On Monday, June 24, Congressperson Bass (D-CA) introduced the Child Welfare Data Modernization Act, HR 3438, which would provide temporary federal funds with a match of 75 percent for states, tribes, and territories child welfare data reporting expenses. Since some states and tribes started updating child welfare AFCARS data systems in 2017, the temporary enhanced federal match applies to efforts undertaken by states and tribes from January 2017 through the federal fiscal year 2020. This bill would reward early adopters while ensuring that data is collected in the timeliest way.

AFCARS is the only compulsory national data collection system on children in foster care and was authorized by Congress in 1986 requiring HHS to collect from states consistent and reliable data on demographics and characteristics of foster and adopted children; biological, foster, and adoptive parents; the number of children entering and exiting foster care and awaiting adoption; and information on placements and permanency plan goals.
The first AFCARS regulations were published by the Children’s Bureau in 1993, seven years after initial authorization. Due to the effort and cost, states were required to expend to develop and implement compliant data systems, Congress in 1994 authorized a temporary 75% enhanced federal match for states to build their new child welfare data systems. The 2016 AFCARS reporting requirements are currently administratively delayed, twenty-three years since the 1993 regulation was published. The 2016 AFCARS regulation is a major overhaul of AFCARS and state and tribal child welfare data systems. Tribes and states are faced with expenses to implement these long overdue updates.

Congressperson Bass’s bill builds on previous Congressional actions like the 1994 temporary enhanced match that was later extended to fiscal years 1994 through 1997. Congressman Brad Wenstrup’s (R-OH) Family First Transition Assistance Act, HR 3017, would provide temporary assistance for states to develop statewide information systems with a federal match of 75 percent for fiscal years 2020 through 2022 although the overall bill contains a controversial offset (way to pay for) that CWLA does not support. CWLA included in its recent AFCARS comments a recommendation to HHS that they seek the 75 percent match in their budget request.

CWLA has endorsed the Bass legislation.