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Innovation in Child Welfare Continues with 8 New Title IV-E Waiver Demonstrations

Photo of Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner JooYeun Chang.By JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau

As the new Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, I am pleased to announce that eight new states have been approved to conduct Title IV-E waiver demonstration projects in federal fiscal year 2013:  the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee.  These projects grant the states greater flexibility in how they use federal foster care funds to serve children and families.  On Sept. 30, 2011, Congress provided HHS the authority to approve up to 10 Title IV-E waiver demonstration projects per year over a three year period. This marks the second year of approvals. On behalf of participating states and the children and families that will be served by these exciting new projects, I would like to thank leaders in Congress for their wisdom and leadership in granting the field this renewed opportunity to develop, implement, and evaluate these demonstrations. 

There has been some innovation occurring throughout the country.  State and local child welfare agencies have used non-federal funding sources to test innovative alternatives to foster care.  These waivers will provide the opportunity to use the largest share of federal funding in child welfare to test these interventions at a larger scale and demonstrate what works, the true costs of the interventions, and the impact on child well-being.

Highlights of the approaches taken in these waiver demonstrations include:

  • PREVENTION: Nebraska aims to implement an “alternative response” to child protection reports, in which children and families assessed to be lower-risk can receive services and supports, maintain child safety, and stabilize the family before foster care becomes necessary, all without having to go through a traditional child welfare investigation.  The District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Montana, and Tennessee are implementing new or expanded intensive home-based services, designed to support families and prevent the need for removal.
  • REDUCING LENGTHS OF STAY: Many waiver demonstration projects are focused on safely moving children out of the foster care system.  For example, Montana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee plan to offer an array of services individualized to the needs of children and their families to address the underlying reasons that brought a child into foster care (e.g., linkages to housing supports and other concrete services, substance abuse referrals, and mental health supports.)  Hawai’i is also expanding the use of Permanency Roundtables, which serve to identify and remove barriers preventing children and youth from finding permanent homes.  Other states, like the District of Columbia, Idaho, and New York are prioritizing parent and caregiver education and counseling.
  • DE-INSTITUTIONALIZATION: Montana and Rhode Island propose to use Title IV-E funds flexibly to safely transition children and youth from more institutional, congregate care facilities into less restrictive, preferably family settings.
  • POST-PERMANENCY: Children who experience the trauma of abuse or neglect as well as the additional trauma often experienced through the foster care experience, continue to have support needs, even after they return home or are placed with an adoptive parent or guardian. The District of Columbia intends to provide intensive in-home services to children after they leave the foster care system.  New York will offer youth development treatment, support, and supervision.  Finally, Rhode Island will provide wraparound services to youth in semi-independent and independent living arrangements.

Many states are also implementing systems-level interventions.  Hawai’i, New York, Idaho, Rhode Island, and Tennessee are implementing new functional screening and assessment tools to better identify the unique needs of the children and families they serve. Some states, including Idaho and New York are taking a trauma-informed approach in their waiver demonstrations. Still other states like Nebraska and Rhode Island will employ some form of performance-based contracting, where funding for providers is more closely tied to achieving better outcomes for children.

I know that we in the Children’s Bureau and the participating states are very excited about the opportunities afforded to the field by the Title IV-E waiver demonstrations.  The demonstrations offer greater flexibility in program design and service delivery.  States are energized by the chance to spend federal funding on the types of programs they believe, and research suggests, will make the biggest difference in the lives of the children and families they serve.  We are humbled by the opportunity to be part of something that will help inform the direction of federal child welfare policy in the country.  Most importantly, we are inspired by this chance to direct our energy, and financial resources toward programs and services that can meaningfully improve outcomes.

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