Last week Voice for Adoption with the National Foster Care Coalition released a paper, Federal Policymakers Strengthen Law to Account for Adoption Assistance “De–‐link” Savings that outlines the changes Congress enacted recently to strengthen the requirement that states reinvest into child welfare services any state savings resulting from the expanding adoption assistance program. The issue involves the 2008 law, the Fostering Connections to Success Act which gradually phases in expanded federal eligibility for adoption assistance funding.  The 2008 law does away with the old adoption assistance eligibility requirements that are linked to the 1996 cash welfare (AFDC) program.  Each year since 2009 a younger and younger group of adopted children are eligible for federal funding support for adoption assistance as long as the children are considered special needs according to state definitions.

The expansion will be fully implemented by 2018 when all infants and toddlers will be covered. As a result states will realize a savings in state dollars as federal dollars expand.  Congress had included language in the 2008 law that the additional federal dollars were there to supplement state child welfare spending and not intended to supplant such spending.  The Congressional Budget Office calculated savings at nearly $500 million in 2018.  The original HHS guidance was broad and did not require states to outline with great specificity how funds saved were calculated or reinvested.  In its third and most recent amendment to strengthen this requirement under the newly enacted Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (PL 113-183), Congress directed HHS to develop a formula to calculate the savings and for states to document the reinvestments.  Eventually this information will be posted for state advocates making efforts to increase child welfare funding.  The law also requires a specific percentage of the reinvestment funds into post-adoption services. The paper outlines the history and details and can serve as a useful tool in implementing the provision.