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Home > Advocacy > Financing Child Welfare Services > Child Safety, Adoption and Family Enhancement (Child SAFE) Act of 2004, H.R. 4856

 
 

Summary of the Child Safety, Adoption and Family Enhancement (Child SAFE) Act of 2004, H.R. 4856

Representative Wally Herger (R-CA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, introduced the Child SAFE Act (H.R. 4856) on July 19, 2004. The proposal was the subject of a congressional hearing by the Human Resources Subcommittee on July 13. 1 The legislation makes significant changes to the federal/state partnership in financing child welfare. The legislation begins to address some of the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, as well as some of the recommendations included in the Bush Administration's FY 2005 budget proposal. 2

Highlights of the Child Safe Act

Foster Care Highlights
  • Caps federal funding to states for Title IV-E foster care maintenance (room and board) payments for children in foster care.

  • Calculates each state's share based on FY 2003 funding.

  • Eliminates the current income eligibility criteria for foster care that is now tied to 1996 AFDC standards.

  • Reduces the federal matching rate for foster care maintenance payments by 35%.

  • Provides that states experiencing a significant increase in the demand for foster care could access the TANF contingency funds for additional funding for foster care.

  • Reserves funding for territories and tribes from the capped amount.

  • Allows states to transfer any unused foster care maintenance funds into a new Safe Children, Strong Families block grant.

  • Caps the federal foster care assistance administration and training funds and transfers them to a new Safe Children, Strong Families block grant.
Adoption Highlights
  • Retains Title IV-E adoption assistance as an uncapped entitlement.

  • Eliminates the current income eligibility criteria for adoption assistance payments that are now tied to 1996 AFDC standards.

  • Reduces the federal matching rate for adoption assistance payments by 15%.

  • Caps the federal adoption assistance administration and training funds and transfers them to a new Safe Children, Strong Families block grant.
Safe Children, Strong Families Highlights
  • Creates a new Title IV-B block grant, the Safe Children, Strong Families Program, by combining open-ended funding currently provided through Title IV-E administration and training with the Title IV-B Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families programs.

  • Calculates each state's share of funding based on the average of their expenditures for Title IV-B, Title IV-E administration and Title IV-E training in FY 2001-FY 2003.

  • Allows federal funds to be used for any services. These services include time-limited family reunification, adoption promotion and support, family preservation, family support, and a broad category of child welfare services. This child welfare services category is further defined with seven broad categories of service which include child protection, assessment, placement, and prevention.

  • Defines state funds that can be counted toward a state meeting its maintenance of effort and state matching fund requirement. These funds can include only state spending that addresses one or all of the nine purposes of the program. These purposes include the development and provision of services to ensure safety, permanence and well-being of children, services to prevent child removal, services to support relatives to meet the needs of children in their care, training of workers in the child welfare field including the courts, child placement services, and services that assist in the administration of a state or tribal plan.

The Child Safe Act

Title IV-E Foster Care Maintenance Payments

Current Law:

The Title IV-E foster care maintenance program contributes to the room and board of eligible children in state-licensed or approved homes or facilities. Under the program, states are partially reimbursed for the care of children up to 18 years of age. Eligibility is restricted to those children who have been separated from families receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or families who would have been eligible to receive welfare benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program as it existed as of July 16, 1996.

Federal funding for foster care maintenance payments are currently provided for any eligible child at a federal matching rate from as high as 80% to as low as 50% depending on the state. Current expenditure data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicates that states received $1.690 billion for foster care maintenance payments in FY 2003, for an average monthly number of 242,200 children.

Data complied by HHS and published in the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, 2004 Green Book, Table 11-2, projects that Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments will be:

2005$2.165 billion2007$2.336 billion
2006$2.248 billion2008$2.431 billion


Child SAFE Act:
  • Foster care maintenance payments to states are capped. Federal funding would no longer be tied to the number of eligible children.

  • The current income eligibility criteria for foster care that is now tied to 1996 AFDC standards is eliminated

  • The federal matching payments to states for foster care maintenance payments would be reduced by 35%. This means that if a state currently gets a 50% federal match for foster care maintenance payments, they will now get only about a 32% federal match.

