• March 2013
  • Vol. 14, No. 2

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Centennial Series: Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act

This is the tenth and final article in our second Centennial Series, CB Decade-by-Decade. These articles examine highlights from each decade of the Children's Bureau's first 100 years. The first Centennial Series addressed some of the social issues, practices, and policies that laid the groundwork for the creation of the Children's Bureau.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 outlined safety, permanency, and well-being as the central focus for child welfare and brought about great changes in the field. Among ASFA's most meaningful provisions was the legal recognition that kinship care and relative placements are acceptable permanency options. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351) built on this foundation and made significant investments in preserving family connections for children in out-of-home care. The Children's Bureau continues to play an important role in helping States and Tribes implement the law, strengthen families, and move more children from foster care to permanency.

The Fostering Connections Act was signed into law on October 7, 2008, and amended titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. Among other provisions, it extended eligibility for title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance payments to age 21 and provided the option for federally recognized Tribes to directly operate title IV-E programs. One of Fostering Connections' most significant moves to improve permanency outcomes and well-being for children in care was an investment in kinship care.

The act requires States to notify relatives that a child has entered foster care "within 30 days after the removal of a child from the custody of the parent" and to "exercise due diligence to identify and provide notice to all adult grandparents and other adult relatives of the child." Guardianship assistance payments were authorized under title IV-E for children whose relative had assumed legal guardianship. Over 5 years, $75 million was allocated for the implementation of four program models: Kinship Navigator programs, family finding, family group decision-making (FGDM), and residential family treatment (Hertz, 2012).

The $5 million for Kinship Navigator programs—information and referral systems to help children in foster care connect with relatives—also provided services to caregivers supporting children at risk of entering foster care. The kinship care community saw the Fostering Connections Act as a new era in child welfare, one that promotes family care. Previous Federal child welfare laws permitted just 10 percent of discretionary funding from the Older American's Act's "Caregiver Support Program" for kinship caregivers. That funding, however, only supported caregivers who were older than 55 (Wallace 2010). 

Kinship care provides a number of benefits for children, biological parents, and other family members. In addition to lessening the burden on the child welfare system due to a shortage of traditional foster care homes, kinship care allows children to maintain relationships with parents or siblings while living safely with family. Children living in kinship care also experience fewer placement changes and greater stability (Hertz, 2012).

By April 2009, the Children's Bureau had initiated a number of activities to help States and Tribes implement the Fostering Connections Act, including instruction for title IV-E agencies to submit a title IV-E plan amendment to opt into the guardianship assistance program. To date, the Bureau has published eight Program Instructions, providing guidance to States and Tribes on implementing the Fostering Connections Act. To help Tribal communities strengthen child welfare systems and services and to connect Tribes with training and resources, the Bureau funded the National Resource Center for Tribes. In 2012, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe in Washington State became the first Tribe granted the right to apply for child welfare funding and manage its own child welfare services.

In September 2009, the Bureau awarded 24 Family Connection discretionary grants to public child welfare agencies and private nonprofit organizations. Of the 36-month grants ranging up to $1 million per year, six were focused on Kinship Navigator programs, four focused on intensive family finding, five grants funded residential treatment programs, and one grant was designated for FGDM. A second Family Connection grant cluster awarding funds to seven programs to test the effectiveness of FGDM was announced in September 2011. The Bureau funded seven more Family Connection grants in 2012 for projects that will examine the effectiveness of Kinship Navigator programs and the collaboration between child welfare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

Increased financial support to kinship caregivers is a possible factor in the increase in kinship care since 2008. Out of the 463,000 children in foster care as of September 30, 2008, 24 percent were living with relative foster families. Of the 400,540 children in foster care as of September 30, 2011, 27 percent were living with relative foster families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012).

More information and resources for States and agencies pertaining to Fostering Connections is available on the Children's Bureau-funded National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections' website:

http://www.nrcpfc.org/fostering_connections/#fca

Also, see the article "Fostering Connections Factsheets" in this issue to learn about the Training and Technical Assistance Coordination Center's Fostering Connections factsheet series to help States and Tribes implement provisions of the law. 

References

Hertz, K. (2012). Information Packet: Kinship care and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. Retrieved from http://www.nrcpfc.org/fostering_connections/download/Kinship_Care_&_Fostering_Connections_Act_KimHertz.pdf (611 KB)

Wallace, G. (2010). Kinship navigators: The new child welfare system. Common Ground. Retrieved from http://www.nysnavigator.org/legal/documents/20100305154827.pdf (121 KB)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2011 estimates as of July 2012 (19). Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport19.pdf (300 KB)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2008 estimates as of October 2009 (15). Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcars_report15.pdf (353 KB)

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