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Home > Advocacy > CWLA Testimony and Comments > Select Committee Hearing on Foster Care

 
 

Testimony of Shay Bilchik, President/CEO, Child Welfare League of America, for the California Assembly, Select Committee Hearing on Foster Care

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of these publications may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.

November 21, 2005

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) welcomes the opportunity to testify on behalf of our nearly 900 public and private, nonprofit child-serving agencies nationwide. This hearing represents an important opportunity to review the foster care system, both nationally and locally in California. By taking a look at what has been done and still needs to be done within the foster care system, we move closer to ensuring that all children in this country grow up in safe and nurturing families.

FOSTER CARE OVERVIEW

Number of Children in Foster Care
  • The most recent data indicates that 523,000 children in this country are living in foster care. While the number of children in foster care is declining nationally, the needs of the children in care are great.1

  • While foster care placements declined nationally from 567,000 in 1999 to 523,00 in 2003, 24 states have experienced some increases and 27 states experienced some decreases. 2

  • The number of children coming into foster care in California has declined over the past several years. There were 112,807 children in care in 2000, 107,168 in 2001, 100,451 in 2002, and 97,261in 2003. 3
Factors Influencing the Number of Children in Foster Care

There are many factors that influence the number of children coming into foster care.

Early Intervention Availability
Families often come to the attention of the child welfare system because targeted early intervention and supports are not available in their community. Children are placed into foster care to protect them from further harm.

Crisis Situation
A crisis, such as a child death, may impact foster care caseloads in a particular state. Publicity surrounding a particular case may result in state policymakers reacting by making changes in policy and practice that result in more children being removed from their homes and placed into foster care.

Substance Abuse
Another very significant factor related to the number of children coming into foster care is parental substance abuse. The impact of crack-cocaine use in the late 1980s and early 1990s had a significant impact on increased foster care caseloads across the country. We are seeing this trend again, yet this time with the increased parental use of methamphetamine.

Consent Decrees
Another factor contributing to foster care caseloads are child welfare reform efforts that occur as a result of a settlement of class action litigation. From 1990 - 2000, all fifty state child welfare agencies operated under a form of consent decree for some period of time. Some of these agreements are still in place and are used to guide child welfare policies and funding decisions.

CWLA recently partnered with the American Bar Association to look at the current status of child welfare consent decrees. Currently, 22 states, including California, are operating their child welfare systems under consent decrees, settlement agreements, or other pending litigation as a result of litigation brought against public child welfare agencies.

Over the course of the last 10 years, several states have successfully complied with consent decrees governing their child welfare agency and these decrees have ended. These states include: Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. Many of these states have enacted policies, legislation, and budget increases that have resulted in improvements in the state child welfare system.

The decrees that exist today, or that have expired, address a range of issues. Twelve decrees address adoption issues, including the timeliness of placements, the finalization of adoption, and the provision of services. A number of decrees address the child protective services system, including six decrees addressing how abuse is reported. Another 13 decrees focus on child abuse and neglect intake and how investigations of abuse are conducted. Five decrees address the removal of children from their homes due to abuse and neglect and how those decisions are made. At least five decrees address improvements in providing child abuse prevention services and family preservation efforts. A number of decrees deal with specific foster care placement issues, including issues of foster care standards, support and supervision of foster parents, training issues, overcrowding, and reimbursement rates. Other decrees address the overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system and other ethnic and racial issues.

State Performances on Child and Family Services Reviews and Program Improvement Plans

The decision by Congress in 1994 to create a comprehensive review process known as the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR), and their follow-up Program Improvement Plans (PIPs), was an important step for this nation's child welfare system.

Through the CFSR process, states have an opportunity to improve outcomes for children and families who come into contact with the child welfare system. The results of the initial round of CFSRs has been mixed and no state has been found to be in conformance with all fourteen outcome measures and systemic factors. States were slightly stronger in the safety outcomes than in the permanency and well-being outcomes. States were weakest in helping children achieve their permanency goals in a timely manner and in helping families with services they need to care for their children. The U.S. Children's Bureau has been very careful not to compare states in any area, but rather encourages a state to compare itself over a period of time, measuring progress and improvement.

