Category Archives: Kinship Care

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

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) endorses the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.”

On Monday, July 7 the Child Welfare League of America formally endorsed the “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act.” The legislation extends the Adoption Incentives Fund for three years, provides a current-year extension to the Family Connections Grants, strengthens provisions that direct states to re-invest state savings from the expansion of federal funding for Adoption Assistance program, and creates new court oversight for youth in foster care.

In the letter to Congressional leaders, Chris James-Brown, President and CEO of CWLA said,

“We appreciate the important bipartisan, bicameral effort this legislation represents. We believe the Adoption Incentives program has been an important program and incentive for states to promote and strengthen adoption. We are pleased that the new formula will now recognize kinship placements and also attempt to focus additional attention on the pre-adolescents and adolescent population that are coming into care.

CWLA is also very supportive of the extension of the Family Connections grants for the current year. We want to work with members of both parties and in both houses to make sure we extend this beyond the current year and look forward to continuing this work over the next few months.”

She went on to say, “CWLA extends its support to congressional efforts to better address the vulnerabilities of youth in foster care. Whether this population is vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking, aging out of care, or remaining in foster care without the needed health, behavioral health and other services we believe more is needed and we hope this legislation will assist in that effort.”

The House of Representatives is expected to take action on the joint House-Senate bill in the next two weeks with the Senate hopefully acting shortly after that.

Offset Issue Holds Up More Child Welfare Legislation

Legislation that would renew the Adoption Incentives Fund and the Family Connections Grants, programs that officially expired in October of last year, is also in limbo due to the cost-offsetting issue reported on last week.

In October the House of Representatives approved the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act (H.R. 3205) that would extend both the Adoption Fund and Connection Grants. The bipartisan bill was introduced in late September by Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI), Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Ranking Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).

The Senate responded with their version of the legislation in December when the Senate Finance Committee reported out two bills: one that extended the adoption program and one that did that and also included provisions that related to youth and victims of sexual exploitation (S. 1870 and S. 1876).  With the Senate unable to act, the negotiations over a budget deal that was taking place at the same time ended up taking all available “offsets.” When Congress returned in January of this year, the funding to pay for the extension of the $15 million for the Family Connections Grants was gone.

If the Family Connections Grants are not extended there are several programs across the country that will lose the third year of their three year grants—and of course there will be no more future grantees. The Family Connections Grants fund four different programs:

  • “kinship navigator” programs that provide resource and referral services to any kinship families,
  • “family finding” programs that use various strategies and technologies to help children in foster care find their families,
  • “Family Group Decision Making” programs which attempt to bring together families and friends to potentially strengthen families and prevent placements in some cases, and
  • “Residential Drug Treatment” programs that target the substance abuse problems of parents involved in child welfare and foster care.

Under the Adoption Incentive Fund, states are currently rewarded for an increase in their overall adoptions ($4000 per child), special needs adoptions ($4000) and older child adoptions—considered a child age 9 or older ($8000). In the last reauthorization a $1000 incentive was included for states that experienced an increase in their adoption rate. This part of the award was only provided to states if the funding did not run out after the other categories were provided. The House and Senate bills would take slightly different approaches in how this formula would be re-vamped and how much support a new incentive would reward kinship placements.

Call your Senator and Representatives: Congress should finish their work to extend the bipartisan Adoption Incentives Fund and Family Connection Grants. 

Senate Finance Committee Adopts Bill on Adoption Incentives, Trafficking

On Thursday, December 12, the Senate Finance Committee passed the “Supporting At-Risk Children Act of 2013.” The legislation bundled together a reauthorization of the adoption incentives fund, new legislative language to address domestic sex trafficking through child welfare, and provisions that deal with child support collection including provisions to address international treaties.

The adoption incentives fund requirements differ from a bipartisan House bill (HR 3205) in how it allocates funds for the placement of children from foster care into adoptive families. Both bills now provide an award for kinship care placements although the Senate provides a higher award than the House bill. In addition the Senate creates a broader definition of kinship care placements. The House bill also creates an additional category of children 14 and older. Both bills require greater accountability of state savings that is being realized by states as federal adoption assistance is expanded each year due to the Fostering Connections to Success Act (PL 110-351) of 2008. The Senate directs states to spend the savings on more specific categories of services. Both bills extend the Family Connections Grants which currently funds kinship navigator programs, residential drug treatment, family finding services and family group decision making services although the Senate removes the requirement that at least $5 million of the $15 million in annual funds go toward the navigator programs. Both bills extend the law by three years.

