Sneak Preview: HHS, States Aim To Reduce Congregate Foster Care

December 18, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment
xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to collaborate with state child welfare agencies to address challenges that hinder the placement of children out of congregate foster care and into family settings, in response to recommendations in a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Congregate foster care involves care in group homes or institutions, rather than family-based foster care.

Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, which authorizes federal funding to states to help cover costs associated with foster care and adoption programs, requires that foster children have a case plan designed to “achieve placement in a safe setting that is the least restrictive (i.e., most family like) and most appropriate setting available, consistent with their best interest and special needs.” However, according to HHS data, about 14 percent of the more than 400,000 children in foster care lived in congregate care at the end of fiscal year 2013. HHS defines congregate care as a nonfamily setting such as: (1) a group home, which provides care for up to 12 children, or (2) institution (e.g., child care institution, residential treatment facility, maternity home), which provides care for children who require separation from their own homes.

The GAO reviewed eight states to assess their efforts to place foster children in family-based settings rather than in congregate care. It found that from September 2004 to September 2013, the share of foster care children in congregate care in those eight states declined 47 percent, and declined 26 percent nationwide. However, the eight states reviewed varied widely in the share of foster children still living in congregate care, ranging from 4 percent to 34 percent. “The eight states we reviewed reflect the downward trend in the use of congregate care nationwide, which could be seen as a sign of progress in states’ ‘right-sizing’ of congregate care,” the GAO said. “At the same time, the wide variation in the percentage of foster children in congregate care among our eight, and all 50, states suggests that more progress could be made.”

(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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