The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015

  ·  Victoria Lee

On Wednesday, August 5th, Senator Wyden introduced the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015.  The purpose of the Act is to allow states the flexibility to use federal Title IV-E funds to provide services to children and families with the intent of preventing the need for foster care and/or limiting the time children spend in out-of-home care.  The bill will allow agencies to use Title IV-E dollars to implement and provide time-limited community-based services for families to prevent the placement of children in out-of-home care, support reunification efforts, and expand supports to kinship caregivers. 

The philosophy behind this bill is that children experience better outcomes when they are raised in families, particularly their own family, whenever safe for the child and that placement in out-of-home care should be temporary.  Given the importance of stability and the trauma that results from separation from one’s parent, it is important to incentivize the use of kinship care when children cannot remain safely with their parents.  Currently Title IV-E provides funding for states and tribes to support children and families after children have been placed in foster care. However, there are very limited resources available for funding services that may prevent the need for foster care or reduce the time children spend in out-of-home care despite growing knowledge and research that highlights the importance of family and community connections, keep families together whenever possible and expediting reunification when possible.

 The services that this bill will allow for Title IV-E to cover will have to be used and justified as services that support family preservation, family reunification or kinship care.  Additionally, states will be required to submit a five-year plan outlining how they plan to use and monitor the time-limited family service money. The services that will be provided, should this act pass, could include individual, group and family counseling, supports to address domestic abuse, substance abuse, and concrete and immediate needs like child care and assistance with transportation, housing, and utility expenses and other resources directly related to family preservation and reunification as well as to ensure supportive kinship placements. Children and families would be eligible to receive these services for 12 months if the child is at imminent risk of entering or re-entering foster care if but for the services provided. The bill also requires that the Title IV-E dollars be spent on evidence-based, evidence-informed and promising programs and services, which allows for cultural adaptations and modifications.

  Senator Wyden, in his opening statement on the finance hearing on preserving families and reducing the need for foster care, commented that this bill “is in not in any way a condemnation of foster care” but instead, is about giving some of our most vulnerable citizens the supports that they need to thrive within their own families.  The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act has the potential to support states and tribes in significantly reducing the need for congregate and foster care by supporting families through a multi-generational approach and front-end services.  For these reasons, The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 has received bi-partisan support from its conception and, if passed, could have far reaching impacts on children and families.

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports