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Home > Advocacy > Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program > S. 3525, The Children and Families Services Improvement Act of 2006

 
 

S. 3525, The Children and Families Services Improvement Act of 2006
(The reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program and the designation of $40 million in additional funds.)

Current Law
The Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program provides mandatory funds of $305 million which are provided automatically without an annual appropriation, and $200 million in authorized funds which Congress must approve each year through the annual appropriations process. The $200 million in authorized funds was added in 2002 and the program has never been fully funded since. In FY 2006, Congress approved $89.1 million in discretionary PSSF funds for a total of $394 million ($305 million mandatory plus $89 million appropriated), a decrease of nearly $9 million from the FY 2005 level. Funds are allocated to the 50 states and the District of Columbia and a percentage is set aside for the territories and the tribes. Funds are used for four programs: time-limited reunification services, adoption promotion and support services, family preservation and family support services. States are required to allocate no less than 20% to each of the four types of services. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, passed in February 2006, provided a one-year (FY 2006) increase in mandatory funding for PSSF, bringing the mandatory funding up to $345 million from the current level of $305 million. At the same time Congress added two new grant programs for Court Improvement. These programs--each funded at $10 million annually-are aimed at strengthening the performance of courts on behalf of children in the child welfare system. PSSF had to be reauthorized in 2006. The main issues confronting Congress have been what changes should be made to PSSF, and should the $40 million added in mandatory funds be spent in a different way from the four programs now funded by PSSF.
Initial Actions of House and Senate
Legislation to reauthorize PSSF passed both houses of Congress, H.R. 5640 in the House, and S. 3525 in the Senate. Both bills reauthorized PSSF with few changes but they spend the $40 million in additional mandatory funds in two different ways. The Senate bill (S 3525) designated that the $40 million in funds be spent on nation-wide competitive grants that various parties could apply for. The grants of half a million to a million dollars had to be spent on projects that address the use and abuse of methamphetamine and its impact on the child welfare system. The House bill (HR 5640) allocated the $40 million to all 50 states but states could only draw the funds if they assured that children in foster care were visited once a month and the states provided the data to prove that. The funds could be spent on ways to promote and strengthen the child welfare workforce. The House bill also made some changes to the Child Welfare Services program (CWS) by capping how much states could spend on administration at 10 percent, requiring an annual report on how funds were spent, and by making some other changes to the state planning requirements under CWS.

THE HOUSE AND SENATE COMPROMISE:

The Child and Family Services Improvement Act
The bill reauthorizes the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program for 5 years from 2007 through 2011 with $305 million in mandatory funds and an authorization of $200 million. In addition to these funds PSSF will also include two $10 million court improvement grants, a competitive grant program of $40 million to $20 million a year to address substance abuse, and a state grant program of $5 million to $20 million to address workforce issues.
Tribal Improvements
  • The ability and access to PSSF funds is improved for tribes. The tribal set aside would be set at 3%. Currently tribes receive 1 percent of mandatory funds and 2 percent of discretionary funds.

  • Consortia of tribes can apply for funding. Current law does not allow this option and as a result leaves out many smaller tribes in receiving or being eligible for funds.
Substance Abuse Competitive Grants:
  • Competitive grants of $500 thousand to $1 million will be available on a competitive basis to address methamphetamine or other substance abuse as it effects the child welfare system.

  • Grants will be from at least 2 to 5 fiscal years.

  • Grantees must be partnerships. That partnership may include any of the following: state child welfare agencies, state substance abuse agencies, tribes or tribal consortia, non-profit child welfare providers, for-profit child welfare providers, community health, community mental health, local law enforcement agencies, judges and court personnel, juvenile justice officials, school personnel, and tribal child welfare agencies and others involved in providing child and family services.

  • The goals of the grants will be to enhance the well being of children, increase safety and permanence, and decrease the out of home placements resulting from substance abuse.

  • Grants can be used for family-based comprehensive long term substance abuse treatment, early intervention and prevention efforts, child and family counseling, mental health services, parenting skills, and the replication of other successful long term comprehensive substance abuse treatment initiatives.

  • States' child welfare agencies have to be partners (but not necessarily the applying grantee) in these projects.

  • Grantees also have to include performance indicators and measures for the initiative.

  • Methamphetamine abuse will be given a priority but other drugs/substance abuse problems can be addressed.

  • Funding will be as follows:

    2007 $40 million
    2008 $35 million
    2009 $30 million
    2010 $20 million
    2011 $20 million

  • Grants will be for at least two years. The federal government will provide 85 percent of the funding in year one and two, 80 percent in year three and seventy-five percent in year five. The grantee match can be cash or in-kind.

