House Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Child Welfare Assistance Bill

Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee last week introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide additional aid to states facing Covid-related budgetary hurdles in child welfare.

The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act (H.R.7947) is a trimmed down version of similar legislation introduced a month ago in the Senate.

According to a summary published by the Children’s Defense Fund, key provisions include:

  • Support for Older Youth. Provides an additional $400 million for Chafee for FY2020, of which $50 million is reserved for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV).
    • Raises the maximum age for eligibility for assistance to age 27 through FY2021.
    • Increases the maximum allowable amount per individual for ETVs from $5,000 to $12,000 through FY2021.
    • Suspends requirement that a youth be enrolled in a postsecondary education or training program or making satisfactory progress towards completion to be eligible for ETV if youth is unable to do so because of COVID.
    • Clarifies that under these provisions the Chafee ETV vouchers may be used to maintain training and postsecondary education costs.
    • Removes the 30 percent cap in Chafee for housing assistance.
    • Prohibits states from requiring a child to leave foster care solely due to their age to ensure no young person is cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency.
    • Permits youth to re-enter care during the COVID public health emergency.
    • Allows jurisdictions to use the new additional Chafee funds to meet any of the costs incurred in complying with the provisions in this bill. In cases where youth are eligible for Title IV-E foster care funds, federal match of administrative and maintenance costs remains available.
    • Removes the penalty for failing to comply with the data reporting requirements for the National Youth Transition Database for these new funds.
    • Bars HHS from requiring jurisdictions to provide proof of a direct connection to the pandemic for funds used if doing so would be administratively burdensome or would cause delay or impede the ability to serve youth.
    • There is no state match requirement for these additional funds.
    • These changes are in effect until October 1, 2021.
  • Increases the federal reimbursement for the Title IV-E Prevention Programs. Temporarily increases the federal reimbursement rate up from 50% to 100% for the Title IV-E Prevention Program created under Family First for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency period (January 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021).
  • Emergency funding for the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. Provides an additional $85 million in FY2020 to Title IV-B, Part 2 the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. There is no state match requirement for these additional funds.
  • Investments for the Court Improvement Program. Reserves $10 million from the additional Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program funds for the Court Improvement Program, with $500,000 reserved for Tribal court improvement activities. These funds shall be used for activities related to COVID-19, such as technology investments, trainings to facilitate remote hearings, and programs to help families avoid delays in legal proceedings as a result of COVID-19.
  • Strengthening Kinship Navigator Programs. In order to help reach more kinship caregivers raising children, particularly those who are older and more susceptible to the virus, the bill improves the ability of Kinship Navigator Programs to provide critical supports to these families.
    • Temporarily waives the evidence-based requirement tied to Title IV-E reimbursement for these programs through the COVID-19 public health emergency period (January 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021)
    • Allows funds to be used to carry out a kinship navigator program, including:
      • evaluations, independent system review and related activities;
      • short-term support for direct services or assistance; and
      • to ensure that kinship caregivers have the information and resources to allow kinship families to function at their full potential, including access to information and resources for necessities (i.e. food, safety supplies, testing and treatment for COVID-19), access to technology to support remote learning or other activities that must be carried out virtually due to COVID, health care and other assistance (including legal assistance and assistance with making alternative care plans for the children in their care if the caregiver is unable to care for the children), services to kin (including for those outside of the formal child welfare system), and assistance to allow children to continue safely living with kin.
    • There will be 100% federal reimbursement for these funds.
  • Provides flexibilities for home visiting programs to continue serving families safely. Allows virtual home visits to be considered home visits, ensures funding will not be reduced on account of reduced enrollment, and that funds can be used for training on virtual visits, enrolling families, and providing emergency supplies to families. This bill also delays deadlines tied to the MIECHV program, including the statewide needs assessment, waiving performance measures, or allowing alternative data sources to show improvement in performance. Funds made available for FY2018 will now remain available through September 30, 2021.
  • Provides adjustments of funding certainty baselines for the Family First Transition Act funding certainty grants so that temporary FMAP increases don’t reduce grant amounts and offers a technical correction to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to ensure the District of Columbia receives the enhanced FMAP rate.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.

