In a letter to Congress, organizations affiliated with the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC) and others urge Congress to take action to provide emergency federal funding to ensure that state and local child welfare agencies have the dedicated resources and flexibility they need during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep children safe, support struggling families, and ensure that foster families, kinship caregivers and other providers have what they need to continue taking care of our children and youth. Recommendations include:
- Congress should ensure that federal funding and guidance is available to meet the COVID-19 testing and PPE needs of children, families, and child protection workers on the frontlines of child protection.
- Modify the Family First Prevention Services Act in order to sustain a commitment to prevention and help state and local organizations keep children safe and out of foster care.
- Remove the state match requirement for one year for Title IV-E prevention services. This would remove fiscal barriers to states’ implementation efforts and equip states to move ahead without delay to provide the array of prevention services that are needed now more than ever.
- Expand the scope of allowable prevention services under the Family First Prevention Services Act to include evidence-based services that prevent or mitigate the effects of domestic violence, economic security and challenges facing children of incarcerated or re-entering parents; and
- Increase flexibility by extending by one-year the option for states to claim transitional payments for services and associated costs under the Title IV-E prevention program.
- Congress should create an incentive payment for states, funded through supplemental payments to CAPTA’s state formula grants.
- Congress should increase funding for Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) by $15M and reinforce the importance of connecting a child to a medical evaluation by a physician or other health care provider with specialized expertise in diagnosing child abuse and neglect.
- Congress should improve health care access for vulnerable children and their mothers through these approaches:
- Extend Medicaid access for a full year postpartum.
- Provide eligible former foster youth immediate access to Medicaid until age 26, as called for in the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act.
- Ensure that every eligible child has access to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Congress should increase federal funding to the Court Improvement Program (CIP) by $30 million to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the functioning of child welfare courts.
- Federal legislation should require state and local child welfare agencies to collect data to help them assess and respond equitably to the needs of families in child welfare who are experiencing significant impacts from the pandemic.
- Congress should enact legislation to ensure kinship caregivers have the support they need to continue as vital caregivers.
- Congress should dedicate funding to address the growing demand for information technology support for children, youth, parents, caregivers and agencies.
- Congress should swiftly address the unique needs of older youth and young adults in foster care, and those who have recently aged out on their own.
- Congress should increase funding and flexibility for the Social Services Block Grant. Federal legislation should specify that states must involve stakeholders in decision making about allocation of these resources.
- Congress should establish an independent Children’s Commissioner to coordinate comprehensive solutions for kids.
See the full letter here.
More information about SPARC is available here.