November 16, 2017

Child Welfare Financing Reform

February 2010

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress, state, territorial, tribal, and local governments to enact child welfare financing laws and/or implement policies to reform the child welfare financing structure to end the current fiscal incentives to place children in foster care. These reforms in law and policy should:

(a) Encourage keeping or reunifying children safely with their birth families by increasing the amount and flexibility of funding available for the following services:
1. child abuse and neglect prevention;
2. family preservation and support;
3. family reunification; and
4. post-permanency support.

Services should include direct access or connection to programs for affordable housing, transportation, anti-poverty supports, substance abuse and mental health treatment, aid in addressing domestic violence, parenting instruction and peer parent support programs, and quality parent representation programs.

(b) Maximize access to federal, state, tribal, territorial and local revenue streams so as to enhance the availability of those services by:

1. Allowing states and tribes, if they safely reduce the number of children in foster care, to reinvest federal foster care funds that would have been expended on such placements into other child welfare services aimed at further reducing the need for foster care;

2. Reauthorizing and expanding the federal child welfare waiver program and simplifying the waiver application process to encourage use of federal funds in testing innovative approaches to delivering child welfare services with the goal of strengthening families; and

3. Evaluating policies and formulas for funding distribution to ensure adequate federal and state support for services to children and families at risk of becoming involved in the child welfare system, so that these services are readily available in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, child abuse and neglect, and placements of children in foster care.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, tribal, county and territorial governments to pass child welfare financing laws and/or implement policies that encourage all types of permanency for children, including safe and stable reunifications, by creating an enhanced federal permanency encouragement initiative that will reward states and tribes for increasing their rates of safe and stable parental reunifications and relative guardianships, as well as for adoptions.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to amend Title IV-E of the Social Security Act consistent with the principles above.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges state and local bar associations to actively support the development and implementation of these laws and policies.