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Policy Change for Foster Care Referrals to Child Support Agencies Provides Better Outcomes for Families

Public Knowledge® is excited to share that the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, announced federal policy revision 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 so that 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.

The previous policy directing IV-E agencies to determine “where appropriate” on a case-by-case basis is withdrawn. Now, 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 or where the referral would not impede the success of a permanency plan. Considering this new policy, the Children’s Bureau encourages title IV-E agencies to use the 6-month period reviews to re-assess and consult with their title IV-D counterparts whether the assignment of rights to support should continue.

The revised policy comes after the reflection of three studies conducted by child support programs in Orange County, California, Minnesota, and the state of Washington. These studies showed that most of the foster care referrals to child support agencies were for families already living in poverty, and the cost-effectiveness of the referrals was low, even negative, because of the difficulty in obtaining orders and enforcing them. Moreover, one study showed many times that the entry of a child support order delays the reunification process and potentially extends the child’s time in foster care.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported online on July 1, 2022, on the new policy. The article shares stories of individuals negatively impacted economically by the state entering child support orders when their child was placed in state foster care. Aysha Schomburg, the associate commissioner of the United States Children’s Bureau in ACF, said in a statement to NPR that the new policy instructs the child welfare agencies to “find innovative ways to support families.” 

“When a state child support agency takes what little funds a parent has when a child enters foster care, it makes it harder for that parent to pay for gas or bus fare or to get to work; harder to get or keep stable housing…. That’s not what we want.” Allison Krutsinger, director of government affairs and community engagement for Washington state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families, told NPR, “What this means for families is that it is one less potential economic hardship while they are working to get their family back.”

Aysha Schomburg, the associate commissioner of the United States Children’s Bureau in ACF

Public Knowledge® is very proud of its child welfare and child support professionals who worked with national professional organizations that support this policy change and practice in the state IV-E and IV-D programs. For more information and references for the child support studies, please see the policy announcement on the Children’s Bureau website, Questions 2 and 5, found on the “8.4C Title IV-E, General Title IV-E Requirements, Child support” page.

Wanting to Change Your Child Welfare Program’s Policies and Procedures?

If so, Public Knowledge® would like to hear from you. We have child welfare and child support experts who deeply understand both programs and why this change in the IV-E referral policy is so important for families trying to reunify with their children. Contact our child welfare or our child support experts to learn how we can help.

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