Child Welfare Legislative History

The information below provides the legislative history of child welfare programs since the end of the first session of the 112th Congress and through September 30, 2014, during the second session of the 113th Congress.  For prior legislative history, refer to the 2012 Green Book.  Note that this prior legislative history is primarily, but not exclusively, concerned with the development of programs currently authorized under Title IV-B and Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.  While it is somewhat detailed, it is not comprehensive.  

112th Congress

The Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-275, enacted January 2013) called for establishment of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.  The Commission is charged with studying services used to reduce child abuse and neglect fatalities and developing recommendations for a national comprehensive strategy to reduce such fatalities, including recommendations for appropriate legislative and administrative actions.

113th Congress

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183, enacted September 2014) amends the federal (Title IV-E) foster care program to require state child welfare agencies to develop and implement procedures for identifying, documenting in agency records, and determining appropriate services for certain children or youth who are victims of sex trafficking or at risk of victimization.  State child welfare agencies must also report to law enforcement and HHS about such victims.  HHS must establish a national advisory committee on child sex trafficking that, among other responsibilities, must develop policies on improving the nation’s response to domestic sex trafficking. P.L. 113-183 also includes provisions to direct child welfare agencies to develop protocols on locating children missing from care.

P.L. 113-183 also seeks to ensure children in foster care have the opportunity to participate in activities that are appropriate to their age and stage of development.  It requires changes in state foster home licensing law to enable foster caregivers to apply a “reasonable and prudent parenting” standard when determining whether a child in foster care may participate in activities and directs state child welfare agencies to provide training to caregivers on using this standard.   Other provisions in the law seek to ensure permanent adult connections for older children and better aid for their transition to successful adulthood.  Under the new law, states are not permitted to assign a permanency plan of “another planned permanent living arrangement” (APPLA) to any child under the age of 16, and must take additional steps to support permanency for children age 16 or older who are assigned that permanency plan.  Further, children in foster care who are age 14 or older must be consulted in the development of, and any revisions to, their case and permanency plans.  They must also be made aware of their rights while in care, including the right to receive critical documents (e.g., birth certificate, Social Security card) when they “age out” of care.

P.L. 113-183 extended funding authority for Adoption Incentive Payments for three years (FY2014-FY2016), renamed them (as of October 1, 2014) as the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments, revised the incentive structure to allow states to earn incentive payments for both adoptions and exits from foster care to legal guardianship, and placed additional focus on finding permanent homes for older children.  The new incentive structure, which is being phased in, gauges state performance based on changes in the rate (or percentage) of adoptions and legal guardianships a state achieved (rather than number).  Separately, P.L. 113-183 requires 30% of any state savings (resulting from broadening federal eligibility for Title IV-E adoption assistance) to be used for family strengthening services, including post-adoption services.  It also includes provisions to ensure continued federal assistance under the Title IV-E program for eligible children who, following the death or incapacitation of their legal guardian, are placed with previously named successor guardians.  Additionally, the law appropriated $15 million to continue Family Connection Grants for one year.

This page was prepared on October 27, 2014 for the 2014 version of the House Ways and Means Committee Green Book.