It is rarely appropriate for a foster care agency to send a referral to collect child support.
The Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (CB), announced a revised federal policy regarding referrals from foster care agencies to child support agencies. Effective June 8, 2022, title IV-E foster care agencies will need to define more narrowly “where appropriate” before sending referrals to the IV-D child support agencies. The default position is to not send the referral to the child support agency to establish an order for support for the child in state custody, especially against the parent from whose custody the child was removed.
The previous CB policy directing IV-E agencies to determine “where appropriate” on a case-by-case basis is withdrawn. Now, state foster care agencies should consider across-the-board policies, such as no referrals will be sent to IV-D agencies except in the very rare instances where the referral would have a positive impact on the child (an example being if the child has only one legal parent and parentage needs to be established) or where the referral would not hinder the reunification plan for the removal parent.
Reviews for Appropriateness of Existing Referrals Encouraged
Considering this new policy, CB encourages state foster care agencies to use six-month reviews on cases already referred to re-assess and consult with their child support counterparts to decide whether the child support case should continue.
States May Claim Title IV-E Funds to Update Automated Systems
CB and the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement issued a joint letter on July 29, 2022, to highlight this CB policy change. They also acknowledge that there are challenges for foster care agencies to implement this policy change, especially if there are changes needed in the automated systems to prevent automatic referrals. States should take advantage of CB’s support and claim title IV-E administrative funds to pay for system changes.
We Can Help You Navigate These Policy Changes
If you are thinking about changing your child welfare program’s policies and procedures or assessing your open foster care/child support caseload, Public Knowledge® would like to help you make these changes that are so important for families to reunify with their children.