As states begin to implement their Program Improvement Plans (PIPs), more and more states are beginning to meet the CFSR outcomes that focus on safety, permanency, and well-being. The PIPs indicate that states are putting in place strategies to improve outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.

Some states have used this process as a way to engage other critical partners in an examination of their child welfare systems. Partners, such as the state's legislative body, the news media, and the community, are critical to creating and maintaining a system that nationally must protect and provide for the well-being of the one million children who are victims of abuse and neglect, the more than 500,000 children in foster care and other out-of-home placements, the 50,000 children adopted each year from the child welfare system, and the thousands of other families receiving prevention and support programs.

A review of the PIPs developed by the states offers some valuable insight into some of the key issues facing state child welfare systems. A U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that the most common challenges affecting states' PIP implementation was insufficient funding, insufficient staff, insufficient time, and high caseloads. 4

In 2004, CWLA examined the PIPs submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at that time, including California. California's PIP showed that the state has a great deal in common with the rest of the states. At that time, over 90% of states, including California, put the need to address training of their workforce in their PIPs. In the area of improved training, California included the need to develop training and competencies for the child welfare workforce, provide training on good case planning and practice, and work with counties, community colleges, and other stakeholders to develop some standard core curriculum for all caregivers.

In the area of moving toward permanency, 76% of state PIPs reviewed addressed the need to improve on the availability of foster and adoptive parents. An additional 52% of states specifically addressed the need to improve providing reunification services. The California PIP indicated that the state would work with the National Resource Center on Permanency Planning and Special Needs Adoptions to improve the recruitment of foster parents, especially foster parents for older youth and ethnic minorities.

The lack of services for children and families was an ongoing theme in the PIPs for California and many other states. Forty-eight percent of states raised the issue of improving the access to health care. Twenty-nine percent of state plans included better access to mental health care services as an area of needed improvement. Almost 90% of states raised the need to have a broad-based approach to services. Other areas of significant priority to states included needed improvements in access to education and education services, and the need to improve on services to children aging out of the foster care system.

California fits into this broad-based, system-wide approach to services. In its PIP, California included a plan to work with the California Department of Mental Health, the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, the County Welfare Directors Association, the Chief Probation Officers of California, and several other organizations to design and assure that there is a system in place so that children and their families receive the appropriate services across systems.

PIPs are showing an increased use of family-based approaches and interventions. States are recognizing the importance of partnering with families and communities to develop an array of services to meet the needs of children and families. These include family group conferences, family mediation, and Family-to-Family programs. Through these efforts, states and jurisdictions are creating opportunities to develop more a family-focused and neighborhood-centered service delivery system. In an effort to achieve timely permanency for children, there is an increased and continuing focus on collaboration between public and private agencies and across systems. There remains, however, a lack of preventative and treatment services in communities. 5

The shortage of services is particularly relevant for families of color, whose children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. Of the children living in out-of-home care on September 30, 2003, 53% were White, 36% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 2% were American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 4% were children of other races and ethnicities. The overrepresentation of children of color in child welfare and other social service systems (e.g. juvenile justice) is linked to social, class, and economic factors that must be addressed to ensure that the needs of all children are fairly and appropriately served. Prevention and treatment services need to be culturally competent and available in the language of the child and family. 6

A challenge of the current child welfare system, federal, state, and local governments, and the communities they serve, must be to ensure that all children, regardless of their cultural, ethnic, or racial identity, receive services that address the full spectrum of their needs.

The CFSR process and the accompanying PIPs were an important reform that can be improved. CWLA proposes the establishment of national standards for child welfare practice which would be linked to the federal CFSRs. These national standards would provide guidance to state efforts to achieve the child welfare outcomes and support the PIPs. This would result in a needed practice framework, enabling child welfare service systems to achieve good outcomes for children and families and to be accountable for the outcomes.

