Sometimes, a solution to a problem can seem so clear, so straightforward, that you wonder how no one’s thought of it before. An approach that speeds the placement of children in foster care across state lines, to be tested in a new pilot project from Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Partnership Fund for Program Integrity at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), may be one of those solutions.
The problems is this: for some children who are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect, even though suitable out-of-state caretakers, such as relatives, might be willing to care for them, bureaucratic delays slow the placement down. Children might languish in temporary placements for three to nine months while they wait to move across state lines to their permanent placements.
What causes the delays? The Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC), which governs placement of children between states, requires that case files and other information be transferred from one state to the other, and the paper-based process is lengthy and arduous.
The new pilot will use technology to streamline this process and expedite permanency for these children. Up to ten states will use an electronic system to transfer case files and other documents, as well as collect, track, synthesize, and report common data. An evaluation will measure whether the system increases the timeliness of communication and speeds children toward adoption or guardianship. It is also expected to yield savings, as children will spend less time in temporary placements. Savings on postage are also anticipated.
To say that no one’s thought of this before isn’t quite accurate, though. In fact, Florida developed, implemented, and evaluated the technology to transfer electronic records for ICPC. During the HHS/OMB pilot, Florida will share its software and provide technical assistance, scaling up what has proven to be a successful and valuable approach.
Bryan Samuels is the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). Samuels has spent his career formulating service delivery innovations and streamlining operations in large government organizations on behalf of children, youth, and families.