New Federal Bill Improves Foster Care

When it comes to foster care, states have primary responsibility to ensure the well-being of children. However, almost half of the funding for foster care comes from the federal government.

New federal legislation was passed this year to alter how the money is used to support these children.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services says it’s the most comprehensive piece of childhood legislation in decades. 

The biggest change between pre-2018 legislation and the Family First Prevention Services Act, is that before most of the federal money went straight to foster care facilities. Now, the money is to be used for prevention services for children and their guardians.

There is no longer an income test to qualify. Further, before, no money was given to support a child with a parent in residential treatment. Instead, 12 months of funding is now provided for children in such placements.

This is especially important, because one of the top reasons kids go into foster care in our state, is parental substance abuse.

The goal of the crowd gathered in on the conversation in North Dakota, is to avoid having children enter foster care in the first place.

Kelsey Bless, with Children and Family Services for DHS says, “We need kids to be safe, we need families to be supported, and in order for them to do that, we need to provide services.”

North Dakota Leadership Board member Elizaberth Muralt was in North Dakota’s foster care system from age 5 to 19.

Muralt adds, “I sit back, and I’m like ‘Wow, I wish I would’ve had that when I was in the system. That’s really great.”

She says this legislation is so important because absolutely every child’s situation is different, and should be treated as such.

North Dakota has seen a three percent increase in kids going into foster care each year since 2012.

Bless adds, “We have about 1,600 children in North Dakota foster care on any given day, and so, that’s quite high.”

Bless says there’s still a long way to go.

Muralt’s message for today’s foster kids is to never let your circumstance define you.

She explains, “Just because you’ve went through those things, doesn’t mean you can’t be whoever you set your mind to be. And, tune out what everybody else is saying, and just sit back and listen to yourself and who you know you can be.”

DHS says the focus of foster care will now be on prevention and intervention services, and keeping families together as much as possible.

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