Issue: CAPTA Reauthorization
The legislative proposal reauthorizes grants to assist state courts and impacts court oversight responsibilities for child welfare cases.
State court leaders support legislation to improve the outcomes for children in the child welfare system, including funding prevention services for children at risk of entering foster care and reducing the use of congregate care. (COSCA Resolution 15-M-5 and CCJ Resolution 16-M-5)
On 5/5/15, Senator Ron Wyden (D-RI) released draft legislation for comment, which would expand federal reimbursement 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.
On 5/19/15, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing, No Place to Grow Up: How to Safely Reduce Reliance on Foster Care Group Homes. In his opening statement, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated he will be working with committee members to “come to a consensus on reducing the reliance on group homes.”
On 8/4/15, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on foster care and alternatives to foster care placements. The hearing coincided with Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) introduction of his Family Stability and Kinship Care Act (S. 1964).
Staff to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees worked together to develop the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016. On 6/13/16, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (H.R. 5456) which would allow for federal child welfare dollars to be used on prevention services for children at risk of entering foster care, encourage the placement of children in foster care in the least restrictive, most family-like settings appropriate to their individual needs, and reauthorize child welfare grant programs that were expiring in FY2016, including the Court Improvement Program (CIP) grants.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 5456 (FFPSA) by voice vote on 6/15/16. On 6/21/16, the House passed H.R. 5456 by unanimous consent. The Senate companion bill, S. 3065 was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Letters of support were sent to members of both the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee by CCJ and COSCA. Efforts were made to also obtain letters of support from individual states.
H.R. 5456 stalled in the Senate. Three Senators had holds on the bill – Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Michael Enzi (R-WY). The concerns related to the financial impact of the legislation and time needed to comply with the new requirements.
The Senate adjourned on 9/28/16 for its election recess before passing H.R. 5456. The intent was to consider the bill during the lame duck session, however, a portion of the bill’s offsets expired on October 1st. As a result, H.R. 5456 or any new legislation would have needed to include other offsets to make up for this lost funding. Before adjourning, Congress did approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government running through 12/9/16. Even though the CR maintained federal funding at the FY 2016 level, funding for the data and training CIP grants could not be released until the programs are reauthorized. The 114th Congress adjourned without passing the FFPSA and reauthorizing the three CIP grants. Congress did pass a CR to keep the government running through 4/28/17.
The 115th Congress convened on January 4th. It is not clear yet whether the Senate Finance Committee will try to move FFPSA or focus on reauthorization of grants. Senator Cornyn’s staff have indicated that he will introduce a standalone reauthorization bill for the CIP grants. They are looking for an offset and trying to recruit co-sponsors for the bill.
Representative Vern Buchannan (R-FL) re-introduced FFPSA (H.R. 253) on 1/4/17. The text of H.R. 253 is the same as last year’s H.R. 5456. While the bill has been re-introduced, there is no plan for House action on the bill in the near future. Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) has replaced Representative Buchannan as the chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) is the new Ranking Member for this subcommittee.