Capitol View on Kids: The Latest from Washington on Children and Families

When the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success Act was enacted, it included an extension of the Adoption Incentive Fund for five years and it also created a new program called the “Family Connection Grants,” also for a five year period.

The adoption incentive is likely to get reauthorized pending some possible changes and adjustments, but the same may not be true of the Family Connections Grants.

The programs awards $15 million in federal funds to grantees that implement one of four programs: Kinship navigator programs, intensive family finding programs, family group decision-making, and residential family treatment programs.  The cost of Fostering Connections was fully paid for in 2008, meaning that it did not contribute to the deficit.

The Family Connections Grants are mandatory funds, which means they do not require an annual appropriation but are written into the law at a specific funding level, in this case $15 million per year.

Unfortunately the way some mandatory-funded programs are written, a new reauthorization is calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as “new” federal spending. Some mandatory programs, for example Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, are not considered new spending when Congress extends them. In that case, a program is calculated as a continuation of the current federal spending.

That is not the case with these Family Connection Grants, and it means a reauthorization will be calculated or scored by CBO as costing $15 million a year. The current funding has allowed a number of important child welfare programs to expand. The kinship navigator program provides resource and referral services to kin families regardless of whether or not these relative-headed families receive other federal or state kinship support.

The family finding programs are growing in popularity, and perhaps effectiveness, as the internet and other technology proliferate. These programs focus on connecting children in the child welfare system with their extended and sometimes lost families.

Family Group Decision Making is a tool used through rigorous standards that attempts to bring together families including extended families, sometimes neighbors and other parties in support of families with children in danger of placement into foster care.

The residential family treatment centers are efforts to provide needed substance abuse treatments and counseling services in a setting that keeps the parent and child together while services are provided.

Also in this week’s edition of Capitol View on Kids

  • Some members of Congress are working to address the immigration issues related to the child welfare system in the pending discussion of broader immigration reform.
  • Gun legislation is likely to move, but not with an assault weapons ban, which the Children’s Defense Fund is not happy about.

John Sciamanna, who writes Capitol View on Kids, is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation. Complete copies of the newsletter Capitol View on Kids are available through membership in the National Foster Care Coalition (www.nationalfostercare.org ) or the National Child Abuse Coalition (www.nationalchildabuse.org).

For more information on either coalition, email: john.sciamanna962@gmail.com

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