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Family First Evidence & Child Welfare Webinar Series

Please join the Family First Evidence & Child Welfare Webinar for updates and technical assistance on evidence issues and Family First.

This post will be updated as new webinars are announced. The next webinar is slated for the mid-September, 2020. Materials from past webinars can be found below.


August 12, 2020 Webinar

Speakers

  • Shilesha Bamberg and Leah Hill from the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown on the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act (S. 4172) and related legislation.
  • Ann Stock and Kyle Peplinski, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), on lessons learned and intersections between the home visiting and Family First.
  • Kathleen Strader of Healthy Families America and Jaime Russell of Children’s Home & Aid on lessons learned for this evidence-based Family First model

Materials


June 29, 2020 Webinar

Speakers

  • Dr. Peter Pecora, Managing Director of Research Services at Casey Family Programs on the current status of Family First state planning efforts.
  • Dr. Angelique Day, University of Washington School of Social Work, on the impact of Covid-19 on FFPSA planning. Also presented a case study of evidence building for Kinship Navigator programs.
  • Marisa Morin, Sen. Ron Wyden, on the current status of related legislation on Capitol Hill.

Materials

 

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States Lag in Family First Plan Submissions

According to the most recent tally by the Children’s Bureau, just five states have approved plans in place to implement evidence-based services under the Family First Prevention Services Act.

The five states are Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, and Utah (plus the District of Columbia). Another seven states have submitted plans to the Children’s Bureau for review (Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia). See here for an inventory of current or expected evidence-based services that will be used in these states.

Family First became effective on October 1, 2019. Early estimates suggested that as many as 13 states plus DC would apply for funding and be approved in its first year. These early projections were not far off. They largely reflect the list of states that have either been approved or have submitted plans for approval.

At the time, the largest barrier to state participation was believed to be the limits the law placed on congregate care. State matching requirements for the new evidence-based prevention services and other start-up costs were another barrier, although these costs were substantially addressed by the Family First Transition Act.

Since then, state budget challenges stemming from the COVID-19 crisis have created an additional barrier.  The Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act (S. 4172), introduced earlier this month by four Democratic senators, would help address these fiscal barriers for states, but its prospects are unclear.

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Senate Bill Would Provide Emergency Child Welfare Funding to States

New legislation, introduced today in the Senate, would provide assistance to states that are now facing significant budgetary shortfalls due to the recent Covid crisis. The bill, called the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act (S 4172), would provide targeted assistance for children and families in the child welfare system.

According to a summary released by the bill’s sponsors (and the associated draft text), the legislation includes:

  • $2 billion in Emergency Assistance for State and Tribal Child Welfare Agencies: This assistance, which would be made available in the current federal fiscal year (2020), may be used to provide families, kinship caregivers, and young people with a broad range of support services, including assistance for transportation, housing, and utility payments. Welfare agencies may also use this funding to expand adoption promotion and support services, or to hire, train and support caseworkers to conduct safe in-person home and remote visits, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and technology.
  • $500 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program: This funding (for FY 2020) may be used to ensure young people have access to supports, such as housing, food, and cash assistance, and allow more of these funds to cover housing costs for foster youth. Funds could also be used for education and training vouchers, which help young people cover the cost of education. The bill also would establish a moratorium on “aging out” of foster care to ensure no young person is cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency. The moratorium would extend from February 1, 2020 through September 30, 2022.
  • Increased Federal Support for Title IV-E Family First Prevention Services: The bill would temporarily increase federal payments for qualified evidence-based services under Family First such as parent training, family counseling, and substance use disorder treatment.
  • Funding for Kinship Navigator Programs: The bill provides $30 million in FY 2020 for kinship navigator programs to ensure kinship caregivers have access to information and resources, including food, safety supplies, technology, and COVID-19 testing.
  • Kinship / Guardianship Payments: Expedited eligibility for federal support is established for children living with a relative in foster care, with 100% federal support provided for kinship caregiver payments through the Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program and kinship-related Title IV-E adoption assistance payments through September 30, 2022.
  • Health Oversight Plans: $50 million is provided to help states implement health oversight and coordination plans to ensure children in foster care are up-to-date on vaccinations and have access to needed care and telehealth services.
  • Trauma-informed De-escalation: $15 million is provided to states and tribes for training on trauma-informed de-escalation strategies for child welfare partners, congregate care facilities, and families. The bill would also require states to develop and implement de-escalation strategies to limit unnecessary involvement with law enforcement, and ensure any contact with law enforcement is non-coercive.
  • Court Improvement Program Funding: $30 million is provided in FY 2020 for the Court Improvement Program to ensure dependency courts  have resources to facilitate the transition to remote hearings, train judges, volunteers, and court personnel on the use of technology, and support innovative programs to help families continue to address case plan requirements.

