Child Welfare Legislative Policy Network Newsletter October 2013

Child Welfare Legislative Policy Network Newsletter | October, 2013



NCSL can help state child welfare systems develop ways to safely reduce the number of children in foster care through:

  • Presentations, informal briefings, and testimony before committees and hearings;
  • Written research and analyses; or 
  • Informal conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences with child welfare reform.


HHS has the authority to grant up to 30 waiver proposals over a three-year period (10 each per FY2012, FY2013 and FY2014) in child welfare funding under Title IV-E.  These waivers would allow states to use the money received from the federal government for IV-E eligible children in a flexible manner.  Waivers generally need to focus on well-being and are not subject to random assignment, which is a change from prior waiver authorities granted. Waivers allow state and tribal child welfare agencies to design and demonstrate a wide range of approaches for improving safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for children.

Eight new states have been approved to conduct Title IV-E waiver demonstration projects in federal fiscal year 2013:  the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.  These states join nine states selected in 2012: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.  Please click here to view NCSL’s Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration page which will have detailed information on the 2012 states and the role of legislators in testing what works in child welfare through the waivers.

Here are highlights of the 2013 states’ demonstrations:

  • Nebraska aims to implement an “alternative response” to child protection reports, in which children and families assessed to be lower-risk can receive services and supports and maintain child safety so that children do have to go into foster care.  The District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana and Tennessee are implementing new or expanded intensive home-based services, designed to support families and prevent the need for removal.
  • Montana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee plan to offer an array of services to reduce children’s length of stay in care by addressing the underlying reasons that brought a child into foster care. Hawaii is expanding the use of permanency roundtables, which serve to identify and remove barriers preventing children and youth from finding permanent homes.  The District of Columbia, Idaho and New York will prioritize parent and caregiver education and counseling.
  • Montana and Rhode Island will test using their Title IV-E funds flexibly to safely transition children and youth from more institutional, congregate care facilities into less restrictive, preferably family settings.
  • The District of Columbia intends to provide intensive in-home services to children after they leave the foster care system to ensure that they do not return to care.  To assist older youth that have returned home or been placed with an adoptive parent or guardian, New York will offer youth development treatment, support, and supervision and Rhode Island will provide wraparound services to youth in semi-independent and independent living arrangements.
  • Hawaii, New York, Idaho, Rhode Island and Tennessee are implementing new functional screening tools to better identify the needs of the children and families. Idaho and New York will take a trauma-informed approach to providing services and Nebraska and Rhode Island will test performance-based contracting, where funding for providers is more tied to achieving better outcomes for children.


Approximately 123 bills in 37 states have been introduced in the 2013 legislative session on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. Twenty nine bills have been enacted. Click here to view NCSL’s chart.


A number of states have enacted legislation to expand support for grandparent and relative caregivers. The chart below reflects legislation enacted between 2007 and 2012. The categories identified include easing of licensure requirements, waivers and variances; expanded definition of relative; relative placement preference; school enrollment and medical consent; payment, reimbursement, subsidies; supporting relative adoption; studies, commissions and task forces; and, miscellaneous.

View the full chart here


The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 is a federal law that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian children. The law was enacted after recognition by the federal government that American Indian children were being removed from their homes and communities at a much higher rate than non-Native children. ICWA established standards for the placement of Indian children in foster and adoptive homes and enabled tribes and families to be involved in child welfare cases.

Click here to view statutes related to strengthening or enhancing ICWA in states.

  • Click here to view a special extended edition newsletter that provides a brief overview of ICWA, presents statistics on Indian children involved in child welfare systems, examines state legislative enactments intended to codify or come into compliance with ICWA, and discusses the role of state legislatures in considering policy for children in Indian Country.


Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report #20

Click on the title above to view the latest data on the foster care system, including the numbers of children in care on Sept. 30, 2012, the numbers of children entering and exiting care, and the numbers of children waiting to be adopted.

Preliminary estimates for fiscal year (FY) 2012:

  • 399,546 children were in foster care.
  • 254,162 children entered care and 241,254 exited care.
  • The average age of children in foster care was 9.1 years.
  • The largest percentage of children (47 percent) in foster care were in foster family homes, followed by 28 percent in relative family placements.
  • The largest percentage of children (53 percent) had reunification with parents or primary caregivers as their placement goal.
  • Of the children adopted from foster care that year, 56 percent were adopted by a foster parent.
Child Welfare Outcomes 2009–2011: Report to Congress

For state data on child maltreatment and children in foster care from 2009-2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Child Welfare Outcomes 2009 – 2011. Click on the title above to view the full report and to view state data tables.


  • In 2011, approximately 742,000 children were confirmed victims of child maltreatment. The national child victim rate continued its long-term downward trend, decreasing from 10.3 child victims per 1,000 children in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to 9.9 in FY 2011.
  • Between 2002 and 2011, the number of children in care decreased by 23.3 percent from 523,000 to 401,000.
  • Seventy-two percent of states showed improved performance between 2008 and 2011 in the percentage of adoptions of children in foster care for 17 months or longer.


Disparities in Child Welfare: Considering the Implementation of Differential Response

Differential response, also referred to as “dual track,” “multiple track,” “alternative response,” or "family assessment approach" is an approach that allows child protective services to respond differently to accepted reports of child abuse and neglect, based on such factors as the type and severity of the alleged maltreatment, number and sources of previous reports, and willingness of the family to participate in services.

Evaluations of state differential response programs in Ohio, Minnesota and Nevada suggest that differential response may be an avenue to address the poverty-related needs experienced by a large proportion of families of color coming into the child welfare system more comprehensively than a traditional investigation response, thereby improving service equity for this population. The evaluations also found that child safety was maintained for those families experiencing family assessment responses, and re-reports to the system were fewer than those of their investigation response counterparts across racial groups. Click on the title to read the report.  Click here to view NCSL’s chart of state differential response legislation.

Tools To Help Maltreated Infants And Toddlers

Child Trends and ZERO TO THREE released a report on states' child welfare policies to support the development of young children.  Click on the title to view the report and access additional resources. The report indicates that, “Few states have policies that differentiate services or timelines for infants and toddlers versus older children.”  The report also discusses a variety of promising approaches that can have great impact on young children involved in state child welfare systems. These approaches include

  • appropriate timeframes for health and developmental screenings and timely referrals to specialists;
  • greater frequency in infant-toddler foster care case reviews and hearings;
  • required training for all levels of agency staff, foster parents, court personnel, and biological parents about the developmental needs of infants and toddlers;
  • multi-system collaborations with other agencies that serve infants and toddlers and their families;
  • more frequent face-to-face visits with birth parents for infants and toddlers; and, policies prohibiting the placement of young children in congregate care except in situations where parents and their young children can be cared for together.


2013 Mandatory Reporting Legislation Introduced
State Child Welfare Legislative Enactments Database 2012


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