Foster Care:

HHS Should Ensure That Juvenile Justice Placements Are Reviewed

HEHS-00-42: Published: Jun 9, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) approval of the Social Security Act's title IV-E reimbursements for foster care placements, focusing on: (1) the number of title IV-E foster care placements made by juvenile justice agencies in fiscal year (FY) 1998 and the amount of federal care funding expended for these placements; (2) how selected states ensure that title IV-E funds are not used for placements in detention facilities and ensure that procedural requirements to protect the welfare of children in title IV-E funded juvenile cases are met; and (3) HHS' processes for ensuring the appropriate use of funds and compliance with these procedural requirements in title IV-E funded juvenile justice placements.

GAO noted that: (1) in FY 1998, about $300 million in title IV-E funds was used to support foster care placements of children in the juvenile justice system; (2) almost half of the states used some portion of their title IV-E funds in this way; (3) nearly 60 percent of the total amount of title IV-E funding used for juvenile justice placements was used by California; (4) the $300 million used for children in the juvenile justice system is 10 percent of all FY 1998 title IV-E expenditures; (5) to ensure that title IV-E funds are not being used for placements in detention facilities, the 10 states that used the largest amount of such funding in FY 1998 rely primarily on the requirements that a facility must meet in order to be licensed as a child care institution; (6) licensing regulations in those states establish standards designed primarily to ensure a healthy and safe physical environment for the children; (7) in some states, these regulations allow a facility to engage in some restrictive practices that have been associated with detention; (8) state licensing regulations also play a role with regard to meeting title IV-E procedural requirements intended to protect the welfare of children in foster care cases--namely, that case plans be developed, administrative case reviews be conducted, and procedural safeguards be in place; (9) states enforce their licensing regulations through periodic on-site visits and facility inspections; (10) in addition to their licensing regulations, the two states whose procedures GAO examined more closely have administrative regulations for protecting children in foster care, which address in detail the title IV-E procedural requirements; (11) HHS has acknowledged that states have sometimes encountered difficulty in determining whether the facilities in which juvenile justice system children are placed qualify to receive title IV-E funding and in meeting procedural requirements in these cases; (12) HHS conducts two broad oversight reviews in each state, a title IV-E eligibility review and a child and family services (CFS) review; (13) title IV-E eligibility reviews primarily verify children's and foster care providers' eligibility for title IV-E funding in random sample of title IV-E funded foster care placements in each state; and (14) CFS reviews assess systems states use to determine the eligibility of foster care providers for title IV-E funding and systems states use to ensure that procedural requirements are met in title IV-E funded placements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS did not agree with this recommendation when the report was issued and continues to have no plans to act upon it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, to review title IV-E funded juvenile justice placements in child care institutions in states that have such placements in order to collect information needed to determine whether or not the facility in which the child was placed was a detention facility.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS did not agree with this recommendation when the report was issued and continues to have no plans to act upon it.

    Recommendation: In each state having title IV-E funded juvenile justice placements in child care institutions, HHS should review a sufficient number of such placements to provide a reasonable degree of assurance that detention facilities are not receiving title IV-E funds and that procedural requirements intended to protect the welfare of children are being met in juvenile justice placements. Depending on the results of the initial review in a given state, HHS could decide whether it would be necessary to review the same number of juvenile justice cases in that state in the future.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HHS did not agree with this recommendation when the report was issued and continues to have no plans to act upon it.

    Recommendation: For those states having title IV-E funded juvenile justice cases, HHS should ensure that the adequacy and effectiveness of state and county systems used to: (1) determine if the facilities in which juvenile justice children are placed are licensed and otherwise eligible for title IV-E funding; and (2) ensure that procedural requirements are met in title IV-E funded juvenile justice cases are examined.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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