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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Reviewing this week's highlighted child welfare legislation

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This week on our Facebook page we began highlighting current child welfare-related legislation in the U.S. Congress as a way to keep our readers informed about legislation that, if enacted, may impact their work with clients involved in the child welfare system. As an extension of this service, we will be recapping our Facebook highlights each Friday with additional commentary concerning potential impact on clients and child welfare workers.

  • S. 1318: Supporting Adoptive Families Act
    Bill description: To enhance pre- & post-adoptive support services.
    Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in the Senate Finance committee.

    This bill is important for both foster care and adoption policy because its aim is to prevent adoption disruption and dissolution, as well as promote adoptions from foster care while supporting other domestic and international adoptions. By enacting this bill, the government will be required to provide money to eligible entities to provide pre- and post-adoption services* to all adopted children. In addition to this requirement, the government would be required to conduct a study on why adoptions disrupt and dissolve.
  • S. 1509: Promoting Accountability and Excellence in Child Welfare Act of 2011
    Bill description: To provide incentives for States to improve the well-being of children in the child welfare system through systemic reforms and innovations, increased collaboration between State agencies, and incorporation of higher standards of accountability.
    Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in the Senate Finance committee.

    This bill is incredibly important in terms of federal and state budgets (by focusing on prevention strategies that are cheaper in the long run than foster care), as well as (on a more human level) child well being. This bill gives states the flexibility to develop policies and methods (in collaboration with other agencies, children, and families) that work to prevent youth from entering foster care as well as reduce the amount of time youth spend in 'the system.' Workers will be happy to note that these collaborations are also intended to provide children and youth involved with the child welfare system with the support they need to be successful. Equally as important, this bill requires the government to work towards de-linking the AFDC eligibility requirement for foster care maintenance payments, which would potentially allow more youth in foster care to be eligible for Title IV-E funding.
  • H.R. 1194
    Bill description: To renew the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve demonstration projects designed to test innovative strategies in State child welfare programs.
    Bill status: Passed House, received in Senate and now waiting for hearing in Finance committee.

    By renewing Title XI of the Social Security Act through fiscal year 2016, this bill will allow states to work towards improving child well being through implementation of new strategies in the child welfare system. In particular, this bill places emphasis on addressing barriers to kinship care as a substitute for foster care; early intervention and crisis intervention services as a way to reduce out-of-home placements, and addressing the relationship between domestic violence and out-of-home placements. With this bill, the focus is on family maintenance and prevention efforts.
  • H.R. 2790: Child and Family Services Extension and Enhancement Act
    Bill description: To amend part B of title IV of the Social Security Act to extend the child and family services program through fiscal year 2016, and for other purposes.
    Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in House Ways and Means committee; Sponsor gave introductory remarks on measure.

    This bill's importance lies not only in its reauthorization of child welfare services (CWS) and the preventive Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, but also in its improvements to the already-existing legislation (set to expire after this year). Should this bill be signed into law, states' child welfare services and PSSF programs will continue to be funded, but CWS plans will be required to include emotional trauma needs resulting from both maltreatment and removal, early childhood development issues for children under the age of five, monitoring of psychotropic medication use among children and youth in foster care, and how to reduce time spent in foster care. Other important provisions of this bill are the reauthorization of a mentoring program for children with incarcerated parents; a mandated study on the recruitment and retention of foster, adoptive, and kinships caregivers; and more accountability for caseworker visits (federal funding reduced if states fail to meet the 90% mandate). For more in-depth analysis (as this bill has many components), see the Children's Monitor blog post.

*Pre-adoptive support services are defined as direct services (e.g. training and counseling) focusing on emotional, behavioral, developmental, and birth defect issues; educational resources concerning the child's geographic, ethnic, and cultural background; support groups and mentors; and other informational resources such as conferences, libraries, and websites. Post-adoptive support services focus not only on the adoptive parents, but also on the adopted children; for example, direct services and counseling regarding attachment, emotional and behavioral health, social skills training, and suicide prevention. Another important post-adoptive support service is crisis and family preservation services through a 24-hour emergency hotline and crisis counseling.

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