The Child Welfare System Including Foster Care and Adoption Assistance

The Child Welfare System

Including Foster Care and Adoption Assistance

Each year concerned professionals and community members report nearly 500,000

instances in which they suspect that someone is abusing or neglecting a child in

California.1 California’s child welfare system is the principal intervention resource for

protecting these children, as well as children who are orphaned or abandoned. The

system consists of a conglomeration of public and private agencies, institutions, programs

and services. These entities and individuals respond to allegations of abuse and neglect,

provide services to children and families who are victims or potential victims of abuse or

neglect, and provide services to children in foster care who were temporarily or

permanently removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. In July, 2007,

approximately 85,000 children in California lived in out-of-home or foster care.2

Federal and state laws provide the framework for child welfare services which are funded

through a combination of federal, state and county sources. The California Department

of Social Services (DSS) is the principal entity responsible for the state’s child welfare

system, although each of the state’s 58 counties administers its own child welfare

program. In other words, counties are the primary source of direct government

interaction with children and families involved in the system. California is one of around

a dozen states with this state-supervised/county-administered governance system. The

Departments of Health Services, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Programs, and

Developmental Services, along with their county counterparts, and the Administrative

Office of the Courts and the Department of Education also provide services to children

and families involved in the child welfare system.

Components of the system

Child welfare services include a variety of interventions designed to protect children from

abuse and neglect. Major services include emergency response to reports of suspected

abuse and neglect; family maintenance (which provides time-limited protective services

to families in crisis); family reunification (which provides time-limited intervention and

support services to help create a safe environment to which a child who was removed

from home could return); and foster or out-of-home care. After a concerned individual

reports an allegation of abuse or neglect, a county social worker determines if an

investigation needs to occur and how quickly. An investigation may end the intervention,

or it may begin the family’s further involvement in the child welfare system.

1 Needell, B., et. al. (2008). Child Welfare Services Reports for California. Retrieved February 20, 2008, from University of

California at Berkeley Center for Social Services Research website. URL: <

2 Id.



The Governor's proposed budget for 2008-09 includes $4.179 billion in spending from all

funds for the child welfare system, of which $1.14 billion are from the General Fund.3

The primary sources of federal funding for the child welfare system include Titles IV-B

(child welfare services) and IV-E (foster care) of the Social Security Act, with additional

funding in Titles IV-A (TANF), XIX (Medicaid) and XX (block grants).

Most stakeholders agree that current federal funding mechanisms for child welfare place

a greater priority on supports to children while in foster care at the expense of prevention

efforts and supports to help at-risk families care for their children at home. The federal

Title IV-E program is an open-ended entitlement program that guarantees federal

reimbursement to states for maintaining an eligible child in foster care. This program

accounts for approximately 48% of federal child welfare spending in the states. The

federal Title IV-B program provides funds to states for family preservation and support

services, reunification services and adoption promotion. Unlike federal Title IV-E

funding, Title IV-B funding is a capped entitlement and considered discretionary funding,

which is subject to the annual appropriation process. Title IV-B is an important source of

funding for prevention and early intervention services, yet these funds account for only

approximately five percent of all federal funding on child welfare. Thus, federal

financing has historically been a barrier to the implementation of many strategies to

prevent children and their families from unnecessarily entering foster care.4

¾ Foster Care

Most of California's approximately 80,000 foster children entered foster care because of

Neglect (rather than abuse or abandonment). Three-quarters of these children were

minorities or children of color in 2006. African-American children in particular were

disproportionately represented.5 In 2006, foster children lived with foster parents

(approximately 36% of placements), kin (36%), group home providers (or congregate

care facilities, 8%), or in other living arrangements. Group care placements are the least

preferred and most expensive (ranging from $1,454 to $6,371 per child per month) of

these major placement categories.

Foster care is intended to provide children with temporary out-of-home placements until

they can safely return home or be permanently placed with relatives or other committed

adults. Yet in 2006, around 19,000 children for whom the state was responsible had been

in our care and custody for longer than 5 years. That same year, 42% of children in foster

care had been placed in at least 3 homes or institutions.

3 LAO, Analysis of the 2008-09 Budget Bill. URL:

4 Two large counties, Los Angeles and Alameda, are currently participating in the federal Title IV–E Child Welfare Waiver

Demonstration Capped Allocation Project that allows more flexibility for IV-E fund usage.

5 Id. (The California Department of Finance estimates that African-American children represented 8% of California’s population in

2006; yet during that same year, 28% of children in foster care were African-American.)


