Welcome to the Advocacy Center. CWLA’s National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare and CWLA’s Standards of Excellence for Child Welfare Services set a framework for all children, youth and families to flourish. This framework encompasses all of the practice and policy work we do at CWLA. Our Legislative Agenda identifies goals and policy recommendations within this framework.
2016 LEGISLATIVE DISCUSSION BILLS:
Thank you to everyone who was able to participate in the 2016 National Advocacy Summit (onsite or virtually) held in Washington, DC on April 18-20. Visit Advocacy Summit Recap to review some of the event’s informative presentations and resources.
CAPITOL HILL PAPERS
Visit NEWS & MEDIA for CWLA press releases, statements, letters, op-eds, columns, and materials that provide perspectives on child welfare and issues that impact children who are vulnerable.
- Links to Other Advocacy Organizations & Government Sites Connect here to link to the websites of other advocacy organizations and government agencies working to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
- CWLA Advocacy Tips Advocate for children with your elected officials! Use these tips to learn the basics of effective advocacy. Your voice can make a difference!
- Nonprofit VOTE Founded in 2005, Nonprofit VOTE partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote. They are the leading source of nonpartisan resources to help nonprofits integrate voter engagement into their ongoing activities and services. Check out their 2012 webinar series, plans for aNational Voter Registration Day, state by state reference tools, and their fact sheets and toolkits.
- Voter Self-Defense System Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan, non-profit voter information organization, provides factual information about candidates and elected officials for president, congress, governor, and state legislature. Use Vote Smart Web to access biographies and voting records of over 13,000 candidates and elected officials, legislation, and other politcal resources. Also call The Voter’s Research Hotlineat 1-888-VOTE-SMART to speak to a researcher about your questions on voting records, campaign finances, performance evaluations, and campaign issue positions.
- Youth Policy Action Center The Youth Policy Action Center (YPAC) is a web-based resource that helps youth and concerned adults be heard in the nation’s capital. The website allows youths and adults to regularly contact elected officials about important programs and initiatives–especially in the critical days before votes are cast on the floor of Congress. YPAC offers visitors the opportunity to take action on a range of issues, policies, and legislation.
Adoption & Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA, P.L. 105-89) ASFA contained several provisions focusing on moving children more expeditiously to permanency. Those provisions included new timelines for moving children to permanency; modification of the “reasonable efforts” standards required of state programs to specify that the child’s safety and health is “paramount” to other concerns when deciding the placement of a child; and the creation of adoption incentive bonuses to states that increased the number of adoptions from the foster care system. That law also reauthorized the Family Preservation and Family Support program, re-named it the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, and continued the child welfare demonstration waivers.
Adoption by LBGTQ Parents LGBTQ Issues in Child Welfare Based on more than three decades of social science research and our 90+ years of service to millions of families, CWLA believes that families with LGBTQ members deserve the same levels of support afforded other families. Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children. CWLA, therefore, affirms that gay, lesbian, and bisexual parents are as well suited to raise children as their heterosexual counterparts. For more information:
Adoption Opportunities Adoption Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act is the only federal program created specifically for promoting the adoption of U.S. children in foster care who are awaiting adoption. The program provides grants for demonstration projects that eliminate barriers to adoption and provide permanent loving homes for children who would benefit from adoption, particularly children with special needs. Available to all 50 states through a competitive process, Adoption Opportunities funds are used for innovative demonstration projects that can be replicated after successful outcomes.
Adoption Tax Credit Adoption Since 1997, adoptive families have been supported with a federal tax credit for qualified adoption expenses. The credit applies for all types of adoption, including international and private and public domestic adoption, but excluding stepparent adoption. The credit is permanent, but not refundable, so it does not benefit families without a tax liability. For More Information:
Adoption Incentives The Adoption Incentives Program was first enacted as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) to promote greater permanence for children. Congress passed the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-145) and the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) to reauthorize this program with modifications. It is designed to promote and increase the number of adoptions of children in foster care in situations where reunification with the family is not possible. For More Information:
Budget Process Each year Congress is charged with passing a congressional budget resolution. This resolution establishes a limit on total federal spending. Following is the traditional budget process and timing, though it has been replaced with delays and continuing resolutions in recent years. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives vote on budget resolutions independently and then a final, single compromise measure is adopted. The budget resolution is not signed by the President, however, it does bind the Congress to follow its provisions. The budget resolution always includes instructions and spending limits for each of the 13 appropriations committees that are in charge of making spending decisions in areas under their jurisdiction. The instructions sometimes require deep funding cuts and far reaching policy changes. The President sends his proposed budget to Congress by the first Monday in February following the State of the Union message. Six weeks later congressional committees report their budget estimates to the Budget Committees. The House and Senate Budget Committees then begin congressional hearings to analyze the impact of these proposals. Both Budget Committees approve their own versions of a budget resolution, usually in mid-March. After both the Senate and House approve a budget resolution, a conference committee is held to iron out differences and a final, single version is crafted. Both the Senate and House then vote on final passage of the budget resolution. April 15 is the deadline for the adoption of a final budget resolution.
Fiscal Year Budget
(John H.) Chafee Foster Care Independence Program Healthy Growth & Development in Child Welfare In an effort to assist youth in their transitions to adulthood, the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-169) established the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee Program), allowing states more funding and flexibility to help young people transition to adulthood. States received increased funding and were permitted to extend Medicaid eligibility to former foster children up to age 21. This program provides funds to states to assist youth and young adults (up to age 21) who are leaving foster care by providing educational, vocational, practical, and emotional services and supports. Title I of the Act gives states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to youth between 18 and 21 years of age, who were in foster care on their 18th birthday. Additionally, the Chafee program allows states to use up to 30% of their federal funds to provide room and board services to youth 18-21 years of age. This includes young people who move into independent-living programs, age out, or lose touch with the child welfare agency and then return for assistance before reaching 21.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, P.L. 93-247) Child Protection & (Secondary) Prevention Services Enacted in 1974 and reauthorized in 2010 (P.L. 111-320), CAPTA is a key federal legislative vehicle that guides the delivery of child protection services throughout the 50 states. Although funded well below its authorized level, CAPTA provides grants to states to support their child protection systems (CPS), innovations in protective services and community-based preventive services, and research, training, data collection, and program evaluation. The legislation is also the vehicle for reauthorizing the Adoption Opportunities Act and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act. For more information:
CECANF-Final Report by the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is the final report of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. This report discusses the Commission’s findings and presents both a comprehensive national strategy for fundamental reform and recommendations specific to populations in need of special attention, including children currently known to CPS agencies and at high risk for fatality, American Indian/Alaska Native children, and African American children. The report includes recommendations for actions by the executive branch, Congress, and states and counties that the Commission believes will be most effective in ending these tragic deaths, today and into the future. Separate Views–Judge Martin
Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (DCTC) is a credit that reimburses child care expenditures incurred while guardians work or look for work. This credit is worth up to $2,100, but the money cannot be refunded, only deducted from a family’s federal income tax liability. Twenty-eight states have additional Child and Dependent Care Tax provisions and in thirteen states, these credits are refundable.
