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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed foster care and family preservation services, focusing on the: (1) statutory and funding barriers states face in delivering appropriate services; (2) strategies states use to cope with those barriers; and (3) conditions under which foster care and family preservation services are most appropriate or successful.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
In any child welfare legislative proposal, Congress may wish to consider amending the Social Security Act so that the Secretary of Health and Human Services could waive state compliance with certain Title IV-E requirements, similar to waiver authority present for Titles IV-A and IV-D. Such waivers could permit any state to submit a request to: (1) waive the current prohibition against using IV-E funds for direct services; (2) demonstrate the provision of family preservation services using IV-E funds; and (3) rigorously evaluate the long-term effect of such services on preserving or reuniting families.
Closed - Implemented
Public Law 96-272 requires states to prevent the unnecessary placement of children in foster care and to reunite foster children with their families whenever possible. GAO reported that state efforts to meet this requirement were hindered by two factors: (1) the limited availability of federal funding for family preservation and support services under Title IV-B; and (2) states' inability to use Title IV-E foster care funds for such services. GAO's cost-neutral recommendation, which addressed the second factor, would have allowed states to use Title IV-E funds for these services. Congress, instead, addressed the first factor by amending Title IV-B and funding a new program of family preservation and support services. Thus, GAO is closing the recommendation because the alternative action is designed to achieve the same desired result of assisting states to comply with P.L. 96-272.

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