WE CAN HELP YOU FOR FREE
NCSL can help you develop ways to improve your state’s child welfare system and to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through:
- Onsite presentations, informal briefings and testimony before committees and hearings,
- Written research and analysis, or
- Informal telephone conference calls with child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences with 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 by reducing the number of children that enter into state care and increasing the exits of children who have been in foster care for long periods into permanent placements. One example of a strategy that states are using to increase the number of children who exit foster care is through the extension of adoption and guardianship subsidies beyond age 18 and removing possible barriers to adoption of youth.
Extension of adoption/guardianship subsidies beyond age 18
Recognizing the need to provide adoptive and guardian families with ongoing support when their children have exceptional needs, New Mexico provides that payments of adoption subsidies can be made for a child between the ages of 18 and 21 when the child is in the medically fragile waiver program. Oklahoma extends adoption assistance benefits to age 19 under certain circumstances. Additionally, Virginia passed legislation in 2008 to remove the barriers regarding the population of older youth (2008 VA HB 138).
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 7th, 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.
Legislative Highlights: Extending Foster Care to Youth to Age 21
Through Fostering Connections, federal law now provides states with the option to extend foster care and adoption assistance programs to any child up to age 21 if the individual is:
- Completing secondary education or equivalent credential,
- Enrolled in an institution which provides post-secondary or vocational education,
- Participating in a program to promote or remove barriers to employment,
- Employed for at least 80 hours per month, or
- Incapable of doing these activities due to a medical condition.
Examples of enacted state legislation related to the extension of foster care to youth to age 21 provision of the Act include:
Click here for information on Fostering Connections related bills that have been introduced in 2010.
- California: AB 12 was signed by the Governor on September 30th. The law requires the department to amend its foster care state plan to extend care to specified individuals up to 21 years of age. It also requires the court to ensure that the child's transitional case plan is reviewed periodically and includes a plan for the child to meet one or more criteria that would allow the child to remain a non-minor dependent, and to ensure that the child has been informed of his or her right to seek the termination of dependency jurisdiction. The legislation also extends the Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) to include children under 21 years of age who turned 16 years of age before the adoption assistance agreement became effective.
- Alaska: HB 126 allows foster care to extend to age 21, and reverses the ban on re-entry into foster care for youth who leave early, and find themselves homeless, or otherwise in trouble. The legislation determines that if continued custody is in the best interests of the person and the person consents to it, the court may grant two-year extensions of commitment that do not extend beyond the person's 21st birthday. The law allows for an additional period of state custody past 19 years of age if the person is in need of out-of-home care to avoid personal harm or homelessness and to enhance the person's ability to continue their education or otherwise improve their successful transition to independent living.
- Washington: HB 1961 allows for the continued foster care or group care and necessary support and transition services to youth ages eighteen to twenty-one years who are enrolled and participating in a post high school academic or vocational program; expands foster care up to age 21 for youth who are enrolled and participating in a postsecondary or vocational educational program or who are engaged in employment for eighty hours or more per month. It also expands the current relative guardianship program by providing adoption support benefits, or subsidized relative guardianship benefits on behalf of youth ages eighteen to twenty-one who achieved permanency through adoption or a subsidized relative guardianship at age sixteen or older.
Click here for information on Fostering Connections related legislation that was enacted in 2009.
Webinar on Provisions for Older Youth in the Fostering Connections Act
On October 7, 2010, the Fostering Connections Resource Center, together with FosterClub, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Finance Project, the John Burton Foundation and Fostering Media Connections hosted a webinar to mark the 2 year anniversary of the Fostering Connections Act, with a special emphasis on the older youth provisions. Click here to view the archived webinar.
The webinar marked the two-year anniversary of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The webinar focused on the older youth provisions enacted in Fostering Connections, including a new option that allows states to seek federal reimbursement for extending assistance to children in foster care beyond age 18. This option, under active consideration by a number of states, goes into effect October 1, 2010. Experts from The Finance Project highlighted experiences of several states in assessing the fiscal implications of extending care to foster youth beyond age 18. Young leaders formerly in foster care showcased a free toolkit they helped to develop for facilitating youth-led transition planning. Also, Nina Williams-Mbengue, National Conference of State Legislatures, and state legislators spoke about their legislative activities to promote better outcomes for children and youth in foster care.
CHILD WELFARE NEWS
FY2010 Discretionary Grantees
The 2010 Discretionary Grants have been announced and are listed on the Children’s Bureau website. These include the awarding of Children's Bureau grants for the reduction of long-term foster care to Kansas, California, Arizona, Illinois, Nevada; tribal Title IV-E development grants to tribes in Oklahoma, California, Idaho, and Washington; and diligent recruitment of foster care parents initiatives in TX, MI, NM, CA, MS, IL and NV.
Adoption Incentive Awards
On September 15, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the award of $39 million to 38 States and Puerto Rico for increasing the number of children adopted from foster care in FY 2009. For more information on the Adoption Incentives awarded, click here.
Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System show reduction in Foster Care Population
At the end of August, the Children's Bureau posted new statistics on the numbers of children involved with the child welfare system. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which provides preliminary estimates for fiscal year (FY) 2009, indicates that, on September 30, 2009, there was a reduction in the foster care population. Click here to view the report.
NEW NCSL PUBLICATION: DIFFERENTIAL RESPONSE APPROACH IN CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES
Several states now require child welfare agencies to use the Differential Response/Alternative Response Approach in child protection to assist in protecting children. The approach allows child protective services to respond differently to accepted reports of child abuse and neglect allegations, based on factors such as the type and severity of the maltreatment, number and sources of previous reports, and willingness of the family to participate in services. Click here to view NCSL’s new publication, prepared for the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response, on this approach and which states have laws requiring it.
Click here to view state enacted legislation around the Differential Response Approach.
NCSL CHILD WELFARE QUICK LINKS