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August/September 2020Vol. 21, No. 6Children's Bureau Releases Program Instructions to Guide Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Children's Bureau has released the following two Program Instructions (PIs) to provide guidance to agencies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PI-20-10: Stafford Act Flexibility for Certain Title IV-E Requirements Related to Extended Title IV-E Eligibility, Licensing, and Foster Care Placements was released to provide guidance to title IV-E agencies on how to request flexibility to meet specific title IV-E requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic and national public health emergency. PI-20-10 notifies agencies about flexibilities for certain title IV-E requirements and the process for requesting flexibility.

These flexibilities include the following:

  • Allowing title IV-E agencies to extend eligibility for title IV-E foster care maintenance payments, adoption assistance, and guardianship assistance for youth up to ages 19, 20, or 21. The Children's Bureau will allow a title IV-E agency to request a simplified process for extending title IV-E assistance, instead of submitting a title IV-E plan amendment.
  • Waving accreditation requirements for Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) prevented from completing their accreditation or reaccreditation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The title IV-E agency may request flexibility under the Stafford Act to allow claiming reimbursement of title IV-E expenses on behalf of an otherwise eligible child who is placed in the QRTP only during the time the requirement is unable to be met as a result of the major disaster.
  • Allowing agencies to claim title IV-E reimbursement on behalf of an otherwise eligible child who is placed in a conditionally approved or licensed foster family home if the declared major disaster precludes full completion of the licensing process. The title IV-E agency must complete as many of the requirements for licensure as practicable, considering local requirements related to physical/social distancing guidelines and shelter in place orders. The title IV-E agency must complete any remaining licensing requirements as soon as it is deemed safe to do so according to local and national health authorities.

PI-20-11: Supplemental Funding Under Title IV-B, Subpart 1 of the Act to Prevent, Prepare for, or Respond to, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was released to provide guidance to agencies administering title IV-B, subpart 1, of the Social Security Act (the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program) on the supplemental fiscal year 2020 funding provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which provides emergency funding to respond to COVID-19. The PI provides information on how agencies can use the funding and actions states, territories, and tribes must take to report on planned and actual use of the funds.

Examples of how the funds may be used including the following:

  • Perform outreach to families, including foster parents and kinship caregivers, to share information and educational materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and/or state public health agencies on how to prevent transmission of the coronavirus or seek coronavirus testing
  • Strengthen partnerships with local and state public health authorities as well as community-based organizations that may be able to offer support to at-risk families during the pandemic
  • Partner with community-based organizations to conduct outreach and offer services and supports to prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Offer services and supports to parents, kinship caregivers, and at-risk youth to alleviate the effects of social isolation
  • Provide concrete assistance to families, such as purchasing food or arranging food delivery, obtaining household supplies, or paying utilities and rent 
  • Provide respite care services

To learn more about these and other PIs, visit the Children's Bureau website.