On September 30, 2011, President Obama signed into law new federal legislation, H.R. 2883, the "Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act." Among other changes, H.R. 2883 authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve up to ten new child welfare demonstration projects per year, for Federal Fiscal Years 2012-2014, not to last more than five years. The demonstration projects are specifically to be designed to test innovative strategies in child welfare programs.
The ten states selected for these demonstration projects must identify one or more of the following goals:
- Increase permanency for all infants, children, and youth by reducing the time spent in foster care placements when possible and promoting a successful transition to adulthood for older youth "aging out" of foster care (at age 18).
- Increase the positive outcomes for infants, children, youth, and families in their homes and communities, including tribal communities, and improve the safety and well-being of infants, children, and youth.
- Prevent child abuse and neglect and the re-entry of infants, children, and youth into foster care.
The states selected are also required to demonstrate that they have or plan to implement within three years of the submission of their application at least two of the following child welfare program improvement policies (summary):
- Establish a Bill of Rights for children in foster care.
- Develop and implement a plan for meeting the health and mental health of children in foster care.
- Implement kinship guardianship agreements.
- Define a "child" as a youth up to age twenty-one for the purposes of foster care maintenance, adoption support, and kinship guardianship payments.
- Develop and implement a plan to ensure that congregate (group and facility) care is used appropriately and reduces the placement of children and youth in congregate care.
- Substantially increase the number of cases where siblings are placed together in foster care, kinship guardianship, or in adoptive placements above the number of these placements in Fiscal Year 2008.
- Develop and implement a plan to improve the recruitment and retention of high quality foster family homes.
- Establish procedures designed to assist youth as they prepare to transition out of foster care.
- Establish one or more of the following programs designed to prevent infants, children, and youth from entering foster care or to provide permanency for infants, children, and youth in foster care:
- An intensive family finding program
- A kinship navigator program
- A family counseling program (such as a family group decision making program)
- A comprehensive family-based substance abuse treatment program
- A program where special efforts are made to identify and address domestic violence that endangers infants, children, and youth and puts them at risk of entering foster care
- A mentoring program
Title IV-E is an uncapped entitlement program, which means that States' IV-E claims can increase as the number of children in foster care increases. However, the opposite is also true: States can lose IV-E funding as their foster care populations decline.
Without a waiver, Title IV-E funding cannot be used for prevention services or for services after a family has reunified in order to ensure that the reunification is a safe and permanent one.