  • In awarding grants, HHS will consider the impact of substance abuse on out of home placements, the limited resources available in the covered area, the lack of capacity to provide needed services and the ability of the grantee area in sustaining the effort. After these factors are evaluated, methamphetamine abuse in the grantee area will receive a priority.
Workforce & Caseload Visit Funding:
To receive their share of the remaining mandatory funds a state must implement a policy providing monthly visits to children in foster care. States have to collect and provide data as proof of these visits. The goal is that all states by 2012 will be providing monthly visits to children in care. For states that can not do this immediately they will be allowed/required to work with HHS to establish targets to reach this goal by 2012.
  • To carry out this work and to reach this goal, $40 million in FY 2006 funds will be available to states through 2009. States will draw these funds down on a matching basis with the federal government providing a 75% match (i.e. $75 federal to $25 state). These funds are carried over for three years so that states that can not implement or reach the policy immediately can draw their share of the $40 million over the three-year period.

  • Each state shall receive an allotment of at least $70,000 with the remaining funds distributed by formula. Beyond the 2006 funds additional federal dollars would be available as follows:

    2008 $5 million
    2009 $10 million
    2010 $20 million
    2011 $20 million

  • The funds can be used for workforce initiatives designed to help states reach the goal of monthly visits. The emphasis on the use of these funds include worker retention, recruitment, training and access to better technology.

  • Funds can not be used to supplant current spending. Each state will receive at least $70,000. With the federal government providing seventy-five percent of the funding (seventy five percent match).

  • As of October 1, 2007 states will describe the standards, content and frequency of visits to children in foster care with a monthly visit the minimum requirement.

  • As of October 1, 2008 HHS will determine if the state is making progress toward its goal of 90 percent by 2011.

  • If a state fails to meet its targets than:

    • The seventy-five percent federal match in funding would be reduced by one percentage point (reduced to seventy-four percent) for a failure to meet its target by ten percent.
    • The seventy-five percent federal match is reduced by three percentage points for failure to meet its target by ten to twenty percent (reduced to seventy-two percent)
    • The seventy-five percent match is reduced by five percentage points (to seventy percent) for failure to meet its target by more than twenty percent.
IV-B 1 Child Welfare Services (CWS)
The Child Welfare Services (CWS) Title IV-B part 1, would have a reauthorization date for the first time. CWS would have to be reauthorized in 2011.
  • The State plan under CWS will be modified and state will have to describe:

    • Steps the state takes to provide child welfare services statewide and how they will strengthen existing services to improve child outcomes.
    • How they will promote child welfare services staff development and training.
    • Policies and procedures for children abandoned at or shortly after birth.
    • How the state actively consults with and involves physicians and other medical professionals in the assessment of the health and well being of children in foster care and how the state determines appropriate treatment needs for children in care.

  • Within a year states will have to have in place procedures providing how the state will respond to a disaster in accordance with criteria established by HHS. This will include how to:

    • Identify and locate and continue services to children in care.
    • Respond to new cases.
    • Remain in communication with caseworkers and other personnel.
    • Preserve records and
    • Coordinate services.

  • CWS will have a cap on spending for administrative cost of no more than 10%, the same as the cap and definition that exists under PSSF. The cap on CWS administrative funds starts on October 1, 2007 (FY 2008).

  • States could spend no more of their CWS funds on foster care, adoption assistance and child care than they did in 2005.
Annual Reports
There will be annual reports on how states spend their PSSF funds and their CWS funds. These reports will be drawn from current reports states file and states can additionally provide details on how SSBG, TANF and other funds are spent in these child welfare areas. The states will shall submit their reports to HHS by June 30, 2007 and HHS shall compile the information and submit a report to Congress by September 30, 2007.
Consultation With Children in Care
Foster care proceedings are to include age-appropriate consultation with the child in regard to placement decisions including decisions around independent living.
Mentor Children of Prisoners
The program for Mentoring Children of Prisoners is extended from 2007 through 2011.

The reauthorization gives the Secretary of HHS the authority to create a Service Delivery Demonstration project. HHS is to enter into an agreement with an entity that the Secretary deems appropriate, to provide monitoring and oversight of programs that provide mentoring services. The entity will identify a list consisting of mentoring service providers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The entity will identify children of prisoners who have not been provided with a mentor by grant-funded programs.

Programs or providers of mentoring services will receive periodic payments from the entity over a 12 month period. Providers are required to describe cooperative efforts between them and other interested parties, such as the court and prison systems. Also, providers must be able to demonstrate the ability to carryout services without federal resources. Programs that enter into a cooperative agreement with the entity have the option to renew their agreement for another 3 year period. Vouchers for mentoring services will be distributed each fiscal year to eligible families. Although the Secretary has the authority to modify the distribution of vouchers based on the availability of appropriations that fiscal year, the formula is as follows:

 First Fiscal Year3,000 vouchers
 Second Fiscal Year8,000 vouchers
 Third Fiscal Year13,000 vouchers (the same in subsequent years)

The funding formula for the program is as follows:

 First Fiscal Year$5,000,000
 Second Fiscal Year$10,000,000
 Third Fiscal Year$15,000,000 (the same in subsequent years)

Ninety days after the 2nd fiscal year, the Secretary must submit a report to the U.S. House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees evaluating the demonstration project's outcomes.

Child Welfare League of America
John Sciamanna, Branden McLeod
September 2006



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