Foster children are also highly at-risk as they transition to adulthood. Youth who "age

out" of or "emancipate" from foster care at 18 (or up until the age of 21 in some

circumstances) are especially vulnerable. When compared to children who were not in

foster care, foster children are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school.6

Former foster children also face unemployment and incarceration at rates far higher than

the general population.7 According to some studies, 24% to 50% of former foster

children become homeless within the first 18 months of emancipation.8

In recent years, the Legislature, media and other leaders have devoted important attention

to reforms of the overall child welfare system and foster care in particular. These efforts

have resulted in some very positive changes (see below for examples). However, some

changes have not been fully-implemented; and as the dire outcomes described above

indicate, further attention to improving the system is still urgently needed.

¾ Adoption & Guardianship

Adoption is a process that creates a new parent-child relationship under the law- after the

birth parents' rights are terminated and transferred. The majority of finalized adoptions in

California are overseen by public adoption agencies, including CDSS district offices, and

state-licensed county adoption agencies. The Adoption Assistance Program (AAP)

provides benefits or subsidies to promote permanent placement of children in need of

families who are difficult to place, including those who are older, members of sibling

groups, or who have disabilities. Eligibility for federal benefits is based on the child's

eligibility for federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children-Foster Care Program

(AFDC-FC). The amount of financial assistance is based on the child's needs and cannot

exceed the age-related, foster family home care rate for which the child would otherwise

be eligible. This amounted to monthly federal and non-federal average grants in 2006-07

of $761.16 and $806.23, respectively. Payments continue until the child attains the age

of 18 except in limited circumstances when it may continue until the child turns 21.

Guardianship is a legal arrangement whereby a court grants the responsibility to care for

a child to an adult or adults who then have the authority to make decisions a biological

parent would otherwise make. Guardianships last until the child reaches the age of 18 or

the court terminates the guardianship. Non-relative guardians for children in the foster

care system may receive AFDC-FC payments and other foster care services.

6 See, e.g., Mark Courtney & Amy Dworsky, Chapin Hall Center for Children, Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of

Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at Age 19 (2005); Advocates for Children’s Project Achieve: A Model Project Providing Education

Advocacy for Children in the Child Welfare System (2005); Retrieved October 12, 2007 from Advocates for Children of New

York, Inc., URL:

7 The Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study, Retrieved 4/30/07. URL:

8 California Department of Social Services, All County Information Notice I-101-01 (November 21 ,2001).

Retrieved 11/16/07. URL:


¾ Kin/Relative Care

Relative caregivers often serve as a primary if informal source of care for children whose

parents are absent. Once a child is in foster care, federal law requires the child welfare

agency to try and place the child with a relative before turning to placement in a

stranger's home or another facility. Long-term kinship care is especially valuable

because it provides greater stability for children. Children who are cared for by relatives

move less frequently and remain more connected to their culture, identities and

communities. By contrast to non-relative foster parents, relative caregivers tend to be

older, single and more frequently African-American.

To support kinship care and combat the financial disincentive that might otherwise

accompany relatives becoming guardians, California has enacted a series of legislative

reforms. The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment program (Kin-GAP) is a

voluntary program that provides financial assistance equal to the basic foster care rate

based on the child's age to relative caregivers who become legal guardians. These

relative guardians' homes must meet the same health and safety standards as licensed

foster homes.

Performance Measures and Recent Reform Efforts

Outcome Measures

In November 1997, with the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, Congress

mandated that state's child welfare programs be assessed on the basis of outcomes

achieved for children and families served by public agencies. In 1999 the federal Health

and Human Services (HHS) agency adopted seven outcome performance measures in the

areas of safety, permanence and well-being. HHS also established a review process for

determining whether states are in compliance with those outcome measures. The process

known as the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) examines the delivery of child

welfare services and the outcomes for children and families served by child protective

services, foster care, adoption, and other related programs. In 2001 the Legislature

passed AB 636 (Steinberg), the California Child Welfare System Improvement and

Accountability Act, which provided the framework for measuring and monitoring the

performance of each county child welfare system.

The federal government last reviewed California's child welfare system and published

results in 2002. The state failed all seven of the outcome measures pertaining to child

safety, permanence and well-being. As a result the state developed a Performance

Improvement Plan (PIP) to avoid future funding penalties. According to the LAO,

actions taken on the PIP were expected to improve California’s performance to passing

some (but not all) measures in the next round of results.9 The new round of reviews

began in spring 2007, with California's taking place in February, 2008 (results pending).

