WE CAN HELP YOU FOR FREE
NCSL can help your work to develop strategies to improve your State’s child welfare system and to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through:
- On-site presentations, informal briefings and testimony before committees and hearings,
- Written research and analysis, or
- Informal telephone conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experience in child welfare reform.
Questions?? Contact Nina Williams-Mbengue at 303.856.1559.
For questions about the newsletter, contact Kelly Crane at 303.856.1372
STATE LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO SAFELY REDUCE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE
States are working to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through reducing the number of children who have been in foster care for long periods of time and reducing the number of children that enter into state care. The adoption efforts that are occurring in Florida are highlighted below.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has set a goal to safely reduce the number of children in foster care by 50 percent by the year 2012. To help the state achieve this goal, Florida has embraced a “never-give-up attitude” about finding families to adopt children in foster care. Florida’s public awareness campaign, Explore Adoption, has spotlighted the importance of finding “forever families” for foster children.
There are ten thousand fewer children are in foster care today in Florida than there was three years ago. The number of children in foster care in Florida was reduced by 34% from 2006 to 2009; from 29,255 children in foster care in December 2006 to 19,229 as of November 2009.
Child Welfare Oversight
States are looking various oversight mechanisms to help ensure that children in state care are safe. One such mechanism to help states’ ensure that the systems charged with serving children and families do so in a meaningful and effective way is through the creation of Children’s Ombudsman or Child Advocate Offices. These offices are charged with monitoring child-serving agencies to ensure that state and county agencies are complying with federal and state law to serve and protect children effectively. There are at least three states that have recently introduced legislation regarding the creation of these offices, including Colorado, Massachusetts, and West Virginia.
- CO SB 171: Establishes the child protection ombudsman program, including the powers and duties of the ombudsman.
- MA HB 115: Establishes an Office of Family and Children Ombudsman to provide an independent voice for families and children who have been placed under the supervision of the department of social services.
- VW HB 4454: Establishes the Office of Child Advocacy and provides the powers and duties of the Office.
FOSTERING CONNECTIONS TO SUCCESS
President Bush signed into law the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (H.R. 6893/P.L. 110-351) on October 7, 2008. This new law helps to connect foster children with their relatives, improve the health care and education coordination for foster children, support permanent families through relative guardianship, and enhance adoption subsidies and supports to older youth in foster care.
Fostering Connections Act Adoption Incentives: It’s Tax Time!
The Fostering Connections act requires states to inform prospective adoptive parents about the federal adoption tax credit. Families who adopt a child with special needs from foster care can claim a federal adoption tax credit for adoptions finalized in 2009 and families have six years to use the entire credit. California has enacted state legislation, CA AB 154, Chapter 222, that requires that the State Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency inform prospective adoptive families of their potential eligibility for a federal and state tax credit.
Additionally, the Adoption Incentives program creates opportunities for states to receive financial rewards from the federal government for moving more foster youth not eligible for reunification to adoption. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services awarded $35 million to 38 states and Puerto Rico in September 2009 through the Adoption Incentives program.
To see more information on the Fostering Connections Act as well as a summary of 2009 relevant state legislation, click here.
UPCOMING CHILD WELFARE EVENTS
There are a number of efforts occurring in the next months that will bring organizations together around the area of Foster Care for children. Two events are highlighted below.
National Reunification Day
This year, a number of national organizations are working together to organize the first National Reunification Day on June 19, 2010. The goal of National Reunification Day is to celebrate families and communities coming together and to raise awareness about the importance of family reunification to children in foster care. While June 19, 2010 is the official day, a number of jurisdictions are celebrating on different days and weeks. The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law have set up a website that can be used as a resource to launch your own state event. The important part of this initiative is to celebrate successful reunifications whenever it works best.
Reunification with family is a successful outcome for children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Every year, hundreds of thousands of children are successfully reunified with their families. Reunification takes work, commitment, and investment of time and resources by parents, family members, social workers, attorneys, courts and the community. National Reunification Day is one way to acknowledge the hard work and celebrate the families who are back together!
For more information on reunification, see the two publications below from the Children’s Bureau.
Urban Institute and Chapin Hall Presentation
On April 8, 2010 at 9am EST, listen to a live audio webcast on a presentation on “Runaway and Homeless Youth: Prevalence, Programs, and Policy.” Many runaways become homeless because family reunification is not an option. Other young people end up on the street or in a shelter because they are abandoned by their parents, age out of foster care, or are released from the juvenile justice system.
Click here to register for the audio webcast. Presenters will discuss the progress that has been made to address the needs of runaways and homeless youth. Panelists will include speakers from Chapin Hall, Urban Institute, Latin American Youth Center, and Bryan Samuels, Commissioner for the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.
IN THE NEXT NEWSLETTER
- Strategies to safely reduce the number of children in foster care
- Highlighted State Child Welfare Programs aimed at reducing the number of children in foster care
- Highlights of the Fostering Connections Act
- And More…
NCSL CHILD WELFARE QUICK LINKS