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Letters to the 107th Congress

September 10, 2001

The Honorable Thomas A. Daschle
The Majority Leader
United States Senate
509 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4103

Dear Mr. Majority Leader:

On behalf of the American Bar Association, I am writing to express our strong support for S.550, legislation you introduced in the Senate in March to amend Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to provide equitable access for foster care and adoption services for Indian children in tribal areas. The ABA House of Delegates, our policy making body, overwhelmingly approved a recommendation brought forward by the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty urging support for enactment of legislation to achieve this important goal on August 7, 2001, at our Annual Meeting.

The ABA has a long history of working to improve and reform the child welfare system, especially the institutions serving abused and neglected children and children in foster care and those institutions involved with achieving permanency, including adoption of children. We, therefore, recognize and commend your strong leadership, and that of Senators McCain, Inouye, Baucus, Cochran and Feinstein, in introducing this important legislation to address an inequity in the law affecting many Native American children.

The purpose of the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Program is to ensure that children receive adequate care when placed in foster care and adoption programs. Foster parents of children who have come to their homes through state court placement receive money through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, to assist with the cost of food, shelter, clothing, daily supervision and school supplies. Additionally, states receive funding for administrative training and data collection to support this program.

Unfortunately, while Congress intended that the Title IV-E program should benefit all eligible children, it did not fully consider that Indian tribal governments retain sole jurisdiction over the domestic affairs of their own tribal members, particularly Indian children, when enacted. As a result, thousands of Native American children who meet income eligibility criteria who are placed in foster care by tribal courts do not receive foster care and adoptive services to which all other income-eligible children are entitled, and have little federal support in achieving the permanency they need and deserve. State administrators have attempted to bridge this gap through administration of cooperative agreements between the states and tribal governments. But these arrangements have not included funding to train tribal social workers and foster and adoptive parents and have proven difficult to negotiate, administer and enforce, for many reasons. In a 1994 report, the Department of Health and Human Services found that the best way to serve this underfunded group is to provide direct assistance to tribal governments and qualified tribal families.

S.550 would amend Title IV-E to allow tribes, like states, to submit plans to HHS in order to receive Title IV-E payments directly and to extend Title IV-E entitlement programs to tribal placements in foster and adoptive homes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the legislation would cost $236 million over a five-year period, which would amount to less than 1 percent of total federal Title IV-E expenditures. The legislation would also permit existing State-tribal cooperative agreements to continue, if desired.

Again, thank you for providing leadership on this important issue. We urge your fellow Senators to join you in supporting passage of S.550 this year to bring about fair and equitable funding for Native and non-Native children alike who need and deserve our support in foster care and adoptive homes.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

cc: Senators McCain, Inouye, Baucus, Cochran and Feinstein

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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