House Bill Would Open Eligibility, Restrict Use of Federal Foster Care Dollars

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.”

Credit: Office of Jim Langevin Rep. Langevin with foster care alumna Victoria Flanagan during the 2014 Foster Youth Shadow day held in May.
Credit: Office of Jim Langevin
Rep. Langevin with foster care alumna Victoria Flanagan during the 2014 Foster Youth Shadow day held in May.

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.

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  1. I am interested in thoughts in the “institution” limitation here…. I do not know the stats of how many foster kids end up in an institution. I do know that there are kids who cannot function in a private home due to extreme behaviors. What happens after a year? Are they miraculously fit to be placed in a private home? I’m very pro-reform, but always shy away from what seems like a random number attached to a complex problem. Removing needed supports for extreme cases would LESSEN their chances of permanent placement, yes?

  2. Title IV Federal funding has not been used in the manner it was supposed to be used for many, many years. If the Federal Govt. audited all CPS/DCYF agencies Nationwide and kept auditing them, they would be in for a big surprise. Sooner or later the fraud would be uncovered. Federal mandates that are already in place are not followed. In order for the State to collect federal funding for each child placed in Foster care, the parent must be eligible for TANF, signing up for TANF, or already on TANF. In N.H. DCYF worker’s fill out Title IV funding applications for Mother’s who are not on TANF, not eligible and not signing up for TANF. When the parent refuses to sign on the dotted line, knowing that none of these scenario’s pertain to her situation, the DCYF worker signs it herself. Note to the Federal Govt.: Audit every one of them and save the taxpayer’s some money!

  3. Being a foster mother and adopting , In my opinion the problem seems to be with some social workers. My husband and I want to adopt older child / children and even foster to help older children get on their feet and have a place to call home. However, our voice falls on deaf ears.
    I waited 5yrs to adopt my first child because we had an older social worker, ready to retire who would place nothing but a white child in our home…even after we stated any race on our application and attended classes.
    So from experience , there are families out there wanting and willing to adopt but something is going on inside the system preventing the two parties to meet.

  4. As a mother adopting our first child (a teen son in placement for 10 years) through our State Human Resources, my husband and I, along with Chris have learned a grueling journey of children getting seemingly trapped in a world of social system turnover. The paper trail, the medication, the war of wanting a permanent place to call home and a family of your own. We are in FULL support of this Bill and what it entails. And that is from the first hand perspective of a family seeking permanency.

    From the parents perspective easy well as the child…

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