This memo describes the results from a 2002-2003 review of county foster home licensing files and summarizes state licensing standards.
During the Federal Title IV-E review conducted in March 2002, various errors were discovered in foster home licensing files. Some of these errors caused gaps or lapses of foster home licenses, resulting in months that children were in placements where the provider’s license was not in effect. As part of the Program Improvement Plan (PIP) that was developed in response to the Federal Title IV-E Review, Area Administration staff conducted reviews of a random sample of foster home licensing files in the fall and winter of 2002. The purposes of the review were to examine specific areas that were discovered to be non-compliant during the March 2002 Federal Title IV-E Review and to identify and correct any areas that do not currently meet Title IV-E requirements. During the course of the review, Area Administration staff discovered additional areas that did not meet licensing standards. This memo explains the results of the licensing review, reiterates licensing requirements and explains related questions that arose during the review.
A subsequent Federal Title IV-E review will be conducted in August of 2004, during which time the federal reviewers may more closely examine foster home licensing files. Area Administration staff, Central Office staff and Maximus staff will be working with counties to identify and conduct preliminary reviews of licensing files in order to prepare for the 2004 review.
Results of the licensing review
The licensing review noted various areas of concern in licensing files and processes across the state. Those areas of concern included:
Some of these errors resulted in a foster home license that was not issued correctly. In certain situations, that may create an invalid foster home license or a gap in licensure.
During the recent state file review, some counties requested clarification regarding the specific foster home licensure requirements. According to HFS 56.04(4)(a), the agency needs the following information from the applicant before a foster home license can be issued:
The agency needs the following documents from the applicant at least 30 days before the expiration of the current license, according to HFS 56.04(4)(b), for license renewal:
The agency must act upon a completed application within 60 days of receiving the above information from the applicant. A "completed application" means all of the information a foster parent is required to submit, as listed above. "Acting upon the application" means processing completed paperwork, conducting background checks at least every four years and completing a formalized assessment or reassessment of the foster family at initial licensure and every consecutive relicensure.
Issuing a License
A license can not be issued with a begin date prior to the date that a completed application, as defined above, and the supporting background check information is received by the agency. Supporting background check information includes DOJ checks, IBIS letters, and HFS 64 forms for each member of a potential foster home who is over 12 years of age, if applicable. It is critical that the application and supporting background check information are received prior to the issuance of a license because a license is not considered to be in effect if it lacks that information.
Title IV-E reimbursement can begin in the month in which all licensing requirements are met assuming all other IV-E criteria are met, but cannot continue beyond 60 days if the license has not been issued. If the license issuance is delayed beyond 60 days, Title IV-E reimbursement must cease until the license is issued. The licensing requirements include receipt of the results of a criminal background check and other requirements established in Ch. HFS 56, Adm. Code. The license can be backdated only to the date the agency received the required information. For additional explanation regarding Title IV-E claiming and backdating of foster home licenses, refer to DCFS Memo Series 2002-14 "Effective Date of Foster Home Licenses and IV-E Implications."
It is critical that licenses are granted timely so that there are not gaps between licenses. If there is a gap in a license, for Title IV-E purposes the child under review may be eligible only during the gap period and reimbursement for placement costs could not be recuperated. If a child resides in a facility that is licensed for part of the month, the child can be reimbursable the entire month contingent upon the receipt of all requirements. This is the case unless the license is not issued within 60 days of the date that all of the needed information to make a decision on a license is obtained. In this situation, only the period of time in which the facility is licensed can be reimbursable for Title IV-E.
License Modifications and Exceptions
During the reviews, Area Administration noted files missing a copy of the license and licenses that contained inaccurate information or lacked critical information. A signed copy of the license must be contained in the licensing file. If there is a change in the home, updated information must be documented in the file through a license modification application form. A change in the home could include the following: the physical structure of the home changed, a household member left or entered, a family changed residence, the number or type of foster children in the home changed, or other situations in the home were altered.
Licensing agencies must have a license modification application form for licensees to submit changes. As established in HFS 56.04(4)(c)2., the licensee must complete and sign a license modification application form within the following time periods: before a family moves residences, before a condition on the license changes, no later than 30 days after a licensee’s marital status changes, within 10 days after a household members leaves, at least 30 days before someone enters the household or as soon as possible before that person arrives.
An exception to the licensing standards may be considered if a foster home does not meet certain licensing standards; however, an exception does not equate a waiver to licensing standards. In the case when a foster home requests an exception to licensing standards, an alternative provision must be established to meet the original intent of the requirement and must be for a specific and limited time period. An applicant or licensee may submit a request for an exception in writing to the licensing agency or Department, depending upon the specific requirement. Any exception granted to a foster home must be specifically cited on the license, as explained in HFS 56.02(2)(a)3. The license must state, in narrative form, the exception, the specific citation of the rule for which the exception is granted, the alternative requirement substituted for the excepted requirement and the date on which the exception expires.
During the review, questions were raised concerning criminal background checks and background information. Specifically, the questions related to conducting criminal background checks for non-client residents between 12-18 years of age, conducting criminal background checks when a child turns 18 years of age and conducting criminal background checks for adopted children.
According to s. 48.685(2)(bd), agencies must conduct criminal background checks only for those non-client residents 18 years of age or older and those non-client residents under age 18 whose Background Information Disclosure form (HFS-64) has indicated a concern. Criminal background checks must be completed as soon as a non-client resident turns 18 years of age.
Currently, HFS 56.05(1)(f) states that non-clients residents who are age 12 or older shall complete the HFS 64 "Background Information Disclosure" (BID). Agencies must have Background Information Disclosure forms completed and signed for every non-client resident between 12 and 18 years of age and all adults in the home. When a child turns 12 years of age, an agency should collect the appropriate paperwork for that child as soon as he or she turns 12 years old.
Since the statute does not specify a minimum age for a child to complete a Background Information Disclosure form, the Department has stated that the BID forms should be completed for any child age 10 and older. The Division of Children and Family Services is working to change Ch. HFS 56, Adm. Code to correspond with this interpretation. When HFS 56 is altered to reflect this interpretation, the Division will issue a memo notifying agencies of the change. The Bureau of Regulation and Licensing is currently using the age of 10 for its licensing requirement.
In Ch. HFS 12, Adm. Code, the definition of "client" includes "an adopted child for whom an adoption assistance payment is being made under s. 48.975, Stats." Thus, background information forms and criminal background checks are not required for adopted children for whom an adoption assistance payment is made. However, information gathered on background information forms may be important knowledge for the agency and specifically for placement decisions. While criminal background checks on adopted children receiving adoption assistance are not required, background information may be critical when considering the appropriateness of additional foster or adoptive placements in a foster home.