these cases. 1
- An estimated 462,000 child victims received post-investigation services; an estimated additional 217,000 children who were subjects of unsubstantiated reports also received post-investigation services. 2
- Of the 588,000 children in foster care in 1999, 127,000 were free for adoption. The number of children adopted from foster care has increased in recent years: 28,000 in 1996, 31,000 in 1997, 37,000 in 1998, and 46,000 in 1999. 3
- U.S. Children's Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Child maltreatment 1999: Reports from the states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- U.S. Children's Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services. (April 2001). The AFCARS report. Available online at www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb. Washington, DC: Administration for Children and Families.
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