Child Welfare Newsletter May June 2013

May/June 2013

In This Newsletter

Previous Newsletters

We Can Help You

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.

NCSL Contacts

Educating Children in Foster Care

NEW! Educating Children in Foster Care: State Legislation 2008–2012.  A positive school experience can help children and youth in foster care overcome some of the effects of any abuse, neglect, separation and impermanence they may have experienced; enhance well-being; and help them make successful transitions into adulthood. Yet, studies have found several barriers that may prevent foster children from succeeding in school, including multiple school changes; inconsistency; lack of communication; and delays in enrollment, among others. Since the early 2000s, a growing body of state legislation has addressed some key challenges to improving educational results for children and youth in foster care. In the four years prior to the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act), at least 51 state laws were enacted to improve educational experiences and opportunities for children and youth in foster care. State legislatures were primarily concerned with interagency coordination, collaboration and information sharing, education stability and continuity, and post-secondary education opportunities for youth in foster care. Click here to read NCSL’s new “Educating Children in Foster Care: State Legislation 2008 – 2012.


Child Welfare Title IV-E Demonstration Waivers – Testing Innovation

The Child Welfare and Family Services Innovation Act of 2011 authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue 10 waiver demonstration projects for 2012, and 10 more in both 2013 and in 2014.

The waivers allow states to use money usually reserved for specific foster care expenses to test new ways of providing and financing child welfare services. Ideas submitted for approval must aim to safely shorten children’s stays in care, increase children’s safety and well-being, prevent child abuse or keep children from going back into care. Priority is given to projects that will improve the lives of children who have experienced trauma, contribute to the body of evidence about what works, and include other programs, such as mental and behavioral health services.

For 2012, proposals were approved for Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Click here for NCSL’s Title IV-E Demonstration Waivers Web page that includes summaries of each state’s approved 2012 proposals and information on states that have applied for 2013, as soon as that is available. Click here to read NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine article on the waivers, “Testing What Works.”
Washington: Washington’s approved 2012 waiver demonstration will develop its Family Assessment Response Program, which allows the use of more than one approach when handling reports of child abuse or neglect. State legislators were involved every step of the way in developing the proposal. Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) created a statewide advisory committee to make recommendations to the state Children's Administration about the Title IV-E waiver application. The advisory committee was co-chaired by Representative Ruth Kagi (chair, Early Learning and Human Services Committee) and by the assistant secretary of the DSHS Children’s Administration. Committee members represent the diversity of the child welfare community, including tribal governments, the state Legislature, the governor’s office, the Washington Federation of State Employees, Washington courts, foster parents, child welfare advocates, child-placing agencies and other child welfare stakeholders. Click here to view more information about this advisory committee and the Legislature’s involvement. 
In conjunction with Washington’s 2012 waiver application, lawmakers enacted legislation creating the Child and Family Reinvestment Account, which will consist of anticipated savings from reductions in the foster care caseload and per capita costs. The account proceeds may be used to: 1) safely reduce entries and prevent re-entry into the foster care system; 2) safely increase reunifications; 3) achieve permanency for children who are unable to reunify; and 4) improve outcomes for youth who age out of care.  Click here to view 2012 Wash. Laws, HB 2263, Chap. 204.
Upcoming issues of this newsletter will highlight waiver demonstration programs in other states.

State Legislation

New Child Welfare Reports

Uninterrupted Scholars Fact Sheet: The Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA), enacted at the beginning of 2013, is a follow-up to the Fostering Connections Act.  It is designed to address a barrier identified by child welfare agencies with regard to providing educational stability to children in foster care. The USA makes it easier for schools to release a child’s education records to child welfare agencies without parents’ prior written consent. Designed to help child welfare agencies quickly access a student’s educational records, these changes not only will help make decisions regarding education stability, but also will ensure that children are promptly enrolled with all school records when they change schools. Under the USA, state legislatures likely will continue to focus on education and child welfare agency collaboration to provide stability and continuity for children in foster care. Click on the title to view a Q&A on USA prepared by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law.

How the Child Welfare System Works: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway February 2013 Fact Sheet describes how reports of child abuse or neglect are made, what happens after a report is made, what happens when a report is accepted for investigation, and what happens to parents and children in substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect.

Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2011: Statistics and Interventions: During 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Maltreatment 2011 reports that 1,545 child fatalities occurred as a result of child death caused by a child abuse or neglect injury. Children younger than age 1 accounted for 42.4 percent of fatalities, and children age 4 and under accounted for 81.6 percent of fatalities. Neglect or neglect in combination with another form of child abuse was the cause of 71.1 percent of child fatalities, and  parents were responsible for 78.3 percent of fatalities. Click on the title for more information and to learn about the work of state multi-disciplinary and multi-agency child death review teams to better identify and prevent fatal child abuse.

Electronic Information Exchange: Elements that Matter for Children in Foster Care: Click on the title to view this January 2013 report from the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center, which discusses state efforts to use electronic records information systems to coordinate foster children’s care and information.  The report briefly describes programs in several states. Wraparound Milwaukee integrates medical and behavioral health information. The Texas STAR Health Program is an Internet-based health record-sharing effort. Health Works of Illinois provides an electronic health summary for children in foster care. UPMC for You in Allegheny County, Pa., provides electronic health records for foster children. The San Diego Foster Youth Student Information System integrates information from schools, child welfare agencies, courts, probation and Health and Education Passports. Florida’s Dade and Monroe counties are testing Follow My Child, an initiative in which comprehensive electronic care records—from child welfare, juvenile justice, education, the courts and Medicaid—are created for children in foster care.

Enhancing Permanency for Youth in Out-of-Home Care. This May 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway describes state and federal efforts to focus attention on the need for permanency for older youth in foster care in the form of reunification with birth parents, adoption, legal guardianship or adoption. State examples include programs in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Ohio.

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