NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FAMILIES FOR ALL: DOING RIGHT BY CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE

December 20, 2007

American children are not languishing in or aging out of foster care because of a lack of parenting resources.  There are 500 married couples in America for every child waiting to be adopted, and countless singles that could also provide loving families, says Thomas Atwood, President and CEO of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA).

The inflexibility of child welfare financing is one factor behind the long wait times for those in the system and the record number of children aging out:

  • Under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, 61 percent of all federal financing allocated to states for child welfare purposes is spent on maintaining children in foster care and for related administrative and training costs.
  • This limits states' resources for other important services, such as prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Furthermore, only children whose original families meet the outdated, 1996 income eligibility requirements for the now-defunct Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program are Title IV-E eligible.
  • As these eligibility requirements have never been adjusted for inflation, fewer children are Title IV-E eligible each year, which continues to increase states' share of the costs.

Title IV-B of the Social Security Act is the second largest source of federal child welfare funding after Title IV-E. 

  • Unlike Title IV-E, Title IV-B covers prevention and rehabilitation services and has no eligibility requirements. 
  • However, Title IV-B is a capped entitlement program, whereas Title IV-E is open-ended.
  • Thus, Title IV-E represents a much larger pool of funding than Title IV-B -- $7.8 billion versus $721 million in 2006.

This asymmetric funding structure gives states a clear financial incentive to move children into foster care and keep them there, says Atwood.

Source: Families Thomas Atwood, "For All: Doing Right By Children In Foster Care," American Legislative Exchange Council, December 2007.

 

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