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).