The Ways and Means Committee heard from members of Congress, state child welfare directors, and experts in child welfare on Thursday, June 16, on Improving Programs Designed to Protect At Risk Youth. The authorization of a comprehensive child welfare funding sources, the Child Welfare Services (Title IV-B, subpart 1) and Promoting Safe and Stable Families (Title IV-B, subpart 2) expires on September 30, 2011. The last re-authorization in 2006 included additional reporting requirements, one of which involved Caseworker Visits on a month basis. Testimony reported that the requirements, while critically necessary, do not adequately reflect ongoing casework done on with a specific case. The data is collected to ensure that monthly visits have occurred over a 12-month period, and penalizes a state if a monthly visit has not occurred. A recommendation offered by one speaker was to begin counting into the formula how often a home visit with the child and family occurs rather than focusing on the one-time encounters that occurs during a month. While the requirements of the 2006 re-authorization have been cumbersome for state agencies, there was a general consensus that a monthly home visit with children and families is extremely critical to the safety and well-being of children.
Bryan Samuels, Associate Secretary of Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) provided testimony in support of the reauthorization of Title IV-B. Mr. Samuels provided extensive comments about the critical need for the $780 million allocated to states, tribes and territories through Title IV-B funding. He described the extensive prevention activities that this funding source has provided to child welfare programs. The additional allocations made through the 2006 authorization of Title IV-B funds allowed programs to address issues of children whose parents are incarcerated and who are involved in substance abuse issues. This funding has provided critical resources to tackle the issue of methamphetamine use that has caused a rise in foster care. Mr. Samuel responded to questions regarding the monitoring and oversight of the Children’s Bureau, particularly as it relates to Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSR). While acknowledging that the second cycle of CFSRs brought to light many of the problems with data collection, the sample size and the multiplicity of components to be reviewed, Mr. Samuels recognizes the need for changes going forward. Some of the changes that will be introduced in the next round of CFSRs will be delivered with three considerations: 1) Methodology—the current process is cumbersome and inaccurate and must be replaced with sound data collection and reporting processes, 2) Focus – currently the CFSR addresses too many issues within the child welfare system and should be refined to identify the key issues regarding the child welfare system under review, and 3) Accountability – ACF recognizes that sanctions are one method of ensuring states meet performance standards, however obtain accountability in more timely and efficient manner is being considered.
Other areas of discussion included support for Title IV-E waiver authorization, need for an overhaul of child welfare financing, continuation of funding through the Social Services Block Grant, and reduction in time consuming and redundant reporting requirements. This hearing served as a venue for members of the Human Resources Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee to hear many pertinent issues concerning state agencies that work with the state’s most vulnerable citizens. For more information and detailed testimony, use this link: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=245728