House Markup Tomorrow for Small Pieces of Family First Act

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up several bills tomorrow that are derivative pieces of the larger Family First Prevention Services Act, a bill aimed at expanding federal support for certain child welfare services while limiting spending on congregate care.

The committee still intends to move on the larger Family First bill, said Ways and Means spokeswoman Katharine Cooksey. Tomorrow’s markup will move along less expensive and less debatable pieces in the event that Family First stalls, which it did during the last Congress.

“Ways and Means Members continue to support the Family First bill,” said Cooksey, in an e-mail to Youth Services Insider. “We have nothing to announce today on timing [regarding a Family First markup] and also believe it’s important for the Senate to take action on this important legislation.”

Following is a list of the bills on the table tomorrow. All of them amend Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, which includes the multi-billion dollar entitlement for foster care services.

H.R. 2847
In a nutshell: Permits states to expand eligibility for the Chafee independent living program to 23, if the state has extended the upper age limit of foster care to 21. States with an 18-year-old ceiling must keep Chafee eligibility at age 21. [Click here to read more about the bill].

H.R. 2742
In a nutshell: Requirement that states establish an electronic system to expedite foster care and guardianship placements in other states. The bill would make $5 million available annually through 2022 for states to use to build these systems.

H.R. 2857
In a nutshell: Allows for IV-E reimbursement for foster care payments made on behalf of a child living with their parent in a residential substance abuse facility. The window would close on this after 12 months, the same time frame for “time-limited services” included in the Family First Act.

H.R. 2834
In a nutshell: Renews and sharpens definitions for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Regional Partnership Grants, which seed a handful of efforts to prevent maltreatment related to substance abuse.

H.R. 2866
In a nutshell: An attempt to put some federal oversight on the standards for foster homes and relative foster homes.

Here’s how it would work. HHS would develop model licensing standards. States would have to declare themselves to be in line with those standards, or provide a reason for not meeting them, when it came to standard foster homes.

For relatives, it’s sort of the inverse: States would have to alert HHS if they were not waiving standards for the homes, and explain why. The idea here: strong, model standards for stranger care, and more latitude on licensing the homes of relatives.

This issue came up two years ago in a Senate hearing about group homes, when former foster youth (and current policy associate at American Public Human Services Association) Lexie Gruber testified about how her uncle was set to take her and her sister in, but was denied because the number of bedrooms did not meet Connecticut’s licensing standards.

Tomorrow’s markup session is scheduled for 10 a.m., and can be viewed on the committee’s website.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.