President George W. Bush signed new Title IV-E adoption assistance legislation into law on October 7, 2008. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351), phases out ADC-relatedness as an eligibility requirement and provides federal financial participation for certain relatives serving as guardians for special needs children. The House of Representatives passed the legislation, identified as HR 6893, on September 17 and the Senate followed suit five days later on September 22.
A clear and comprehensive summary of the law, entitled “Federal Law Overhauls U.S. Child Welfare Financing,” appears on the web site of North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). That being the case, our previous blog focused in changes in the Title IV-E adoption assistance program. We will now address the provisions for kinship care assistance.
Relative Guardianship Assistance
The new law provides federal funding for relative guardianship assistance on the same terms as Title IV-E adoption assistance.
1. Federal funding per child is available up to the level of support the child would have received were he or she in a foster home.
2. The amount of assistance must be determined by written agreement.
3. The agreement is to be negotiated based upon the need of the child and circumstances of the relative guardian and needs of the child.
4. The agreement must list additional services that the child will be eligible to receive along with the procedures for accessing them.
5. The agreement may be modified periodically in the same manner as an adoption assistance agreement.
6. The agreement will be in effect, if a child moves to another state.
7. The state and/or county must agree to participate by providing matching non-federal funds.
8. The state must agree to pay for non-recurring expenses up to a maximum of $2,000. The expenses will be eligible for federal reimbursement. States currently pat 50% of the cost of non-recurring expenses relative to the adoption of a special needs child under the Title IV-E adoption assistance program.
9. Age and continuing eligibility requirements for relative guardianship assistance are the same as for children receiving Title IV-E adoption assistance.
10. Relative Guardians will have the same right to appeal adverse hearings decisions as adoptive parents under the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations at 45 CFR 205.10
In order to be eligible for relative guardianship assistance,
a. The child must be removed from his or her home via a voluntary agreement or as the result of a judicial determination that remaining in the home is contrary to the child’s welfare.
b. The child must be eligible for Title IV-E foster care maintenance while residing for at least 6 consecutive months in the home of the prospective relative guardian. Note: This provision suggests that the relative guardian must be certified as a foster parent, but the full implications of this requirement are not entirely clear yet.
c. It must be determined that a return home or adoption are not appropriate options for the child.
d. The child must demonstrate a strong attachment to the prospective relative guardian and the relative guardian a strong determination to caring permanently for the child.
e. Any child who has attained the age of 14 must be consulted about entering into to the relative guardianship.
Siblings of eligible children may be placed with the relative guardian if it is deemed in the children’s best interest. In such cases, the sibling of the eligible child would also be eligible for negotiated assistance.
If relative guardianship assistance programs requires state legislation other than a fiscal appropriation, the effective date is the first day after the first regular session of the legislature that takes place one year after the effective date of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The effective date of the law is October 7, 2008. This means that the effective date for beginning the relative guardianship assistance program would be the day after the close of the legislative session that ends after October 7, 2009.
In cases where no legislation is needed, the effective date of the relative guardianship assistance program is the quarter that begins on or after October 7, 2008.