9 See Analysis of the 2007-08 Budget Bill: Health and Social Services; Child Welfare Services. URL:,%20Federal%20Financi



Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care

In October 2005 the Speaker appointed a Select Committee on Foster Care chaired by

Assembly Member Karen Bass. The Select Committee has held hearings throughout

California. The Committee also coordinated a 25-piece legislative package in 2006, as

well as numerous efforts in 2007. The Legislature and Governor acted upon many of the

proposed reforms in those years, including significant new funding. The Select

Committee will continue its work this legislative session.

Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care

In 2006 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission on

Children in Foster Care chaired by Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno to provide

leadership and develop recommendations and strategies to reduce the number of children

in and entering foster care while ensuring they have safe, secure, and stable homes. The

Commission is expected to present a final report to the Judicial Council in 2008.

The California Child Welfare Council

Also in 2006, the Governor signed AB 2216 (Bass) which created the California Child

Welfare Council, an advisory body responsible for improving the collaboration and

processes of the multiple agencies and the courts that serve the children and youth in the

child welfare and foster care systems. The Council is co-chaired by the Secretary of the

Health and Human Services Agency and the Chief Justice of the California Supreme

Court. The first meeting was held late in 2007.

Selected Legislation

SB 84 (Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review), Chapter 177, Statutes of 2007

Selected provisions:

• 5% rate increase for group homes, county foster family homes, Kin-GAP, and

emergency assistance cases, effective January 1, 2008.

• 100% increase– from $5000 to $10,000– in maximum private adoption agencies

can be reimbursed for a completed adoption, beginning February 1, 2008.

• $35.7 million for Transitional Housing Plus- to provide housing and supportive

services to emancipated foster youth ages 18-24.


AB 1808 (Committee on Budget), Chapter 75, Statutes of 2006.

Selected provisions:

• Eliminated county share of cost for transitional housing for former foster youth.

• Enhanced AAP benefits for a pilot project to increase successful adoptions of

hard-to-adopt children.

• Extended Kin-GAP assistance to wards of the juvenile court in addition to

dependent children of the juvenile court.

• Deleted requirement that county seeking to participate in KSSP must have 40% or

more dependent children in relative care placement.

• Provided specialized care and clothing allowance benefits to Kin-GAP children.

AB 408 (Steinberg), Chapter 862, Statutes of 2003 & AB 1412 (Leno), Chapter 640,

Statutes of 2005. Requires social workers to identify important people in the lives of

older foster youth and to support their continued relationships to enhance permanence for

youth. AB 408 also ensures that foster youth are allowed to participate in age appropriate

extracurricular activities.

AB 899 (Liu), Chapter 683, Statutes of 2001. Created foster youth Bill of Rights,

codified in Calif. Welf. & Inst. Code Section 16001.9.

AB 636 (Steinberg), Chapter 678, Statutes of 2001. Child Welfare System Improvement

and Accountability Act of 2001. Created California's Child and Family Service Review

system and serves as a guide to the assessment process.

SB 2030 (Costa), Chapter 785, Statutes of 1998. Required DSS to commission a study to

evaluate child welfare services budget methodology, social worker caseload levels,

supportive services and prevention services for clients. The dialogue about the resulting

caseload standards and related funding needs continues today.


The Performance Indicators for Child Welfare Services in California/California

Children's Services Archive at the Center for Social Services Research, School of Social

Welfare, U.C. Berkeley, provides an ongoing analysis and reporting using statewide and

county-specific child welfare administrative data, along with data from other sources:

Understanding the Child Welfare System in California, California Center for Research on

Women and FamiliesCALIF. FOSTER CARE REPORT FOR 2008-09.docx

Foster Care Fundamentals: An Overview of California's Foster Care System: A Primer

for Service Providers and Policymakers, California State Library Research Bureau.


• Still in Our Hands: A Review of Efforts to Reform Foster Care in California

(February 2003). Little Hoover Commission.


• Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster

Care (May 2004). Pew Commission.


• Broken Promises: California's Inadequate and Unequal Treatment of its Abused

and Neglected Children (2006). National Center for Youth Law.


Assembly Committee on Human Services, State Capitol, Room 4206, (916) 319-2089

Updated: February 2008

About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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One Response to The Child Welfare System Including Foster Care and Adoption Assistance

  1. The ladies in my group spent an hour talking on this subject last night. I’ve even gotten two emails about it today. It’s a hot topic.


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