NFCC POLICY PRIORITIES:
Many caring voices, one compelling vision
The mission of the National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC) is to build and sustain the political and public will needed to improve the nation's foster care system and the lives and futures of the children and youth in its care. NFCC, and its broad-based, national constituency of individuals, organizations, foundations, and associations, focuses exclusively on issues that define and impact the foster care system and vulnerable children, youth, and families.
NFCC reviews public policy and legislation to find out how it affects children, and shares this information with its coalition members, policymakers, child advocates, and the public.
NFCC represents many voices, but has a singular vision of improving, and reducing the need for, the foster care experience for children. NFCC is dedicated to raising public awareness, coordinating advocacy efforts and building diverse alliances that promote positive outcomes for children, youth, and families in the child welfare system.
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NINE IN 13
Nine Actions for 2013
While the important debate over how to reform the current financing structure of child welfare services continues there are actions we can take in 2013! These are all issues and proposals introduced in the Administration’s budget as well as by Members of Congress that deal with an improvement in the current child welfare system. Below is a list of 9 actions Congress and the Administration can take:
1) Reauthorize the Adoption Incentive Fund
As part of ASFA, Congress created an incentive fund based on the number of children adopted from foster care. The incentive fund is due for reauthorization by FY 2014. The Administration proposes to reauthorize the program at the current discretionary funding level through FY 2018. The sole modification is to require states to target the use of incentive funds to trauma-informed services to improve social and emotional well-being of children waiting for adoption or those having achieved adoption.
2) Reauthorize the Family Connections Grants
This is a $15 million competitive grant created as part of the Fostering Connections to Success Act. Matching grants to states and tribes allow funding for kinship navigator programs, intensive family-finding programs, family group decision making and family-residential substance abuse treatment and counseling. Applicants apply to HHS for grants lasting 1 to 3 years. Funding is mandatory and has been fixed at $15 million since its creation as part of the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008. The program is due for reauthorization in FY 2014.
3) Enact proposed legislative and budget proposals to address child sexual trafficking, especially youth from foster care
In the President’s budget a new $10 million fund is proposed. It would provide competitive grants to prevent and address commercial sexual exploitation. There are approximately 100,000 children in the United States that are victims of sex trafficking. Many come from foster care, group homes and in runaway and homeless youth shelters. The funding would help equip child welfare agencies and other community-based programs with the tools to address and prevent sex trafficking. In the Department of Justice, funding would increase from $9.7 million to $10.5 million. The program is managed by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office for Victims of Crime.
4) Enact the budget proposal to re-allocate unspent funds to develop teen pregnancy prevention programs that target youth in Foster Care
The President’s budget includes an allocation of $12 million for a teen pregnancy prevention effort that would target youth in foster care. The new initiative would be a result of a reallocation of abstinence education dollars (under Title V) that are not currently drawn down by states. Not only are many of these children in foster care lacking a permanent family, their caretakers including case workers, foster parents and other guardians may not know how to approach the topic of teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancies with these young people.
5) Extend child support forgiveness to re-invest funds in the best interest of children/youth in Foster Care
The Administration has proposed that child support payments collected from non-custodial parents of children in foster care be used in the best interest of the child, rather than as currently used to reimburse the state and federal governments for the cost of foster of foster care. It projects the first year cost to total $2 million in lost revenue to the federal government with total ten year costs of $254 million.
6) Include in immigration reform proposals, protections for children and youth caught up in the enforcement and eligibility process
A group of eight senators have introduced S 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The bill deals with a vast range of immigration issues. It also includes provisions to protect the interests of immigrant children placed in the child welfare system. An estimated 5,000 children in foster care are there as a result of immigration raids and the aftermath. Some of the safeguards in the bill include giving states greater discretion in not terminating parental rights for these children. In addition before a decision to terminate parental rights is made by a state, the state must make reasonable efforts to identify, locate and contact through diplomatic or consular offices the parent and adult relatives of the child. The state must also notify a parent or relatives of the child welfare agencies intent to file a petition to terminate or to reunify the child with another relative and provide appropriate services to the parent or relative.
7) Implement the reinvestment of state savings (under Fostering Connections to Success) from the expansion of federal funding for adoption assistance
In 2008, the passage of the Fostering Connections Act (PL 110-351) created a gradual de-link of Adoption Assistance eligibility from AFDC. Starting in the first year, children newly adopted who were 16 or older were eligible without regard to the old limited federal coverage. This expanded Adoption Assistance has increased each year. In 2014, all new special needs adoptions for children 8 or older are eligible for federal support. The link to AFDC will be completely eliminated by 2018. The Fostering Connections Act requires states to reinvest savings that results from the increase in federal coverage of adoptions back into child welfare but to date there has been no real accounting of the savings or if states are reinvesting.
8) Implement and promote the use of Title IV-E funds for training of public and private child welfare workers
When we talk about the biggest challenges in child welfare: expanding trauma informed care, reducing the use of psychotropic medications, better case management of needed health care and treatment, increasing the adoption of older children from foster care, training for court and related personnel, foster parents, the expansion of Family Group Decision Making or Differential Response, they all have one thing in common, all require greater training of staff. States have the ability to use Title IV-E training funds and have the federal government pay for 75 percent of the cost. In 2008 Congress allowed states to extend this training to private agencies. Despite this, the use of training funds is limited, confused and not promoted. This could change through greater instruction and advocacy.
9) Restore-extend the Adoption Tax Credit with refundablity for families adopting children from Foster Care
There are serious discussions by the two key tax committees in Congress to reform the tax code. In 1997, the adoption tax credit was created and has helped thousands of American families offset the high cost of adoption or meet the needs of their adopted children’s special needs. It has been renewed several times but in 2012 the refundability of the tax credit expired. As a refundable credit, the credit is a great support for families that adopt from foster care.
The Protect Our Kids ACT of 2011
Introduced on December 13, 2011 in the Senate as S 1984 and in the House as HR 3653, the Protect Our Kids Act is part of a comprehensive national strategy to address the current crisis of child abuse and neglect fatalities.
Supported by a bipartisan coalition of concerned members of Congress, the bill follows up on a July 2011 GAO Report, “Child Fatalities from Maltreatment: National Data Could be Strengthened,” and stems from the advocacy of an array of child welfare and other organizations..... (Click here for the full fact sheet)