The bill has four Democratic cosponsors, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

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What’s Next for the Prevention Services Clearinghouse?

The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse has today updated its list of programs that are in line to be rated. The list can be found on the clearinghouse FAQ page.

Mental Health

  • Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up [also listed under in-home parent skill-based]
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Incredible Years
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Depressed Adolescents
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy [also listed under substance abuse and in-home parent-skill based]
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy
  • Triple P – Positive Parenting Program
  • Trust-Based Relational Intervention

Substance Abuse

  • Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy [also listed under mental health and in-home parent skill-based]
  • Sobriety Treatment And Recovery Teams (START)
  • The Matrix Model
  • The Seven Challenges

In-Home Parent Skill-based Programs

  • Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up [also listed under mental health]
  • Family Centered Treatment
  • Family Check-up
  • Family Spirit
  • Iowa Parent Partner Approach
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy [also listed under mental health and substance abuse]
  • SafeCare (Re-Review)
  • SafeCare Augmented
  • Youth Villages Intercept

Kinship Navigator Programs

  • YMCA Kinship Support Services, YMCA Youth and Family Services of San Diego County


Related

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Interview on Scaling Evidence-Based Programs in Child Welfare

The IBM Center for the Business of Government has today released an interview with me on my recent report on evidence-building under Family First.

Scaling Evidence-Based Programs in Child Welfare (February 11, 2020)
Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities Under the Family First Prevention Services Act
http://www.businessofgovernment.org/report/scaling-evidence-based-programs-child-welfare

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Urban Institute Launches Child Welfare Evidence-Building Academy

The Urban Institute has announced a new no-cost Evidence-Building Academy for child welfare administrators and evaluators. The academy is intended to help participants develop rigorous program evaluations that will meet clearinghouse standards.

The academy will begin with a webinar on June 19 followed by a two-day in-person meeting in DC over the summer (to be replaced by an online meeting if the Covid virus situation warrants it).

The academy is being funded through an ACF grant.  The application deadline is May 15.

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Prevention Services Clearinghouse Releases New Program Ratings

The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse has today released new program ratings for services eligible for funding under Family First.

The pace of the reviews has been somewhat slow. To date, the clearinghouse has rated 25 programs that fall into one or more of the following four categories:

Mental Health Programs (7)

Substance Abuse (9)

In-Home Parenting Skills (9)

Kinship Navigator Programs (3)


Related

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HHS Releases Prevention Services Planning Toolkit for States

ASPE, the planning and evaluation office at HHS, has today released a planning toolkit for states putting together their Title IV-E prevention services plans.

According to the brief HHS description, “This toolkit aims to help states develop a plan for Title IV-E prevention services, and to assist states in planning a comprehensive array of services to help prevent the need for foster care placement (“prevention services”) by braiding Title IV-E prevention services reimbursement with Medicaid and other funding mechanisms.”

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New Children’s Bureau Family First Resources

From the Children’s Defense Fund:

The Children’s Bureau has posted a new webpage regarding Title IV-E Prevention Program Plans. Most information was previously available on the website. However, two new pages will be a valuable resource for the advocacy community. One page details the Status of Submitted Title IV-E Prevention Program Five-Year Plans. The other details the Status of Submitted Independent Systematic Reviews.

The full Title IV-E Prevention Program Plan resource page is available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/title-iv-e-prevention-program.

Sign up for their Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition email list here.

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