ISSUES RELATED TO THE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE

Permanency/Placement Stability

For children and youth who must be placed in the foster care system, maintaining placement stability is critical for positive outcomes. The child welfare field is in agreement that multiple placements disrupt the continuity of children's relationships with caregivers, their education, and medical care,

Policy and practice reforms are now being implemented that emphasize permanency as a fundamental requirement for the healthy development of a child or youth in care. The need for foster and adoptive families continues to grow. There is a trend for children to be placed with "resource" families, families that may begin as foster parents and then become the adoptive family for the child. Despite this trend, the need for unrelated foster and adoptive families has not diminished. In 2000, there were a total of 174,000 licensed kinship and non-relative foster homes. 7

While many foster parents stop being foster parents because they adopt the child they are caring for or because their foster child turns age 18, many more foster parents stop serving as foster parents because of the lack of support they receive from the child welfare agency. A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Retaining Foster Parents, shows that foster parents feel a lack of caseworker support, need more help in obtaining services for themselves and the children in their care, face false allegations of maltreatment, and desire a greater opportunity to voice their concerns. While these issues impact the retention of foster parents, it also has a direct impact on the recruitment of foster parents. It has been consistently shown that foster parents have proven to be the most effective recruiters of other foster parents. Strategies by states and agencies to better partner with foster parents are showing some improvement. 8

States increasingly are turning to relatives as a permanency option for children and youth. In order for states to receive federal payments for foster care and adoption assistance, federal law requires that they "consider giving preference to an adult relative over a nonrelated caregiver when determining placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver meets all relevant State child protection standards." 9

Significance of Kinship Care

Over six million children are living with a relative as their caregiver, approximately 4.5 million of these with grandparents. These families are a vital support for millions of children and are a key to ensuring the safety and permanency, as well as the nurturing and well-being, of these children.

Permanency with relatives encompasses a variety of living arrangements, including licensed foster care, unlicensed or informal care, custody arrangements, legal guardianship-both subsidized and unsubsidized, and adoption. Children who are placed with kin in one of these living arrangements are less likely to experience disruption of a placement than children living in non-relative foster care. It appears that children who live in kinship placements experience greater stability both when they are in foster care and once they have achieved permanence though adoption by kin or guardianship.

The ongoing support of kinship care placements allows state agencies to provide greater continuity of contact for children in care with siblings, fathers, and parental family members, along with continued cultural and community connections for children and youth.

While states are beginning to place more and more children with relatives, relatives are not consistently getting the family support services they need, such as help with financial, medical, or legal problems. While these children are being diverted from coming into the foster care system, their relatives are struggling to meet the needs of the children.

Achieving Permanency for Youth Leaving Foster Care

Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people "age out" of the foster care system. Unfortunately, for many youth this means being discharged to "self" rather than a family they can count on for support. Many of these young people are only 18 years of age.

There are, unfortunately, grim statistics for many young people after leaving the foster care system. One national report indicates that only 54% of former foster youth completed high school, 38% of former foster youth maintained employment, and 25% were homeless for at least one night after exiting the foster care system. These statistics provide some indication of how we fail our young people by not providing them what they need to make a successful transition to adulthood. 10

The concept of permanence for youth may consist of youth being reunited safely with their parents or relatives, adopted by a relative or other non-related family, permanently residing with relatives or other families as legal guardians, or safely placed in another planned alternative permanent living arrangement which will ensure a permanent connection. Acquiring life skills is not enough. The prevailing view by some child welfare staff is that adolescents are "unadoptable." This view needs to be replaced with information and training on the value and critical importance of permanency for adolescents. While adoption is not the only permanency option to be considered for youth in care, we must also strive to seek the involvement of youth in partnership with agency workers to establish permanent connections that will be there for the youth once the foster care experience has ended. To improve the well-being of youth leaving our foster care system, it is critical that youth have a permanent connection with at least one committed adult.

There remains a need for states to address youth permanence by reducing the length of stay for those entering the foster care system. National organizations, such as CWLA, and many communities, are successfully incorporating and listening to the voices of youth in our foster care systems.

SUCCESSES IN CHILD WELFARE

States are beginning to develop and implement programs, some pilot in nature, to address safety, permanency and well being for children in out of home care. System collaboration through system wide partnerships is addressing some of challenges to a shared responsibility of child safety, permanence and well being. The child welfare system, behavioral health system, and juvenile justice system and community stakeholders are building bridges to support the needs of children and families. These partnerships should be committed to the needs of the community's most vulnerable families. The infusion of both the voices of youth and their birth families will be needed for positive outcomes to occur.

States that have implemented system-wide change are seeing some success achieving positive outcomes for children and youth in their out-of-home systems. These states have made changes through providing community-based foster care, beginning to address disproportionality issues, preventing the disruption of education despite moves within the child welfare system, enhancing connections for children and youth through locating relatives or others who will assure permanent connections for the child, and collaborating with the mental health and substance abuse communities to enhance targeted service provision.

Examples of Success

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families has identified promising state practices. 11

Agency Collaboration/Community Partnerships
  • Through the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership a comprehensive coordinated children's mental health system has developed. It is compromised of prevention, early intervention, and treatment services for children ages 0-18 years and for youth ages 19 -21 years who are transitioning out of key public programs (e.g., schools, mental health). Programs and services are available and accessible to Illinois children and their families. This partnership provides a potential for addressing a key finding of the CFSR reviews regarding the significant need for mental health services.

  • Under the Family Based Services Initiative, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) contracts with private, nonprofit, community-based organizations to coordinate a strengths-based treatment and planning process that matches and manages a local network of services for DSS families and their children. The Initiative seeks to strengthen the collaboration among DSS staff, families, providers, and community supports. There are also attempts to build flexibility in the levels of care provided to families. The role of community and neighborhood strengths is emphasized.

  • Iowa's Community Partnership for Protecting Children focuses on individualized services to meet the specific needs of children at risk. In community partnership sites, child protection workers convene family team meetings with families, neighbors, and local service providers that result in tailor-made plans designed to support families and ensure the safety and well-being of children. Each community partnerships site creates a network of agency, neighborhood and community supports that are available to families before, during, and after a crisis. Citizens and community members are directly involved in shaping the types of services and supports that are available to families.
Disproportionality
  • Texas has developed a state strategy to address disproportionately and the disparity of outcomes for children of color in the Texas child welfare system. This initiative will examine issues surrounding the disproportionate rate at which such children of color enter the Texas system and the equity with which children of color and their families are provided access to available services. This initiative will also address disparate outcomes for children once they are engaged in the child welfare system, including the phases of investigation, removal, placement, and emancipation from the system.

  • Iowa's Children of Color Project addresses the disproportionate number of Native and African American children in the state's child welfare system. The state will partner with community stakeholders and agencies. The project links families and children to neighborhood organizations that offer a range of culturally appropriate services and assist the child welfare agency to become more culturally sensitive and responsive in interactions with children and families of color.
Health/Education
  • The Foster Care Health Program in New Hampshire provides nurse coordinators in each district office to ensure that the health needs of children in foster care are met. Health care coordination includes the medical, dental, and mental health care needs of all children in foster and relative home placement. By having nurses on staff in each office, appropriate physical and mental health services are more easily accessible and children in out-of-home placements get the ongoing care they need to achieve and maintain optimal physical, emotional, and developmental health.

  • The Washington Department of Children and Family Services (Region 4) and the Seattle Public School District entered into an memorandum of understanding to raise awareness concerning the needs of students in foster care and promote their academic success. The model includes collaborative staff training, inter-system communication, and joint social/academic planning and support for foster care children in the Seattle School District elementary schools.
Reunification
  • In Arizona, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved a Title IV-E waiver demonstration project for the "Expedited Reunification Project" to use federal funding for increased intensive family reunification and after care services. The goals of Arizona's project are to facilitate expedited reunification of children with their parents and caregivers; reduce re-entries into out-of-home care; prevent recurrence of child abuse and neglect; and improve child and family well-being and functioning.
While some progress has been reached, much more needs to be done to ensure that all children in this country grow up in a safe, nurturing families.

FEDERAL OBSTACLES WE FACE NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

Complex Composite of Federal Assistance

CWLA and many others have called for a more streamlined, clear federal system of support. In the current system, states are left every day trying to cobble together a patchwork of funding streams limited either in the number of children who can be served or how they can be served. In 2002, of the $22.2 billion spent on child welfare, 25% was Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance, 2% was Title IV-B Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families, 5% was Medicaid, 6% was Social Services Block Grant, 10% was TANF, 1% was Survivors Benefits, and 1% was other federal sources. The remaining funds (49%) came from state and local sources. 12

California spent nearly $4 billion for child welfare in 2002. Of this total, 45% were federal funds, 32% were from state funds, and unlike many other states, local governments were able to contribute a significant 23% of the total funding. Of that total, 71% of California's federal funding came from Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance, well above the national average of 49%. TANF funds provided the second most significant source (13%) of federal funding for California, which was below the national average of 20%. Funds from the Social Services Block Grant provided 9% of total federal child welfare funding for California, which is lower than the national average of 12%. The rest of the federal funding for child welfare that California received came from a scattering of much smaller sources. 13

State Choices to Limit Use of Federal Funds

By the time the decision is made to place a child in foster care, the state legislature, governor, budget office, and department heads have already made decisions on how or whether a particular state can leverage federal Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption assistance funds, Medicaid funds, SSBG, TANF, and state and federal resources. Those decisions by state policy makers are influenced by:
  • the state's budget status;
  • the TANF caseload;
  • the growth of the Medicaid budget;
  • how much in TANF funding is allocated to cash assistance;
  • how much of TANF funding is allocated to child care;
  • how much of TANF funding is used for related support services;
  • who writes the Medicaid state plan and how they construct it.
Some states make choices not to draw down all available federal funds. For instance, New York, until a few years ago, chose not to draw all their Promoting Safe and Stable Families federal dollars even though these flexible funds, which can be used for family support and prevention services, require only a 25% state match. Another example, Texas chooses not to draw additional federal Title IV-E funds. A recent biennial survey of state child welfare financing by the Urban Institute found that Texas uses more TANF funds than any other state as a percentage of its overall child welfare budget. Forty-one percent of the federal funding for all child welfare services in Texas comes from TANF. In Texas, 47% of federal funding for out-of-home care comes from TANF--not the Title IV-E program. Title IV-E funding represented only 39% of the state's out-of-home placement funding. 14

Insufficient Federal Commitment of Resources

The federal government holds all states accountable for meeting expected outcomes for children and families through the CFSR process. While holding states accountable, the federal government has not fulfilled its commitment to partner with states to provide the resources needed to achieve these outcomes. The federal government funds slightly more than 50% of child welfare services nationwide-and the trend is decreasing.

While the majority of federal funding that is provided is for out-of-home care for children who are abused and neglected, the federal government does not have a comparable commitment to fund the needed prevention, aftercare, and other services to keep children from ever needing foster care or from reentering care. CWLA supports an approach that increases federal support for needed services, including child abuse prevention--an approach that will support a more complete continuum of care and array of services.

Lack of Federal Support to Implement Program Improvement Plans

After states undergo a CFSR, states put together a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) to address areas in which they were found to be out of compliance with federal requirements. States continue to struggle to find the state resources to implement these improvement plans since federal funding is not provided to specifically assist with these efforts. California has been able to dedicate some additional state funds to implement the PIP, however, many states do not have additional funds to dedicate for this purpose and have been implementing policy and program changes that are limited to those that can be implemented without any additional, new resources, while other states have been forced to reallocate scarce state funds from another area. CWLA supports pending legislation that allows states to use federal Title IV-E funding to meet their PIP goals. 15

Shrinking Eligibility for Federal Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance

The Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program is the largest source of federal funding available to states for child welfare. While the federal government must guarantee assistance for every eligible child, the number of children eligible for federal assistance is decreasing due to outdated income eligibility criteria. The current law links Title IV-E eligibility to archaic standards that each state had in place under their 1996 AFDC cash welfare system. This provision requires states to maintain the same eligibility standards that existed in July 1996. Since AFDC no longer exists, this continues to be an administrative burden on the states. Even more critical, however, is the fact that as time goes by, fewer and fewer numbers of children are eligible for support.

CWLA believes all children in foster care and adoptive placements, including those children under the auspices of tribes and territories, should be eligible for federal support. Yet, only about 50% of the children in foster care are eligible for federal assistance. In some states, less than one-third of the children in foster care are eligible for federal assistance. For those children not eligible for federal Title IV-E assistance, states use other federal funds such as the Social Services Block Grant or they use state and local funds. If the federal government supported all children, states could use the other funding sources to support child abuse prevention and support and follow-up services. If the current eligibility criteria remain in place, fewer and fewer children will be eligible for federal foster care and adoption assistance.

