The Department of Health and Human Services has posted the state applications for waivers of Title IV-E foster care funding at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/programs_fund/index.htm#child. Members of the public are invited to review proposals and submit comments on the proposed demonstrations. Comments may be sent electronically to: [email protected].
Eight states have applied for waivers: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. HHS has the authority to award up to ten per year. All eight states requested a waiver of the Title IV-E eligibility requirements currently tied to the 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children standards.
The states would like to spend funds on services not allowed currently due to eligibility restrictions that currently limit federal support to about half of the children in foster care. The proposals generally describe strategies that would use additional services to reduce the foster care population by reducing initial placements, shorten length of stays in care or support families outside of foster care.
Perhaps the boldest state request is Illinois’ proposal to address the zero-to-three population of children in care with a goal to reduce length of stays and to reduce the number of re-entries into foster care once a child has been reunified with his or her family. Wisconsin is also focusing on strategies to reduce reentries into care. Under that state’s proposal, it would extend services to children and families that have been reunified.
Currently, federal IV-E funds stop flowing once a child leaves foster care and under the Wisconsin request, post-reunification services would continue for 12 months.
Washington’s proposal includes an expanded role for differential response as part of their child protective services system. Below is a brief description of the proposals:
Arkansas: Will implement evidenced-based screening practices of families, family team meetings, evidenced-based parenting programs and differential response. It will focus attention on better and increased recruitment of foster homes to reduce turnover, create better matches and placements of children in care and improve stronger family attachment, and improve coordination between the foster and birth parents.
Colorado: Implementation of four practices that include the Colorado practice model, permanency by design, differential response, and trauma-informed systems of care. The Colorado practice model involves workforce development including peer-to-peer mentoring, a collaborative management model across systems and there will be coordination between child welfare and mental health to implement systems of care for children in care. The goal will be to reduce the use of congregate and group care.
Illinois: Will focus their attention on the zero-to-three population. The waiver will focus on children in the Cook County (Chicago) area. The state indicates that despite its progress in reducing placements and its success in reducing its removal rate, they are third highest in the length of stay in foster care and the third highest in the number of children who enter care between the age of zero through three. About 25 percent of the youth that age out of care had entered foster care before the age of five. The proposal focuses on intensive concurrent planning, parent training and support and therapeutic interventions where appropriate. They will test out the model in Cook County with comparisons to other non-waiver groups.
Michigan: Seeks a waiver to extend funding to a collection of services that will target vulnerable families that have come to the attention of the child protective services system. They will focus efforts to try and prevent abuse and neglect, and structure prevention around secondary and tertiary prevention. Overall, the state’s goal is to prevent abuse and neglect, decrease entry into foster care, increase positive outcomes for families and improve child well being. Each waiver family will be offered support services for 15 months, and will be focused in Muskegon County in the west, Kalamazoo County in the south and Macomb County in the east.
Pennsylvania: Will address the entire child welfare population but would limit the waiver to five counties in the state: Philadelphia, Allegheny, Dauphin, Lackawamma and Venango. The state hopes to see a 30 percent reduction in congregate placements and reduce the number of re-entries and total number of days spent in care, while measuring and increasing positive outcomes in the areas of physical health, early learning and academic skills.
Utah: Seeking a waiver to increase the use of evidence-based child and family assessment tools, the development and implementation of caseworker training and tools and increased community coordination and the implementation of evidenced-based services. The state will phase in services to the entire state over a five-year period.
Washington:Would expand its Family Assessment Response (FAR) program. FAR is a version of differential response/alternate response. The proposal focuses on those families that come to the attention of the child protective services (CPS) system but would not include those child abuse and neglect cases that involve physical or sexual abuse. The overall goals include the improvement of permanence for children, positive outcomes and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. As part of this effort the state will seek to expand its use of the family preservation model, Homebuilders. As a measure of success the state will examine data on the reduction of referrals or re-referral for abuse and neglect, the number of placements and the number of removals.
Wisconsin: Asking for a waiver that would allow them to continue case management and services for families that have been reunified. The waiver will allow the state to screen those families that are being reunified and are at the greatest risk of failure, and engage them in Parent-child Interaction Therapy or Child-Parent Psychotherapy. The state also proposes to carry out various health screenings and services that will allow them to address such challenges as the overuse of psychotropic medication.
UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS
- Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) Briefing. Held on Wednesday, September 12, 10:30AM, 202 Senate Visitors Center, U.S. Capitol Washington DC.
- National Foster Care Coalition quarterly meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 19, 12:00 PM, American Bar Association, 9th Floor Conference Room, 740 15th St NW, Washington DC.
John Sciamanna is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation.