2009 Legislative Hot Topics
Fostering Connections to Success Act
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Thank You! For your support of the Fostering Connections to Success Act
- When Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing
Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) they passed the most significant
child welfare legislation in more than a decade. We know last year was
challenging both politically and economically. CWLA and its members
thank you for keeping your focus on this major child welfare legislation and
getting it passed.
- Although implementation of this new law during a recession will be difficult,
this major reform will, in the long run, help make badly needed improvements.
Both houses of Congress worked on major child welfare bills in 2008. By late
summer, the House passed the Fostering Connections to Success bill, while in
late July the Senate worked on the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative
Guardianship Support Act. In early September, both houses worked to combine
the key features into a final product that was fully paid for and enacted on
October 7, 2008.
The final act made major improvements in seven key areas: support for kinship
care, aid for youth in transition from foster care, access to federal Title IV-E
funds by tribal governments and consortia, improvements in the workforce, more
adoption assistance, greater health care services for children in the child welfare
system, and improvements in access to education.
Gives states the option to use federal Title IV-E funds for kinship guardianship
payments for children raised by relative caregivers. Children eligible under this
provision must also be eligible for federal foster care maintenance payments,
must reside with the relative for at least six consecutive months in foster care,
and who likely would otherwise remain in foster care until they aged out of the
system. It also clarifies that under current guidance, states may waive non-safety
licensing standards (as determined by the state) on a case-by-case basis in order
to eliminate barriers to placing children with relatives. Requires state agencies
to identify and provide notice to all adult relatives of a child within 30 days after
the child is removed from the custody of the parent(s).
Youth in Transition
Allows states the option to extend care to youth age 19, 20, or 21 with continued
federal support, to increase the youths' opportunities for success as they
transition to adulthood. Requires child welfare agencies to help youth develop
a transition plan during the 90-day period immediately before a youth exits
from care at 18, 19, 20, or 21, and expands the definition of child-caring facility
for someone 18 or older to include a supervised setting for independent living.
The state option begins in FY 2011.
Creates the option for tribes or tribal consortia to directly access and administer
IV-E funds for adoption assistance, foster care and kinship care by submitting
a plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For the
first time, tribes are allowed direct access to IV-E funding. Current agreements
between a tribe(s) and the state may still be in effect, subject to the provisions in
that agreement. HHS shall provide technical assistance, implementation services,
and grants to assist tribes in the transition to administering their own programs.
Expands the availability of Title IV-E federal training dollars to the training
of staff not only in public agencies, but also in private child welfare agencies
approved by the state. This expanded use of IV-E training funds is extended to
court personnel, attorneys, guardians ad litem, and court appointed special advocates.
The current funding, which is provided at a 75% match, will be phased in
with first funding set at a 55% match and increasing each year by 5%, to 75%.
Eliminates the link to the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children cash
assistance program for eligibility determination. This elimination of the "lookback"
is gradually phased in, with all special-needs adoptive children covered in
the first year if they are 16 or older.The coverage expands downward by two
years until all special-needs adoptions are covered in the tenth year. All siblings
of eligible children and all children who have been in care for more than five
years are immediately eligible. The bill allows states to receive an additional
payment of $1,000 per adoption if the state's adoption rate exceeds its highest
recorded foster child adoption rate since 2002; awards $8,000 per older-child
adoption (age 9 and older) and $4,000 per special-needs adoption above the
baseline; and requires states to inform all people who are adopting a child from
foster care that they are potentially eligible for the adoption tax credit.
Requires the state child welfare agency to work with the state Medicaid
agency (and other health care experts) to create a plan for the ongoing oversight
and coordination of health care services for children in foster care.
Nothing in these plans relieves the state Medicaid agency of their responsibilities.
The state health plan must include: (1) health screening and follow-up
screenings; (2) description of how needs will be identified and addressed; (3)
description of how medical information will be updated and shared; (4) steps
taken to ensure continuity of care, including the possible use of medical homes
for each child; (5) oversight of prescription medication; and (6) description
of how the state consults with medical and nonmedical professions on the
appropriate treatment of children.
Requires state child welfare agencies to improve educational stability for children
in foster care by coordinating with local education agencies to ensure that children
are able to remain in the school they are enrolled in at the time of placement
into foster care, unless that would not be in the child's best interests. In
that case, the state must ensure transfer and immediate enrollment in the new
school. The act also provides increased federal support to assist with schoolrelated
transportation costs. Finally, the state plan must ensure that every child
receiving IV-E assistance is enrolled as a full-time student or has completed
CWLA Advocacy Team
Vice President, Policy & Public Affairs
Co-Director Of Government Affairs
Co-Director of Government Affairs
Government Affairs Associate, Outreach
Government Affairs Associate, Child Welfare
Government Affairs Associate, Health
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