On May 31, 2011 Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) presented to Congress H.R. 1194 that restores authority to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve up to 10 waivers for child welfare programming innovations. After considerable testimony by members of Congress and the reading of supportive letters from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and a provider group, Youth Villages, the House passed the bill by voice vote. The House version of the bill essentially suspends the rules and maintains the same structure. However, the Senate bill (S. 1013) suggests developing a new framework.
Advocacy groups have raised questions about the conflicting bills and questioned whether the renewal of the prior law or institution of new requirements continues to meet the original intent of the law. When Congress passed legislation in 1994, it was to provide states with the opportunity of testing some hypotheses regarding the benefit to children and families when flexibility for the use of Title IV-E is allowed. Clearly, the states that pursued flexible funding for guardianship placements were so successful achieving permanency for children and youth that Congress integrated allowable placements and expenditures for guardianship placements into the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Creating Guardianship Assistance Programs was a huge opportunity for states to expand Title IV-E reimbursement for a growing population within most states.
The Senate version must be debated in the Senate Finance Committee and as of yet it is not scheduled for discussion. Previously, the Senate was more interested in more comprehensive child welfare finance reform, although no action was initiated in the last Congress. The Alliance for Children and Families published an article on May 26, 2011 indicating that solidarity on the part of the Senate Finance Committee on this issue does not exist. The coming months will certainly provide numerous opportunities for discussion and possibly additional hearings.