Category Archives: Permanency

CCAI Foster Youth Offer Recommendations For Improvements to Child Welfare

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) 2014 Foster Youth Internship (FYI) report,”Shaping Tomorrow with Today’s Minds”, was released on Wednesday, July 30. A group of interns finished up their summer work on Capitol Hill by unveiling the set of recommendations. The proposals were crafted by the 11 interns who, through their intern experiences observing the Washington process and by blending what they learned with their own personal experiences, developed a series area-specific changes to foster care.

Policy recommendations include:
• Giving Youth a Voice: Contact After Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
• Increasing Stability for Infants and Toddlers in Care
• Essential Documentation for Youth in Care
• Addressing the Trauma: Treating Children’s Mental Health with Screening and Assessments
• Creating Best Practice Standards for the Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare
System
• Renewing the System’s Commitment to Child Well Being: Fostering Resilience through Trauma Informed
Training
• Providing Comfort and Information to Children Transitioning into the System
• Stolen Pasts, Corrupted Futures: Preventing Identity Theft for Youth in Foster Care
• Empowering Foster Youth through Case Plan Trainings to Increase Youth’s Acceptance Rate of Extended Foster
Care
• Helping Foster Youth Overcome Barriers to Employment
• Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth: Special Education and Mental Health

The recommendations include a number of proposed changes to current federal law to address strengthen the protections for youth in care as well as proposals to strengthen current practices. To read and download a copy of the report go to the CCAI website under, Shaping Tomorrow with Today’s Minds

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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.

Bill Introduced Based on Annie E Casey Finance Proposal

On Thursday, June 19 Congressman James Langevin (D-RI) introduced the Permanent Families for All Act, legislation that would implement parts of the Annie E Casey child welfare finance proposal. The bill would do away with the current link to the 1996 AFDC program in determining a child’s eligibility for federal foster care funding (de-link) but it would accomplish that by reducing the federal matching funds state receive. Currently the federal government provides a match based on what is called the “FMAP” rate for each eligible child with a state’s match based on an annual formula. A state may get a match of as low as 50 percent (meaning one state dollar brings in one federal dollar) while some states receive a match as high as 80 percent (meaning one state dollar brings in four federal dollars) Under the proposal, states would have that rate reduced accordingly to assure all children in foster care are covered. It would not provide more federal funding but would cover all children in foster care. 

In addition the bill would, most controversially, time limit federal coverage of foster care to 36 months in a lifetime under the theory that it will drive states to move children out of foster care quicker. The last AFCARS report indicated that 18 percent of children in foster care (70,000 children) have been in foster care for 36 consecutive months or longer. The AFCARS numbers do not indicate total months in foster care if a child has had several spells in and out of foster care over that child’s lifetime. Under the legislation if a child had a cumulative total of more than three years, federal funding would be cut off. 

In another area of controversy the bill would limit institutional care to one year of federal reimbursement. Again the assumption is that a limit on federal funding will drive states to find foster care homes or other placements rather than institional care. Currently 6 percent of children are in group homes (23,000 children) and another 9 percent (34,000) are in institutional care. Again the limit is over a lifetime and the AFCARS measures current spells and not a child’s lifetime experience in care.

While the re-design in funding is based on an argument that changing federal funding will change practice, a recent GAO report shows that nearly six years after the enactment of Fostering Connections to Success, states have had difficulty in finding enough foster homes despite the mandates around keeping siblings together and have also had difficulty in youth placements. States have also been reluctant to expand foster care to age twenty-one despite the 2008 law giving states the option to expand care. A total of 19 states have extended foster care to 21 but 9 states, according to the report, had already extended care before federal funding was available.

Other provisions of the bill would expand caseworker training funds for training ‘on child-focused recruitment and retention.’ It would amend the Higher Education Act to allow child welfare workers to be eligible for loan forgiveness after five years instead of the current ten years. Current loan forgiveness applies if you are in one of a number of public service jobs including child welfare and you work in the same profession for ten years. There is also another five year loan forgiveness program in the Higher Education Act that applies to a number of professions including various teacher categories, child care and Head Start workers as well as child welfare workers but that loan forgiveness program is a discretionary funded program and appropriators have never funded it.

CWLA has expressed concerns to congressional staff regarding the imposition of arbitrary time limits.