Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Reviews Peer Reviewer Requirements and Responsibilities
The title IV-E Foster Care Program is authorized by title IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act), as amended, to financially assist States and Tribes that provide foster care and transitional independent living programs for eligible children under the responsibility of the administering State or Tribal title IV-E agency with an approved title IV-E plan. The program’s focus is children eligible under the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and removed from their homes due to maltreatment, lack of care, lack of supervision, or other family problems attributed to a relative caregiver. The title IV-E funds enable title IV-E agencies to provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until they are safely returned home, placed permanently with adoptive families, or placed in other planned arrangements for permanency. The IV-E program is administered by the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Title IV-E of the Act includes requirements that define the circumstances under which the title IV-E agency can claim Federal reimbursement of foster care maintenance payments for eligible children. The Act also requires specific protections for children in care, such as reasonable efforts to prevent the child’s removal from the home (when safe to do so), and placement of the child in an approved or licensed foster care setting that meets the safety requirements.
The Children’s Bureau conducts title IV-E foster care eligibility reviews (IV-E reviews) to (1) monitor the title IV-E agency’s compliance with federally-mandated requirements; (2) validate the accuracy of the agency’s claims for reimbursement of title IV-E payments made on behalf of children in foster care, and (3) identify improper payments. The IV-E reviews ensure fiscal accountability, improve child welfare practice and support the goals of child safety, permanency, and well-being. The IV-E reviews are a collaborative effort and are conducted by review teams consisting of Children’s Bureau and title IV-E agency staff. The review team also can include peer reviewers, who are non-Federal staff recruited and trained through the title IV-E monitoring contract for the IV-E reviews.
The Child Welfare Reviews Project assists the Children's Bureau in recruiting and maintaining a national peer reviewer pool of child welfare professionals who meet the established minimum education and experience requirements.
Peer reviewer participation in the IV-E reviews requires a significant commitment of time and effort. The general requirements and responsibilities of peer reviewers participating in the reviews are summarized below.
- Peer reviewers must meet the established minimum education and experience requirements and must complete the prerequisite training for selection as an on-site peer reviewer.
- Peer reviewers must be willing and available to participate in multiple reviews and to read and abide by provisions of a Peer Reviewer Agreement, including the “confidentiality of information” provision. (All title IV-E agency-related information examined or discussed during a IV-E review is confidential.)
- Peer reviewers may not participate in the IV-E review of a title IV-E agency if they provided technical assistance or consultation to that agency during a period beginning 1 year before the review. Peer reviewers also may not participate in the IV-E review of a title IV-E agency against which they have been involved in a lawsuit or other legal action, regardless of when the legal action occurred.
- Peer reviewers may not provide technical assistance to a title IV-E agency during the period in which the agency develops and implements a Program Improvement Plan associated with the findings of a IV-E review in which the peer reviewer participated.
Review Preparation Responsibilities
Peer reviewers must review the Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Review Guide, the Title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility On-Site Review Instrument and Instructions, and relevant legislation in preparation for the on-site review. These materials are available on the Children's Bureau Web site at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/monitoring/title-ive-reviews.
Additional resources for preparing for an on-site review are available at http://www.ivezone.org.
- Peer reviewers must work cooperatively with the Child Welfare Reviews Project to arrange travel to the IV-E review in a timely manner.
- Peer reviewers must participate, if requested, in any conference calls held for planning a IV-E review.
Review Logistical and Planning Responsibilities
In planning for participation in a IV-E review, peer reviewers must:
Stay in touch with the assigned Child Welfare Reviews Project Coordinator and respond to all requests by the designated due date. The peer reviewer is expected to contact the Child Welfare Reviews Project Coordinator in the following situations:
- Need to cancel participation in a review or training. The peer reviewer must provide at least 3 weeks' notice of cancellation (except in an emergency) to help facilitate the selection and confirmation of a replacement reviewer.
- Changes to the mail or e-mail address the peer reviewer has requested the project use for sending training or review materials.
- Review materials have not arrived as expected.
- Delays in making travel or hotel reservations. All hotel and air or train travel reservations must be made by the deadline the Child Welfare Reviews Project provides to peer reviewers.
- Determine the ability to accept an honorarium. The peer reviewer must determine this in advance of agreeing to serve as a peer reviewer and in concurrence with the reviewer’s current employer.
Review Participation Responsibilities
When participating in a IV-E review, peer reviewers must:
- Participate in scheduled on-site orientation and training sessions for the assigned review;
- Remain present at the review site for the entire week of the on-site review, and participate in all scheduled review activities;
- Conduct all assigned activities associated with the review of case records, including completion of the On-Site Review Instrument for assigned cases;
- Participate in team debriefings to discuss program strengths and areas needing improvement noted during the review;
- Participate in the exit conference with the review team and title IV-E agency; and
- Remain available for telephone consultation after the review, if needed, to clarify information documented during the review.
Peer Reviewer Compensation Responsibilities
Peer reviewers must:
- Return completed expense and honorarium vouchers and supporting documents to the Child Welfare Reviews Project within 2 weeks following each review.
Peer Reviewer Identification for Participation in a Review
The Children's Bureau Central and Regional Offices identify peer reviewers to participate in the IV-E reviews from the peer reviewer pool maintained by the Child Welfare Reviews Project. Because the peer reviewer project builds program capacity within title IV-E agencies, the Children’s Bureau identifies qualified peer reviewers based on the following priority order:
- Peer reviewer works in the title IV-E program of a title IV-E agency;
- Peer reviewer has extensive IV-E review experience; and
- Peer reviewer resides or works within the geographic boundaries of the Children’s Bureau Regional Office conducting the IV-E review.
- If identified to participate in a review, the Child Welfare Reviews Project contacts the peer reviewer to determine availability and provide further information.
- Each peer reviewer’s performance during a review is evaluated by the Children’s Bureau review team leaders, and future participation in reviews is contingent upon successful participation in earlier reviews.
- Peer reviewers are not needed in every IV-E review. The Children's Bureau can use a maximum of two peer reviewers in a primary review and four peer reviewers in a secondary review.