  • Total funding would be based on projections made by the Congressional Budget Office from FY 2005-2014. A state's share of the capped amount would be equal to the percentage of the total federal funds the state received in FY 2003. Federal funding for foster care maintenance payments under the bill would be:

    2005$1.836 billion2010$2.056 billion
    2006$1.882 billion2011$2.097 billion
    2007$1.927 billion2012$2.136 billion
    2008$1.971 billion2013$2.173 billion
    2009$2.014 billion2014$2.210 billion


  • If a state did not spend its entire foster care capped allotment, funds could either carry over for future foster care maintenance payments or be transferred into the new Safe Children, Strong Families Program (See 'Safe Children, Strong Families Program' section.)

  • To address unanticipated increases in foster care caseloads, states would have the option to draw from the existing Contingency Fund for State Welfare Programs. This emergency fund was created to address TANF cash assistance caseload increases.

    To qualify for this additional funding, a state must have spent all of its federal foster care funds and meet the definition of "severe foster care crisis." There are two ways to meet the "crisis" definition: (1) a state must have experienced a statewide average of 15% increase in its foster care caseload from the previous year and national foster care caseloads must have increased 10%; or (2) a state's foster care caseload increased by 20%. To determine caseload increases, the state must compare the most recent six-month period to the corresponding six-month period in the previous year.

    If a state qualified for additional funding, the federal government will provide these funds at the same reduced federal share as the other foster care maintenance payments. The amount payable to a state cannot exceed 20% of the amount the state received in that fiscal year. The state must also meet its matching fund and maintenance of efforts spending requirements.

  • States can use Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments for relative foster family homes. These placements are allowed to have separate licensing standards from non-relative foster homes.

  • In order to receive Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments, states are required to conduct an assessment of a child within 30 days of a child's removal from his or her home. The assessment must identify the physical and mental health needs of the child that are to be addressed as part of the child's case plan.

  • Territories would receive nine-tenths of one percent of the foster care maintenance funds. Tribes would be eligible for nine-tenths of one percent of the foster care maintenance funds.
Title IV-E Adoption Assistance

Current Law:

The Title IV-E adoption assistance program reimburses states for part of the subsidy provided to parents who adopt children with "special needs." Federal Title IV-E adoption assistance was provided to an average of 285,600 monthly recipients in 2002. The program also supports state efforts to recruit adoptive parents, assess prospective adoptive families, and develop, manage, and review individualized adoption plans.

Federal funding for adoption assistance payments are currently provided for any eligible child at a federal matching rate from as high as 80% to as low as 50% depending on the state.

To receive Title IV-E adoption assistance subsidies, states must certify that children cannot or should not be returned to their family of origin and that reasonable efforts have been made to place these children with adoptive families without a subsidy. Adoption assistance payments end when a child reaches age 18, or, at state option, age 21 if the child has a disability.

The Title IV-E adoption assistance program limits federal support to those children who have been adopted after being separated from a family receiving SSI or a family who would have been eligible to receive welfare benefits under the former AFDC program as of July 16, 1996. Eligibility is further limited to children determined by the state to have particular or special needs. These children, as defined by each state, generally include members of a sibling group; children with emotional, physical, or mental disabilities that would prevent adoption unless assistance was provided; and children of color.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Title IV-E adoption assistance payments remain an uncapped entitlement.

  • The current income eligibility criteria for adoption assistance that is now tied to 1996 AFDC standards is eliminated.

  • The federal matching payments to states for adoption assistance payments would be reduced by 15%. This means that if a state currently gets a 50% federal match for adoption assistance payments, they will now receive a federal match of approximately 42%.
Kinship Guardianship

Current Law:

Kinship guardianship placements can offer an alternative permanency option when adoption or reunification with the parent is not an option for a child. Federal funding of kinship guardianship placements is currently not an available use of Title IV-E foster care maintenance funds. Some states have been able to access Title IV-E funds for this purpose through a Title IV-E child welfare waiver. More than 30 states currently provide subsidies to support these placements by using state or local funds or other federal funds.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Retains current law that makes federal funding available to support kinship guardianship available only through a Title IV-E waiver that must be approved by HHS.
Tribal Eligibility for Foster Care and Adoption Assistance

Current Law:

American Indian children under tribal court jurisdiction do not always have direct access to Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funds. Federal law now requires tribes to enter into intergovernmental agreements with states in order to access these funds. There are approximately 13 states and 71 American Indian tribal governments that have agreements with states. In contrast, tribes do have direct access to other federal social service funds such as TANF.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Makes Indian tribes or intertribal consortium eligible to directly receive Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funds.

