D. Heimpel

Daniel Heimpel's life as a journalist

The Price of a Sentence – Newsweek

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Please read the following story, which appears on Newsweek.com.

Over the last two weeks I started hearing some chatter from California advocates and administrators about the Golden State’s plans to recoup $60 million from the Federal Government in foster care payment.

In 2008, Congress passed, and Bush signed, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increased Adoptions Act. One of the laws most notable provisions was the extension of foster care to age 21. Another was federal funding for subsidized guardianship: payments to kin who take care of relatives that would otherwise end up in the foster care system.

This is where things get crazy. In the regulations given out at the end of Bush’s tenure, a stipulation was written in that states could only get funds for subsidized guardianship after the date of Fostering Connections being passed, Oct. 2008. In a state like CA and 26 others and the District of Columbia, which already have subsidized guardianship programs, this one sentence means that all the kids in kin care before that date are ineligible. In CA that means $60 million annually.

California is so desperate for that money that Child Protective Services is actually serious about moving kids who are in kin care back into straight foster care and then back out their family so that those kids are eligible for the Federal IVE funds. This would likely be a paper move, but disruptive none the less. Because of this one sentence it is fiscally responsible for California to go through this enormous task of moving kids back into the system just so that they can be eligible for funds. Further, in CA, where the budget is buckling the state is planning to use that $60 million to pay for legislation that would extend care to 21.

So the shining provision of Fostering Connections, extension of care, is in jeopardy all because of one sentence in the regulations.

Now, some members of congress are mobilizing to have those regulations change. The next phase will be their letters to Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary Carmen Nazario. The guidance is non-binding, so if enough pressure is applied Nazario could rescind it. That would free up hundreds of millions of federal dollars across 27 states and better the lives of tens if not hundreds of thousands of foster kids.

With one sixth of the nation’s foster care population in California, what happens there sets the tone for the nation. If the guidelines are changed and the $60 million flows into the Golden State, then it has a real viable chance at extending foster care to age 21 despite the buckling budget. That will be a catalyst for sweeping implementation of the Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 – the most robust foster care reform of the past decade if not generation.

If you want to get involved the best thing would be to write to your Senator or Congressional Representative asking them to demand the guidance be rescinded.

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Written by dheimpel

December 15, 2009 at 8:17 pm

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