Child Care and Development Block Grant Early Childhood When Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, P.L. 104-193) was created in 1996, child care funding was combined into a new Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). This fund is made up of mandatory funding from TANF and the authority to provide an annual appropriation of federal discretionary funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
Child Tax Credit Budget Policy The Child Tax Credit is available to taxpayers with children as qualified by age, relationship, support, dependent status, citizenship, residence and the taxpayers income, depending on family structure.
Child Welfare Services (CWS) Child Protection & (Secondary) Prevention Services Subpart 1 of IV-B of the Social Security Act (P.L. 112-34), CWS funds are used to develop and expand child and family services programs geared towards supporting families and improving child well-being. As a part of that mission, it includes training and research funds related to child welfare. Of the amount appropriated, each state and territory receives a $70,000 base allotment. Then, the remaining money is allocated based on the number of individuals in a state under 21 and the state’s per capita income. For More Information:
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, P.L. 105-33) To broaden coverage to low-income children, Congress enacted the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997. CHIP seeks to cover children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. CHIP was last reauthorized in 2009 (P.L. 111-3).
Children’s Mental Health Services Program Commodity Supplemental Food Programs (CSFP) CSFP is a commodity food assistance program. It is designed to provide a nutritious diet supplement. It predominantly serves the elderly, but it is also within its mission to improve the health of low-income pregnant and new mothers, infants, and children up to age six by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods goods. This program is similar to WIC in that it serves the same population, but it also serves the elderly. In addition, CSFP provides food, instead of a voucher, and participants cannot be enrolled in both programs at once. Here again, local agencies ultimately distribute the foods. They also provide nutrition education and referrals to other safety net programs.
Community-Based Abstinence Education Program Health Care Administered through the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant’s Special Projects program, this program provides grants to public and private entities for the development and implementation of abstinence-only education programs for adolescents, ages 12 through 18.
Community Health Centers Health Care Under HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), community health centers provide primary health care services to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations with limited access to health care. For more information: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about/
Community-Based Prevention Community-based prevention refers to programs and effort that seek to prevent child abuse and neglect before it occurs. Within child welfare many think of prevention as the prevention of placing a child into foster care but community based prevention is focused on the prevention of child maltreatment.
One of the key initiatives at the federal level is the CB-CAP or Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention program. The program provides community based grants to leverage additional funds in an effort to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Other funding and programs include home visitation, state CAPTA grants, Title IV-B programs and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). Data Key federal child welfare data sets include AFCARS, which tracks the number and characteristics of children in and exiting out of home care, NCANDS, which tracks the number and characteristics of maltreated children and the services they receive, and NYTD, which tracks older youth in the child welfare system. Much of this data is collected by states through their individual SACWIS systems. Other sources of information include:
Early Learning Challenge Fund/Race to the Top The Early Learning Challenge Fund (ELCF) was carved out of the Race to the Top program in the FY2011 appropriations process. It made funds available for competitive state grantees to raise the quality of their early childhood systems and align it with their K-12 and higher education systems. States must focus on 5 reform areas: (1) Establishing successful state systems of early learning; (2) Defining high-quality, accountable early learning programs; (3) Promoting early learning and development outcomes for children; (4) Supporting a great early childhood education workforce; and (5) Measuring outcomes and progress to determine whether kindergartners are entering elementary school ready to succeed.
Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Testing (EPSDT) Health Care EPSDT entitles children younger than 21 and enrolled in Medicaid to receive comprehensive and preventive healthcare services. Under EPSDT, state Medicaid agencies must inform all Medicaid-eligible children younger than 21 that EPSDT services are available and set appropriate schedules for screening, dental, vision, and hearing services. The extent to which children in Medicaid across the country are receiving EPSDT services is not fully known, but the evidence indicates many are not receiving these services.
Education for Children and Youth in Foster Care In addition to the abuse and neglect that children entering foster care experience, educational placements which should serve as a source of stability are often disrupted, causing even more instability and uncertainty. Youth in care have reported moving through an average of 9 different schools during their tenure in foster care. Many times enrollment to new schools is delayed because of required health and immunization records. Other obstacles to enrollment include education credits that cannot be verified or accepted by the new school, as well as credits getting lost or never transferred. Multiple school changes not only disrupt academics, but also cause youth to lose important adult figures, such as teachers, mentors, athletics and other extracurricular activities. The result is that youth in foster care experience poor educational outcomes, completing high school at a rate significantly below their peers. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (PL 110-351) laid the foundation to address these challenges. Federal law now requires that the youth’s individual case plan address the best educational placement, and that the child be immediately enrolled in a new school when a change is most appropriate. It also provides that foster care maintenance payments include “reasonable travel for the child to remain in the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of his or her placement.” More recently, the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-34) clarifies that this educational stability provision applies at every placement change, not just the initial placement into care. While significant strides have been made recently towards bettering educational outcomes for youth in foster care, we must continue to support youth in foster care to achieve the critical well-being measures of graduation and post-secondary education. For more information:
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that supplements the wages of low-income people and families. It was created in 1975 with the expressed purpose of encouraging and incentivizing work. The EITC is structured so the credit amount increases as the recipient’s wage increases, up to a maximum value.
Family Connection Grants In the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351), Congress created the Family Connection Grants program. These competitive grants fund programs like kinship navigators that assist kinship caregivers in finding support; intensive family-finding search technology to find and match up biological family members for children in the child welfare system; substance abuse treatment for families in child welfare; and family group decision making to empower and involve family members in planning and decisions that work to protect kids from further abuse and neglect. Funding expired in FY 2014 when Congress failed to renew the program. Efforts are continuing to restore the funding. For More Information:
Family Planning Program, (Title X of the Social Security Act) Title X supports a network of nationwide clinics. Family planning clinics provide access to a wide array of reproductive health and preventive services.
Family Preservation Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-66) This act amended Title IV-B of the Social Security Act to create a capped or limited amount of entitlement funds for family preservation and family support services. This is now Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), Subpart 2 of Title IV-B. While states already had the ability to use Title IV-B funds for this purpose, the creation of a new fund to specifically target these services was seen as a way to encourage states in family support efforts.
Financing Child Welfare Services The funding of child welfare services is complex and involves many distinct funding streams. Public child welfare agencies depend on many if not all of these sources for their operations at any given time. These funds along with state and/or local general fund appropriations are used to hire staff and provide services directly as well as to purchase services from third parties. Each of these revenue sources has their own set of rules, regulations and policy interpretations. Some are open-ended entitlements; others are capped entitlements; some is discretionary; and others are specialized grants, or block grants. Some of these funds are administered directly by the state or county child welfare agency; while others, are available to clients that both public and private agencies serve, and are administered by a different public agency. Knowledge of the various funding streams available to public child welfare is important to both public and private providers. Aside from the complexity of these funding streams in and of themselves, access to these funds and how they are administered will vary from state to state.
Finance Reform Status: Momentum toward comprehensive child welfare financing reform continues to build. In September, 2011 legislation passed the House that reinstates the authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow up to 10 states to implement new innovative demonstration projects through a five-year waiver of Title IV-E. While IV-E waiver authority falls short of CWLA’s idea of comprehensive reform, innovative and effective practices can be developed through the research, development, testing and evaluation processes required under waiver authority. Perhaps most importantly, Congressional supporters of the waiver provisions publically committed to continuing to fight for more far reaching finance reform. For More Information:
Brief History of Federal Child Welfare Financing Legislation Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351) When Congress passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 they passed the most significant child welfare legislation in more than a decade. The law made major improvements in seven key areas: support for kinship care, aid for youth in transition from foster care, access to federal Title IV-E funds by tribal governments and consortia, improvements in the workforce, more adoption assistance, greater health care services for children in the child welfare system, and improvements in access to education.
