Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) introduced a bill late last week that would implement a number of the major foster care financing reforms proposed by two influential foundations last year.
Chief among them: making all foster youth eligible for federal funding under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, but limiting federal funds to three years of foster care for each youth.
“Too many children live in limbo in foster care, and we need to support a system that prioritizes permanent home placements,” said Langevin, in a statement about the bill.
The aim of the Permanent Families for All Children Act is to push states into quicker moves to permanency – reunification, adoption or guardianship – for children. This is accomplished through two principal actions:
1) Allowing states to claim reimbursements for all foster youths. Currently, federal reimbursement is only available for youths whose parents earned below income thresholds set in 1996. This, alongside dramatically reduced overall numbers, has led to a decline in the number of IV-E eligible children.
While child welfare finance reform remains a hotly debated issue, there is virtually unanimous support for elimination of the current income test.
2) Stopping federal reimbursements for any foster youth after three years in care. Currently, there is no limit to how long IV-E funds can be drawn for a youth.
“When abuse or neglect happens, our responsibility is to act quickly and thoughtfully to give kids their best chance to grow up in a loving and supportive permanent home,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley, whose organization endorsed the bill. “This bill gives states an incentive to do just that and the supports they need to get the job done.”
Langevin’s bill would further limit the federal contribution to congregate care for foster youth. States would only receive half as much from the federal government for placements in residential care, and they could only use federal dollars for one year of placement in an institution.
The bill would also use some savings from the limitations on foster care spending to sweeten loan forgiveness incentive programs for child welfare workers. Langevin would drop from ten to five the number of years a social worker needed to be on the job to qualify for student loan forgiveness.
Most of the concepts espoused in the bill are identical or at least similar to the key parts of a plan published in October by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.
Langevin’s bill was referred to two committees: Ways and Means and Education and the Workforce. It does not yet have a companion in the Senate.
States would have three years to comply with the legislation. Click here to read the legislation.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.