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Audit of Foster Care Services During Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act), as amended, authorizes the Federal Foster Care Program, which helps provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until the children are safely returned home, placed permanently with adoptive families, or placed in other planned arrangements for permanency. Title IV-B of the Act authorizes Federal funding to States to promote flexibility in the development and expansion of coordinated child and family services programs. In response to COVID-19, on April 15, 2020, the Children's Bureau—the operating division of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) that administers the Title IV-B and Title IV-E programs at the Federal level—provided flexibility to State Title IV-E agencies related to (1) fingerprint-based criminal record checks requirements for prospective foster parents (allowing for name-based checks until fingerprint-based checks can safely be done), and (2) caseworker visit requirements (allowing videoconferencing visits to count toward the requirement that 50 percent of visits must occur in the child's home). On April 27, 2020, the Children's Bureau reminded States of additional flexibilities afforded by the Statute, including the authority to modify foster family licensing standards as long as the standards are applied to all of these placements in accordance with the requirements of the Statute. Additionally, States have the authority to set their own foster care maintenance payment rates including, at their own discretion, enhancing those rates for children who test positive for COVID-19.

We intend to survey all States and identify the States that adopted any new licensing regulations or policies and procedures as a result of the existing flexibilities in the Statute and the waivers provided by ACF. Based on the information gathered, we plan to identify three States and conduct separate audits to ensure foster care providers are safeguarding the health and safety of children during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify any vulnerabilities or gaps in policies or procedures that could place these children at risk. As part of these audits, we would ensure that criminal record checks for foster parents conducted via name-based checks were ultimately conducted through fingerprints whenever determined safe to do so.

Announced or Revised Agency Title Component Report Number(s) Expected Issue Date (FY)
Completed (partial) Administration for Children and Families Audit of Foster Care Services During Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Office of Audit Services W-00-21-20024;