Kinship Care provisions give states the option to use federal Title IV-E funds for kinship guardianship payments for children raised by relative caregivers. Children eligible under this provision must also be eligible for federal foster care maintenance payments, must reside with the relative for at least six consecutive months in foster care, and who likely would otherwise remain in foster care until they aged out of the system. It also clarifies that under current guidance, states may waive non-safety licensing standards (as determined by the state) on a case-by-case basis in order to eliminate barriers to placing children with relatives. Requires state agencies to identify and provide notice to all adult relatives of a child within 30 days after the child is removed from the custody of the parent(s).
Youth in Transition provisions allows states the option to extend care to youth age 19, 20, or 21 with continued federal support, to increase the youths’ opportunities for success as they transition to adulthood. Requires child welfare agencies to help youth develop a transition plan during the 90-day period immediately before a youth exits from care at 18, 19, 20, or 21, and expands the definition of child-caring facility for someone 18 or older to include a supervised setting for independent living. The state option begins in FY 2011. Tribal provisions create the option for tribes or tribal consortia to directly access and administer IV-E funds for adoption assistance, foster care and kinship care by submitting a plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For the first time, tribes are allowed direct access to IV-E funding. Current agreements between a tribe(s) and the state may still be in effect, subject to the provisions in that agreement. HHS shall provide technical assistance, implementation services, and grants to assist tribes in the transition to administering their own programs. Workforce development provisions expand the availability of Title IV-E federal training dollars to the training of staff not only in public agencies, but also in private child welfare agencies approved by the state. This expanded use of IV-E training funds is extended to court personnel, attorneys, guardians ad litem, and court appointed special advocates. The current funding, which is provided at a 75% match, will be phased in with first funding set at a 55% match and increasing each year by 5%, to 75%. Adoption provisions eliminate the link to the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children cash assistance program for eligibility determination. This elimination of the “lookback” is gradually phased in, with all special-needs adoptive children covered in the first year if they are 16 or older.The coverage expands downward by two years until all special-needs adoptions are covered in the tenth year. All siblings of eligible children and all children who have been in care for more than five years are immediately eligible. The bill allows states to receive an additional payment of $1,000 per adoption if the state’s adoption rate exceeds its highest recorded foster child adoption rate since 2002; awards $8,000 per older-child adoption (age 9 and older) and $4,000 per special-needs adoption above the baseline; and requires states to inform all people who are adopting a child from foster care that they are potentially eligible for the adoption tax credit. Health care provisions require the state child welfare agency to work with the state Medicaid agency (and other health care experts) to create a plan for the ongoing oversight and coordination of health care services for children in foster care. Nothing in these plans relieves the state Medicaid agency of their responsibilities. The state health plan must include: (1) health screening and follow-up screenings; (2) description of how needs will be identified and addressed; (3) description of how medical information will be updated and shared; (4) steps taken to ensure continuity of care, including the possible use of medical homes for each child; (5) oversight of prescription medication; and (6) description of how the state consults with medical and nonmedical professions on the appropriate treatment of children. Educational access provisions require state child welfare agencies to improve educational stability for children in foster care by coordinating with local education agencies to ensure that children are able to remain in the school they are enrolled in at the time of placement into foster care, unless that would not be in the child’s best interests. In that case, the state must ensure transfer and immediate enrollment in the new school. The act also provides increased federal support to assist with school related transportation costs. Finally, the state plan must ensure that every child receiving IV-E assistance is enrolled as a full-time student or has completed high school. For More Information:
Healthy Start The Healthy Start program provides intensive services tailored to the needs of high risk pregnant women, infants, and mothers in diverse communities with high rates of infant mortality.
Head Start & Early Head Start (P.L. 110-134) Early Childhood Head Start is one the nation’s oldest early childhood education programs. It is a national program that provides funding directly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to local providers. This local control focus has allowed the program to place a heavy emphasis on local and parental involvement. Head Start serves nearly 1 million children and their families annually. Throughout Head Start’s bipartisan history, dating back to 1965, the program has taken a comprehensive approach, recognizing that a child will not be ready to learn unless that child’s needs are met. To that end, the program directly involves the family in addressing those needs, linking them to health, nutrition, mental health, and other services.
Home Visitation [Policy Topic] >Early Childhood >Health Care Home visitation programs refer to a number of different model programs that provide in-home visits to targeted, vulnerable, or new families. The programs can be either stand-alone or be a part of a center-based program. The families who are eligible for services may also vary, with some home visiting programs serving families starting as early as the prenatal stage. States use several different models, depending on local needs and preferences. Home visitation is an effective, research-based and cost-efficient way to bridge the gap between vulnerable families and the resources that will ensure that children grow up healthy and ready to learn. See also Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
Homeless Youth Youth Services Young people under age 18 may be homeless for a variety of reasons: they could have run away from home without the permission of parents, guardians, or custodial authorities or they could have been “thrownaway” or forced to leave home or deserted by parents or guardians. Homeless youth also include those whose families themselves are homeless, unaccompanied minors from abroad, and young people left to fend for themselves, typically because their parents are incarcerated, physically incapacitated, mentally ill, or addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Immigration Immigration presents unique issues in child welfare. Many children in the United States have at least one parent who is considered to be undocumented. Recent immigration raids have focused attention on issues such as family preservation, health and mental health, and stress. When children are separated from parents, they face short- and long-term psychological damage, including depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, and suicidal thoughts. At the child welfare agency level, challenges include shortages of translators and properly trained and culturally competent staff, programs, and services. At the federal department level there needs to be more coordination between immigration and child welfare.
Interethnic Placement Act of 1996 (IEPA, P.L. 104-188) IEPA amended the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (103-82) in 1996 through provisions for the removal of barriers to interethnic adoption. It intended to remove potentially misleading language in MEPA’s original provisions and clarify that discrimination based on race, color, or national origin is not to be tolerated in the adoption and foster placements of any child. It also discussed fiscal penalties that withhold federal funds to states that have violated these provisions or failed to implement corrective action.
(Foster Care) Independent Living Program The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-169, formerly known as the Title IV-E Independent Living Initiative, now referred to as the Chaffee Independence Program) was signed into law on December 14, 1999. The law brought major changes in Independent Living funding and regulations. It provided a $140 million capped entitlement which requires a 20% state match and implemented an allocation formula based on number of children in foster care for the most recent fiscal year with a minimum of $500,000 for every state. States may use the funds in “any manner that is reasonable calculated to accomplish the purposes” of the program. Those eligible include children in foster care, without regard to their eligibility for Title IV-E, who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18. States must use a portion of their funds for assistance and services for former foster children age 18 to 21 who left foster care because they reached age 18.States may use up to 30% of their program funds for room and board for former foster children age 18 to 21 who left foster care because they reached age 18.
