Thursday, December 06, 2018

New federal rules could ease shortage of foster parents

The opioid epidemic has increased the need for foster care, especially in rural areas, but states are struggling to find enough foster parents to take children in. Proposed federal regulations could help by making it easier for people to qualify as foster parents, including more biological family members of foster children, Teresa Wiltz reports for Stateline.

Current regulations require a certain amount of square footage and a certain number of bedrooms in prospective foster parents' homes, but the more flexible regulations proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services instead focus on "sleeping spaces," which could be in a living room. "The suggested standards also propose that states not require foster parents to own a car, as long as they have access to reliable public transportation," Wirtz reports. "That change would make it easier for city residents to become foster parents."

Though many stakeholders praised the flexibility of the new rules, they also "raised concerns in their public comments about some of the proposed rules, including specifics on swimming pool barriers, languages spoken, immunization schedules, transportation options and physical and mental health exams for foster parents," Wirtz reports.

The proposed regulations underwent a public comment period this summer and fall. States and 12 Native American tribes now have until April to explain how they are working to align their foster care standards with the new regulations, Wirtz reports.

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