Florida Receives Approval of Landmark Federal Foster Care Waiver

By: Jeb Bush
By: Jeb Bush
Date: April 6, 2006
Location: Tallahassee, FL


Governor Jeb Bush and Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Lucy Hadi today announced that Florida received federal approval of the first statewide waiver providing flexibility for foster care funds. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) authorized the five-year waiver under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, allowing Florida to demonstrate that flexibility in funding will result in improved services for families.

"By providing needed flexibility in funding, this waiver eliminates bureaucratic impediments to the success of foster care programs in Florida," stated Governor Bush. "This is also a great example of Community-Based Care (CBC) working in partnership with the State to strengthen families in need of aid."

The waiver allows federal foster care funds to be used for any child welfare purpose rather than being restricted to out-of-home care as generally required under federal law. It also enables funds to be used for a wide variety of child welfare services including prevention, intensive in-home services to prevent placement of children outside the home, reunification and foster care. To measure the effectiveness of the waiver, an independent evaluator will conduct an assessment of the results.

"All children need permanent and stable homes to develop into healthy responsible citizens," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. "By granting these waivers, President Bush's administration is providing greater flexibility to states and greater hope to children."

Florida will receive federal funding during the course of a five-year period based on what the state would have received under IV-E rules. This amount will increase by three percent per year over federal foster care funding in the federal fiscal year that ended September 30, 2005. The program puts funding incentives in line with the program goals of maintaining the safety and well-being of children and enhancing permanency by providing services that help families remain intact whenever possible.

"This is a significant milestone for child welfare in Florida," said Secretary Hadi. "By expanding Florida's flexibility to use foster care funds through this federal waiver, our partnerships with Community-Based Care providers will continue to achieve compelling results for children in Florida."

The waiver proposal was developed as a joint effort by DCF and its CBC lead agencies. Executive Director of Partnership for Strong Families in Gainesville, Steve Murphy, worked closely on the plan with DCF, "This waiver will make a huge difference in how we serve abused, neglected and abandoned children in foster care. Now we can also focus on prevention, education and reunification of families. It's a great day for child welfare in Florida."