Policy Recommendations at a Glance

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1. Prioritizing Family Care: Prioritize family-based care when children or youth are removed from their parents.

Goal

Federal Recommendation

State/Tribe Recommendations

A. New and extended families are found, recruited, and supported, especially for older children and youth and those with more complex needs; recruited families reflect the racial and ethnic make-up of the children and youth who need families.

All children and youth are eligible for Title IV-E reimbursement, with no restrictions based on their birth parents’ income.

Federal funding includes new and periodic opportunities for services that find families for children and youth.*
(* Recommendations marked with an asterisk relate to more than one goal and are repeated in different sections.)

States and tribes invest additional IV-E funds resulting from passage of the federal recommendation in increased efforts to find, develop, and support families, especially for those children and youth who are harder to place.

States and tribes fund and implement effective, comprehensive programs to find families for children and youth.

B. Children and youth are more often placed in supported families, and the use of non-treatment-oriented group care is reduced.

Federal reimbursement for non-treatment-oriented group care is restricted, and the resulting savings are required to be reinvested in recruiting and supporting therapeutic foster, adoptive, and kinship families for children and youth who cannot return home.

States and tribes reduce the use of non-treatment oriented group care and redirect saved funds to recruit, train and support families for children and youth, and to provide effective in-home and community-based support services.

C. Families are engaged for all children and youth from the moment they become involved with the child welfare system.

Federal law offers guidance and financial incentives to ensure immediate assessment of viable kinship resources and emergency placement of children and youth in kinship families.

Federal law eliminates barriers to timely assessment of viable kinship resources and emergency placement of children and youth in kinship families, including funding and facilitating an accessible national database for timely, no-cost criminal background checks.

States and tribes pass policies that ensure agencies:

  • Develop clear processes for timely identification andengagement of extended family members either as a placement resource or ongoing support for each child and youth.
  • Immediately assess viable kinship resources and make safe emergency placement of children and youth in kinship families.
  • Arrange family team meetings that bring all known family support to the table to prevent removal from the child or youth’s home whenever possible.
  • Use family finding strategies to identify family members for placement resources and other supports.

D. Provide children and youth with access to needed time-limited therapeutic residential treatment, without forcing parents to give up custody or be charged with abuse or neglect.

Federal Title IV-E funding covers necessary, time-limited residential treatment when services cannot be provided to a child or youth within the family or community, as long as the treatment plan includes family involvement.

Federal Title IV-E rules allow reimbursement of caregivers’ maintenance payments when their children and youth are in time-limited residential treatment and the family remains involved in the child or youth’s care and treatment plan.

States and tribes include funding for necessary, time-limited residential treatment in their adoption assistance and guardianship assistance programs. States and tribes ensure parents are not charged with child abuse or neglect solely because they are securing therapeutically necessary out-of-home residential treatment for their children or youth.

2. Empowering Youth and Family Voices: Ensure children and youth have opportunities to be full participants in their case plans and caregivers have rights to make decisions for children and youth in their care.

Goal

Federal Recommendation

State/Tribe Recommendations

A. Children and youth are partners in their permanency planning process.

Federal law provides that youth age 12 and older are actively engaged in the development of their permanent plan and have a chance
to choose other members of the permanency planning team.

Title IV-E allows reimbursement of costs related to technology used to assist youth engagement, as long as the technology does not supplant any required or necessary in-person meetings or contacts.*

States and tribes develop policies to ensure children and youth have a voice, a say, and active engagement in decisions affecting their care such as:

  • Children and youth receive skills-building practiceand support so they can actively participate in permanency meetings, permanency roundtables, and permanency hearings, and are given information about opportunities for voicing their opinion and participating in making decisions.
  • Children and youth are engaged in identifying, recruiting, and selecting their preferred placement.
  • Youth age 12 and older are active participants and leaders in permanency meetings, permanency roundtables, and permanency hearings. Younger children are given the option to participate. Children as young as five are interviewed to determine their preferred placements.
  • Permanency meetings, permanency roundtables, and permanency hearings for eligible participating youth are scheduled after school hours or during school breaks.States and tribes create and support diverse youth advisory boards and provide other opportunities for youth to provide critical feedback about the child welfare system.

B. Kinship and foster parents have a voice in court and legal decisions.

States and tribes develop policies to ensure foster parents and kinship caregivers have a voice in legal decisions affecting the children and youth in their care including:

  • Expanding the availability of quality, affordable legal services to all caregivers.
  • Notifying caregivers in advance of all hearings affecting the children and youth in their care.
  • Ensuring foster parents and kinship caregivers have a right to be heard in person at court and other hear- ings related to the children and youth in their care.
  • Providing a process to petition the court for legal standing for relatives of children or youth placed outside of their birth parents’ home and foster parents who have had care of the children and youth for 12 months or longer. Children and youth covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act are excluded from this provision.

