by Kelli Barnes
"This is an historical event for us," said Clint Poncho, vice chairman of Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas. The agreement, concerning Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, was signed Thursday, April 12. According to Poncho, it allows the Alabama Coushatta Tribe to ensure the Alabama Coushatta foster care and adopted children do not lose their heritage by being placed outside the reservation. "We have a peacemaker court within our tribe, that upholds our own judicial system, culture, heritage and traditions," said Poncho. Pam Parker, special projects attorney for the state of Texas, said this signing is a culmination of several years of efforts to provide federal and/or state funding to tribes seeking to provide foster care and adoptive services for the children from their own tribe. According to a tribe spokesman, this agreement is not retroactive, but will help with funding from this time forward.
The Federal Foster Care Program helps to provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until the children are safely returned home, placed permanently with adoptive families or placed in other planned arrangements for permanency. The program is authorized by title IV-E of the Social Security Act, as amended, and implemented under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 45 CFR parts 1355, 1356, and 1357. It is an annually appropriated program with specific eligibility requirements and fixed allowable uses of funds. Funding is awarded by formula as an open-ended entitlement grant and is contingent upon an approved title IV-E plan to administer or supervise the administration of the program. The title IV-E Agency must submit yearly estimates of program expenditures as well as quarterly reports of estimated and actual program expenditures in support of the awarded funds. Funds are available for monthly maintenance payments for the daily care and supervision of eligible children; administrative costs to manage the program; training of staff and foster care providers; recruitment of foster parents and costs related to the design, implementation and operation of a state-wide data collection system.
The 50 States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible to participate in the Foster Care Program awards. Beginning in 2010, direct funding started becoming available to Indian Tribes, Indian Tribal organizations and Tribal consortia, with approved plans to operate the program. Alabama Coushatta has now joined the ranks of Tribes included in the Title IV E funding.