The Biden administration announced a mix of final and proposed rules on child welfare policy today that cover the placement of foster youth with relatives, legal representation for parents and children involved with the system, and the placement of LGBTQI+ youth in foster care.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called the rules “a historic package that underlines the Biden-Harris Administration’s steadfast commitment to putting children’s well-being first.”
Here’s a breakdown of the three actions taken today.
As The Imprint’s Michael Fitzgerald reported in February, the administration proposed a rule that allows states to create an alternative path to licensing or approving relatives as foster parents, and enabling states to use the federal Title IV-E child welfare entitlement to pay these caregivers. The administration is projecting that this will increase the percentage of kinship placements covered in part by federal dollars from 28% to 42%.
Mark Testa, a former University of North Carolina professor and widely cited expert on the topic, called the proposed regulation “the most important advance the federal government has made in kinship care policy in the last 40 years.”
The administration has now finalized this rule, which “creates some opportunity to disregard the income, transportation, literacy issues, and the some of the room size requirements” that can be barriers for kin, said Rebecca Jones Gaston, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, on a Zoom event about the new rules this afternoon.
No changes were made to February’s original proposal, and the final rule notes that the overwhelming majority of comments favored the new path to approval and payment.
Youth Services Insider knows that a big group of commenters jointly asked the administration to allow IV-E funds for kinship caregivers once an in-state background check was completed, as opposed to waiting for the results of an FBI fingerprint search and any out-of-state checks of child abuse and neglect registries. Those can take months to complete, and many kinship caregivers are asked to take children in an emergency circumstance with little time to prepare.