CHN: Bill to Change Federal Child Welfare Funding in Draft Form
Representative Wally Herger (D-CA), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Human Resources Subcommittee, is suggesting basic changes in funding federal payments for foster care as well as changes in federal support for services to children and families to prevent or treat abuse or neglect. Chairman Herger has created a discussion draft entitled the Child SAFE Act, which trades new federal child welfare funding caps and lower match rates for certain provisions long sought by states and advocates.
Under current law, federal assistance to states for payments to foster care providers is unlimited – if a state’s foster care caseload rises, the federal government pays a certain share of the cost. Similarly, administrative and worker training for adoption assistance is currently unlimited. The Child SAFE Act as drafted would cap both these federal payments and would reduce the federal match rate – 35 percent less for foster care payments and 15 percent less for adoption administration and training. (For example, if a state now is provided with a 50 percent federal match rate, the new foster care match rate would be 32 percent.)
In return, the federal eligibility requirements for foster care and adoptions would be made less restrictive, so that a larger proportion of a state’s caseload will be eligible for matching federal support.
The draft also would create the Safe Children, Strong Families Program, a grant program to states to encourage services to reduce the need for foster care that combines some existing federal funding sources with an additional $200 million a year. The bill would also authorize $100 million in a Challenge Grant program for states that exceed national standards for various child welfare outcomes (improved care for children with substantiated reports of abuse or neglect, faster transitions from foster care to a permanent family placement, etc.).
The draft incorporates some of the recommendations from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care (available at http://www.pewfostercare.org), but the Pew Commission report is significantly different in that it does not limit federal funding, and in fact would create more generous incentive funds based on improving outcome measures. Advocates have opposed previous Bush Administration proposals to limit currently open-ended federal child welfare funding.
For a summary of the draft Child SAFE Act prepared by the Children’s Defense Fund, click here. **BROKEN LINK