week Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Ron Wyden
(D-OR) sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
formally requesting that the agency conduct a review of policy options
for de-linking eligibility for federal foster care assistance under
Title IV-E from the income standards it is currently tied to.
current law, a state may only claim federal reimbursements for the cost
of foster care for children whose biological families would have
qualified for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program
in 1996. In their letter, the three senators point out the decreasing
percentage of children in foster care who are covered by IV-E, which is
known as the penetration rate. Since this income standard has not been
increased or indexed for inflation in more than 15 years, the federal
government provides IV-E foster care funding to fewer than half of
children in out-of-home care (the most recent available national
penetration rate was 44% in fiscal year 2010).
GAO conducts its review of policy options, the senators ask the agency
to give consideration to whether the options meet four criteria:
elimination of means testing, budget neutrality, maintaining funding
levels that states currently receive from IV-E reimbursements, and
ensuring that any state savings achieved are reinvested in serving
children in foster care. The letter also acknowledges the
administrative burden that income verification places on child welfare
agencies, something raised by frontline workers in CWLA’s recent survey on finance reform.
believes that the federal government has a responsibility to all
children in the foster care system, regardless of their family’s income,
and has long advocated elimination of the current AFDC link, most
recently in CWLA’s 2012 Legislative Agenda.
As such, we are very supportive of the effort by these three senators
to enlist GAO’s time and expertise in furthering the discussion about
de-linking. As senior members of the Senate Finance Committee,
including the Chairman and Ranking Member, the senators’ request should
be given high priority by the GAO.