Foster Care:

Incomplete Implementation of the Reforms and Unknown Effectiveness

PEMD-89-17: Published: Aug 14, 1989. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the extent to which the incentive funding structure of federal child welfare services grants encouraged states to implement reforms to reduce widespread abuses of the foster care system.

GAO found that: (1) the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) revised grant eligibility requirements to encourage states to revise programs to meet 18 standards involving individual case development, review, and dispositional hearings for foster children; (2) 48 states met minimum ACYF compliance standards, while 31 states reached maximum standards, which did not require states to meet all 18 elements; (3) 27 states meeting minimum standards experienced problems in timely completing case reviews; (4) the lack of a systematic evaluation of the reforms' effects has prevented linking the reforms to the significant decrease of the estimated national case load and median length of stay for foster children; (5) although litigation against welfare agencies has cited the reform legislation and provided another legal avenue for monitoring foster care, federal incentives were still needed to ensure the briefest possible temporary placements, the fewest possible temporary placements, frequent contact between foster parents, caseworkers, and natural parents, health and educational screening, and states' continued compliance with the reforms; and (6) the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not yet established a legislatively mandated national information system which could help to obtain and analyze current national information about state and local agency foster care practices and procedures.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress is considering making these state grants an entitlement.

    Matter: Congress may want to consider funding additional information development to improve the knowledge base about how case monitoring and delivery of services can best promote the goals of the Child Welfare Services grants in total. Specifically, it might be more desirable to target any additional money for the federal agency to conduct sound evaluations of promising state and local programs and to disseminate the guidance resulting from those evaluations to the states.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Commissioner, ACYF, established a joint ASPH OHDS 427 Review Task Force to develop NPR for a revised review process. The Department is currently working on the notice of proposed rulemaking from the Task Force's recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should reexamine HHS standards for certifying states' compliance with the section 427 requirements to ensure that receipt of incentive funds is contingent, from 1989 onward, on the states meeting all of the law's requirements. In particular, HHS should require states to demonstrate the implementation of all the required elements of the case review system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Final regulations were signed by the Secretary are now with the Office of Management and Budget. These regulations are apparently exempted from the moratorium.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should promptly comply with the legislative mandates of Public Law 99-509 regarding the development of an adoption and foster care information system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services


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