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Home > Advocacy > CWLA 2009 Children's Legislative Agenda/2009 Hot Topics > 2009 Legislative Hot Topics

 
 

2009 Legislative Hot Topics

Fostering Connections to Success Act

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Action

Thank You! For your support of the Fostering Connections to Success Act (PL 110-351)
  • 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.

Background

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.

Kinship Care
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.

Tribal
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.

Workforce Development
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%.

Adoption
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.

Health Care
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.

Education Access
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 high school.

CWLA Advocacy Team

Linda Spears
Vice President, Policy & Public Affairs
703-412-3165

Tim Briceland-Betts
Co-Director Of Government Affairs
703-412-2407

John Sciamanna
Co-Director of Government Affairs
703-412-3161

Cristina Fahrenthold
Government Affairs Associate, Outreach
703-412-2418

YaMinco Varner
Government Affairs Associate, Child Welfare
703-412-2431

Laura Weidner
Government Affairs Associate, Health
703-412-3168


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