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Despite substantial federal and state investment, states have had difficulty ensuring the safety, well-being, and permanency of children in foster care. Ensuring these outcomes becomes even more difficult in the event of disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when children and families may become displaced across state lines. This testimony discusses (1) the issues that states reported as most important to resolve now and in the future to improve outcomes for children under their supervision (2) initiatives states reported taking to address these issues and how recent law provides support for additional state efforts and (3) federal action taken to assist states' efforts in developing child welfare disaster plans. This testimony is primarily based on our October 2006 report on state child welfare challenges (GAO-07-75) and our July 2006 report on state child welfare disaster planning (GAO-06-944). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Congress took action that addressed our July report recommendations. However, HHS disagreed with our October report recommendation to improve awareness of and access to federal social services by modifying the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance or other means. We continue to believe that taking such action would help improve services to children and families.

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