In 2001, as part of the reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PL 107-133), a new tuition voucher program was created. This program, the “Educational and Training Vouchers for Youths Aging out of Foster Care” assists these youth in their educational needs. The law amended section 477 of Title IV-E and provided an authorization of $60 million. The dollars are discretionary and Congress must approve funding each year. These funds are allotted to states under the same formula used to distribute the general Chafee program funds. States use the funds for youth defined by the program as eligible: youth otherwise eligible for services under the State Chafee program; youth adopted from foster care after attaining age 16; and youth participating in the voucher program on their 21st birthday until they turn 23 years old, as long as they are enrolled in a poste secondary education or training program and making progress toward completion of that program. As a result of changes enacted by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351), guidance (ACYF-CB-Pl-10-11) was issued in regard to extending foster care to age 21 including the definition of living independently in a supervised setting. See also the Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) which extended Medicaid coverage for youth who were in foster care at age 18. For More Information:
Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L 95-608) Indian Child Welfare This law mandates that state courts act to preserve the unity of Native American families by giving preference for out-of-home placements first to extended families, then to foster families in the child’s own tribe, and finally to foster families of another tribe. It also regulates how states handle child abuse and neglect and adoption cases involving Native American children. ICWA allows tribal courts to request that a child’s “case” be transferred from the state court to the tribal court. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is an important federal law for Indian tribes. All state child welfare agencies and courts must follow the law when they are working with Indian families in child custody proceedings. ICWA gives Indian tribes the right to be involved in deciding what should happen for Indian children who may be placed in foster care or adoptive placements. Tribes, state agencies, and state courts don’t always agree on what the best plan is for Indian children in foster care. ICWA gives Indian parents certain rights. ICWA also gives state child welfare agencies certain responsibilities. For More Information:
Infants and Toddlers in Child Welfare Children need lots of stability and love, especially in the first four years of life. During these initial 48 months, children grow in leaps and bounds, usually under the watchful and loving gaze of parents who nurture and care for them. Not every child has this opportunity, however. Sometimes, parents lack needed skills and resources, and their children may be placed in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, young children are more vulnerable to a host of developmental issues if they remain in foster care.
Information Technology Information technology is important for child welfare. National data is dependent on a system of information that can help measure how we are doing in critical areas such as children in foster care, the number of adoptions from foster care and the number of children substantiated as abused and neglected in a year. In addition good information technology can help child welfare agencies serve the children and families involved with.
Inter-country Adoption Inter-country adoption can offer children the advantage of a permanent family for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her country of origin. Many families in the United States choose to build their families by adopting children from abroad. There is substantial public and governmental interest in attending to and monitoring the international process to protect children from exploitation and abuse and further to ensure their safety and well-being. Recognizing this need, the United States signed the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption in 1994 and ratified it in April of 2008. The Convention prescribes a framework for cooperation and a legal structure to safeguard children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in inter-country adoption. The Convention addresses safeguards to ensure that inter-country adoptions are in the best interest of children. It establishes a system of cooperation among countries to prevent abduction, sale of, or traffic in children. Countries who have ratified the Convention agree to place children for adoption only with countries that offer the same protections.
Juvenile Justice Although the evidence does not suggest that any single factor accounts for the development of criminal behavior, experts increasingly recognize the importance of childhood victimization as a risk factor for subsequent delinquency and violence. Maltreatment is not inevitably associated with delinquency, but children who are abused and neglected are more likely than other children to commit delinquent acts as adolescents and crimes as adults. They are also more likely to experience a range of mental health, substance abuse, occupational, and educational deficiencies during adolescence and adulthood. The overwhelming conclusion from the existing body of research is that to improve the wellbeing of our nation’s most disadvantaged and traumatized children and youth, and to see sustained reductions in child maltreatment and delinquency, we must improve the coordination and integration of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (P.L. 107-273) The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is a federal initiative designed to help state and local governments and private nonprofit agencies in supporting and initiating programs that prevent and treat juvenile delinquency. Many public and private facilities nationwide provide custody and care for children who are wards of juvenile courts, juvenile corrections, or other public or private agencies. These facilities represent a spectrum of residential programs for accused or adjudicated delinquents and status offenders-youths detained for offenses that would not be crimes if they were adults, such as running away or truancy. Established in 1974 (P.L. 93-415), and authorized most recently in 2002, JJDPA is based on a broad consensus that children, youth, and families involved with the juvenile and criminal courts should be guarded by federal standards for care and custody, while also upholding community safety and preventing victimization. The connection between child maltreatment and later involvement with the juvenile justice system is well documented. A growing body of research undeniably establishes the connection between all forms of child maltreatment-neglect, physical, and sexual abuse-and the risk of subsequent involvement in delinquency and the juvenile justice system.
Juvenile Mentoring Program The Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP) supports one-to-one mentoring projects for youth at risk of failing in school, dropping out of school, or becoming involved in delinquent behavior, including gang activity and substance abuse. Part G of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, as amended, authorizes OJJDP to fund JUMP. hrough JUMP, Congress also has acknowledged the value of collaboration between local educational agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations in both public and private for profit or nonprofit and tribal nations to implement mentoring programs for at-risk youth.
Kinship Care The practice of kin parenting children when their parents cannot is a time-honored tradition in most cultures and a primary and valuable permanency option. When children cannot safely remain with their biological parents, kinship parenting preserves children’s right to both a nurturing and loving family and connections with their family of origin, history and heritage. Kinship parenting provides a strong foundation upon which a loving, caring relationship has a firm footing and can flourish. Just as kinship caregivers step up for children, society must rally to ensure supports and services keep these families strong. CWLA has been at the forefront of support from passage of the Fostering Connections to Success Act to more recently the expansion of the Adoption Incentive Fund to cover kinship placements. For More Information:
LGBTQ Youth LGBTQ Issues in Child Welfare Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) are at heightened risk for experiencing a number of negative outcomes. As a result, LGBTQ youth must have access to: compassionate, supportive, and non-judgmental social workers, foster parents, and service providers who are willing to build upon their strengths and advocate on their behalf; information, resources and services that meet their individual needs and support healthy decision-making; a safe, stable, and affirming home where they feel welcomed and cared for; safe homes, safe schools, and safe communities where they are accepted, nurtured, loved and valued; and connections with caring and non-judgmental adults who will support their healthy development and well-being. For More Information:
Local Delinquency Prevention Grants, Title V The Title V program is the only federal funding source dedicated solely to delinquency prevention. It funds collaborative, community-based delinquency prevention efforts to reach youth in high-risk situations before they make bad choices. Title V brings together local participants in a comprehensive effort to reduce risk factors in children’s environments while promoting factors that lead to healthy behavior. Prevention efforts that reduce risk factors or enhance protective factors maximize the chances of reducing juvenile delinquency and related problems and enable people to transition successfully to adulthood. In 2003 funding for Title V was slashed by more than half, to $46 million, with numerous earmarks for special purposes, which left little more than $2 million to distribute to the states. In practical effect, Title V was eliminated in FY 2003, and dozens of effective community initiatives received no funding. Funding for Title V was partly restored in 2004, but a sizable gap in available resources remains.
Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Title V of the Social Security Act (P.L. 88-352) Title V is a federal-state partnership that funds a diverse array of programs and services specifically aimed at improving the health of mothers and children, many of whom are vulnerable and in need of prevention or early intervention. These services include public education and outreach, evaluations and quality assurance activities, support for newborn screenings and genetic services, and health care services including nutrition counseling. The block grant supports federal and state partnerships that provide critical services to women and children, including direct health care services for children with special health care needs, promoting health and safety in child care settings, and enabling services such as home visiting and nutrition counseling. It also provides support for newborn screening, trauma care, and injury prevention.
Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) MIECHV is a mandatory program authorized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148) to provide funds to States for evidence-based home visitation programs for low-income families. The grant program originally authorized $1.5 billion over 5 years for states to provide home visiting services starting in 2010. MIECHV is intended to result in a coordinated system of home visiting that provides the infrastructure and supports to assure high-quality evidence-based practice in every state. The program sets new standards for the allocation of human service funding in that it requires states to spend 75 percent of its funding on evidenced-based and research-based models. The remaining 25 percent can be used for more experimental models but they too must undergo serious evaluation. For More Information:
Home Visitation [Policy Topic]
Medicaid Medicaid is the nation’s major program for providing health and long-term care coverage to low-income people. It is a critical health care safety net for millions of low-income children. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program; each state has extensive flexibility to set its own eligibility standards, benefits packages, payment rates, and program administration, under broad federal guidelines. The result is 56 unique Medicaid programs (one for each state, territory, and the District of Columbia). Under Medicaid law, to qualify for federal matching funds, states are only required to cover the very poorest people who fit into several categories: parents and children who meet income and asset limits for each state’s welfare program; pregnant women and children younger than 6 with family incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level; all children younger than 19 with family incomes up to 100% of poverty; all current and some former beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income; all beneficiaries of foster care and adoption assistance under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act; and certain low-income Medicare beneficiaries. States have the option to cover people who fit these categories and have higher incomes. They are only required to cover a package of core health services—mandatory services—but they must provide this package for all Medicaid beneficiaries. States have flexibility to cover an additional one or more of a list of 33 “optional services” with federal matching dollars. These optional services are usually medically necessary, and most states already provide coverage. Although states have great freedom to design their own Medicaid programs, the federal government funds a significant portion of total Medicaid spending in every state through the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage matching rate, calculated by comparing the state average per capita income to the national average. The Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) made significant expansions to Medicaid, but the following Supreme Court ruling clarified that these expansions are optional to states.
Mental Health Mental, emotional, and behavior problems include anxiety disorders, such as phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder; major depression; bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness; attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; learning disorders; conduct disorders; eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia; autism; and schizophrenia. Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused by biological factors such as genetics, chemical imbalances, or damage to the central nervous system; environmental factors such as exposure to violence, extreme stress, or loss of an important person; or a combination of both factors. The frequency and severity of emotional problems among children in foster care seem to be strongly related to their history of deprivation, neglect and abuse, and the lack of security and permanence in their lives. Children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol are almost three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected than are children whose parents are not substance abusers. The Working Draft, 2016 Alexander-Murray–Mental Health Reform
Mental Health Block Grant Health Care The Mental Health Block Grant is the principal vehicle for financial support for evidenced-based, comprehensive services for low income and uninsured persons living with serious mental illnesses. It is also a source of funding for children with serious emotional disturbances in communities throughout the country. The MHBG funds are directed towards activities not easily funded by Medicaid. Finally, the grants provide a critical source of flexible funding for states to be innovative in providing essential, intensive community-based mental health services.
Mental Health Programs of Regional and National Significance Under the Mental Health Service Block Grant, these funds provide local communities the opportunity to improve mental health services by implementing proven, evidence-based practices for adults and children with serious emotional disorders. These programs allow state and local mental health authorities to access information about the most promising methods for improving programs. For More Information:
Mental Health Block Grant Monitoring The Children’s Bureau conducts several reviews to oversee child welfare services across the country and ensure legislative compliance. The reviews include the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR), AFCARS Assessment Reviews, SACWIS Assessment Reviews, and Title IV-E Reviews. For More Information:
Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA, P.L. 103-82) 1994 The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) was enacted in 1994 with a goal to promote the best interests of children by ensuring that they have permanent, safe and stable families and homes. Of particular concern are the African American and other minority children who are dramatically over-represented at all stages of this system. The debate and concern in 1994 was that children were being denied placements due to an over reliance on policies that emphasized placements that take into account the racial and ethnic makeup of the prospective adoptive family. MEPA prohibited the use of a child’s or a prospective parent’s race, color, or national origin to delay or deny the child’s placement and required diligent efforts to expand the number of racially and ethnically diverse foster and adoptive parents. MEPA was signed into law in 1994 and later amended to clarify its intent. MEPA requires three basic actions by states: 1. It prohibits states and other entities that are involved in foster care or adoption placements, and that receive federal financial assistance under title IV-E, title IV-B, or any other federal program, from delaying or denying a child’s foster care or adoptive placement on the basis of the child’s or the prospective parent’s race, color, or national origin; 2. It prohibits these states and entities from denying to any individual the opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent on the basis of the prospective parent’s or the child’s race, color, or national origin; and 3. It requires that, to remain eligible for federal assistance for their child welfare programs, states must diligently recruit foster and adoptive parents who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the children in the state who need foster and adoptive homes.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network The 2000 Children’s Health Act (P.L. 106-310) established the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, resulting in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). This is a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsored collaboration of service providers, universities, and hospitals working together to improve access to services and quality of care for children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events. NCTSN shares information with each other, their networks, and the public at www.nctsn.org. NCTSN has also developed evidence-based programs, responded to national crises, trained hundreds of thousands of professionals, and implemented a core data set from the experiences of more than 14,000 children and adolescents. For More Information:
Older Youth Child Protection in Child Welfare Young people transitioning out of the foster care system without a family are significantly affected by the instability that accompanies long periods of out-of-home placement during childhood and adolescence. The experiences of these youth place them at a higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration, and homelessness.
Poverty Social Supports Children and families facing poverty are at even greater risk of not succeeding. Growing up in poverty is associated with a host of risk factors. Shamefully high, just shy of 50 million people are currently in poverty, struggling to meet their basic needs let alone help their families thrive. Many families in poverty are resilient, but for too many it is an intractable barrier to securing health and safety.
Promise Neighborhoods The Promise Neighborhoods program, fashioned after Geoffrey Canada’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone model, works to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children in chronically poor communities by creating a system of cradle-to-career services with a great schooling system at its core.
Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) Child Protection & (Secondary) Prevention Services Subpart 2 of IV-B of the Social Security Act (P.L. 112-34), the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program provides a maximum of $505 million for the four core services. This funding is used for state programs that assist in family reunification, family support, adoption support and family preservation. Of the $505 million $305 million a year is provided in mandatory funding (funding that does not require an annual approval by Congress). The law also allows Congress to appropriate an additional $200 million a year for a possible total of $505 million. PSSF also provides an additional $40 million a year in mandatory funds that are designated for two programs, one to address substance abuse and one to address child welfare workforce development. Finally, PSSF includes two $10 million a year programs targeted to state court improvements and coordination with the state child welfare system. For More Information:
(Re-Homing) Unregulated Custody Transfers News media reports in 2013 tracked the practice of some adoptive parents transferring their adopted child to another home through postings on the internet, and bypassing the state courts and sometimes subjecting the children to abusive or neglect situations. The news reports documented cases that mainly involved families that had adopted children from international settings. The term “rehoming” was lifted from a practice that is used to find new homes for pets. In 2015 CWLA joined with Voice for Adoption, the Donaldson Institute and the North American Council of Adoptable Children issued a statement of policy that asked Congress to direct the GAO report to learn more about this practice. In addition The groups also called for:
- Establish a reliable, comprehensive, and flexible federal funding source for postadoption services
- Ensure services offered to adopted children and their families embrace best practices, are trauma-informed, and are provided by professionals who are trained in supporting children and their adoptive families
- Invest in research and evaluation to identify and promote the most effective postadoption services
- Address the significant gaps in the service delivery system and state policies which too often present parents with the impossible choice of giving up custody to receive state-funded services for their children
- Provide access to post-adoption services regardless of the type of adoption
For More Information:
Residential Treatment (Out of Home Care) Youth Services High quality, family focused residential treatment services are an important part of the continuum of care for vulnerable children and youth. Residential treatment programs provide a child with a therapeutic environment that meets their unique needs for safety, permanence and well-being. For More Information:
CEO Message, 6/2009 CWLA position statement on residential treatment legislation (7/2008) Families First Act-Description By Committee The Ryan White Act was first authorized in 1990, is funded at approximately $2.32 billion in federal funds. The Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB). CWLA has paid particular attention to Part D of the Act. Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part D grantees provide outpatient or ambulatory family-centered primary medical care (directly or through contracts or memoranda of understanding) for women, infants, children, and youth with HIV/AIDS. Part D funds (1) family-centered primary and specialty medical care and (2) support services. The Part D Program divides the allowable costs among four Part D Cost Categories: medical service costs, clinical quality management costs, support service costs, and administrative costs. Medical Service Costs are those associated with providing family-centered care, including access to primary medical care and support services for HIV-infected women, infants, children, and youth. Eligible organizations are those agencies seeking to enhance their response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their area through the provision of family-centered primary medical care and support services to women, infants, children, and youth with HIV/AIDS when payments for such services are unavailable from other sources.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (P.L. 110-378) Youth Services The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) is the major federal law overseeing services and supports for youth who are in need of temporary housing, shelter services, and related assistance. RHYA is authorized under Title III of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (P.L. 107-283). Title III provides federal funds for community-based agencies nationwide working to prevent homelessness among young people and to provide supports and opportunities to youth who experience homelessness. RHYA comprises three major programs: The Runaway and Homeless Youth (Basic Center) Grant Program enables local nonprofit agencies to operate runaway and homeless youth centers that provide temporary shelter and counseling to runaway and homeless youth under age 18. Local centers may also provide street and home-based services and drug abuse education and prevention for runaway or homeless youth or youth in high-risk situations. The Transitional Living Program (TLP) supports community-based agencies that provide services and shelter to homeless youth ages 16-21 for up to 18 months, including information and counseling in basic lifeskills to promote transition to self-sufficiency and prevent long-term dependency on social services. The Sexual Abuse Prevention (Street Outreach) Program awards competitive grants to local nonprofits for street-based outreach and education to runaway, homeless, and street youth who have experienced or are at risk for sexual abuse, prostitution, or sexual exploitation.
Seclusion & Restraint Physical Restraint is the application of physical force by one or more individuals that reduces or restricts the ability of an individual to move his arms, legs or head freely. Seclusion is the placement of an individual against his will in any room where the door is unable to be opened voluntarily by the individual. Physical interventions should used only in emergency circumstances and only to ensure the immediate safety of the individual or others when no less restrictive intervention has been, or is likely to be, effective in averting the danger. Restraint and seclusion should never be used as a threat of punishment or form of discipline, in lieu of adequate staffing, as a replacement for active treatment, or for caregiver convenience. In previous statements to Congress CWLA has outlined basic principles:
- Restraints and seclusion must only be used to ensure the physical safety of the child and all others and should never be used for purposes of discipline and convenience.
- The use of chemical restraints, mechanical restraints, and locked, isolated seclusion for children and youths must be prohibited.
- There should be mandatory reporting of behavioral interventions, such as seclusion and restraints, within 24 hours.
- All staff must receive appropriate initial and ongoing training in behavior management, de-escalation, and the use of seclusion and restraints, including less intrusive interventions and emphasis on the medical, legal and other implications of the use of restraints.
- Any legislation must support the development of national guidelines and standards on the quality, quantity, orientation and training, as well as the certification of those staff responsible for the implementation of behavioral intervention concepts and techniques.
- Proposed remedies must include a plan to address the workforce crisis confronting children’s service organizations throughout the country in the recruitment and retention of qualified direct care practitioners. The goal of establishing a licensing, certification, and credentialing standard for direct care workers is of primary importance.
- States should be required in their licensing, contracting, and regulation to include reporting and analysis of restraints on a regular basis, to set minimum expectations about staff development, and to make expectations consistent between public and privately operated facilities that serve the same children and youths.
Sex Trafficking (from Foster Care) The exploitation of youth through sex slavery is tragically a thriving underground industry in our country (as well as the world) that preys on vulnerable youth, including those with histories of maltreatment and without permanent families. What is needed in child welfare are improvements and resources that make sure all victims of abuse are treated, all children find permanent families, and no young person ages out without a family and a future. Child welfare has to be a part of any comprehensive solution to domestic sex trafficking. As indicated in a recent guidance to states by HHS: “Traffickers prey especially on children and youth with low self-esteem and minimal social support. These traits are highly prevalent among young people experiencing homelessness or those in foster care, due to their histories of abuse, neglect, and trauma. Some experts on child sexual exploitation highlight that recruitment of young people for trafficking commonly takes place in public places (e.g., around shopping malls, bus stops, or fast-food restaurants), around youth shelters where runaway and homeless youth are easily targeted, and in the vicinity of schools and group homes where children served by the child welfare system can be found. The use of the internet as a recruitment strategy for minor victims is also a growing concern.” In addition to children and youth in foster care, children and youth who runaway and are homeless are another target for traffickers. By some estimates more than 550,000 young people under 24 (over 380,000 under age) will spend at least a week without a home. These children and youth are not necessarily a part of child welfare but represent a vulnerable population and targets for traffickers. For More Information:
Is Foster Care Really the Supply Chain for Domestic Sex Trafficking? Children’s Monitor, 4/2014 Runaways from Foster Care;
RHY Programs and services (ACYF-CB/FYSB-IM-14-1) November 2014 H.R.4980 – Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (PL 113-183)
Social Security Act Social Security was enacted under Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of the New Deal, the Social Security Act is the major (but not exclusive) part of federal policy that attempts to help vulnerable Americans. It includes many vital human service programs including child welfare programs under Title IV-B, Title IV-E, Title XX, the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) as well as other key programs including Title II (SSI), Title IV (TANF), Title V (Maternal Health & Home Visiting), Title IXX (Medicaid), and Title XXI (CHIP). For More Information:
Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), Title XX of the Social Security Act Child Protection & (Secondary) Prevention Services The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is a federal block grant that provides dollars to all fifty states and the District of Columbia every year. States have flexibility to use these dollars to invest in 29 different human service programs ranging from elderly services such as home delivered meals, to children’s services such as child protection or child care to disability services such as transportation or home chore services. States determine eligibility standards and can move dollars from year to year between their most pressing needs. States are not required to match federal funds with their own revenue but in most instances states do use SSBG dollars to supplement their own funding of programs and in some instances dollars are used to supplement other federal programs. For More Information:
Substance Abuse Block Grant Health Care Funding for this block grant is distributed to states, DC, territories and tribes to plan, implement, and evaluate substance abuse prevention and treatment services and represents roughly half of all public funding for treatment services. More than 20% of the funding goes to prevention counseling and education.
