CWLA 2004 Children's Legislative Agenda
Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program
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- Increase funding to $505 million for FY 2005 for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program (Title IV-B, Subpart 2, of the Social Security Act).
PSSF is one of the single largest funding sources for prevention and support services in child welfare. 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 the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). It helps build capacity in states so services to children and families will be forthcoming.
Congress reauthorized PSSF in 2002 and created two separate funding categories. States currently receive $305 million in mandatory (guaranteed) funds--the same funding level as FY 2001. Congress also created an authorization of $200 million in discretionary funds annually. Congress must approve these funds each year. Congress rejected the Administration's request to fully fund PSSF at $500 million in FY 2004.
From annual mandatory funds, $6 million is provided for research, evaluation, and technical assistance to identify and build on programs that work. New research and evaluation priorities include reunification and postadoption service models, programs that address parental substance abuse, approaches that target specific needs and age groups, and outcomes of adoptions finalized after ASFA. The State Court Improvement Program receives $10 million per year. 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 is reserved for tribal governments.
In addition to this reserved funding, of any discretionary funds provided each year for PSSF, 3.3% is dedicated to research, training, and evaluation; another 3.3% is available for state court improvement programs; and 2% is reserved for tribal governments.
For FY 2004, Congress kept total funding at its 2003 level of $405 million. Despite claims that the 2001 reauthorization would result in a $1 billion increase in PSSF funding over five years, that goal has not been met in the first three years of this reauthorization. After three years, the proposed $1 billion increase is now behind by $330 million.
Before 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. Program guidance to states from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, states that allocations of less than 20% to either type of service requires a strong rationale. Funds are allocated to states according to their relative shares of children receiving food stamps. The state must match funding at 25%, meaning that a state provides one dollar for every three federal dollars.
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 help 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. Reunifica-tion 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 from 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 2001, an estimated 3,085,693 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 903,000 of these cases. 1
- An estimated 528,000 child victims received postinvestigation services; an estimated additional 629,000 children who were subjects of unsubstantiated reports also received postinvestigation services. 2
- In 2001, 542,000 children were in foster care, 290,000 children entered foster care, and 263,000 exited foster care. 3
- Of the 542,000 children in care, 241,051 had a goal of being reunified with their parent or principle caregiver; 148,606 children exited foster care and were reunited with their parent or caregiver. 4
- Of the 542,000 children in foster care in 2001, 126,000 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; 51,000 in 2000; and 50,000 in 2001. 5
- U.S. Children's Bureau. (2002). Child maltreatment 2000: Reports from the states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/ publications/cmreports.htm. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- U.S. Children's Bureau. (2002). AFCARS report #7. Retrieved online, January 8, 2004, from www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/dis/afcars/publications/afcars.htm. Washington, DC: HHS.
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