Overall, while foster care placements declined between 1999 and 2002, the non Title IV-E federally supported placements have actually increased. Between 1999 and 2002, federal support provided through the Title IV-E program declined from 302,422 to 254,004, while non Title IV-E funded placements increased from 262,831 in 1999 to 278,735 in 2002.

Some states such as Texas have experienced large increases of 30.7% in overall foster care caseloads while others like New York and California have experienced decreases of 20.3% and 14.8% respectively. In each of these three states, all have had increases in their non Title IV-E supported foster care placements.

Limited Support for Prevention and Early Intervention Services

While the federal government provides assistance for some children in need of foster care, there is not a comparable federal commitment to provide funding for child abuse prevention and supportive services.

More is needed for primary prevention services that can prevent many families from ever reaching the point where a child is removed from the home. Prevention and early intervention services play a vital role for children and families in communities. Family support, home visiting, and in-home services enable many parents to gain competence and confidence in their parenting while addressing other family concerns. Child care, housing, and job training/employment are services that enable families to stay together to the fullest extent possible. These and other preventive services need to be much more available to families early on, as well as when a crisis occurs.

Community-based child protection programs have demonstrated that many families can be helped before there is a need for protective intervention with the family. Often, the family can identify what is needed and be connected to resources-and contact with the formal child welfare system can be averted. Often, after a formal report has been made, a child can be maintained safely at home with sufficient supports, clear expectations, and monitoring. At all points in the continuum, however, ongoing, targeted assessment must be taking place. Both the initial child protective services investigation and placement prevention services require appropriate immediate assessments of the family, child, and community.

Funding for such services must not be contingent on diverting what is currently in place. As one approach, CWLA supports legislation introduced earlier this year by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA). This legislation (H.R. 3576) offers an innovative approach that would target funds to assist states in the implementation of PIPs. The bill would allow states to draw down Title IV-E Foster Care funds to provide services. States would have to outline how they would spend the funds, establish specific outcomes, and be held to those goals. This legislation recognizes the need to provide flexibility as well as new resources and to hold states to a greater level of accountability.

Lack of Federal Support for All Permanency Options

The federal government currently does not fully support state efforts to place abused and neglected children with relatives in guardianship arrangements. Some states have used various state and local resources to be able to support this permanency option for children. A few states have utilized federal Title IV-E funds to support guardianship through the use of Title IV-E waivers.

CWLA supports a federally funded guardianship permanency option available through Title IV-E to allow states to provide assistance payments on behalf of children to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of the children for whom they have committed to care for on a permanent basis. Kinship guardianship assistance agreements and payments would be similar to the adoption assistance agreements, in that they would take into consideration the circumstances and the needs of the child.

Lack of Support for Child Welfare Workforce

A well-trained, reliable, and experienced workforce is a critical element to making children safer. The CFSR results have shown that a child's well-being is tied to the number of caseworker visits.

CWLA has worked closely with a member of the California congressional delegation on this issue. CWLA supports legislation introduced in the past by Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) that encourages a number of workforce strategies, including a state long-term strategy, loan forgiveness for workers who stay on the job, and access to Title IV-E training funds for workers in private agencies contracted by the state.

Lack of Support for Tribal Children and Families

Tribes can access federal Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance funds only by reaching an agreement with a state. The best way to assist tribes in addressing their foster care and adoption needs is through direct access to these funds. CWLA supports legislation introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that would allow tribes and territories direct access to these federal supports.

Lack of Comprehensive National Reform Effort

CWLA believes that the federal government should address the comprehensive financing reforms that are needed to improve our nation's foster care system. While everyone understands the need for children to be protected and to have a permanent home, it is more difficult to grasp the complexities of child welfare financing. Why is child welfare financing reform necessary? The answer lies in its importance to the future of the 523,000 children in foster care, the 126,000 children in foster care waiting for an adoptive placement, and the over one million children receiving child protective services. 16

The White House response to what is needed is to advance legislative proposals that would allow states to receive capped amount of Title IV-E funds with fewer federal strings attached. CWLA believes that the basic safety net provided many children and adoptive families through Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance should be maintained as an uncapped entitlement and that additional resources should be provided so states can provide the range of services and permanency options needed.