Substance Abuse Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance This legislation funds, amongst other important initiatives, youth violence prevention programs, suicide prevention for children and adolescents, the minority fellowship workforce program, and grants to provide integrated treatment for co-occuring serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, P.L. 111-296) Social Supports The federal nutrition safety net is a critical support for vulnerable children and families. It provides access to a regular diet for some and nutritious supplements for others. Healthy food is necessary for all growing children and often an essential resource for assisting struggling families. In these ways, at-risk families find elemental stability and footing for self-sufficiency through food assistance. Formerly called “food stamps,” SNAP is an entitlement, committed to serving all eligible people in need of food assistance. It provides targeted food assistance to low-income people through monthly electronic benefit transfers. Recipients then use that value to purchase food.
Targeted Case Management Targeted Case Management (TCM) as an allowable Medicaid service is the provision of case management, defined as services which assist eligible individuals in gaining access to needed medical, social, educational and other services, to a “targeted” population such as child welfare, foster care, adoption. Targeted Case Management includes: assessing the child’s needs; arranging for the delivery of needed services as defined in the assessment; assisting the child and his/her family in accessing the needed services; tracking the child’s progress by making referrals, tracking appointments, following up on services rendered, periodically reassessing the child’s needs; advocating on behalf of the child; consulting with service providers or collateral contacts in determining the status or progress of the child’s plan; and, arranging for crisis assistance, such as making arrangements for emergency referrals, coordinating other needed emergency services. It is important to note that TCM is assessment and facilitation of meeting service needs, not the provision of the called-for services.
Teen Pregnancy Teen pregnancies have long-lasting health, education, and economic consequences for both the parents and their children. Children of teenage mothers are at greater risk for abuse and neglect. Youth in foster care are more likely than their peers to become teen parents. The children of teen parents are twice as likely to be placed in foster care as children born to older parents. Nearly half (48%) of teen girls in foster care had ever been pregnant by age 19, compared to 27% of teen girls more broadly.
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants The Office of Adolescent Health issues grants to support evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) approaches. The TPP program addresses rising teen pregnancy rates by supporting grantees in replicating evidence-based models and implementing demonstration programs to develop and test additional models and innovative strategies. Competitive contracts and grants were made to public and private entities to fund medically accurate and age appropriate programs that reduce teen pregnancy. Several grantee projects are being evaluated by independent evaluators.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (P.L. 104-193) Social Supports as (Primary) Maltreatment Prevention The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a $16.5 billion block grant, is the main cash assistance program in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. TANF has also developed into a major source of child welfare and child care funding.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) TEFAP is a commodity food assistance program in which the USDA buys the food that is distributed to the states and ultimately to people in need by local food banks and similar private agencies. It supplies about a quarter of the food distributed through the emergency food network. The amount received by each State depends on its low-income and unemployed population. TEFAP is a mandatory program, but not an entitlement. Annual spending is set by authorizers in the Farm Bill, but can be reduced by appropriators.
Title IV-B of the Social Security Act (P.L. 112-34) IV-B includes Part 1, Child Welfare Services (CWS) and Part II, Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF). CWS is a discretionary program providing flexible formula funding for a broad range of services designed to support, preserve, and/or reunite children and their families. CWS requires each state to create a child welfare services plan—which encompasses case reviews and permanency planning, program development, agency administration, and systems collaboration activities. PSSF targets formula funding to four categories of services; family support, family preservation, time-limited family reunification, and adoption promotion and support. In addition, it includes reserved funding and additional authorizations for courts; substance abuse grants; caseworker visits; tribes; mentoring; and research, evaluation, and technical assistance. PSSF funding is both mandatory and discretionary. PSSF requires state plans, encompassing goal setting for services, a review process, coordination of services, and child safety assurances. For More Information:
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, Adoption Assistance Adoption The Title IV-E Adoption Assistance program is the primary federal support for adopting children from foster care, providing subsidies to eligible families who adopt children with special needs (as defined by the state) from the foster care system. For More Information:
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, Foster Care Out of Home Care Title IV-E, Federal Foster Care is a federal program administered by state and local public child welfare agencies that assists poor children. The program is an open-ended entitlement funded with a combination of federal and state/local matching funds and is authorized under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Title IV-E foster care requires that the child must have been a recipient of or eligible for AFDC (based on the State AFDC standards that were in place on July 16, 1996) during the month a petition was filed to remove the child (eligibility month) or the month a VPA (Voluntary Placement Agreement) is signed. The child must have lived in the home of a specified relative within six months of the eligibility month and be deprived of parental support. In addition, there must be a court order that finds: (1) Continuation in his/her own home would be “contrary to the welfare of the child” and (2) reasonable efforts were made to prevent the removal of the child from his/her family or to facilitate the return of the child who has been removed. Title IV-E is a federal reimbursement for some of the federally eligible foster care or adoption expenses that the state has already paid. Title IV-E is not a grant. There is no cap on available federal funding. Federal funding reflects the number of children eligible for assistance.. Reimbursement is limited to three areas and the funding formula is different for all three: Maintenance, Administration, and Training.
Maintenance is the board and room payment made to licensed foster parents, group homes and residential child care facilities. For children that are Title IV-E eligible, the federal government reimburses the state for 50% to 83% of the costs and the state pays the balance. The federal portion is called the “Federal Financial Participation” or FFP. The FFP for Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance (maintenance) is the same as Medicaid (Title XIX) that is called the “Federal Medical Assistance Percentage” or “FMAP”. A specific state’s FMAP is based primarily on each state’s per capita income. The higher the state’s per capita income, the lower the FMAP. If the child is not Title IV-E eligible, the state is responsible to pay for the entire cost of care with other sources.
Administration includes those activities necessary for the proper and efficient administration of the Title IV-E state plan. Examples of reimbursable administrative activities included in federal regulations include:referral to services, determination of Title IV-E eligibility, preparation for and participation in judicial determinations, placement of the child, development of the case plan, case reviews, case management and supervision, recruitment and licensing of foster homes and institutions, rate setting, costs related to data collection and reporting, and proportionate share of related agency overhead. The state currently makes its claim to the federal government for administrative reimbursement based on the total administrative cost, the results of the “Random Moment Time Study (RMTS), the percentage of Title IV-E eligible children (often known as the penetration rate), and 50% FFP for administration. When states contract with private agencies to help them carry out public child welfare responsibilities they claim reimbursement, based on the percentage of Title IV-E eligible children in foster care times 50% FFP for administration.
Training includes the cost of providing short and long term training at educational institutions as well as in-service training for personnel employed by or preparing for employment by the state (including a Tribe) or a local public agency administering the Title IV-E state plan. It also includes training for staff in private child welfare agencies and court personnel. Training also includes the cost of short term training for current or prospective foster, adoptive parents, and relative guardians and members of state (or tribal) licensed or approved child care institutions providing care to foster or adopted children. The state currently makes its claim for training reimbursement based on the total training cost, times the percentage of Title IV-E eligible children and times 75% FFP for training. The state is responsible for the balance or non-federal share. For More Information:
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, Kinship Care Kinship The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) allows states to use Title IV-E funds to support kin families. The 2008 legislation, gave states the option to use federal Title IV-E funds for kinship guardianship payments for children raised by relative caregivers. Children eligible under this provision must also be eligible for federal foster care maintenance payments and must reside with the relative for at least six consecutive months in foster care to be eligible for the kinship guardianship assistance payment. Children eligible under this provision are those for whom return home and adoption are ruled out and who likely would otherwise remain in foster care until they aged out of the system. The kinship guardianship assistance payment rate for these children may equal but must not exceed the foster care payment that would have been paid had the child remained in a foster family home. States that provided guardianship assistance or services as part of a IV-E waiver demonstration project may continue to claim IV-E funds for provision of those same supports to children who are receiving under a waiver as it existed on September 30, 2008 (grandfathering of relatives currently using the waiver to claim funds to provide care). The legislation also allows children who leave foster care after age 16 for kinship guardianship (or adoption) to be eligible for independent living services and education and training vouchers.
Trauma Child Welfare Services (CWS), Part 1 of IV-B of the Social Security Act was recently updated and reauthorized by the Child and Family Improvement and Innovation Act (P.L. 112-34.) CWS requires each state to create a child welfare services plan, encompassing case reviews and permanency planning, program development, agency administration, and systems collaboration activities. This legislation added a new requirement to the state plan provision for ongoing oversight and coordination of health care services. This new requirement describes how trauma related to maltreatment and removal that is identified though initial and follow-up health screenings will be monitored and treated. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) includes provisions for HHS technical assistance on mitigating psychological trauma in Sec. 104(b)(2) and national clearinghouse information on mitigating psychological trauma in Sec. 103(b)(6). HHS houses this information online on the Child Welfare Information Gateway at www.childwelfare.gov and links to their technical assistance network at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/tta Also, under CAPTA authorization in Sec. 203, Adoption Opportunities, the administration has recently provided FY2011 grant funding on “Integrating Trauma-Informed and Trauma-Focused Practice in Child Protective Service (CPS) Delivery.” Five grantees include Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Connecticut Department of Children and Families, University of Montana and University of Colorado. Grantee projects will replicate and scale-up a research-informed, trauma-focused treatment to replace some of their existing mental health service array. The grantees will gather information over five years to inform the knowledge base on needed approaches and supports for successful adoption of evidence-based or evidence-informed trauma treatment programs and practices.
Treatment Foster Care Traditional foster care and treatment foster care are distinct program models intended to serve different child populations. Children are referred to TFC programs to address serious levels of emotional, behavioral and medical problems. Treatment foster care is active and structured, and occurs in the foster family home. What people view as “traditional” foster care provides nurturing, safe, and custodial care for children who require placement outside of their family. The primary reason for placement in traditional foster care is the need for care and protection. The role of the foster parent is that of caregiver and nurturer. Treatment, if any, occurs outside of the foster home. Therapeutic care combines the treatment technologies typically associated with more restrictive settings and the nurturing, individualized family environment with foster parents who receive special training. For More Information:
Tribal Title IV-E The 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) allowed Indian tribes for the first time to operate Title IV-E programs. Indian tribes, tribal organizations, Alaskan tribes or tribal consortia may submit a plan to draw direct funding of Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.
21st Century Community Learning Centers The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program awards grants to plan, implement, or expand projects that provide safe, drug-free, and supervised afterschool, weekend, or summer havens for children, youth, and their families. Projects can benefit the educational, health, social services, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. The program is designed to target funds to high-need rural and urban communities that have low-achieving students and high rates of juvenile crime, school violence, and student drug abuse, but lack the resources to establish afterschool centers.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Child Rights Though the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was passed in 1989, the United States and Somalia are the only two of the now 194 UN countries that have not signed on to ratify the CRC’s treaty regarding children’s human rights internationally. It was drafted with the specific purpose of promoting and protecting children’s well being across national boundaries. The CRC would have a significant effect on child welfare. Many of the 42 substantative articles in the CRC relate to specific child welfare issues, including foste care (Artilces 9 and 20) and adoption (Articles 20, 21), child care (Article 18), family reunification (Article 10), abuse and neglect (Articles 9, 19, 37, and 39), juvenile justice (Article 40), substance abuse prevention (Article 33), sexual exploitation (Article 34), education (Articles 28, 29), health care (Articles 23, 24), and freedom of speech (Article 13). For More Information:
Unregulated Custody Transfers (Re-Homing) News media reports in 2013 tracked the practice of some adoptive parents transferring their adopted child to another home through postings on the internet, and bypassing the state courts and sometimes subjecting the children to abusive or neglect situations. The news reports documented cases that mainly involved families that had adopted children from international settings. The term “rehoming” was lifted from a practice that is used to find new homes for pets. In 2015 CWLA joined with Voice for Adoption, the Donaldson Institute and the North American Council of Adoptable Children issued a statement of policy that asked Congress to direct the GAO report to learn more about this practice. In addition The groups also called for:
- Establish a reliable, comprehensive, and flexible federal funding source for postadoption services
- Ensure services offered to adopted children and their families embrace best practices, are trauma-informed, and are provided by professionals who are trained in supporting children and their adoptive families
- Invest in research and evaluation to identify and promote the most effective postadoption services
- Address the significant gaps in the service delivery system and state policies which too often present parents with the impossible choice of giving up custody to receive state-funded services for their children
- Provide access to post-adoption services regardless of the type of adoption
For More Information:
Waivers, Child Welfare Waivers are legislatively-authorized and administratively-approved interruptions of federal regulation to allow states more flexible use of a particular funding stream. Child welfare waivers focus on funding provided by Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. They allow states to waive certain requirements of IV-E, IV-B, and the Chaffee Foster Care Independence Program. Flexible use of these funding streams allows for states to carry out alternative and innovative services and supports to promote safety, permanence and well-being for children. Waivers must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services. Congress first made them available in 1994, expanded in 1997, extended until 2006, and reauthorized in 2011. For More Information:
WIC-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children WIC provides low-income and at-risk children and pregnant mothers with vouchers for nutritious supplemental food packages, nutrition education and counseling, and health and immunization referrals. It serves roughly 9 million low-income pregnant women, new moms, infants, and children under age five who are at nutritional risk. WIC recipients have no entitlement to benefits. If funds are insufficient, eligible applicants are put on a waiting list for services. However, for the past 15 years Congress and the Administrations have committed to full-funding of this program to ensure all eligible recipients receive services.
Workforce The child welfare workforce faces a number of challenges that hamper efforts to improve the lives of children, including lack of support and resources, low pay, high caseloads, insufficient training and supervision, bureaucratic impediments, media scrutiny, compromised emotional and physical safety, and other risks. The combination of these forces has led to very high rates of turnover in the profession. This turnover negatively impacts children by disrupting ongoing cases and robbing the system of ome of its more experienced workers. Better retention efforts through a range of supports, including the adoption of acceptable caseloads, ongoing training, and implementation of the necessary infrastructure and safety provisions, must be made in order to maintain a strong workforce. For More Information: CWLA Legislative Agenda