The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is expected to introduce his child welfare reform proposal later this week.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Wyden, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act, is the result of an earlier draft bill the Senator had released in the spring for public feedback.
CWLA has already endorsed the legislation and will further discuss this Friday in a conference call. CWLA endorsed the legislation because of its significant investment of new federal funds into child welfare, a departure from the past several years of policy debate in Washington DC which have emphasized “budget neutral” approaches to reform. Consistent with the CWLA policy statement of 2014 it recognizes the need to make improvements in financing even if it is incremental legislation—an approach Congress has been pursuing for more than a decade.
The Senator received dozens of recommendations and incorporated a number of changes, the broad outlines of the legislation are essentially the same:
- Allows title IV-E reimbursement for time-limited (up to 12-months) family services (such as family skills training, family counseling, and goods and services to stabilize a family in crisis) when those services are needed to prevent entry into foster care or allow children to safely exit foster care to family placements.
- Defines eligible population as children identified as candidates for foster care (at imminent risk of entry into foster care) or who are in foster care, as well as to these children’s family members.
- Provides reimbursement for services without regard to the income of the child’s biological parents. It removes the link to AFDC in covering the cost of these services).
- After a 3-year implementation phase, establishes national performance measures and outcomes-based reimbursement rates to target federal dollars to cost-effective services.
- Increases funds under Promoting Safe and Stable Families (up to $1 billion in mandatory funds) for community-based prevention/intervention services through the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) in title IV-B. (Now PSSF is a combination of $345 million in mandatory funding streams and $60 million in appropriated funds with designations for courts, substance abuse treatment and workforce)
- Requires research and technical assistance to ensure appropriate service delivery and prioritization of evidence-based prevention and post-permanency interventions.
In addition to the legislation, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday titled, “Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care.” Witnesses are expected to discuss the child protection system, kinship care and state perspectives. The hearing will begin at 10:00 AM EST and can be viewed and statements read here.