FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

Service calculated 59 how much states would have gotten had it become law and had every state accepted it. The answer: five billion more over five years than they got after CDF, the Child Welfare League of America and the rest of the child welfare establishment killed the reform and forced states to stick with the entitlement. 60 Since even the voluntary model failed, there was no hope for a more far-reaching plan offered at about the same time by then-Rep. Wally Herger (R-California). His version would have worked the same way—but it wouldn’t have been voluntary. Even that wouldn’t have been enough. Even these plans would have simply neutralized the bad financial incentives. But because of all the non-financial incentives, the pressure to needlessly tear apart families would have remained enormous. We need something far more radical. Something like this: Start with the Herger plan. But then, the following year, require that at least 10 percent of the total grant be transferred out of foster care and into safe, proven alternatives; ideally, these would be community-based and community run. (Prof. Anna Arons’ paper on New York City’s “unintended abolition” describes an excellent model.) 61 The next year it would be 20 percent, then 30 percent, and so on. After 10 years the federal government would be out of the foster care and adoption funding business entirely—but states would have over $9 billion more, plus an inflation adjustment, to spend on better alternatives. For example: suppose state x received $100 million in IV-E foster care reimbursement last year. Under this plan the state would get $100 million this year and no more. But the state would be free to spend that money on foster care and adoption and/or on better alternatives. Next year it would be $100 million again (plus an inflation adjustment) but no more than $90 million of it could go to foster care and adoption. The year after only $80 million could go to foster care and adoption. After 10 years the entire $100 million would have to go to better alternatives.

That does not mean there would be no foster care and no adoption. It would mean only that if a state or local government wanted to tear apart a family that state and/or local government would have to pick up the entire tab. Other urgent reforms include: • Ban per diem reimbursement for private agencies. The federal government should bar states from paying private agencies based on each day they hold a child in “care.” • Eliminate the adoption bounties under ASFA and replace them with payments only for reunification and guardianships. The reunification payments would be contingent on no long-term increase in foster-care recidivism—children returned to foster care after reunification. • Prohibit states from taking foster youths’ Social Security benefits. • Prohibit states from making parents pay ransom. • Prohibit the use of TANF money as a child welfare slush fund. Even all this doesn’t guarantee success because it doesn’t deal with all those other non-financial incentives mentioned earlier. But there are good people involved in these issues, both outside advocates and those who want to change family policing from within. We can see that because we saw a few courageous leaders accept waivers. And we can see it now when a state or local government manages to significantly reduce entries into care in spite of the current incentives. Reversing federal financial incentives and ending per-diem reimbursement to private agencies will allow these good people to swim with the tide instead of against it. ______________ 59 Stoltzfus, Emilie. “Child Welfare Funding Proposed by the Child SAFE Act (H.R. 4856 - 108th Congress) Compared to Actual and/or Projected Funding, FY2005-FY2010.” Congressional Research Service, Feb. 26, 2008. 60 Wexler, Richard. “The $5 billion blunder.” Youth Today , Dec. 2, 2010. billion-blunder/

68 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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