Child welfare newsletter may2011



May 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.


States are working to safely reduce the number of children in state care through a number of initiatives that help foster children reunite with their families. One example is using partnerships among the judicial branch, the child welfare agency and legislature, to support celebrations such as “Reunification Days.”

JUDICIAL PARTNERSHIPS: By Alicia Davis, National Center for the State Courts

Each year, thousands of children in foster care are reunited with their families. In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of this, the first National Reunification Day took place in 2010 to celebrate successful reunifications of foster children with their families. This year, the celebration will run from Mother’s Day, May 8, through Father’s Day, June 19, 2011.

Some states have been celebrating family reunifications for years, while others are just beginning. Many states are forging effective partnerships between the Legislative and Judicial Branches to plan for the recognition of the importance of family reunifications. Last year, for example, as part of the first National Reunification Day, Carolyn Signorelli, Connecticut’s chief child protection attorney, worked with legislators, the judicial branch, the state Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Services to host a celebration for reunified families at the state capitol. As states prepare for this year’s celebrations, a number intend to have their governors establish a resolution honoring reunified families. Click here for more information on how legislators and courts can become involved in family reunification celebrations.

Mimi Laver, assistant director of the ABA Center for Children and the Law, states that “Family Reunification Days celebrate the accomplishments of families who have overcome an array of challenges to reunify safely and successfully; recognize the vital role that community partners—mental health and substance abuse providers, legislators, courts and judges, foster parents and others—play in helping to reunify, strengthen and support families; and inspire other parents, particularly those going through the recovery process, that it is possible to confront and resolve the issues that led to their separation, and to reunify with their children.”


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: Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payments for Children

Under the Fostering Connections Act, states have the option to use federal title IV-E funds to provide kinship guardianship assistance payments to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianships of children. Lawmakers in at least four states have introduced legislation in 2011 sessions on these kinds of assistance payments for children in foster care. An example of enacted legislation includes:

  • Arkansas SB 710, Act 592: A child is eligible for a guardianship subsidy under this new law if the Department of Human Services determines that: adequate funding is available, for the guardianship subsidy for a child who is not Title IV-E eligible if, while in the custody of the department, the child resides in the home of the prospective relative guardian for at least six consecutive months after the home was opened as a foster home.

Click here for information on other state bills introduced in 2011 related to the Fostering Connections Act.


FREE Fostering Connections Webinar

On May 13 at 1 p.m. ET, there will be a FREE webinar, “Understanding the Fostering Connections Act: An Introduction for State Policymakers.” Click here to register.

Since enactment of the Fostering Connections Act, state leaders have been busy adopting the act’s requirements to their child welfare programs. Dozens of states have already taken advantage of new state options for federal support, such as extending foster care beyond age 18 and making available kinship guardianship assistance programs. NCSL and partners will lead a discussion of the federal act, and invited guests will highlight specific state examples of implementation.

Webinar Recording: What Legislators Need to Know About New Federal Home Visiting Funding

This webinar describes the current landscape of state home visiting programs, identifies steps to take to update state plans and apply for funding, and highlights ways that policymakers can get involved as their state makes important decisions about where and how to allocate home visiting resources. Click here to view the webinar recording from April 1, 2011.


“Improving Adoption and Foster Care: A Conversation With Members of Congress”

U.S. Senators Landrieu (La.) and Inhofe (Okla.) and Representatives Bachman (Minn.) and Bass (Calif.), convened a roundtable to discuss state and federal barriers to adoption and reforming the child welfare system. Topics included 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. State legislators discussed their concerns for state child welfare systems with members of Congress.

“Keeping Children Safely at Home and Out of Foster Care”

Discussion centered around services and state agency responses aimed at keeping more kids at home with their families and out of the child welfare system. Presenters, including staff from the American Humane Association, child welfare division, discussed the “differential response” approach, that several states are using successfully. They are seeing fewer recurrences of abuse, as well as saving money in their states. Members also heard from Wyoming Representative Rosie Berger and Cindy Perry, from the Tennessee Select Committee on Children and Youth on how this response to cases of alleged abuse has helped divert children from entering the foster care system in their states.


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