Quarter 4, 2019
NCSL can help state child welfare systems develop ways to safely reduce the number of children in foster care. We can make presentations, informal briefings and testimony before committees and hearings; offer written research and analyses; or conduct informal conference calls with state child welfare administrators, legislators and legislative staff in other states to discuss their experiences with child welfare reform.
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The federal Administration for Children and Families recently released fiscal year 2018 data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), and the results are significant. The number of youth adopted from foster care hit a record high after increasing for the fourth year in a row. This milestone was coupled with the second consecutive year of decreases in the number of youth entering foster care. The AFCARS data also shows the number of children in foster care in 2018 dropped for the first time since 2011. In addition to these trends, the AFCARS report captures national data on the most recent placement setting for youth in care, their case plan goals, average time in care, and much more.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the Child Welfare Outcomes Report for 2016. The report provides a collection and analysis of data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, up to 2016, over time and across all states. HHS uses this information to assess “state performance in operating child protection and child welfare programs.” National and state performance is assessed on seven outcome categories:
Outcome 1: Reduce recurrence of child abuse and/or neglect.
Outcome 2: Reduce the incidence of child abuse and/or neglect in foster care.
Outcome 3: Increase permanency for children in foster care.
Outcome 4: Reduce time in foster care to reunification without increasing reentry.
Outcome 5: Reduce time in foster care to adoption.
Outcome 6: Increase placement stability.
Outcome 7: Reduce placements of young children in group homes or institutions.
The report includes state-specific data and recommendations on how states can improve their performance.
Since enactment of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act in February 2018, states have been assessing how to use the landmark legislation to reform their child welfare systems. To help with this, in July 2019 the Administration for Children and Families released program instructions for transitional payments related to Title IV-E prevention programs and services. These instructions include a checklist for states to use when they are recommending a program or service be designated as promising, supported or well-supported. When a state submits the checklist, they are confirming that they conducted an independent systematic review and have determined that the program or service meets the necessary criteria. States must submit this checklist as a part of or as an amendment to their five-year plan due by Oct. 1, 2021.
The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse will continue to evaluate these programs and services according to the Handbook of Standards and Procedures released earlier this year. To help states better prepare, the program instructions outline what happens with transitional payments after a program is reviewed:
Scenario 1: If the clearinghouse rates a program or service with the same or higher designation as submitted in the state plan, the state can continue to claim payments for that program or service.
Scenario 2: If the clearinghouse does not rate a program or service as meeting the promising, supported or well-supported criteria, HHS will make transitional payments until the end of the following federal fiscal quarter.
Scenario 3: If the clearinghouse rates a program lower than the designation submitted in the five-year plan, but still designates it as promising or supported, HHS will continue to make transitional payments until the end of the following federal fiscal quarter. At this point, the state will have to amend its Title IV-E plan to reflect the change in designation. At least 50% of the amounts expended by the state for a fiscal year for the Title IV-E prevention program must be for services that meet the well-supported practice criteria.
The Children’s Bureau conducts a review of state child welfare systems every four to five years and produces the Child & Family Services Reviews. The bureau recently released its Focus on Youth CFSR Findings report, which reviews the cases of older child welfare-system involved youth ages 16 or 17 in 38 states, and includes interviews with youth, judges, Guardians Ad Litem, foster and adoptive parents, birth parents, and agency and parent attorneys. With the data collected, the report hopes to answer: (a) “How well do agencies meet the needs of older youth in foster care?” and (b) “What are the perceptions and experiences of older youth in foster care?” The report provides legislators and child welfare professionals with insight from older youth regarding programs that are well received, opportunities for improvement, challenges facing transition age youth, and areas of potential anxiety for this vulnerable population.
NCSL’s Child Welfare Champions Corner is where we highlight legislators who are actively involved with child welfare policy in their state. Earlier we highlighted Senators Whitney Westerfield (R-Ky.) and Sara Gelser (D-Ore.). Our most recent update delves into the work of Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Ill.) and Senator Erin Houchin (R-Ind.), during the 2019 legislative session. During this session, Feigenholtz worked with Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services’ to introduce a number of bills. The Champions Corner looks at three of these bills, and the group that brought them about. We also look at Indiana’s Senate Enrolled Act 1, and the changes it makes to foster parents’ rights in the state. For more on these two legislators, be sure to visit NCSL’s Child Welfare Champions Corner.
Tune into NCSL’s Our American States December 5 podcast to hear from Senator Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) and Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Alaska) about the challenges facing the more than 170,000 foster youth ages 14+ in the United States. Spohnholz provides insightful commentary from the perspective of a legislator who is also as a foster and adoptive parent. Similarly, Houchin brings her unique experience as a former case worker and current legislator to the conversation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Christie Erwin, executive director of Little Rock-based Project Zero, an adoption excellence award for helping children in foster care find permanency through adoptive families. Erwin is a long-time partner of the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Child and Family Services.
December 05, 2019 Continue
San Francisco-based Tipping Point Community has announced a five-year, $30 million initiative focused on helping foster youth in the Bay Area navigate the transition to adulthood. With the aim of providing a robust safety net and a path out of poverty for current and former foster youth between the ages of 14 and 24, the Better Futures for Foster Youth initiative will work to help participants secure stable housing, pursue and persist in higher education, and access the supports and services they need.
December 17, 2019 Continue
The number of immigrant children who enter the United States without their parents and then are released to family members in Colorado has grown more than 125 percent in the past year. Most of the unaccompanied immigrant children now live in Arapahoe County, according to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The number of children released to Arapahoe County nearly tripled from 62 in fiscal year 2018 to 170 in fiscal year 2019.
December 12, 2019 Continue
Nearly half of Florida’s child protective investigators quit their jobs last year and the Florida Department of Children and Families continues to deal with workforce burnout.
Florida Atlantic University and Georgia State University have partnered on a program to assist children and families affected by addiction. They have received a $2.64 million grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a program aimed at improving outcomes of Georgia's children and families and strengthening the partnership between the Division of Family and Children Services and family treatment courts. Other public and community partners on this grant include Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Advanced Outcomes Consulting Group.
December 10, 2019 Continue
The Hawaii Judiciary partnered with HI HOPES Hawaii (Foster Youth Board) to invite foster care teens and young adult graduates to Dream Day, where they could access information and services to help them successfully begin their transition out of the foster care system into adulthood.
December 14, 2019 Continue
Roger Sherman, executive director of the Idaho Children's Trust Fund, discusses preventing adverse childhood experiences
December 16, 2019 Continue
Shared Hope International released its yearly state report cards on the fight against human trafficking, and awarded Tennessee the highest grade in the country when it comes to fighting human trafficking. The grades take state laws and efforts to combat human trafficking into consideration.
November 20, 2019 Continue
Nonprofit leaders in Austin, Texas hope to create a system where the number of youth that become homeless is equal to the number of youth that receive housing by December 2020. Austin would be the first city to achieve this in the United States.
December 04, 2019 Continue
The Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington state held a “state-raised working group.” This half-day conference was focused on developing strategies to reduce the number of youth in foster care that end up in the juvenile justice system.