NCSL's Child Welfare News You Can Use | May 2020


The Impact of COVID-19 on State Child Welfare Systems

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, child welfare agencies are being challenged to simultaneously protect vulnerable children and support families while shielding their employees from the deadly virus. To help legislators understand the effect of COVID-19 on the child welfare system, NCSL created four child welfare resource guides focused on issues affecting the child welfare workforce, congregate care facilities, foster and kinship caregivers, and older youth. Each guide contains federal guidance and state examples of how child welfare systems can navigate the impact of COVID-19, such as ways to modify visitation requirements and child welfare expenditures, offering temporary housing options, best hygiene and safety practices, and more. Information will be updated weekly, so check back often.

Child Welfare Legislative Activity Changes During Pandemic

The federal Family First Prevention Services Act was a major child welfare topic during the 2019 legislative cycle, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted much of the legislative spotlight in 2020 to more urgent matters. In response to COVID-19, legislatures in some states are authorizing additional funds for child welfare agencies, allowing youth to stay in foster care beyond age 21 and modifying visitation regulations. The number of child welfare bills is not likely to grow significantly in 2020 with fewer legislatures in session and many of them abbreviated.

Below are examples of legislation addressing the impact of COVID-19 on child welfare systems, as well as state efforts to work toward Family First implementation.

  • Vermont HB 742 (enacted) allows the secretary of Human Services to waive or permit variances from state foster care and residential program regulations as long as regulations comply with federal law.
  • District of Columbia B23-0733 (enacted). The COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 allows youth who are aging out of foster care to choose to remain in the district’s care during the declared emergency.
  • Michigan SB 466 (enacted) adds the definition for qualified residential treatment programs to statute in accordance with Family First and allows for the implementation of these programs.
  • Indiana SB 259 (pending). If enacted, the law would require the Department of Child Services to prepare a report on the department's expenditures and any other available information relevant to identifying cost drivers and trends for the department. The department would be required to submit the report to the interim study committee on fiscal policy; the interim study committee on public health, behavioral health, and human services (study committee); and the legislative council. The law also would require the department to report to the study committee concerning the department's development, timeline and implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act.

Follow the links for a more complete list of COVID-19 and Family First legislation. In addition, NCSL’s Child Welfare Enacted Legislation Database is updated yearly with a full list of enacted legislation.

NCSL’s Response to COVID-19

NCSL is tracking and analyzing state and federal responses to COVID-19, producing briefs, podcasts and webinars, and hosting virtual meetings on major policy issues and matters of governance. For a big-picture view, start here. For a tighter focus on COVID-19’s impact on child care, home visiting, housing and other human services, our Human Services COVID-19 hub is your best bet for finding the information you need. As always, legislators and legislative staff can contact NCSL staff with their requests for research or technical assistance.