The federal government has given Florida permission to continue a foster care funding program that has been credited with reducing child abuse and keeping youths out of foster care.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has extended Florida’s flexible spending option for funds it receives under IV-E of the Social Security Act. Although Title IV-E money covers services and administrative costs for foster care, since the 1990s HHS has given some states temporary waivers to spend that money on preventive services, including in-home counseling and various family supports.
Several studies have found promising results from IV-E waivers. Florida has stood out because it has continued the waivers for years (since October 2006) and has shown significant success.
An evaluation released earlier this year found that since the waivers began in Florida, fewer children are being placed in out-of-home care, more foster children are being reunited with their families, community-based services have expanded and agencies are instituting more innovative approaches for at-risk families. In its letter asking for the waiver extension, Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) said that since the waiver was granted, the number of children in out-of-home care has dropped by 37 percent.
The HHS approval extends the Florida program from the previous expiration date of Sept. 30, 2011, to July 31, 2012, according to the letter from HHS posted at the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
In July, state officials and child welfare experts, including the secretary of Florida’s DCF, urged a House subcommittee to expand the waivers.