  • Requires a tribe to submit a plan to HHS that includes assurances of: the operation of a pre-placement preventive services program; provision of a system for child abuse and neglect reporting; prevention, adoption assistance or other supports: and independent living services. Assurances must also be provided that federal funds will be used to supplement current spending. The tribes must also be able to submit case-level data on the children in foster care or adopted.

  • The tribe must have no less than three years of financial stability and management including no uncorrected significant audit exceptions under federal grants or contracts.

  • Upon request of the tribe, HHS can modify any of the requirements, including data requirements, as long as the modification would advance the best interests and the safety of the children served by the tribe.

  • Tribes may enter into agreements with states or consortia made up of other tribal nations for the administration and payment of a foster care and adoption assistance program.

  • Tribal match requirements will be based on a calculation of the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP) rate. This calculation will be based on the per capita income of the tribal service population as defined in the tribal plan.
Medicaid

Current Law:

Children in the Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance programs are automatically eligible for Medicaid.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Children who were in foster care on or before the effective date of the law (October 1, 2004) continue to be automatically eligible for Medicaid.

  • The Medicaid eligibility determination for children who come into foster care after October 1, 2004 will no longer be based on Title IV-E eligibility. Most children in foster care will still likely be eligible for Medicaid by meeting other criteria, including meeting the income standards used for determining Medicaid eligibility. The Child SAFE Act would allow $10,000 of a child's resources to be counted as $1,000 for purposes of calculating their eligibility for Medicaid.
Title IV-E Administration and Training

Current Law:

Title IV-E provides uncapped entitlement funding for administration and training costs. Title IV-E administration pays for the face-to-face time caseworkers spend with children in foster care, case planning for children, securing services for them, preparing and attending judicial hearings, and, recruiting foster parents, among other activities. Title IV-E training funds are used to prepare the workforce, and to provide them ongoing training, as well as training foster and adoptive parents.

States are able to draw down increased federal dollars as their administrative and training costs increase. States currently draw down federal funding for the administration of foster care and adoption assistance at a 50% matching rate meaning that every eligible state dollar is matched by one federal dollar. The federal government matches training costs at a 75% rate. One state dollar spent on training is matched by three federal dollars.

Title IV-E training funds are a critical training resource for preparing foster parents and caseworkers to serve vulnerable children and families appropriately. There are serious limitations within the Title IV-E training program. For instance, states can only receive reimbursement of Title IV-E funds for training based on the Title IV-E eligible caseload. States can only receive Title IV-E reimbursement for training costs based on the number of Title IV-E eligible children. This means that the fewer Title IV-E eligible children in foster care, the smaller percentage of training costs are reimbursed by the federal government, even though one benefit of the training program may have been to reduce the number of children in out of home care.

Further, reimbursable training costs only cover the training related to foster care maintenance, adoption assistance, and administration. This requirement does not recognize the need to train child welfare workers on a wide array of competencies that include prevention, treatment, and intervention skills. These training funds are also limited to training public agency staff. These funds cannot be used to train staff from private agencies. Additionally, these funds cannot be used to train court personnel who are key decision makers regarding children in the child welfare system.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Federal foster care and adoption assistance administration and training funds are capped and transferred to a new Safe Children, Strong Families Program. (See 'Safe Children, Strong Families Program' section.) No funding for administration and training related to adoption or foster care would be guaranteed.
Safe Children, Strong Families Program

Current Law:

Federal funding for prevention and supportive services are now provided by the federal government to the states through two Title IV-B programs. The federal government provides funding at a rate of 75% matching rate for both Title IV-B programs.

