State governments, including Missouri, are beginning to take advantage of a federal program that provides matching funds for programs for child guardianship and foster care until age 21. The funds were first made available in 2009, but due to confusion over eligibility, many states did not apply for the funds until late 2010.

According to a recent article in Youth Today, the matching fund programs were part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which President Obama signed into law in October 2009. The new law created the programs to be paid out of federal IV-E funds, which is used to match a range of state child welfare services.

One of the programs, called the Guardian Assistance Program (GAP), is meant to help states give payments to non-parent relatives or non-relative adults who agree to become the legal guardian for a child who no longer lives with his or her parents. The other program will help pay for young people to remain in foster care until they turn 21.

Applications for the matching funds must be approved by the Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the IV-E funds. At first, without much guidance on what they must include in their application to qualify for the funds, only six states applied for the GAP money and the ACF did not approve any of them. In the summer of 2010, ACF issued its rules for eligibility, and states began applying more eagerly.

According to the Youth Today article, 22 states and the District of Columbia have applied for GAP funds, and the ACF has approved 11 of those plans. Missouri is among the 12 states whose plans are currently under consideration or being revised.

States have been slower to apply for the foster care funds. As of December, only five states and Washington D.C. have submitted plans for approval. Missouri is not among those that have applied.

Source: Youth Today, "States Starting to Move on Federal Guardianship, Foster Care-to-21 Programs," John Kelly, December 28, 2010