Category Archives: Kinship Care

ACF Releases Information Memorandum on Child Welfare Waivers

The Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services has released a much anticipated Information Memorandum detailing plans for state child welfare waiver demonstration projects in the coming years. State child welfare agencies are now considering applying for these demonstration projects. For FY 2012 demonstrations, proposals are due July 9.

The priority areas for the waiver demonstrations are to:

  1. produce positive well-being outcomes for children, youth and their families;
  2. enhance the social and emotional well-being of children and youth;
  3. yield more than modest improvements in the lives of children and families; and/or
  4. leverage the involvement of other resources and partners to make improvements concurrently through child welfare and related program areas.

The waiver demonstration projects are designed to allow more flexible use of federal funds in order to test new approaches to service delivery and financing structures, in an effort to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system. These demonstration projects involve the waiver of certain requirements of titles IV-E, the section of the Social Security Act that govern the foster care, adoption assistance and optional kinship guardianship assistance programs. They do not however provide additional funding to carry out new services.

The guiding principle of the waiver process is that there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that there are promising and effective approaches to improve outcomes for children and families in which abuse and/or neglect has taken place or is likely to take place. However, such approaches are utilized too rarely by many child welfare agencies. The goal of the waivers is to facilitate innovation and experimentation in child welfare programs through the demonstrations and to improve outcomes for children. ACF is encouraging states to consider whether funding flexibility and improvements in the service strategies for children both at risk of foster care placement and those already placed outside the home could lead to better outcomes for children.

The IM also describes how the public can be involved in the development of strong demonstration projects. CWLA private provider members can play an important role in developing high quality proposals and are encouraged to be involved in the application process.

We will be hosting a webinar for CWLA members on this topic with Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families on May 29th. For more information regarding this webinar including registration details please contact us at govaffairs@cwla.org .

Child Welfare Level Funded: Budget Chart Details Final Spending Levels

The federal FY 2012 budget has been offically approved and signed into law by the President. CWLA is pleased generally that child welfare programs were level funded as compared to last year. Today, CWLA released it’s final budget chart for FY 2012 detailing these funding levles.  This chart includes 56 seperate federal funding streams that taken together make up the federal resources avialable for all child welfare and related federal programs. In addition to the final spending level for FY 2012  the chart includes for comparison the final amount for FY 2011, and the spending levels proposed by President Obama and the primary congressional appropriations legislation. Aside from the chart there is more federal budget information available at the CWLA These Cuts Won’t Heal website.

In this era of fiscal restraint and increased pressure to reduce spending especially on human services such as foster care, adoption and abuse and neglect prevention, it is gratifying to see child welfare programs were spared from cuts for the most part. CWLA began the year by launching our These Cuts Won’t Heal campaign to raise awareness and to advocate for adequate federal funds to continued to be invested in these vital programs. We are pleased Congress and the Administration heard this message.

Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Formally Launches, Seeking Input from Child Welfare System

The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, co-chaired by Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Marino (R-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), and Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), has now formally launched.  The stated goal of the Caucus is to reduce the number of children in foster care “by proactively strengthening families and supporting permanency through adoption and kinship care.”  The four co-chairs are joined by 32 other Congressmen and Congresswomen from both parties who are official Caucus members.

One of the first actions the Caucus will take is to travel the country on a Listening Tour beginning in 2012 to hear from those involved in the child welfare system directly.  The tour’s schedule has not yet been developed and Caucus members are soliciting ideas of places to go and people to meet in order to better understand the child welfare system’s current issues and needs.  CWLA members are doing important work in all 50 states and have the firsthand experience and knowledge that these Members of Congress are seeking.  This is a great opportunity for CWLA members to contact the Caucus and share their suggestions.

GAO Report on Benefits and Services for Kinship Families

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently released a report titled, “TANF and Child Welfare Programs: Increased Data Sharing Could Improve Access to Benefits and Services.” At the request of Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Geoff Davis (R-KY), the report explores the trends and composition of kinship families served through TANF child-only and child welfare benefits and services.

Child-only TANF refers to situations in which a family receives TANF cash assistance, but that assistance only calculates the needs of the child and not their caregiver. A review of federal data reveals that the majority of children receiving TANF benefits are child-only cases, and of those, one-third are children raised by nonparent caregivers. The remaining child-only cases include parents who are ineligible for TANF or on SSI. It is also reported that nonparent caregivers in TANF child-only cases are typically older, single females who are likely to be unemployed and less healthy.

Based on state surveys of TANF and child welfare administrators and site visits in a handful of states, the report details the factors influencing the assistance and services provided to kinship families, based on a comparison of TANF and child welfare, their varying support levels, ways they typically work together, as well as barriers that prevent some forms of dual assistance. Generally, the lowest state foster care payment is higher than child-only TANF payments in almost all states, and families served by child welfare  typically have access to more services. However, licensure and other process requirements prevent many kinship families from accessing foster care payments and services. In addition, there are many more informal kinship arrangements in which kin families are not receiving benefits or services from either. Further detail is provided on barriers to benefit and service access and provision.

The Department of Health and Human Services agrees with the GAO recommendation that TANF and child welfare agencies could improve assistance to kinship families by better collaboratiion, particularly through enhanced data sharing and technical assistance on cooperation models.