The Title IV-B Child Welfare Services program is authorized at $325 million a year, however Congress has only approved $292 million for FY 2004. Funds are used for a range of support and prevention services.

Funds for the Title IV-B Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program are used for family preservation, family support, family reunification, and adoption support. $305 million of these funds are "mandatory" or guaranteed to states each year and do not require annual Congressional approval. An additional $200 million is available if Congress appropriates these funds each year. In FY 2004, Congress has only approved $100 million.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Federal foster care and adoption assistance administration and training funds are capped and transferred to a new Safe Children, Strong Families block grant. No funding for administration and training related to foster care or adoption would be guaranteed.

  • Administrative and training funds would then be combined with the mandatory ($305 million) portion of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program into the new Title IV-B Safe Children, Strong Families program.

  • Funds could be used for administration, training, and services. Funds cannot be spent on foster care maintenance payments.

  • States would be required to maintain their current levels of spending under Title VI-B and could not attribute funds spent for foster care or adoption assistance as part of their maintenance of effort. States could count any spending used to address the nine purposes outlined in the Safe Children, Strong Families Program.

  • The total amount of funding, based on 2005 projections, would increase by $200 million in the first year. Over a ten-year period, funding would increase by approximately 3%, while current HHS projections published in the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, 2004 Green Book, Table 11-2, indicate that administrative costs for foster care and adoption assistance administration and training are projected to increase by approximately 5% between 2005 through 2008.

  • Federal funding for the Safe Children, Strong Families Program:

    2005$3.878 billion2010$4.515 billion
    2006$4.005 billion2011$4.641 billion
    2007$4.131 billion2012$4.765 billion
    2008$4.259 billion2013$4.888 billion
    2009$4.389 billion2014$5.010 billion


  • In addition to these funds, Congress could decide each year to add up to $525 million to the Safe Children, Strong Families Program (the Child Welfare Services authorized funding level of $325 million combined with the $200 million discretionary portion of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program).

  • Each state's share of funding is calculated based on the average of their expenditures for Title IV-B, Title IV-E administration, and Title IV-E training in FY 2001-FY 2003. Historically, states uses of these funds have varied widely depending on the availability of other funding streams. Some states have significantly larger Title IV-E administrative and training claims than other states. States also vary in their federal draw of funding available under the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. At least one state in the past had decided not to draw any of these federal funds.

  • Territories and tribes would each receive less than one half one percent (.0045%) of the funding available under this program. Both would be eligible for one-half one percent of any additional funds appropriated.

  • To receive federal funding, states would have to provide a 32% match. States would also be required to meet a certain level of state spending, or maintenance of effort (MOE).

  • States would be required to maintain the same state plan requirements that currently exist under Title IV-B (Promoting Safe and Stable Families and Child Welfare Services Program).

  • State courts would be eligible for .045% of the Safe Children, Strong Families funds. The highest state court would apply to HHS for these grants. The funds would be used for assessment of the roles, responsibilities and effectiveness of state courts in carrying out state laws as they apply the state's child welfare system. Funds could also be used for improvements to the court system.

  • 1.25% of the total funding is set aside to fund evaluations and research by HHS. These funds could also be used for child welfare trainee projects. These trainee projects funds would be given to institutions of higher learning. These projects would involve providing stipends to students who commit to a certain number of years of work in child welfare after the individual completes his or her training.
Independent Living

Current Law:

The Title IV-E Chafee Foster Care Independence Program is designed to assist foster youth that age out of the foster care system. States use the funds to help youth transition to self-sufficiency though such services as assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career planning, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in daily living skills, and budgeting.

States receive their share of appropriated funds according to a formula, subject to a nationwide ceiling of $140 million. States receive an amount based on their share of the nation's foster care population. States must provide a 20% match.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Makes no changes to the program.
Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS)

Current Law:

Title IV-E funds provide states with open ended funding at a 50% federal match rate to develop and operate a Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System. The systems are designed to collect case-specific data on all children in foster care and all children for whom the state provides adoption assistance or adoption services.

