In October 2008, The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act) unanimously became federal law. This Act is the most significant child welfare law in the last fifteen years. It acknowledges the important role grandparents and other relatives play in the lives of children, and helps connect foster children with their relatives.
Among the many aspects of child welfare the law affects, there are several key provisions impacting grandfamilies:
- Requires that states identify and notify relatives when children enter foster care. To explore this requirement, see the notification of relatives analysis on this website.
- Gives states the option to use funds through Federal Title IV-E of the Social Security Act (Title IV-E) to finance guardianship assistance programs (GAP) that enable children in the care of grandparents and other relatives to exit foster care into permanent homes. As of March 2017, 33 states, the District of Columbia, and six tribes -- the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, the South Puget Intertribal Planning agency, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians -- have been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau to implement GAP. For a discussion of this option and its history, see the subsidized guardianship analysis on this website.
- Requires child welfare agencies to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together, whether in foster care, kinship guardianship, or adoptive placements. Siblings who are placed in the same home as a child eligible for Title IV-E guardianship payments may also receive support even if they are not otherwise eligible.
- Authorizes "Family Connection" Grants to establish kinship navigator programs that help link relative caregivers to a broad range of services and supports for them and the children they raise. See kinship navigator programs analysis for more information.
- Gives states the option to waive non-safety related licensing standards for relatives. See the foster care licensing analysis and Relative Foster Care Licensing Waivers in the States: Policies and Possibilities.
Other non-kinship provisions are aimed at extending direct Title IV-E funding to tribal government, reauthorizing the Adoption Incentives Program, allowing states the option to receive federal support for foster youth up to age 21, promoting educational stability for children and youth in foster care, guardianship and adoption, requiring health care coordination for children and youth in foster care and extending federal support for training of professionals and caregivers working with children in the child welfare system.