Summary of Child Welfare Issues in the House Budget Reconciliation Bill
Clarification of Eligibility for Foster Care Maintenance Payments and Adoption Assistance
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The House budget reconciliation bill would limit federal Title IV-E Foster Care funding that now enables abused and neglected children to live with their grandparents or other relatives. It would do this by overturning a Ninth Circuit judicial opinion (Rosales v. Thompson) ruling that has resulted in more children living with relatives becoming eligible for federal foster care assistance.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) policy states that a child is only eligible for federal Title IV-E assistance if the child meets 1996 AFDC income criteria while living in the home from which the child was legally removed due to allegations of abuse and neglect.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in Rosales v. Thompson that Title IV-E allows AFDC eligibility criteria to be met in any specified relative's home in which the child resided during the month the child was removed or during the six preceding months, up to and including the date of the removal petition. While Title IV-E eligibility is still linked to 1996 AFDC income criteria, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that eligibility can be determined from the home the child has resided in over the past six months or the home of removal. Many children live with grandparents or other relatives on a temporarily basis while determinations are made about what it in the best interest of the child.
Here are two examples:
The Rosales ruling was issued in 2003 and applies to children living in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Mariana Island. In California alone, between 4,000-5,000 children have become eligible for federal assistance due to the Rosales ruling. The Rosales decision has also had the effect of extending Title IV-E Adoption Assistance in Georgia based on a recent federal court ruling in that state.
- In the Rosales case, the child was originally living with his parents and was not eligible for AFDC in their home. Officials removed the child, alleging maltreatment, and informally placed him with Ms. Rosales, his grandmother, without going to court. At that time, the child met AFDC financial eligibility criteria for Title IV-E in the grandmother's home. Later, the county filed a dependency action in court. Ms. Rosales became the child's foster parent. Under HHS policy, the child was not Title IV-E eligible because he did not meet the AFDC financial eligibility criteria in his parents' home, the home from which he was legally removed. The Court of Appeals disagreed and said that the child could meet the Title IV-E AFDC financial eligibility criteria based on the income of Ms. Rosales, the child's grandmother.
- In another case, a child was originally living with her mother, where she was AFDC eligible. The child was then informally placed with her grandmother, in whose home she also was AFDC eligible. However, more than six months passed before the county welfare department filed a dependency action in court against the child's mother. HHS said the child was not eligible for Title IV-E Foster Care benefits because although the child was eligible for AFDC in the home of her mother, she did not live there in the six months before court proceedings were initiated. Under Rosales v. Thompson, the child is eligible for Title IV-E because she lived with the grandmother, a qualified relative eligible for AFDC, within the six-month period.
Budget cuts to Title IV-E would be $410 million over five years as a result of this action.
Clarification Regarding Federal Matching of Certain Administrative Costs Under the Foster Care Maintenance Payments Program
The House bill incorporates several provisions of a pending HHS rule, PA 01-02, first proposed in July 2001.
Case Management and Administrative Costs Related to Kinship Care Placements
The House bill would reduce federal Title IV-E administrative matching funds for foster and adopted children placed with relatives. While these funds would continue to be available for children who have been placed with relatives who are licensed by the state as a foster home, these federal funds would no longer be available if the relative caregiver does not meet the state's foster care licensing requirements within 12 months or the average time it takes to license foster parents in that state, whichever is less.
Many times a state may have a different licensing standard and requirements for children placed with relatives. These standards ensure the health and safety of the child, but may be more flexible than licensing standards in place for non-relative foster placements for requirements such as the amount of bedroom space.
For more than a decade, HHS has recognized the need to fund case management and placement services for children living with a grandparent or other relatives. This reversal of longstanding policy, would withdraw supports that ensure continued family connections are kept at a time when a children is removed from their parents care. This will undercut services and support to grandparents and other relative placements, even though the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) recognized kinship placements as a preferred permanency option for abused and neglected children.
Case Management and Administrative Costs Related to "Candidates" for Foster Care
The House bill also limits the use of Title IV-E administrative funds that currently are used to provide case management services for children who are potential "candidates" for foster care, but not yet placed into foster care. These services are often focused on preventing child abuse.
States can now use Title IV-E administrative funds to support children who are considered potential "candidates" for being removed from the home and placed in foster care. This too has been a long-standing HHS policy documented through a series of instructions and program guidances. The House bill sets up a new time frame and eligibility determination requirements. The legislation would result in denying supports for at risk children who may be able to avoid being placed in foster care if they and their families were able to receive appropriate services.
Case Management and Administrative Costs Related to Children Exiting Institutions into Foster Care
The House bill also limits the use of federal Title IV-E administrative funds to a one-month period when a child is transferred from an institution outside of the child welfare system, such as a hospital or juvenile facilities. Child welfare agencies use these funds to provide continued case management support to these children.
In some instances a state may transfer a child to an institution, such as hospitals, crisis care centers, or some juvenile facilities. It may be the intent and goal of the child welfare agency to return that child to foster care once the child leaves the other institution. The House bill would restrict funding for Title IV-E case management and planning services to no more than one month, regardless if on-going planning is needed to help facilitate the return of the child.
Budget cuts to Title IV-E would be $180 million over five years as a result of this action.
Child Welfare League of America
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