In honor of National Kinship Care Month, Administration releases a historic package of regulations to ensure children in the child welfare system thrive
The more than 391,000 American children and youth living in foster care deserve to grow up in safe and loving homes devoted to their health, happiness, and success. These are often our most vulnerable children, and we have a solemn responsibility as a country to ensure they grow up healthy, supported and with as much opportunity as all other children.
From day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken action to protect children and youth in the child welfare system, support the thousands of dedicated kinship and foster families who are a critical resource to children and families in times of need, and invest in community-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs that help to prevent the conditions that lead to kids entering foster care in the first place.
Today, and in recognition of National Kinship Month, the Biden-Harris Administration is building on this progress and releasing three landmark regulations to strengthen services and supports for children and families in the child welfare system. Specifically, the regulations will:
- Support kinship caregivers – family members and loved ones who step forward to care for a child in foster care – by making it easier for them to access resources and financial assistance.
- Protect LGBTQI+ youth in foster care from abuse and mistreatment and ensure they have the services they need to thrive.
- Expand access to legal services for children and families at risk of entering or in the child welfare system.
Taken together, this landmark package of new rules, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families, will advance equity in the child welfare system and have a profound impact on the safety and wellbeing of families across the country.
Support kinship caregivers. When parents are having a difficult time safely caring for their own children, it is often grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives who step forward to provide a loving home for those children, either temporarily or permanently. These kinship caregivers help children stay connected to their families and cultural identity, and research shows that children in foster care who are able to live with their kin experience less trauma. But for too long, federal regulations imposed significant burdens on these kinship caregivers by making it harder for them to become foster families. Today, HHS has issued a final regulation that will allow states to simplify the process for kinship caregivers to become foster care providers, and require that states provide these family members with the same financial support that any other foster home would receive. This regulation will help families across the country care for children in their extended family, and receive the resources and financial supports they need and deserve. These changes will advance the Administration’s priority of equity for families who have been underserved and adversely affected by persistent poverty.
Protect LGBTQI+ youth. LGBTQI+ youth face profound disparities in the foster care system. Because of family rejection and abuse, LGBTQI+ children are overrepresented in foster care where they face poor outcomes, including mistreatment and discrimination because of who they are. To address these disparities, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing HHS to protect LGBTQI+ youth in the foster care system. Today, HHS is delivering on that promise by releasing a proposed regulation to protect LGBTQI+ youth in foster care. The proposed rule would require that every state’s child welfare agency ensure that LGBTQI+ children in their care are placed in foster homes where they will be protected from mistreatment related to their sexual orientation or gender identity, where their caregivers have received special training on how to meet their needs, and where they can access the services they need to thrive.
Expand access to legal services. Many families that come to the attention of a child welfare agency are in the midst of or recovering from familial, health, housing, or economic challenges. Children and families in the child welfare system must navigate complex legal proceedings related to these challenges, but are often forced to do so without access to a lawyer. This makes it harder for families to achieve stability and get the resources they need. Oftentimes access to legal representation could avoid placing children in foster care. For example, under this rule if a parent was seeking a restraining order from an abusive spouse in order to keep their children safe and prevent their removal from the home, a state could use federal funds to help that parent access a lawyer to file a restraining order. Today, HHS is releasing a proposed rule that will allow child welfare agencies to use federal funds to expand access to legal services for families who need access to a lawyer to achieve stability. In addition, the rule would allow Tribes to be reimbursed for the legal costs of intervening in a state foster care court proceeding over the parental rights of an Indian child, which Tribes have the authority to do under the Indian Child Welfare Act, but which can be costly for Tribes.
These new regulations build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s track record of strengthening services for children and families in the child welfare system, including:
- Investing hundreds of millions of dollars in community-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs.
- Proposing a $5 billion expansion of evidence-based foster care prevention services to allow more children to remain safely in their own homes with their own families.
- Proposing a $9 billion expansion to provide housing vouchers to all 20,000 youth exiting foster care annually — a key step in helping them secure stable housing during this difficult transition.
- Working to help states place more children with relatives and other trusted adults instead of in group homes, and calling on Congress for an additional $1 billion to help youth aging out of foster care find a job, enroll in and afford higher education, obtain basic necessities, and access preventative health care
- Calling on Congress to make the Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable and proposing extending it to legal guardians — including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives.
- Working with states to help youth aging out of the foster care system to stay in school, participate in job training programs, pay their bills, and transition to adulthood.
- Expanding the Military Parental Leave Program, which enables service members to spend needed time with their families following a child’s adoption or placement in long-term foster care.
- Bringing the child poverty rate to a historic low during the expanded Child Tax Credit, preventing children from being unnecessarily removed from their families because of poverty.