Law will give more states the flexibility to invest in programs that reduce the need for foster care and ensure more children have safe, stable and permanent families.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest operating foundation dedicated to improving the foster care system, today applauded Congress for passing and President Obama for signing into law a foster care funding reform measure that will help keep more children safe from abuse and neglect and improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families across the United States.
Passage of the bipartisan Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act , was due to the tremendous leadership of Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Representatives Geoff Davis (R-KY), and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).
Because of their efforts, and the sustained leadership of Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), America is one step closer to fundamentally reforming its child welfare system. Passage of this law means that states will be better able to invest in initiatives that help improve child safety and family stability as well as move children from foster care into safe permanent homes.
The law reauthorizes two important child welfare programs and incorporates improvements to ensure that children can safely remain with their own parents or be supported by other caring adults. The law renews child welfare waiver authority to allow more states to invest in new ways of serving children at risk of abuse and neglect. In addition, the law establishes a process to create child welfare data standards that can help drive further improvement to foster care systems.
"By approving this law, the President and Congress have taken a significant step toward improving the lives of the most vulnerable youth in our nation," said William C. Bell, Ph.D., President and CEO of Casey Family Programs. "This law will encourage more innovation and connect young people to the critical services they need to have a bright future."
The law supports many essential pieces of Casey Family Programs' 2020 Strategy for America's Children, which seeks to ensure that more children are able to grow up in safe, stable and permanent families. The 2020 Strategy seeks to safely reduce the number of children in foster care 50 percent by the end of the decade and improve outcomes in education, employment and mental health for children who do experience foster care. In particular, the law:
• Reauthorizes Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, which includes the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. These programs are the primary source of federal funding for prevention initiatives that can reduce the need for foster care while keeping children safe with their families. They also support adoption and other programs designed to help more children in foster care quickly return to safe, stable and permanent families.
• Allows more States to apply for Title IV-E waivers. The waiver program gives states greater flexibility in how they spend federal child welfare funds to invest in programs that will improve the lives of children, families and communities. Existing waivers in places such as Los Angeles, Florida and Oregon have helped prevent child abuse and neglect, helped more children remain safely in their own homes and improved the quality of services to vulnerable children and families. Casey has supported expansion of the waiver program as a critical interim step toward a comprehensive reform of the federal child welfare finance system. For more details, read our white paper on the issue http://casey.org/resources/publications/NeedForWaivers.htm.
• Extends the Court Improvement Program which provides grants to state court systems to assess foster care and adoption laws and reduce the time it takes for children to be placed in permanent homes. The law extends the program through FY 2016. In addition, the law streamlines the program by allowing states to submit one application for each of three court improvement grants instead of three separate applications. The law also makes tribal courts eligible for funding.
• Improves the effectiveness of federal child welfare data by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to better standardize the type of data collected from states. This will provide and important foundation for improving foster care services by providing administrators, policy makers and the public with more data to make effective policy and practice choices. Casey's recent white paper on promoting improved accountability covers this topic in more detail http://casey.org/resources/publications/accountability.htm. In addition, the new law will help improve how child deaths are reported by states, allowing better assessment of trends in this area. This was an important conclusion in our recent white paper on child safety http://casey.org/resources/publications/FosterCareReductionsChildSafety.htm.
The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act is the second major piece of child welfare reform that has become law in recent years. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in 2008 also provided significant progress in efforts to better serve children in foster care and to help more children find safe, stable and permanent families.
About Casey Family Programs
Casey Family Programs is the nation's largest operating foundation focused entirely on foster care and improving the child welfare system. Founded in 1966, we work to provide and improve ─ and ultimately prevent the need for ─ foster care in the United States. As champions for change, we are committed to our 2020 Strategy for America's Children ─ a goal to safely reduce the number of children in foster care and improve the lives of those who remain in care.
Contact Casey Family Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org, 206.282.7300, or 2001 Eighth Avenue, Suite 2700, Seattle, WA 98121. For more information, visit our website at www.casey.org.
SOURCE Casey Family Programs