View recent enactments on treatment and services for child sex trafficking victims; procedures for reporting missing children and youth; case and transition planning and documents required for youth transitioning out of foster care.
President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act into law on Sept. 29, 2014. The act provides various changes to existing law regarding child welfare, including some required state action in areas of foster parenting, adoption incentive payments, and others. In addition, the bill requires certain data collection and reporting by states regarding sex trafficking, including the identification of children who may be at high-risk of becoming sex trafficking victims, particularly current and former foster children.
Within the new federal legislation are numerous state requirements. Some of them fall on the state agency in amending the state plan for foster care. Others require or offer the potential for legislative action.
Below is a brief summary of the major child welfare and sex trafficking provisions. For those interested in the child support related provisions, click here. View the full, printable summary of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act for more detail.
Protecting Children and Youth at Risk of Sex Trafficking
The new legislation addresses the identification and protection of children and youth at risk of sex trafficking.
- States must develop policies and procedures to identify, document, screen and determine appropriate services for children under the child welfare agency’s care and supervision, who are victims of, or at risk of, sex trafficking. States, at their option, may develop these policies and procedures for all young adults under 26 regardless of foster care involvement. Effective within one year of enactment.
- State child welfare agencies must immediately report children in their care identified as sex trafficking victims to law enforcement. Effective within two years of enactment.
- State child welfare agencies must report the numbers of children in their care identified as sex trafficking victims to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Effective within three years of enactment.
- HHS must report these numbers to Congress and make it publicly available. Effective within four years of enactment and each year thereafter.
- HHS must report to Congress annually on the number of child victims and on children who have run away from foster care including their risk of becoming sex trafficking victims—characteristics, potential factors associated with children running away from foster care, information on children’s experiences while absent from care and trends in the number of children reported as runaways in each fiscal year; state efforts to provide services and placements; and, state efforts to ensure children in foster care form and maintain long-lasting connections to caring adults. Effective within two years of enactment.
- Requires state child welfare agencies to report missing youth to law enforcement, within 24 hours, for entry into the National Crime Information Center and to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Effective within two years of enactment.
- Requires child welfare agencies to develop and implement protocols to locate children who runaway or are missing from foster care, determine the child’s experiences while absent from care, develop screening to determine if the child is a sex trafficking victim, and report information to HHS; effective within one year of enactment.
National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth
The act establishes a National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the U.S. to advise on policies to improve the nation’s response to the sex trafficking of children and youth. These include the coordination of federal, state, local and tribal governments, child welfare agencies, social service providers, health and mental health, victim services, state and local courts responsible for child welfare and others to develop and implement successful interventions with vulnerable children and youth and to make recommendations for administrative and legislative changes. Effective within two years of enactment.
Supporting Normalcy: Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard
The new legislation requires states to implement:
- A reasonable and prudent parent standard for a foster parent to make parental decisions to maintain the health, safety and best interest of the child and also decisions about the child’s participation in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities.
- New provisions in state licensing standards for foster family homes and for child care institutions providing foster care to permit the use of the reasonable and prudent parent standard and to require contracts to designate an official to apply the standard. Requires states to provide training for caregivers and directs HHS to provide technical assistance to states on best practices in assisting foster parents in applying the standard.
The legislation increases funding for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and requires that the program ensure that children who are likely to remain in care until 18 have regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age or developmentally appropriate activities.
It becomes effective within one year of enactment. Additional time permitted if state legislation is required.
Improves Another Permanent Planned Living Arrangement (APPLA)
The new legislation eliminates APPLA as a permanency goal for children under 16 and adds additional case plan and case review requirements for older youth who have a permanency goal of APPLA. Effective within one year of enactment. Additional time permitted if state legislation is required.
Case Plan and Transition Planning for Successful Adulthood
The legislation requires consultation with foster children age 14 and older in the development of or revision to his or her case plan and requires the case plan to include a document describing the rights of the child to education, health, visitation and court participation; the right to stay safe and avoid exploitation. Effective within one year of enactment; additional time permitted if state legislation is required.
Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, Health Insurance Information, Medical Records and a Driver’s Licenses for Foster Children Aging Out of Care
Requires state child welfare agencies to provide foster youth aging out of care at 18, or greater if the state has so elected, with a birth certificate, a Social Security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license or a state identification card. Effective within one year of enactment. Additional time permitted if state legislation is required.
Improving Adoption Incentive Payments
The legislation reauthorizes the Adoption Incentive Program for fiscal years FY 2013–FY 2015 and makes structural changes to how the incentive payments are calculated. It bases incentive payments on the rate of increase in adoptions to judge performance instead of the actual number to ensure that incentives are awarded based on continued improvements in performance as foster care caseloads decline. The act also provides incentive awards for guardianship placements, providing larger incentives to states for increasing adoptions of older youth who are hardest to adopt. It phases in a new award structure over three years, prioritizing recent improvement over past performance in increasing adoptions and guardianship placements. The law also provides for increased adoption and legal guardianship incentive payments for timely adoptions. Effective as if the bill was enacted on Oct. 1, 2013.
Extending Family Connection Grants Program
Extends the family connection grant program through FY2014 and makes universities eligible for matching grants under the program.
Requires a kinship navigator to promote partnerships between public and private agencies to increase their knowledge of the needs of other individuals willing and able to be foster parents for children in foster care under state responsibility, who are themselves parents, to promote better services for those families.
Repeals the mandatory reservation of $5 million per fiscal year for grants to implement kinship navigator programs.
Requires states to calculate and report on any savings, and how the savings were used, from delinking Title IV-E Adoption Assistance eligibility from income. Requires states to spend no less than 30 percent of the savings for post-adoption and post-guardianship services and for services to support positive permanent outcomes for children who might otherwise enter foster care. Requires that savings supplement, not supplant, services under IV-B and IV-E. Effective Oct. 1, 2014.
Ensures that in the event of death or incapacity of a relative guardian, a successor legal guardianship allows the child to remain eligible for kinship guardianship assistance. Effective upon enactment.
Requires HHS to develop regulations to collect and analyze data on children who re-enter foster care after being placed in adoption or guardianship. Effective upon enactment.
Clarifies that all parents of siblings must also be identified and notified within 30 days after removal of a child from parental custody. Effective upon enactment.
About This NCSL Project
The Denver-based child welfare project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child welfare issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or email@example.com.