C. All children and youth in out-of- home care have the opportunity
to participate in age-appropriate activities, and their caregivers have the right to make decisions about children’s and youth’s participation, with respect for each child and youth’s cultural and religious heritage.

Federal law provides a reasonable and prudent parent standard — developed with input of caregivers, children, and youth — that enables foster and kinship caregivers to grant permission for children and youth to participate in age-appropriate activities.

States and tribes adopt a reasonable and prudent parent standard informed by input from children, youth, and caregivers.

D. Kinship caregivers have the right to make educational and medical decisions for the children and youth in their care.

Federal law provides relative caregivers with the right to consent to medical care and educational plans and activities for children and youth in their day-to-day care, regardless of legal custody..

States and tribes adopt educational and health care consent policies to help kinship caregivers who do not have legal custody enroll children and youth in school and consent to health care.

3. Supporting Families: Children, youth, and families have the support and services they need to be stable and successful. 

Goal

Federal Recommendation

State/Tribe Recommendations

A. All children and youth entering foster care or experiencing a placement change have periodic and thorough trauma-informed and culturally informed assessments of their needs and strengths.

The federal government provides guidelines on effective trauma-informed and culturally informed assessments and on how to meet any needs identified by the assessments.

Federal law modifies Title IV-E to remove reimbursement limits on case management skills training, including training on how to conduct mental health assessments.

States and tribes provide funding for trauma-informed and culturally informed assessments and establish court oversight to ensure such assessments happen in a timely manner.

States and tribes provide services identified as needed during the assessments.

B. All children and youth who are, or have been, in foster care are cared for and thrive in foster, adoptive, guardianship, relative, and birth families that have access to ongoing support services.

The federal government designates specific funds for ongoing support services for foster, adoptive, guardianship, relative, and birth families, with specific funding available for each type of caregiver.

States and tribes operate or fund comprehen- sive, ongoing support service programs for foster, adoptive, guardianship, relative, and birth families. Funds are designated to evaluate the effectiveness of provided services.

C. Extended family members who care for children and youth who were diverted from the child welfare system or who did not come to the attention of the child welfare system have access to information, supports, and services they need to ensure the children and youth thrive.

The federal government makes funds available to states and tribes to provide successful pro- grams to keep children and youth out of foster care and safe within their birth or extended families.

The federal government preserves existing flexible funding sources that states and tribes can use to offer supports and services for extended family members caring for children and youth such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Children and the Social Services Block Grant.

States and tribes work proactively with care-giver groups and partner agencies to create effective programs that keep children and youth out of care and safe within their birth or extended families.

States and tribes preserve and enhance policies, supports, and services for extended family members caring for children and youth such as those currently funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Social Service Block Grant.

D. Foster families and families who adopt or take guardianship of children and youth from foster care have adequate financial support to meet the children’s and youth’s needs.

The federal government requires states to use U.S. Department of Agriculture data to determine minimum foster care, adoption assistance, and guardianship rates adequate to meet children’s and youth’s needs.

The federal government requires states and tribes to provide the same level of support and access to the same types of services to a child or youth who has moved on to permanency

as the child or youth would have received in a similar level of foster care.*

States and tribes use U.S. Department of Agriculture data to determine the minimum reimbursement rates for children and youth in foster care, adopted from foster care, and who left care to guardianship.

States and tribes provide the same level of supports and services to a child or youth who is adopted or placed in guardianship from foster care as the child or youth would have received in foster care.*

States and tribes take the option to use
federal Title IV-E funding to create and operate subsidized guardianship programs for eligible children and youth exiting foster care.*

E. All adoptive, foster, and kinship families, and children and youth who are not living with their birth families, have access to an independent advocacy organization to help them advocate for their needs.

Federal law requires and appropriates funds so states and tribes can support advocacy organization(s) in their state plans.

States and tribes provide direct funding to nonprofit organizations that advocate for children, youth, and families’ needs in kinship care, foster care, and adoption.

4. Preparing Caregivers: Caregivers are prepared and able to meet the needs of children and youth in their care.

Goal

Federal Recommendation

State/Tribe Recommendations

A. Children and youth are cared for safely
by parents and family caregivers who are able to meet their needs, including needs related to their race, culture, ethnicity, and heritage. Particular attention is paid to special populations of children and youth, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning children and youth; sibling groups; those who have been in institutional care; and those who have significant medical, mental health, behavioral, cognitive, educational, developmental, and/or emotional needs.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urges states and tribes to review their licensing standards for any unnecessary barriers to licensing safe and appropriate families. As a resource to states and tribes wanting to revise their standards, HHS recommends the “Family Foster Care Model Licensing Standards,” which meet all federal requirements.

