Fostering Collaboration

By Weidner, Laura | Children's Voice, January/February 2010 | Go to article overview

Fostering Collaboration


Weidner, Laura, Children's Voice


Fostering Connections Roundtables Highlight Opportunities to Improve Outcomes

Last fall, in close partnership with Casey Family Programs, CWLA hosted a series of community roundtables around the United States focusing on effective implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351). Signed into law on October 7, 2008, Fostering Connections makes significant improvements in seven key areas: kinship care, youth in transition, tribal access to funds, workforce development, adoption, health care, and education access. "This is an historic moment for foster children and families," said CWLA President/CEO Christine James-Brown upon the law's enactment. "Not since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 has this country had a bill that speaks directly to the needs of the more than 513,000 children in foster care."

Immediately after the bill was signed into law, CWLA held a series of regional conference calls to start educating CWLA members at the state level about the exciting opportunities it brings. While some provisions of the Fostering Connections Act took effect immediately, others will not take effect until this year or will be phased in over time. Some preliminary guidance has been issued by the overseeing federal departments and agencies, but much is yet to come. This delay has been due in part to the ongoing transition to the Obama Administration.

The Fostering Connections community forums this fall were a vital step in this process, to continue to educate the public and- even more importantly- to bring together public and private stakeholders to get a sense of how the law is being implemented, what steps have been taken to improve the lives of vulnerable children, youth, and families, and what obstacles states are facing through the implementation process. The community forums were held around the country in Chicago, Denver, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and New York. Each roundtable provided an overview of the law and then focused on specific provisions.

Kinship Guardianship

The Fostering Connections law grants states the option to use federal Title IV-E funds to support kinship and guardianship payments for children being raised by relative caregivers. This policy was long advocated for by CWLA and many other national, state, and local organizations. While the practice of kinship care is not new, it is becoming more common, partly because repeated studies and CWLA Best Practice Guidelines have demonstrated the value of placing children with relatives when appropriate. Of the 492,618 children in out-of-home care in 2007, 123,390 were living with relatives while in care. While these arrangements are often beneficial for children, the financial strain on relative caregivers and lack of direct federal assistance threatened the practice.

In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (P.L. 105-89) recognized placements with relatives or legal guardians as permanency options for children in foster care, but for years, the federal government failed to make funds available on a continuing basis to help those relatives care for the children. Before Fostering Connections finally offered states the kinship option, states working with private agencies had to rely on a variety of federal sources not focused on kinship care to fund subsidized guardianship placements for children, including Title IV-E child welfare waivers, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Social Services Block Grant. Other states had to exclusively use state and local funds.

This kinship provision became effective October 7, 2008. To take up the option, a state must amend its state plan, consult any child age 14 or older, indicate the steps taken to determine that reunification or adoption are not appropriate, and adhere to the same background check requirements, but the state may waive non-health and safety licensing on a case-by-case basis to eliminate barriers to placing children with relative caregivers. …

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