Child welfare newsletter april2011



April 2011


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 telephone conference calls with state 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.


States are working to safely reduce the number of children that enter into state care through prevention programs such as “differential response,” which allows child protective services to respond appropriately, yet differently, to reports of child abuse and neglect.


Differential response is an approach that allows child protective services to tailor its response 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. State legislatures have enacted legislation in recent years to establish or pilot test this approach, including New York.

The New York Legislature enacted SB 4009, Chapter 452 (NY CLS Soc Serv § 427-a) in 2007, which amended their social services law to allow for a differential response program for child protection assessments or investigations. It described the process by which counties could apply for approval from the Office of Child and Family Services, and outlined the procedures to be followed when implementing such a system. Shortly after passage of the law, the office began planning for differential response, which it refers to as the Family Assessment Response. Since 2008, the Office of Child and Family Services has provided training and technical assistance to 19 districts to help them implement the Family Assessment Response approach successfully. Click here to read the report, “Differential Response in Child Protective Services in New York State” submitted to the New York governor and Legislature from OCFS in January 2011.

  • Click here to view state legislation around differential response.
  • Click here to view the report "Differential Response Approach in Child Protective Services: An Analysis of State Legislative Provisions.”


President George W. Bush signed into law the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893/P.L. 110-351) on Oct. 7, 2008. This law helps to connect foster children with their relatives, better coordinate the health care and education of foster children, support permanent families through relative guardianship, and enhance adoption subsidies and supports to older youth in foster care.

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHT: State Option for Foster Children After Age 18

Under the Fostering Connections Act, states have the option to extend foster care and adoption assistance programs to any child up to age 21 if he or she is:

  • completing high school or an equivalent credential,
  • enrolled in an institution that provides post-secondary or vocational education,
  • participating in a program to remove barriers to employment,
  • employed for at least 80 hours per month, or
  • incapable of doing these activities because of a medical condition.

At least four states have introduced legislation in 2011 sessions on extending foster care and adoption assistance programs to young people up to age 21. Some examples include: 

  • North Dakota SB 2192: Relates to the disposition of a child needing continued foster care services between age 18 and 21.
  • Washington HB 1128 (Companion bill to WA SB 5245): Supports foster youth to age 19, with the goal of increasing support to age 21 when resources become available.

Click here for information on state bills related to the Fostering Connections act that have been introduced in 2011.


Two sessions are specifically related to child welfare policy: 

  • Thursday, April 14, 2:15–4:30 p.m., “Improving Adoption and Foster Care: A Conversation with Members of Congress”

U.S. Senators Landrieu (LA) and Inhofe (OK) and Representatives Bachman (MN) and Bass (CA), will convene a roundtable to discuss state and federal barriers to adoption and reforming the child welfare system. Topics include the effect of current economic conditions and the challenging budget times, the reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, and the increasing number of youth aging out of foster care. We will meet in the hotel lobby at 2:15 p.m. to take taxis to the Capitol Visitor’s Center where the meeting will take place from 3:00-4:00 p.m. *This session is limited to legislators and legislative staff only.* Please let us know if you plan to attend by contacting Emily Wengrovius at (202) 624-8171 or Sheri Steisel at (202) 624-8693.

  • Friday, April 15, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m., “Keeping Children Safely at Home and Out of Foster Care”

Tailoring services and state agency responses to meet the specific needs of children and families has kept more kids at home with their families and out of the child welfare system. More states are beginning to use this approach and are seeing fewer recurrences of abuse, as well as cost savings.

Click here to read about NCSL’s Spring Forum, review the agenda, and to register.


  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Expansion of Nutrition Programs

In February, 2011, the USDA announced that children placed into the foster care system by a state or court are categorically eligible to receive free meals in all USDA child nutrition programs. The expansion of categorical eligibility to foster children is a component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law Dec. 13, 2010. To view the USDA announcement, click here. For guidance on how to implement this provision, click here.

  • Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act

On Dec. 20, 2010, President Obama signed the reauthorization of CAPTA, P.L. 111-320. The legislation reauthorizes the law for fiscal years 2011 through 2015. CAPTA is the only federal child welfare program focusing solely on preventing and responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect. Although the law does not change the federal definition of neglect, it strongly encourages states to review their laws, practices, policies and procedures to ensure children are protected. One of the main changes in the reauthorization is a strong encouragement by Congress for state and local child protection service agencies to practice differential response. Click here to read more on the reauthorization of CAPTA.



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