• August 2003
  • Vol. 4, No. 6

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HHS Assistant Secretary Testifies Before Congress on the President's Child Welfare Proposal

The President's proposal for improving the child welfare system was the focus of testimony delivered by Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, to a House subcommittee on June 11. The proposal, included in the President's 2004 Budget, allows States the option to receive their foster care funding as a flexible grant for a period of 5 years or to maintain their programs as currently funded.

In his testimony before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Dr. Horn noted the Child Welfare Program Option "responds to criticisms about the current structure for addressing the needs of at-risk children and families and the Administration's desire to support innovation in addressing this critical issue."

Under the new proposal, States could use the funds for a much broader range of programs than permitted under the current funding structure, including foster care payments, prevention activities, permanency efforts (including subsidized guardianships), case management, administrative activities (including developing and operating State information systems), training, and other service-related child welfare activities. States could also receive up-front funding to develop innovative programs that would result in cost savings in later years.

States selecting the Child Welfare Program Option would still need to maintain child safety protections required under current Federal law, including those addressed in the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Though States would commit to the new funding structure for the full 5-year period, they would be able to access additional funding in a crisis through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) contingency fund.

"The proposal would provide States with the flexibility to develop a child welfare system that supports a continuum of services to families in crisis and children at risk while removing the administrative burden of many of the current Federal requirements," said Dr. Horn. He concluded, "We believe this proposal will result in the development of innovative child welfare programs that ultimately will better serve vulnerable children."

Dr. Horn's testimony was followed by a panel of invited witnesses that included:

  • Barbara Riley, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
  • Elaine M. Ryan, American Public Human Services Association
  • Dianne Edwards, on behalf of the County Welfare Directors Association of California
  • Terry Cross, National Indian Child Welfare Association

A complete version of testimony by Dr. Horn and other witnesses is available on the Committee on Ways and Means website at http://waysandmeans.house.gov/hearings.asp?formmode=detail&hearing=71.

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