States and tribes adopt ”Family Foster Care Model Licensing Standards,” which are reasonable, achievable, and based on the need to find safe and appropriate families for each child or youth in out-of-home care, including children and youth being placed with relatives.

Until the “Family Foster Care Model Licensing Standards” are adopted, states and tribes have a written policy for how they will apply individual waivers and variances for non-safety-related licensing standards for relatives, and they apply that policy by granting waivers and variances where appropriate.

B. Caregivers have access to comprehensive, relevant, effective, culturally informed, and trauma-informed training.

Title IV-E rules allow reimbursement for training for all foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship caregivers raising children and youth who come to the attention of the child welfare system.

Federal law allows reimbursement to states and tribes for 75 percent of all of their eligible training costs, regardless of the percentage of children and youth who are Title IV-E eligible in the state or tribe.

Using Title IV-E, Title IV-B, TANF, and other sources of funds, states and tribes provide the following culturally informed and trauma-in- formed training across their jurisdiction:

  • For foster and adoptive parents — mandatory pre-service training before a child or youth is placed in the home.
  • For emergency kinship foster placements — mandatory training within the first three months.
  • For kinship caregivers outside of the formal foster care system, but where the child wel- fare agency is involved in the placement — accessible, effective, and free orientation (also available in the home) that addresses issues specific to kinship care and the specific child or youth within four weeks of placement.
  • For foster parents — mandatory annual in-service training.
  • For adoptive, foster parents, relative caregivers, and families who have taken
    legal guardianship of a child or youth — a comprehensive array of accessible, effective, and affordable training (also made available in the home) on the special needs of children and youth in care, including the effects of trauma and loss in adoption, foster care, and kinship care.

5. Achieving Permanency: Children and youth achieve permanent families.

Goal

Federal Recommendation

State/Tribe Recommendations

A. TheuseofAnotherPlanned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) is reduced or eliminated.

Federal law eliminates the use of APPLA as a permanency goal and requires that every child and youth have a permanency goal that includes a permanent legal connection to a family.

Federal funding includes new and periodic opportunities for services that find families for children and youth.*

States and tribes develop policies that eliminate the use of APPLA as a permanency goal.
States and tribes require ongoing court oversight and agency director approval of all APPLA designations and ensure compliance with the identification of a committed adult who will remain engaged in the youth’s life after the age of majority.

B. Children and youth who leave foster care for permanent families have increased support.

Federal law increases funding for Title IV-B2 and designates specific mandatory percentages for post-adoption, post-guardianship, and post-reunification services while maintaining current designation for family preservation services.

The federal government requires states and tribes to provide the same level of support and access to the same types of services to a child or youth who has moved on to permanency

as the child or youth would have received in a similar level of foster care.*

States and tribes take the option to use federal Title IV-E funding to create and operate subsidized guardianship programs for eligible children and youth exiting foster care.*

States and tribes provide the same level of supports and services to a child or youth who is adopted or placed
in guardianship from foster care as the child or youth would have received in foster care.*

States and tribes designate a significant portion of their adoption incentive payments and the funds received as a result of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act’s expanded Title IV-E adoption assistance eligibility to fund post-permanency support services to children, youth, and families.

C. Incentives are increased for permanency outcomes for children and youth.

The federal adoption incentive program becomes a permanency incentive program that rewards states and tribes for adoptions, permanent guardianships, and reunifications, with safeguards in place to avoid the unintended consequence of moving children or youth out of care too quickly, taking children or youth into care unnecessarily, or placing children or youth in unsafe or unstable families.

States and tribes receive incentives for customary permanency placements for Indian Child Welfare Act-eligible children and youth, as long as the placements are in compliance with one of the preferred placements specified in ICWA.

D. Children and youth are partners in the permanency planning process.

Title IV-E allows reimbursement of costs related to technology used to assist youth engagement, as long as the technology does not supplant any required or necessary in- person meetings or contacts.*

States and tribes develop policies to ensure children and youth are engaged as partners in permanency planning such as through youth-led permanency roundtables.

State and tribal policies ensure that case planning includes identification of a responsible party for ensuring active involvement of youth in their permanency planning, including:

  • Providing transportation to and from meetings, permanency roundtables and permanency hearings.
  • Arranging for technology to include youth in real time during those meetings, roundtables, and hearings.
  • Giving them information about opportunities for voicing their opinion and participating in making decisions.
  • (Please see additional recommendations under Empowering Youth and Family Voices)

E. Youth in care have every possible opportunity for permanent family relationships.

States and tribes take the Federal IV-E option to extend foster care to age 21 while continuing to ensure these older youth have every opportunity to achieve a permanent legal family before they leave care.