What You Need to Know and Why it Matters

Last month, FFCR Executive Director, Candice Maze, and Training & Engagement Manager, Marissa Leichter, attended an excellent training given by Florida’s Children First about the changes to federal child welfare financing that are expected to significantly impact state and local practice and policy. Over the next few months, we will share what we learned in a three-article series. The first article will cover the history federal financing for foster care and will offer a context for the current state of affairs. The second will discuss new federal legislation, the end of Florida’s Title IV-E Waiver, and the potential impact of these two concurrent developments on children and families involved with the child welfare system. The final article will provide an overview of how Florida intends to manage the pending changes and what child advocates can do to make sure that children get what they need to be safe and stable and attain permanency.

In 1961, the federal government authorized the use of “Welfare Funds” to pay for the needs of children in foster care. Prior to this time, states footed the entire bill. In 1980, federal funding for state child welfare services was funded through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. In essence, to be receive financial reimbursement from the federal government for the cost of caring for a child removed from his or her parents, Title IV-E requires states to demonstrate that specific eligibility requirements are met for each child in care. These include:

  • Removal Standards: Continuation in the home is Contrary to the Welfare of the Child and that the State has made Reasonable Efforts to prevent removal and to establish and finalize a permanency plan.
  • Placement Standards: The child must be placed in a licensed family foster home or a licensed child care institution (aka group home).
  • Family of Origin Income Level: The child’s family would have met the eligibility requirements for Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) that existed on July 16, 1996.


The Title IV-E funds pay for “foster care maintenance” – food, clothing, shelter, supervision, school supplies, personal incidentals and “foster care administration” – case workers and foster parent licensing. These funds do NOT pay for services to the child, his family or foster family – including counseling or treatment – and any unlicensed placement (relatives, nonrelatives and children living with their parents under court supervision). Although the state (through DCF) may take children into care who do not meet the above requirements, the state will not be able to receive federal reimbursement for the costs of caring for that child. This financing structure created a number of significant problems, the least of which were policies that incentivized foster care over relative care or in-home placement and a lack of resources for quality interventions and services. And, it was costing the federal government a fortune.


In response to these and other concerns, the federal government implemented the use of Title IV-E Waivers in some states, capping the allocation of federal funds in exchange for the state’s ability to use of the Title IV-E dollars in less restrictive ways – including for services – that promote safety and permanency and prevent placement in foster care. Florida has had this waiver since 2006. On an annual basis, Florida spends about $1.27 Billion on child welfare; 58% is from federal funds, with 54% of our current federal funds coming from the Title IV-E Waiver. (The other 46% of federal funding is provided through adoption assistance payments, adoption assistance administration funds, foster care administration funds, and Chafee Transition to Adulthood/Education and Training Vouchers). Florida currently uses 42% of its waiver funding – or $80M – on resources and services.


However, on September 30, 2019, Florida will lose the waiver. We will have to revert to the more restrictive and inflexible pre-200 eligibility requirements. The anticipated result: The inability to draw down $90M in Title IV-E funds currently funding foster care and services throughout Florida. But, not all is lost! When we wave good-bye to the waiver in a few months, we can say hello to the Family First Prevention and Services Act. Or, can we?


To read the most recent evaluation of Florida’s Title IV-E Waiver, please click here. 


Special thanks and credit to Florida’s Children First for their “Whole Lotta Changes Coming” training from which much of this content is derived.