Using Tribal/State Title IV-E Agreements to Help American Indian Tribes Access Foster Care and Adoption Funding

Article excerpt

Funding under Title IV-E has historically not been available to American Indian communities, therefore, tribes have had to develop agreements with states to access these funds for child care services. This study analyzes Title IV-E intergovernmental provisions to help tribes and states strengthen Title IV-E agreements. A nationwide content analysis of existing Title IV-E documents, phone interviews, and focus groups revealed that Title IV-E tribal/state agreements vary widely, with most tribes not receiving full access to state services. These agreements focus on foster care maintenance payments and services. This article includes recommendations to help facilitate tribal access to Title IV-E funding for foster care and adoption services.

To better understand and define the needs of children in Indian Country, planners formed the National Indian Children's Alliance (NICA) in 2000 through collaboration between Casey Family Programs (CFP) and the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). One goal of NICA is to conduct ongoing national research in the area of American Indian child welfare. Through a contract between Casey Family Programs and the Buder Center for American Indian Studies at Washington University's George Warren Brown School of Social Work, the authors undertook this NICA-funded study to analyze Title IV-E intergovernmental agreements and recommend needed improvements.

Title IV-E and Child Welfare Services

The Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Program (25 U.S.C. §§ 670-679, 2002) is a permanently authorized entitlement, under which the federal government has a "binding obligation" to provide assistance to those children who meet the eligibility requirements established by law (U.S. House of Representatives, 1998, p. 2). Title IV-E operates as a grant program and provides states with federal matching funds to help provide foster care and adoption services for economically disadvantaged children and children with special needs. Title IV-E is intended to support and "provide protections and permanent placement for...children involved in foster or special needs adoptive care" (U.S. House of Representatives, 1998, p. 2).

Specifically, Title IV-E attempts to reach its goals by providing federal dollars for the following services:

* monthly maintenance payments for eligible children in foster care (payments cover the costs of food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, the child's personal incidentals, liability insurance with respect to the child, and reasonable travel to the child's birthhome for visits);

* monthly assistance payments for special-needs children (children the state determines have a specific condition or situation, including age, membership in a minority group, or a mental, emotional, or physical disability) whose needs prevent adoptive placement without such assistance;

* administrative costs associated with foster care and special-needs adoptive placements, including but not limited to referral to services, case plan development, case reviews, and the recruitment and licensing of foster homes; and

* training costs for foster care and adoptive parents as well as tribal social service providers administering the programs.

Title IV-E and American Indian Tribes

Currently, almost all American Indian tribes in the United States administer some form of child welfare services, either individually or in conjunction with other tribes (Cross, Earle, & Simmons, 2000). These services include the same types of foster care and adoption assistance programs Title IV-E provides direct funding to state governments to implement.

Although Congress intended the Title IV-E program to serve all eligible children, those children under the jurisdiction of tribal foster care or adoption programs do not enjoy the same entitlement to it as other children. This is because tribal child welfare agencies caring for American Indian children are not eligible to receive direct funding under Title IV-E to provide foster care and adoption assistance payments. …