September 30, 2018

Adoption and Foster Care Reporting

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a decision in August that will allow a final rule to go into effect without major changes on October 1, 2020, for data collection through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS). The final rule, which was released in 2016 following many years of work and no fewer than three public comment periods, is tailored to address current weaknesses in data collection and to bring child welfare data collection in line with statutory changes and requirements that have been enacted since 1993. These changes include provisions in the Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997), the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (2008), the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (2014), the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), and the 2016 regulations for the Indian Child Welfare Act. Earlier this year, HHS identified the AFCARS final rule as a regulation that should be delayed because the reporting burdens may impose costs that exceed the benefits of the rule. In response, the ABA and its Center on Children and the Law reiterated its support for prompt implementation of the final rule. In a comment letter sent June 13 to the HHS Administration for Children and Families, the ABA said the association maintains that the benefits of the final rule far outweigh the projected burdens. According to the ABA, the final rule marks a significant shift away from point-to-point data regarding children in foster care to more longitudinal information about children’s and families’ circumstances leading to entering and exiting the child welfare system. “At a time when numbers of children in foster care are steadily increasing across the country, this kind of longitudinal data is essential to help understand patterns from both a local and national level,” the ABA letter stated. The final rule also incorporates data collection to demonstrate how states have implemented federal laws in the child welfare field over the past 25 years, and will provide, for the first time, data elements for states about Native American children who are in foster care or have been adopted. The ABA also supports new data elements in the final rule to ensure that the needs of LGBTQ-identified children and youth are addresses.