Last week CWLA endorsed legislation that will improve the interstate placement of children in child welfare. The legislation called The Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act was introduced in both houses in recent weeks. The first bill HR 4472 was sponsored by Congressman Todd Young (R-IN) and the second bill S 2574 was just introduced by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).

The two bills set aside $5 million for one year through Title VI-B to expand a strategy that helps states speed up the placement of children in foster care, adoptions and kinship care when that placement is in another state.  The funding would expand a project that has shown great promise over the last several years. The NEICE, or National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise was a pilot project by HHS that assisted six initial states to speed up the interstate placements by using a web based information system.

The six states showed dramatic improvement in how long it takes to place a child across state lines for placements. Since the start of the 1960s these placements across state lines has been governed by an interstate compact on the placement children, the ICPC. Attempts have been made to update these joint state rules but that has fallen short in recent years. There was also an attempt in federal legislation earlier in the last decade to incentivize and provide bonuses to speed up such placements but that law was never funded and never had an impact.

Interstate placements can be as close as Maryland to Virginia or the District of Columbia but can get bogged down in delay over paperwork and processing.  Anecdotes over the years outline long delays that can stretch beyond a year in placing a child who has an acceptable home in another state. That challenge can be even greater when a placement may match a relative with a child half-way across the country.

The NEICE project showed a dramatic improvement in the states it was piloted in with a 30% reduction in times to place a child across state line and an average savings of $1.6 million per year in reducing copying, mailing, and administrative costs. Part of the success is the elimination of an old-fashioned paperwork based system.  A web-based or Internet-based approach can reduce that arcane process and can rapidly provide vital case level information.

The small funding in the bill is intended to help states implement and cover the state share of the start-up costs.

The bills introduced in the House and the Senate also have bipartisan support with Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN) cosponsoring the original House bill and in the Senate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Senator Garry Peters (D-MI) lending support to the Grassley bill.

In a press statements both Congressman Young and Senator Grassley { For additional information see the CWLA Membership Children’s Monitor newsletter}