Sneak Preview: HHS To Evaluate Participation of Tribes in Foster Care Program

April 1, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is collaborating with Indian tribal organizations to determine whether to ask Congress for additional flexibilities in the Foster Care program to enable more tribes to participate, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

While the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-351) provided a new opportunity for tribal organizations to directly administer Foster Care programs, its complex program requirements were better suited for state governments. Therefore, HHS has approved only five tribes to operate Foster Care programs since 2008. Although more than 80 tribes have expressed an interest in participating, they told GAO that limited staff, as well as technological and cultural restraints, have hindered their efforts.

Other HHS programs, such as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, have offered tribes additional flexibilities, provided they are consistent with the objectives of the program, to adjust to the tribes’ resource constraints and cultural values. However, this has not been the case for the Foster Care program. For example, officials from six of 11 tribes working to develop Foster Care programs told GAO that the requirement to electronically submit case-level data on all children in Foster Care was challenging because they lacked the technological infrastructure to collect this data. Further, seven of those 11 tribes struggled with incorporating “termination of parental rights,” which cuts off the legal parent-child relationship in certain circumstances, because it conflicts with their tribal values.

“HHS recognizes that termination of parental rights may not be part of an Indian tribe’s traditional beliefs; however according to the agency, it lacks the statutory authority to provide a general exemption for tribal children from the requirement,” GAO said.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site).

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