Child SAFE Act:
  • States will continue to be able to claim a 50% federal matching rate to develop and operate their SACWIS system. Federal funding remains an uncapped entitlement.
Child Welfare Waivers

Current Law:

For over a decade, HHS has had the authority to approve up to ten state Title IV-E and Title IV-B waivers annually. By the beginning of 2004, HHS had approved a total of 25 waivers.

Certain conditions and restrictions are placed on these waivers. Child safety and protection requirements cannot be part of the waiver. Waivers must be cost-neutral over the five-year request period. Current law restricts the number of states that can apply for the same waiver or proposal and states are restricted in the number of waivers they can implement. The current authority for HHS is set to expire on September 30, 2004. Congress has chosen to extend this waiver authority in three month increments along with the TANF extensions.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Waiver authority would be extended through 2008.

  • Eliminates the limit on the number of waivers that HHS can approve.

  • Eliminates the number of waivers that can be approved for a single state.

  • States are allowed to duplicate a request or implement a proposal that was approved for another state.

  • Streamlines the process for consideration of waiver applications and amendments to existing waivers.

  • Continue the requirement that waivers be cost-neutral.
Rewards for States that Exceed National Standards

Current Law:

In 1994, Congress adopted a requirement that HHS review state child welfare programs to ensure substantial conformity with state plan requirements. The law requires that state child welfare programs be measured in certain areas utilizing specific criteria. In response, HHS created the Child and Family Services Reviews. The reviews primarily measure outcomes. HHS uses national numerical standards to measure state performance on several of the criteria related to child and family outcomes. If a states child welfare system does not meet the standards, they must submit a program improvement plan (PIP) to HHS. After approving the plan, HHS oversees the implementation of the plan and has the authority to penalize states if progress is not made.

Child SAFE Act:
  • Establishes a new Title IV-B Challenge Grant Program to reward states that significantly exceed a national standard in effect for all or some of a number of specified outcomes for children. The outcomes include the percentage of children:

  • In foster care in a state during a year, who were the subject of substantiated or indicated maltreatment by a foster parent or facility staff member.

  • Reunified with their parents or caretakers at the time of discharge from foster care in a state during a year, who were reunified less than 12 months after their latest removal from the home.

  • Entering foster care in a state during a year, who re-entered foster care within 12 months after a prior discharge from foster care.

  • Exiting foster care in a state to a finalized adoption during a year.

  • Reported to be victims of substantiated child abuse or neglect in the state during the first 6 month period being reviewed, who were the subject of another such report within 6 months after the first report.

  • In foster care for less than 12 months from the time of their latest removal from the home, who have been placed in not more than two settings.

  • To qualify for the bonuses in 2004, a state must have significantly exceeded the national standard for at least four of the outcomes and met the standard for the remaining outcomes. In 2005, the threshold would increase to require that a state significantly exceed five of the outcomes, and in 2007 and 2008 a state would have to significantly exceed the national standard for all of the outcomes.

  • States that qualify would get a share of whatever portion of the $100 million authorized for the challenge grants is appropriated for a given year.
Mentoring Children of Prisoners

Current Law:

In 2001, Congress created a new program for mentoring for children of incarcerated parents. Grants are provided to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations. Grantees must use non-federal resources to make a minimum 25% in-kind or cash match for the first two years of a grant and a minimum of 50% match in succeeding years. Two and a half percent of annually appropriated funds for this program are reserved for evaluation. The program is currently funded at $49 million.

Child SAFE Act:
  • The Mentoring Children of Prisoners program is maintained as it is currently structured. Congress may approve up to $67 million annually through 2014.
Cost of the Child SAFE Act:

The cost of the legislation would be offset by reducing the amount of the TANF High Performance Bonus and requiring an escalating review of SSI determinations for adult SSI recipients in order to identify incorrect determinations. Both of these provisions are contained in the House-passed TANF reauthorization bill (H.R. 4).

Child Welfare League of America
July 2004

Notes

  1. CWLA's testimony presented at that hearing can be found by clicking here.
  2. The Pew Commission recommendations are contained in a report that was released on May 18, 2004. The report, along with CWLA's summary of the recommendations and CWLA's comments on the Administration's proposals can be viewed on CWLA's website by clicking here.




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