Working to Improve the Lives of Nebraska's Children
Natalie G. Nelsen, Guardian ad Litem, Holdrege
On October 7, 2008, the Fostering Connections Act was
signed into law. The Foster Connections Act is designed to help children
and youth in the foster care system by promoting permanent families for
them through relative guardianships and adoptions and by improving
education and health care. The Act has six key areas of focus to improve
outcomes for youth. It is important to note that many of the requirements
of the Act are tied to eligibility for Title IV (E) funding, and many of
the resources made available through the act are only available if the
child is IV(E) eligible.
Promoting Family Connections and Enhancing
Support for Relative Caregivers
1.) Within 30 days of a child’s removal
from the home, the Department must exercise due diligence to identify and
provide notice to all adult relatives of the child. The Act does provide
an exception to the notice requirements where there is “family or domestic
2.) The Act allows for case-by-case waivers of non-safety
licensing standards for relative placements.
3.) The Act gives states
the option to use federal IV-E funds for kinship guardianship payments for
children cared for by relative foster parents who are committed to caring
for these children permanently when they leave foster care. The children
must be eligible for federal foster care maintenance payments while in the
home of the relative and must reside with the relative for at least six
consecutive months in foster care to be eligible for the kinship
guardianship assistance payment.
4.) The Act authorizes a new grant
program for activities designed to connect children in foster care with
family. Funds can be used for: (a) kinship navigator programs, (b)
intensive family-finding efforts, (c) family group decision-making
meetings for children in the child welfare system with special attention
to children exposed to domestic violence, or (d) residential family
substance abuse treatment programs.
Promoting Sibling Co-Placements
1.) The Act mandates that reasonable efforts be made to
place siblings together unless contrary to a child’s best
2.) If placement together is not an option, the act requires
that reasonable efforts be made to maintain sibling connections through
Improving Outcomes for Older Youth
1.) The Act provides
for continuation of federal support for youths in foster care,
guardianship, or adoption assistance to age 21.
2.) The Act requires
that the Department develop a transition plan at least 90 days prior to
discharge. This plan is in addition to, not in place of, the independent
living plan that the Department is required to develop for all youths ages
16 and older.
3.) The Act allows federal reimbursement for a
“supervised setting in which the individual lives independently” for youth
18 to 21 years old.
Education and Health Care Access
1.) The Act
requires that children in foster care remain in their original school when
they enter or change placements, unless remaining in that school is not in
the child’s best interests. The Act provides federal support for
transportation to enable children to remain in their original
2.) If remaining in the same school is not in the child’s best
interests, the Act requires that the child is immediately enrolled in a
new school with all education records of the child provided to that new
1.) The Act increases incentives in
current law to promote the adoption of children from foster care. The act
also permits states to receive an additional payment if the state’s
adoption rate exceeds its highest recorded foster child adoption rate
2.) By “de-linking” a child’s eligibility for federal
adoption assistance payments from the outdated AFDC income requirements,
the Act increases the number of children with special needs who can be
adopted with federal support.
3.) The provisions of the Act mandating
sibling placement together, also extend to adoptive placements, provided
that it is in the children’s best interests.
Indian Tribe Related
1.) The Act provides that tribes can apply to the Department
of Health and Human Services to administer Title IV-E foster care and
adoption assistance programs, and to receive direct funding from DHHS. In
the absence of this direct receipt of funding, States are required to
negotiate IV-E agreements with the tribes in good faith, if requested by
2.) All Indian children placed by Indian tribes who are
operating through the Title IV-E program pursuant to an HHS approved plan
or through a tribal-state agreement are eligible to receive IV-E foster
care maintenance or adoption assistance payments, if they otherwise meet
Title IV-E criteria.