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Legislation aims to extend child welfare waivers

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12 states either delegate or share child welfare administration with county agencies, Dianne Feinstein and Marco Rubio's bill would extend the Title IV-E waiver through FY 2021

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would extend the child welfare waiver program and offer flexibility to county foster care systems.

On Jan. 9, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the State Flexibility for Family First Transitions Act to extend the Title IV-E waiver for two years, through FY 2021. The current waiver is set to expire in September 2019.

Title IV-E waivers provide federal funds for costs related to the placement of youth into foster care or for subsidies to support families who adopt foster children.

Although most states operate child welfare systems, 12 states either delegate or share child welfare administration with county agencies. In these states, counties use Title IV-E waivers to support services meant to prevent abuse and neglect or encourage the placement of children in family foster care settings when appropriate.

Under the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) legislation passed in February 2018, Title IV-E waivers were amended in two key areas: allowing prevention services to be covered by federal funds and emphasizing the use of family foster care placements. Specifically, the legislation permits child welfare agencies to use federal funds for prevention services with the goal of allowing children that are on the path to entering the foster care system to stay with parents or relatives. The 2018 bill also aimed to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children and instead place at-risk children with family members.

The legislation will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee and considered by legislators during the 116th Congress. The House has not yet introduced companion legislation.

Counties support extending Title IV-E waivers to maintain flexibility as new systems are implemented under the FFPSA legislation. Additional flexibility through the waivers could minimize anticipated cost-shifts to states and counties that could occur by limiting Title IV-E eligibility to children who would otherwise be eligible for such funds and enable counties to provide continuous care to at-risk children.

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