On the 21st and 22nd the House and Senate, respectively, passed H.R. 2883: Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act. H.R. 2883 was sponsored by Geoff Davis [R-KY4] and cosponsored by 16 additional legislators (listed at the end of this post). This bill's companion legislation is S. 1542, which was introduced by Max Baucus [D-MT] and passed the Senate Finance Committee on the 20th. The next step is to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions, and then it will be ready to be signed into law.
H.R. 2883 is packed full and quite comprehensive, amending Title IV of the Social Security Act and extending authorization of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program through FY 2016. New additions to the program include a focus on the emotional trauma experienced by children when removed from their homes, review and monitoring of psychotropic medicine use for children in care, emphasis on procedures to address developmental needs and permanency outcomes of children under the age of 5, and highlighting which sources are used to collect data on child maltreatment deaths.
Specifically, H.R. 2883 revises requirements for child visitations by caseworkers so as to ensure the majority of children receive monthly visits; expands the population of children that could benefit from a substance abuse grant program by removing the methamphetamine specification and applying it to children affected by substance abuse in general; and requires court improvement programs that will increase and improve engagement of the entire family in court processes relating to child welfare, family preservation, family reunification, and adoption.
The bill also requires state case review systems to ensure foster care children age 16 and older receive the following at no cost: "A copy of any consumer report pertaining to the child each year until the child is discharged from care, and assistance in interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies in the report."
The Innovation and Improvement parts of the bill's title refer to the authorization of states to conduct child welfare program demonstration projects likely to promote the objectives of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. These programs should allow for Part E foster care maintenance payments to be made to long-term therapeutic family treatment centers on behalf of a child residing in the center or identify and address domestic violence that endangers children and results in out of home placement.
Finally, H.R. 2883 defines a long-term therapeutic family treatment center to be a state-licensed or state-certified program that "enables parents and their children to live together in a safe environment for at least six months" and "provides substance abuse treatment services, children's early intervention services, family counseling, medical care, and related services."
This legislation has significant implications for the Child Welfare field, particularly for children in foster care. It is a very exciting bill that aims to improve standards for workers and outcomes for children. These improvements are being promoted through the development of innovative demonstration projects and more streamlined processes for all parties working and navigating child welfare systems.
H.R. 2883 Cosponsors: Rick Berg [R-ND], Earl Blumenauer [D-OR3], Charles Boustany [R-LA7], Joseph Crowley [D-NY7], Lloyd Doggett [D-TX25], James Langevin [D-RI2], Sander Levin [D-MI12], John Lewis [D-GA5], Kenny Marchant [R-TX24], James, McDermott [D-WA7], Charles Rangel [D-NY15], Tom Reed [R-NY29], Dave Reichert [R-WA8], Peter Roskam [R-IL6], Fortney Stark [D-CA13], Patrick Tiberi [R-OH12