The Federal Foster Care Program helps to provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until the children are safely returned home, placed permanently with adoptive families or placed in other planned arrangements for permanency. The program is authorized by title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as amended, and implemented under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 45 CFR parts 1355, 1356, and 1357. It is an annually appropriated program with specific eligibility requirements and fixed allowable uses of funds. Funding is awarded by formula as an open-ended entitlement grant and is contingent upon an approved title IV-E plan to administer or supervise the administration of the program. The title IV-E Agency must submit yearly estimates of program expenditures as well as quarterly reports of estimated and actual program expenditures in support of the awarded funds. Funds are available for monthly maintenance payments for the daily care and supervision of eligible children; administrative costs to manage the program; training of staff and foster care providers; recruitment of foster parents and costs related to the design, implementation and operation of a state-wide data collection system.
The fifty (50) States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible to participate in the Foster Care Program awards. In FY 2010, direct funding became available to Indian Tribes, Indian Tribal organizations and Tribal consortia (hereafter "Tribes"), with approved plans to operate the program. In addition, $3 million of appropriated funds was reserved for technical assistance and plan development grants to eligible Tribes beginning in FY 2009. Only the public agency or Tribe designated to provide a program of foster care is eligible to apply for and receive direct title IV-E funding. Individuals and private entities may apply to the title IV-E Agency as sub-grantees or contracted providers.
Periodic and systematic review of State title IV-E foster care eligibility programs are conducted by the Children's Bureau to ensure Federal funds are expended for intended purposes and to recover improper expenditures. Full implementation of the final regulatory rule for the monitoring review advanced the Federal government's efforts in partnering with States to improve overall management of the foster care eligibility program and to secure safer foster care placements for children. Implementation also assisted our efforts in fulfilling our oversight responsibilities and in decreasing erroneous Federal payments to States. States responded to the monitoring reviews by initiating program assessments and improvements to meet compliance standards in anticipation of the reviews or by developing and implementing program improvements as a result of the reviews.
Since FY 2000, title IV-E Foster Care Eligibility Reviews have been conducted in each of the 50 States, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The regulatory reviews identified over $21.8 million in Federal payments to States targeted for recovery of improperly claimed payments for foster care maintenance payments and related administrative costs.
A national payment error rate is calculated annually using data collected in the most recent eligibility review of each State and a corrective action plan is developed to strategically reduce or eliminate improper payments. The steps taken to monitor and reduce erroneous payments enable the Children Bureau to redirect resources as well as ensure Federal resources are spent in the most strategic way possible.