Congress is now considering budget reconciliation legislation that reduces Title IV-E Foster Care funding by nearly $600 million over the next five years. The U.S. House of Representatives is considering this as part of their effort to reduce overall federal spending by $50 billion. The House bill would overturn the 2003 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Rosales v. Thompson, that has allowed more grandparents and other relatives taking care of children removed from their parents due to abuse and neglect to qualify for federal Title IV-E Foster Care assistance.
  • If the Rosales decision is overturned, the California Child Welfare Directors Association of California estimates that over 5,000 California children may lose federal assistance.
The House budget bill also: (1) restricts states access to Title IV-E Foster Care funding when used to place children in unlicensed kinship homes; (2) restricts states access to Title IV-E Foster Care funding when used to provide services to a child being transferred from a psychiatric hospital or other non-Title IV-E funded facility, into foster care; and (3) restricts states use of federally funded case management services when a child is a likely candidate for foster care.

These budget cuts would mean a "savings" to the federal government of at least one billion dollars over the next decade by taking away federal supports to abused and neglected children. If enacted, this cut will have a significant impact on California. This is the wrong direction. We should be doing more, not less for our children. CWLA objects to these misplaced priorities and is urging Congress to stop this action and instead put together a plan that improves the outcomes for abused and neglected children.

CONCLUSION

This nation's child welfare system, with its thousands of dedicated workers and hundreds of child-serving agencies in every state and community, are on the front lines every day, battling to protect children and keep them safe. Yet, we know they are struggling to do the impossible without all the necessary tools and supports necessary for this vital work.

I applaud this committee's review of what improvements California can make to improve the lives of vulnerable children. I hope the information that I have provided today will help inform California's decisions about the kinds of changes that can be made in the future.

Over the past several years, federal policymakers have held discussions and hearings to review the federal supports in place to provide services to abused and neglected children, their families, and children who are at risk of abuse and neglect. Yet, the federal government seems to be walking away from the need to strengthen its partnership with states to care for abused and neglected children and to support there families. This places an additional burden on states that must care for the children in their custody.

CWLA continues to urge federal lawmakers to implement a reform of the child welfare system that ensures the federal government forges a stronger partnership with the states and tribal communities to meet our fundamental obligation to America's most vulnerable children. New state and federal investments will be needed to sustain and strengthen the comprehensive community-based systems of care that secure the safety of our children.

NOTES

(1) Estimates are based on data submitted by states as of August 2004 to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCAR) http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars.htm
(2) Child Welfare League of America National Data Analysis System (NDAS) http://ndas.cwla.org
(3) NDAS
(4) U.S. Government Accountability Office. Child and Family Services Reviews: Better Use of Data and Improved Guidance Could Enhance HHS's Oversight of State Performance. (April 2004). From www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-333.
(5) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Child Welfare Reviews. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwrp/promise/index.htm
(6) AFCARS
(7) NDAS
(8) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. Retaining Foster Parents. OEI-07-00-00601 (May 2002). From http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-00-00601.pdf
(9) 42 U.S.C.67(a)(19)
(10) Cook, R. A National Evaluation of Title IV-E Foster Care Independent Living Programs for Youth, Phase 2 (Final Report) Rockville, MD Westat, Inc., 1991
(11) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Promising Approaches. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwrp/promise/index.htm
(12) Scarcella, Cynthia Andrews; Bess, Roseana; Hecht Zielewski, Erica; Warner, Lindsay; and Geen, Rob. Assessing the New Federalism: The Cost of Protecting Vulnerable Children IV. The Urban Institute: Washington, DC. 2004
(13) Ibid.
(14) Ibid.
(15) National Conference of State Legislatures, Child Welfare: Funding of Child and Family Services Reviews Programs Improvement Plan, August 2005 (Denver: NCSL 2005).
(16) Estimates are based on data submitted by states as of August 2004 to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCAR) http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars.htm



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