Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act: Paving the Way for Financing Reform
Jul 17, 2009
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 represents significant progress on behalf of children and families involved with the child welfare system. Importantly, a number of the provisions addressed challenges associated with child welfare financing - challenges that pose barriers to providing vulnerable children and youth with the services and supports that are so often needed when a child must be removed from home. Many of these provisions are consistent with recommendations put forth by the Partnership to Protect Children and Strengthen Families, of which CLASP is an original partner; the new law:
- Increases the number of children with special needs who can be adopted from foster care with federal support by "de-linking" a child's eligibility for federal adoption assistance payments from outdated AFDC income requirements. Any resulting savings must be invested in child welfare services.
- Gives states the option to use federal child welfare funds for kinship guardianship payments for children who leave foster care to live with relative guardians when return home and adoption are not appropriate options.
- Allows states, at their option, to use federal child welfare funds to extend foster care payments for older youth in care (and, in certain cases, guardianship or adoption assistance payments) up to age 21 when those youth are engaged in work, school, or a program designed to eliminate barriers to or promote employment or cannot engage in these activities due to a documented medical condition.
- Offers, for the first time, many American Indian and Alaska Native children federal assistance and protections through the federal foster care and adoption assistance programs that hundreds of thousands of other children are eligible for already.
- Extends federal training to reach more of those caring for and working with children in the child welfare system.
While these changes and the others in the new law are significant and will help improve the lives of children - these provisions will largely impact only children and youth who have been placed in foster care. It is vitally important to help these children and youth return home safely or move into alternative permanent, supportive families as quickly as possible. But we must do more to prevent them from entering foster care in the first place. Unfortunately, much of the financing for child welfare services is available only after harm has occurred and a child has been removed from his or her home.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act makes important steps toward a financing structure that is in line with the goals of achieving safety, permanency and well-being for children but there is more work to be done. It is hoped that successful implementation of the new law will help maintain momentum for additional needed changes.