HHS proposes new rule to improve availability of kinship foster care homes

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Rachel Mackey

Legislative Director – Human Services & Education | Veterans & Military Services

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Key Takeaways

On February 14, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) announced a new proposed regulation that would allow child welfare agencies to adopt less burdensome licensing standards for all relative and kinship foster family homes. Counties with jurisdiction over the foster care system are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed rule before the deadline of April 17.

Kinship care—in which relatives or close friends care for children who must be removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect—is the preferred setting over placement in foster care with nonrelatives. However, socioeconomic and administrative barriers can make it difficult for relatives to serve as formal, licensed foster care providers.

Current regulations exacerbate this problem by requiring the same licensing standards for family member kinship and non-relative foster home placements and do not distinguish between these relationships. Under the proposed rule, ACF is revising the definition of “foster family home” to allow child welfare agencies the discretion to adopt unique licensing standards to streamline and incentivize kinship care arrangements without compromising child safety. By lessening delays in the kinship foster family licensing process, this change will allow for increased financial assistance to kinship foster care households.  

County governments play a critical role in preventing child abuse and neglect, including by fully or partially overseeing the child welfare system in 11 states. NACo supports federal efforts, including this proposed rule, to increase and incentivize kinship placements to facilitate the best possible outcomes for the children in our care. We strongly encourage county officials to submit feedback on the proposed rule by the deadline on April 17. To read the full proposal and submit comments, click here.

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