Category Archives: General

House Moves Adoption-Child Welfare Bill, Senate Finalization This Week

On Wednesday, July 23, the House of Representatives passed HR 4980, the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.’ The legislation will reauthorize the Adoption Incentive Fund for three years and extend it to guardianship placements. It will also extend the Family Connections Grants by one year through this current fiscal year of 2014.

After many weeks of negotiation between the House and Senate committees, the legislation was agreed to several weeks ago and was taken up by the House under the “suspension” calendar which allows a speedier passage that allows for a voice vote. The plan is for the Senate to take similar action this week through a Senate “unanimous consent” process which also allows a voice vote.

The original bill had passed last October and December in the House and the Senate respectively but was delayed because Congress could not find more than $15 million to extend the Family Connection grants beyond the one year. The original House and Senate bills extended the Family Connections Grants for three years but the money to “offset” (pay for) that extension was taken up by the budget deal agreed to earlier this year. Many also saw the legislation as an opportunity to address domestic victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking and that added to the negotiation challenge.

The legislation was approved along with several other bills to address sex trafficking. One of those bills, HR 5081, would amend parts of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The bill was held for a roll call vote unlike the other bills. While not providing additional funding it would require three new requirements (number 24, 25 and 26) which would require CPS to have procedures to identify victims of sex trafficking (as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, TVPA), training of CPS personnel and the identification of services for victims. It also requires a report by HHS to the Congress. Such changes to CAPTA have not been debated or considered yet in the Senate as was the case in the larger bill (HR 4980) so it may require greater consideration by the Senate before they move on such CAPTA changes. It should be noted however that the House never voted on the CAPTA provisions either.

HR 4980 would:

• Reauthorize the Adoption Incentive Fund through FY 16, extends the awards to certain subsidized guardianship/kinship placements, bases the incentive on a ‘rate” rather than specific numbers of adoptions to provide better recognition of states that may have a smaller pool of adoptable children because they have fewer children in foster care, it refines targeting to adolescent children who have been coming into care in higher numbers;

• Extends the Family Connections Grants by one year through 2014 (this year only) which will likely be just enough to continue funding to programs that are currently in the third year of their funding—these programs are kinship navigator programs, family finding programs, family group decision making and family-based drug treatment;

• Strengthens requirements and directives to HHS in crafting a formula that will assure that states are reinvesting savings they will realize as a result of the 2008 expansion of Adoption Assistance funding, that law gradually expands federal assistance funding to cover all special needs adoptions in a state

• Adds state plan requirements regarding screening and services to victims of f sex trafficking, and locating and responding to children who have run away from foster care including plans to address, report and track children who run from care

• Includes sex trafficking data in the adoption and foster care analysis and reporting system (AFCARS)

• Requires the state to develop a “reasonable and prudent parent standard’ for the child’s participation in age or developmentally appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities and it requires states to assure foster parents or an individual in a care facility has the training and ability to exercise their judgment that will allow children to participate in these type of activities

• Limits to children age 16 or older the option of being placed in a planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) and requires new documentation and determination requirements for an APPLA status

• Gives children age 14 and older authority to participate in the development of their own case plans, in consultation with up to two members of the case planning team

• Requires that foster children leaving foster care (unless in foster care less than six months) are not discharged without being provided with a copy of their birth certificate, Social Security card, health insurance information, copy of medical records, and a driver’s license or equivalent state-issued identification card.

• Requires notification of parents of a sibling (through adoption) when another child is removed from parental custody.

For a more detailed copy of a CWLA description of the legislation send an e-mail to john.sciamanna962@gmail.com

S. 2570 Letter of Support–To Extend Adoption Tax Credit To Tribal Children

On Tuesday, July 22, there was a Senate briefing on S. 2570, the Tribal Adoption Parity Act. The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) is circulating a letter of support for the bill. This bill would ensure that families who adopt children designated as “special needs” in tribal court are eligible for the same flat adoption tax credit as families who adopt children who are designated as “special needs” in state courts.

Under current law, the adoptive parents of a child designated as special needs who is adopted through a tribal court cannot claim the flat special needs adoption credit and must document their qualified upfront expenses. Although tribes have the authority to arrange and sanction the adoptions of children who are members or eligible to be members of the tribe, current tax law does not recognize the authority of tribal courts to determine which of these adopted children are “special needs” for the purposes of the Adoption Tax Credit. In other words, a “special needs” determination provided by the tribe is not an acceptable document for the purposes of filing for the adoption tax credit as special needs. This creates a disparity in the tax law; taxpayers who adopt a child designated as special needs through a state can claim the benefit for children designated as special needs without documenting qualified expenses, while taxpayers who adopt a child designated as special needs through a tribe cannot.

