On October 1, Washington state was awarded one of nine Title IV-E waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be used for child welfare demonstration projects. The waiver allows Washington state’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to be more flexible in the ways it uses federal child welfare funding. Washington will focus on creative solutions aimed at improving outcomes for children in the areas of safety, permanency and well-being.
The waiver’s core activities will center on Family Assessment Response, also known as “differential response.” FAR allows DSHS to provide families with preventative and support services important for many families experiencing, or on the verge of homelessness.
Washington’s IV-E waiver is designed to keep children and youth classified as “non-emergency victims of neglect,” out of the foster care system. Since 2010, Building Changes has been collaborating with DSHS, housing authorities, and other stakeholders across our state to help create opportunities for meeting the housing needs of homeless and at-risk families involved in the child welfare system.
According to Executive Director Alice Shobe, “Families in the child welfare system are often also struggling to stay in or find housing. The federal waiver is an opportunity to not only keep families out of the foster care system but also to provide the services they need to stay together or re-unite with their children and remain stably housed.”
As has been demonstrated successfully in other states, an alternative, preventive response such as FAR that connects families to services, concrete supports, and community resources can be healthier and even safer for a child. Because FAR is a less adversarial process, families are more likely to react favorably to assistance from case managers and other service providers leading to more permanency in employment and housing, and more stability for children. For more information, see Flexible Funding, Title IV-E Waiver on the DSHS website.