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Children's Bureau Response to Tribal Comments

Published: December 5, 2005
Topics:
Child Welfare
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Comment: ACF should increase Tribal Allocations under Title IV-B, Child Welfare Services to 3 percent of the overall appropriation, or $8.8 million annually.

Response: The Children's Bureau will look at the President's proposed FY 2007 budget and amount of growth in the title IV-B, subpart 1 funding and determine whether this would be feasible.

Comment: It should also increase the tribal set-aside under the mandatory portion of Title IV-B, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, to 3 percent and permit all tribal consortia to apply.

Response: Both of these issues would require a change in legislation. The Children's Bureau is not able to make these changes without a change in the law.

Comment: ACF should support congressional bills providing tribal access to Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.

Response: The administration has developed the Child Welfare Program Option proposal which would provide direct title IV-E funding to Tribes for foster care.

Comment: The Tribes request a written description of the President's flexible spending proposal.

Response: The following represents some details of the proposal for tribes:

Child Welfare Program Option

Allows States/Tribes the option to receive their foster care funding as a flexible grant for a period of five years or to maintain the program as it is currently funded. The option gives the flexibility to develop a seamless child welfare system that supports a continuum of services to families in crisis and children at risk.

Those entities that choose the grant option will be able to:

  • use the funds for foster care payments,
  • develop innovative and effective systems for preventing child abuse and neglect, keeping families and children safely together,
  • increase permanency efforts (including subsidized guardianships),
  • provide case management,
  • conduct administrative activities (including developing and operating information systems),
  • conduct training for child welfare staff and other such service related child welfare activities.

Other features of the proposal include:

Continued Focus on Child Safety, Permanency, and Well-Being - Tribes must continue to meet existing child protections, including those contained in the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The Department will continue to conduct Child and Family Services Reviews to ensure that States are achieving positive safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for children.

  • Each Tribe participating under the option will have to provide assurances that it will operate a pre-placement preventive services program designed to help children at risk of foster care placement remain safely in their homes and a foster care program for children who cannot remain at home safely. Tribes must also assure that they will provide, or make arrangements with a State or the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide, a system for child abuse and neglect reporting and prevention, adoption assistance and/or other permanency supports (i.e. guardianship), and independent living services.
     
  • The Secretary may waive burdensome requirements that do not compromise child safety, permanency and well-being, on a case-by-case basis. HHS may approve a waiver only if the tribe has demonstrated that it has an alternate mechanism for complying with the intent of the provision.

Reduce Administrative Burden - The flexible grant will give relief from burdensome administrative activities, such as AFDC eligibility determinations and cost allocation plans.

  • In general, Indian tribes must report case level data consistent with existing AFCARS requirements. However, on a case-by-case basis, the Secretary may waive the requirements for case-level data in favor of aggregate data on children in foster care and adopted with the involvement of the tribal agency.

Funding for Indian Tribes - We propose a set-aside for Indian Tribes or consortia that can demonstrate the capacity to operate a title IV-E program. Indian Tribes will have similar program requirements as do States; however, the Secretary will have the authority to waive certain State program requirements that are burdensome to Indian Tribes but do not affect or compromise child safety. The Indian Child Welfare Program Option Plan must include supporting documentation that demonstrates that the tribe or consortium has policies and procedures that are essential to the operation of a foster care program that can assure a child's safety, permanency, and well-being.

Specifically, tribes must have:

  • Legal codes that govern tribal responsibility for the protection of children, that provide for tribal placement and care responsibility for children that cannot remain safely at home, and define tribal authority for judicial proceedings and judicial determinations regarding 'contrary to the welfare,' reasonable efforts and permanency decisions.
     
  • A designated agency with the ability to administer the program.
     
  • Procedures to meet the case review requirements (i.e., case plans, periodic reviews, permanency hearings, termination of parental rights).
     
  • Provisions to conduct background checks and license foster family homes within a tribe's jurisdiction.
     
  • Three years of financial stability and management as evidenced by having no uncorrected significant and material audit exceptions under Federal grants or contracts.

  • Tribes will have through June 30 of the first fiscal year that the Child Welfare Program Option is authorized, to submit a plan [one year longer than States], for implementation to begin no later than the beginning of the second fiscal year of authorization. Tribes whose plans are approved must commit to the Option through the end of the five-year authorization period.
     
  • Tribes may carry over their individual allotments through the end of the authorization period. Funds will remain available until expended. If the authorization continues to exist at the end of the authorization period, funds may roll over to subsequent fiscal years. If the Option authorization expires, then unspent funds will be available (up to these time limits) under the title IV-B subpart 1 Child Welfare Services Program.
     
  • Reimbursement for Tribes' indirect costs shall be according to the rates Tribes have negotiated with the Bureau of Indian Affairs for use in federal programs.
     
  • Tribes shall provide an assurance that grant funds will be used to supplement and not supplant non-Federal funds that would otherwise be made available for these activities or purposes.
     
  • Federal oversight will be provided through the plan approval, partial reviews and through mid-point assessments, for each entity operating under the Option.
     
  • Tribes may carry over their individual allotments through the end of the authorization period. Funds will remain available until expended. If the authorization continues to exist at the end of the authorization period, funds may roll over to subsequent fiscal years. If the Option authorization expires, then unspent funds will be available (up to these time limits) under the title IV-B subpart 1 Child Welfare Services Program.
     
  • No non-federal match is required of Tribes.
     
  • A tribe that has an approved plan under the Child Welfare Program Option is not prohibited from continuing or entering into an agreement under section 472(a) of the Social Security Act for the payment of foster care maintenance payments on behalf of eligible children under the entitlement. The Option, however, does not authorize title IV-E entitlement funds for Indian tribes directly.

    State/Tribal Relations

    < >Tribes may apply for and receive funding even if the State in which the Tribe is located is not participating in the Option.

    Tribes and States shall consult with one another and coordinate the provision of services to Indian children. Tribes must serve children within their defined service area, but states may not use the existence of a tribal plan as a reason to refuse tribal children services for which they would otherwise be eligible.

    Comment: ACF should develop a separate tribal child abuse prevention fund.

    Response: The Child Welfare Option would allow for funds to be used for tribal child abuse prevention activities.

    Comment: Data measurement efforts should be expanded and used to assist states in implementing ICWA.

    Response: ACF will review the findings of its pilot demonstration grant on collecting Tribal data to assist it in determining what, if any, additional data collection activity is feasible.

    Comment: ACF's tribal technical assistance efforts should involve tribal consultation and reflect tribal priorities.

    Response: Please let us know if the individual Tribal technical assistance that you request is not satisfactory through our National Resource Centers and,if so, the reasons why.

    Comment: ACF should take a leadership role in child welfare issues that arise between states and tribes.

    Response: We believe that convening meetings, utilizing the NRCs and the Regional Office staff to help States and Tribes work through their differences is a leadership role and is helpful when utilized. Tribes should contact the ACF Regional Offices for assistance in resolving differences with States.

 

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