NICWA is circulating a letter of support for sign-on. If you organization would like to sign-on, please send an e-mail to receive a copy of the letter for your review to Addie Smith at the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) at addie@nicwa.org by close of business next Monday, July 28.

Research On Differential Response

The National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services (QIC-DR) has released the final report from the Cross-Site Evaluation on Differential Response. Differential Response (DR) represents a different way of structuring a state’s child protective services system (CPS). DR allows CPS agencies to respond differently to child abuse and neglect based on the level of risk and needs of the family without compromising child safety. It is sometimes referred to as “dual track,” “multiple response system,” “alternative response,” and “family assessment response” in various jurisdictions. Lower risk cases may be directed to an alternate path while more serious cases will still be evaluated under the more traditional investigative response (IR).

The research represents the fourth major evaluation report coming out of the QIC-DR this year, following three individual site evaluation reports from Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. All of the reports are available on the website, under the “evaluation” tab. On Tuesday, July 29th from 12:00-1:30PM ET, Marc Winokur, Social Work Research Center, School of Social Work Colorado State University; Raquel Ellis, Westat; and Ida Drury, Colorado Department of Human Services, will be presenting a free webinar on the findings from their study of Differential Response in five counties in Colorado. Space is limited, so sign up early by visiting the website.

Part of the conclusion of the report states,

“In two of the three QIC-DR sites, the entire CPS system was impacted by the introduction of the new AR pathway. Most of the changes observed in Colorado’s and Ohio’s implementations of DR were not reserved for AR (alternate response) families, but rather the modifications became embedded into child welfare systems for all CPS families. The AR pathway, like the IR pathway, is guided by procedures and policies, and influenced by the skills and characteristics of caseworkers.

Although AR might be considered to be merely an alternative to IR, as its name implies, a fully implemented DR system may have deep impacts upon the community and its families; the CPS workforce; the policies, practices, and procedures guiding child protection casework; and the child welfare agency mandate. These impacts may not be solely in terms of different outcomes for those who have come to the attention of CPS, but rather may widen the reach and influence of CPS to other families who may be at risk or vulnerable. DR may indeed reshape the core mission of CPS.”

Some states have implemented their DR practices under more rigorous evaluation including the states of Ohio and Minnesota which included random control studies designs. There is no federal regulation or definitions as states implement this approach but the QIC-DR was a five year project funded by HHS and intended to help in that process.

Briefing Focuses on Military Families With Infants and Toddlers

The Congressional Baby Caucus celebrated its 5th birthday with a briefing on veterans and families. The briefing was a follow up to the Caucus’s initial briefing five years ago which also focused on military families with young children. The briefing included a panel of three that included one program expert and two veterans to reflect on the current challenges of military families, especially those transitioning out of the military. Panelists included Katherine Rosenblum, Ph.D., Director, STRoNG Military Families Program, Melissa Hudson,, Veteran Parent, Brian Pate, Lieutenant Colonel USMCR.

The gathering also heard remarks from caucus co-chairs Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA). DeLauro highlighted a number of statistics in her remarks including, 42% of children of Active-Duty members are under the age of five, Active-Duty, Guard and Reserve families together have approximately 363,000 children under the age of three. She also outlined the general concerns that deployment itself created certain stress within the population and how that may be compounded if a veteran comes back with injuries and other challenges such as PTSD. She hopes to focus Congress’s attention on ways to look at policy in a way that might benefit these families and singled out potential changes to the child tax credit as a possible target for improvements.

Dr. Rosenberg talked about some projects through the University of Michigan that are targeted to service members, and veterans. In the coming years an average of 250,000 Active-Duty members will be transitioning out of service. She provided data from the state of Illinois that showed that this population of veteran families had an unemployment rate of around 13%, 7% were living below the poverty rate, and they tended to have younger children.

Brian Pate discussed his personal experience during deployment and highlighted four areas that need addressing: family-readiness when a member is ready to deploy, communication while on assignment in an effort to help keep families connected while away, post-deployment services that prepare the returning soldier with the family—particularly programs that prepare you for reunification with infants and toddlers, and understanding how past service continues to have an impact.

He also highlighted a need that is often overlooked, that services are lost to the family once a soldier transfers from active duty to veteran status. The veteran may have some limited services including health care but his or her family may lose many critical services including access to health care.