Feds OK flexible spending for Tennessee to help keep kids out of foster care

Feds OK flexible spending for Tennessee to help keep kids out of foster care

October 22nd, 2013 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Jim Henry

Jim Henry

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee is among seven states selected to participate in a "ground-breaking" demonstration project aimed at keeping more children safely in their homes instead of putting them into foster care, officials said today.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted the state's Department of Children's Services a waiver allowing officials to participate in a Title IV-E demonstration project.

DCS Commissioner Jim Henry says that gives his department new flexibility to use foster care dollars to serve children and families. Some 7,300 Tennessee children are now in foster care.

"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," Henry said in a news release. "It also demonstrates that DCS is committed to finding innovative, effective solutions to help keep families together."

Federal Title IV-E funds usually can be only used for select activities, including out-of-home care for foster children. The money typically can't be used to support in-home services to families who are at risk for having their child sent into foster care.

But now the state will be able to do just that. Services to these lower-risk families will include supports and services like assistance with food or utility bills. Also on the list are in-home family services and intensive family preservation services.

No new federal money is involved. The waiver frees up the state to do things differently.

Officials hope to start new initiatives in October 2014. By the time the waiver runs its course, the state hopes to have some $245 million to spend on more "high quality" services for children and their families.

Other states selected this year are Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New York and Rhode Island as well as Washington, D.C. Last year, nine states, including Arkansas were selected.