The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has been selected to participate in a groundbreaking demonstration project that promises to keep more kids safely in their homes, rather than having them come into foster care.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has chosen Tennessee, along with six other states, to take part in a waiver program that will give DCS added flexibility in using federal Title IV-E foster care dollars to serve children and families.
“The waiver represents a real opportunity for Tennessee as we continue to work to keep our kids safe, make them healthy and get them back on track,” said DCS Commissioner Jim Henry. “It also demonstrates that DCS is committed to finding innovative, effective solutions to help keep families together.”
Normally, federal Title IV-E funds can only be used for select activities, including out-of-home care for foster children. Typically, these funds cannot be used to support in-home services to families at risk for child removal.
The waiver will allow Tennessee to use Title IV-E funds for in-home services in an effort to keep children safely in their homes. The waiver does not provide new money to the state. Rather, it lets the state use its federal dollars in ways that were not previously allowed, providing flexible funding of innovative child welfare programs.
The department anticipates it will begin full implementation of the five-year waiver in October 2014. By the end of the waiver, current projections show that Tennessee will have had available approximately $245 million in federal IV-E funds to spend for children and families.
Any savings associated with the success of the waiver demonstration project can then be reinvested into more high-quality services for children and families.
Services to these lower-risk families will include supports and services, such as assistance with food or utilities. It will also include in-home family services and intensive family preservation services.
Tennessee currently has approximately 7,300 children in foster care.
In addition to Tennessee, the other states selected this year for the demonstration project are Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, plus the District of Columbia. Last year, nine states received IV-E demonstration waivers: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.