Sneak Preview: GAO Promotes Use of Guardian Assistance Program

September 30, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) Although Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials plan to add information to the Children’s Bureau website about direct federal funding for tribal Foster Care agencies and best practices for tribal-state partnership agreements, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said that HHS should do more to encourage more tribal Foster Care agencies to participate in the Guardian Assistance Program.

Under Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, states and tribal entities can receive federal funding for child welfare assistance such as Foster Care, adoption assistance and kinship guardian assistance. To receive child welfare funding, state and tribal child welfare agencies must develop a permanency plan, known as a “case goal,” for each child in Foster Care that identifies how the child will exit the Foster Care system to a permanent home. Among these case goals include long-term Foster Care, reunification with parents, adoption and guardianship, as well as another category called “another planned permanent living arrangement” (APPLA). APPLA is permitted as a case goal in instances where the child welfare agency has determined that the other case goals would not be in the best interest of the child.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 (Pub. L. 113-183), however, restricts the use of APPLA as a case goal for children age 16 and older, although implementation of this restriction was delayed for three years for children in Foster Care under the responsibility of an Indian tribe. At the request of Congress, GAO sought to determine challenges facing tribal child welfare agencies in response to this law.

GAO found that in 2014, 6.1 percent of Indian children had APPLA as a case goal, compared to 8.3 percent of non-Indian children. While most tribal officials GAO interviewed said they did not anticipate challenges in implementing the limitation on the use of APPLA to children age 16 and older, many tribal entities did express concerns that the APPLA age restriction would compel tribes to pursue other arrangements with non-Indian homes if they could not allow a child to remain in Foster Care with an Indian family. They added that resource restraints also make it challenging when trying to help Foster Care children find permanent homes, according to GAO.

(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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