Transition Plan for Secure Families
The Administration on Children and Families (ACF) must take bold and expansive action to promote a 21st century child welfare system that uses a public health approach to preventing child maltreatment and supporting strong and resilient families. In addition, ACF should restore activities that prioritize the well-being of all children, youth, and families. To adequately support this population, the administration must act to reverse harmful and discriminatory actions that have targeted individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or race over the past four years. Additionally, ACF should move quickly to ensure families have access to critical resources that prevent the unnecessary removal of children and youth from their homes into foster care, especially amid the continued COVID-19 public health emergency.
Create a federal initiative to address systemic racism in the child welfare system. Systemic inequities in the child welfare system contribute to disproportionate child welfare involvement impacting Black, Latinx, and Native children. The administration should review all child welfare policies to update them to promote race equity and emphasize the importance of addressing this issue in all communications and policy guidance to jurisdictions, grantees, and contractors.
Revitalize adoption and foster care data collection. ACF should reverse changes to the 2016 final rule on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and reinstate data collection on Native and LGBTQ youth in foster care. Quality child welfare data collection is crucial to the improvement of children’s health and wellbeing. We urge ACF to reinstate the progress made towards better data collection of the health information of children in foster care represented by the 2016 AFCARS final rule and rescind harmful changes that will otherwise eliminate the collection of critical data points related to Native and LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care.
Ensure that federal contracts or grants do not discriminate. HHS should prohibit contracts or grants to entities involved in foster care or adoptions that discriminate against children and families based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or faith. Faith-based organizations play an important role in providing child welfare services and families to provide nurturing homes for children. However, federal policy should never allow for discrimination against children or families in child welfare services. All children who enter the child welfare system should receive compassionate, high-quality, and trauma-informed care and support services.
Reverse waiver allowing child welfare services providers to disregard nondiscrimination standards. In 2019, HHS issued a waiver to South Carolina that waived nondiscriminatory regulations, allowing federal funding to child welfare services providers who expressed a desire to discriminate against children and families based on their religion, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Children need secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life experiences for optimal social-emotional and cognitive development. Scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders. HHS policy should never waive nondiscrimination standards.
Intervene in the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case to support nondiscrimination. In November, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case in which Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia is challenging the constitutionality of the city’s requirement that child welfare services providers not discriminate against prospective foster and adoptive families on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Department of Justice (DOJ) should issue a brief in support of the city of Philadelphia and affirm the right of jurisdictions to require their contractors to adhere to nondiscrimination protections.
Create an advisory board of individuals who have lived experience in the child welfare system. For many years, well-intentioned child welfare policies have resulted in unintended consequences that can be harmful to children, youth, and families. A core driver of this problem is an inadequate representation of individuals with lived experience in policymaking decisions. ACF should install an advisory board of individuals who have lived experience in the child welfare systems to serve as expert consultants and provide invaluable feedback to help curb future unintended consequences.
Support comprehensive implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act. Family First offers a significant opportunity to reduce unnecessary foster care placements and ensure that congregate care is a last resort to address a treatment need that can lead to a child or young person’s permanency with family. Current policy, however, is a barrier to states’ and Tribes’ ability to implement the law. ACF should significantly expand operations of the Title IV-E Clearinghouse to ensure timely review of programs for use through Family First. In addition, ACF should also provide comprehensive and clear guidance, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to support the law’s effective implementation through coordination of Family First and the Medicaid system.
Create a White House Council on Systems-Involved Youth. A White House Council on Systems-Involved Youth would ensure interagency coordination of policy on issues affecting young people who are involved in either or both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. This would ensure these agencies take into account the needs of children and youth when drafting policies and creating programs that are meant to serve these populations. This body should also include the direct involvement of young people who have had experience within these systems.
American Academy of Pediatrics