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Wyden proposes shift in child welfare funding


Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., made public Tuesday a “discussion draft” of legislation to improve the nation’s foster care system by giving states and tribes much-needed flexibility to finance new tools and programs to better the lives of at-risk children and their families.

The Wyden proposal would expand the federal foster care entitlement to do more than just pay a daily rate to keep children housed in foster care homes.

Instead, states and tribes would be able to use foster care funds to provide families in crisis with the supports, services, and evidence-based interventions needed to keep their children safely at home and out of foster care.

“This proposal is meant to address the lopsided structure of federal child welfare financing in which the vast majority of dollars are reserved for payments only when children are removed from their home,” Wyden said.

“For decades lawmakers, practitioners and advocates have talked about the need to provide support and foster care prevention services for children and families in crisis. These investments can help keep children safe in their homes or with other family members while reducing the need for costly and traumatic transfers to the foster care system,” Wyden added.

In addition to expanding funding to prevention services and supports, Wyden’s proposal draws from promising accountability innovations to incorporate performance-based reimbursement rates that will help ensure that these new funds lead to improved child safety and reduced foster care costs.

The discussion draft is a detailed, but not final, document that outlines principles and concepts. It is being circulated to interest groups, members of Congress, federal officials and others for review and comment.

The responses will be reviewed and, if appropriate, be incorporated into legislation that Wyden plans to introduce in the coming months. Please email comments on the proposal to by June 12, 2015.

A one-page summary of the legislative concept can be found here.

The draft legislative text can be found here.

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