In regard to the issue of sex trafficking of children from the child welfare system, the bill creates a number of new requirements on state screening, data reporting and services to youth although these requirements are not accompanied by any additional funding. Policies and procedures would have to be in place to screen, identify and determine services for victims of trafficking for youth up to age of 21 (or at state option to age 26). It defines sex trafficking consistent with federal law that deals with international victims.

The bill also addresses young people in foster care who are in what is generally viewed as long term foster care. These are young people who may be classified as under “another planned permanent living arrangement” (APPLA). Under the legislation no youth 16 or under could be considered “APPLA” and similar to the bill (S. 1518) introduced earlier this year by Senator Orin Hatch, new requirements would be placed on the courts and states for increased hearings. States would have to give the courts greater accounting of what the agency has done to place young people into adoptive, kinship or birth families.

Also similar to the Hatch bill it would create a definition in law for a “prudent parent” standard. Each child would have to have someone in a foster home or residential facility that could meet these standards. Each child in foster care or a facility would have to have such a person (which could include a foster parent) to make decisions regarding various activities a child in foster care could participate in. This is an attempt to assure that foster children are not denied access to activities and items such as driver’s licenses, attending high school dances, and other activities sometimes restricted due to being in a foster care placement. The bill would also require that a child 14 and older be directly involved in their case planning (currently required of youth 16 and older). The legislation also requires a bill of rights provided to youth 14 or older who are in foster care, kinship care or adopted and would specify in law that anyone 14 or older who exits foster care have a birth certificate, Social Security card, drivers’ license, and a bank account (unless the child decides not to have a bank account). Failure to do this will require a reduction in a state’s reimbursement under Title IV-E.

The legislation requires that when a child runs from foster care they be reported within 24 hours to the National Crime Information Center and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. States would also have to report through AFCARS the number of children in foster care who have been identified as victims of sex trafficking. The bill creates numerous requirements on HHS and creates an advisory committee on trafficking.

The legislation also makes a number of changes to the child support system not necessarily related to the child welfare system. There is one requirement for states to pass along child support collected from absent parents to youths in foster care.

The House legislation that deals with the reauthorization of the adoption incentive fund passed the House on October 28. Current law rewards states for an increase in the overall adoptions ($4000 per child), special needs adoptions ($4000) and older child adoptions—considered a child age 9 or older ($8000). In the last reauthorization a $1000 incentive was included for states that experienced an increase in their adoption rate. This part of the award was only provided to states if the funding did not run out after the other categories were provided.

The House bill would:

-Extend the authorization of the program through FY 2016 (aligning its next reauthorization with that of the Title IV-B programs)—Same as the Senate

-Add a $1000 award for placements with legal guardians (mirroring certain requirements under Title IV-E)—Different from the Senate

-Phase in awards based on improvements in the rate of adoptions and guardianships instead actual increases in numbers—Different from the Senate

-Provide a $2000 award for overall adoptions, $4000 for children aged nine through 13, $8000 for a new category of youth aged 14 and older—Different from the Senate which does not include 14-year olds as a separate category

-It requires states to calculate savings resulting from the gradual delinking and increased federal support for adoption assistance. HHS is to create the formula or work with states to develop a calculation and states have to document how they are reinvesting these funds beyond what they currently spend under Title IV-B and Title IV-E programs­-Some similarity to the Senate although the Senate requires various reinvestment requirements of the savings

-Extends the Family Connects Grants at their annual $15 million a year—Similar to the Senate although the Senate no longer requires at least $5 million a year for Kinship Navigator programs.

-Enacts a fix to current guardianship law that will allow a child to receive continued support when there is successor guardian due to death or incapacity –Same as Senate

The next steps will be for the Senate to adopt this measure (likely by voice vote/unanimous consent) then there will be a negotiation with the House Ways and Means Committee members and staff to work out differences. That is likely sometime in January.

John Sciamanna