Order Code RS22501
Updated January 11, 2007
Child Welfare: the Chafee Foster Care
Independence Program (CFCIP)
Adrienne L. Fernandes
Analyst in Social Legislation
Domestic Social Policy Division
While most young people have access to financial and emotional support systems
throughout their early adult years, former foster care youth often lack assistance in
developing independent living skills to ease the transition to adulthood. Recognizing
the difficulties faced by youth exiting foster care, Congress passed the Chafee Foster
Care Independence Act (P.L. 106-169) to expand the population of youth eligible to
receive independent living services and to give states greater flexibility in designing
their independent living programs. Under P.L. 106-169, Congress doubled the
mandatory funding available to states for independent living services from $70 million
to $140 million. In 2002, Congress passed legislation (P.L. 107-133) to allocate
discretionary funding to eligible current and former foster care youth for education and
training vouchers worth up to $5,000. The Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
(CFCIP) and voucher component are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS). In the 109th Congress, H.R. 3471 was introduced, which, if
enacted, would have addressed weaknesses in the implementation of the CFCIP. This
report briefly describes the CFCIP, and will be updated as significant legislative
In most states, youth are discharged from foster care at age 18 or shortly thereafter.1
The number of youth reported as emancipating from care rose from approximately 19,000
Marian Bussey et al. Transition from Foster Care: A State-by-State Data Base Analysis, Casey
Family Programs, 2000, p. 19.
in FY2001 to 23,100 in FY2004.2 This increase in the number of emancipated youth has
occurred concurrently with the overall decrease in the number of children in care, from
556,000 in FY2001 to 517,000 in FY2004. Further, nearly 30% of children who
emancipated from care in FY2003 (the most recent data available for this characteristic)
were 12 years or younger when they entered care.3 This suggests that children who are
leaving care without being formally reunified with a parent, adopted, or placed in
guardianship are a growing concern of child welfare agencies and policymakers. Recently
emancipated foster care youth are particularly vulnerable during the transition to
adulthood. While many young people have access to financial and emotional support
systems throughout their early adult years, former foster youth often lack assistance in
developing independent living skills to ease the transition.4 Studies indicate that youth
who have “aged out” of foster care fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general
population on several outcome measures: employment, education, homelessness, mental
health, medical insurance coverage, criminal activity, and early pregnancy.5
Recognizing the difficulties faced by youth exiting foster care, Congress created a
new Independent Living initiative (P.L. 99-272) in 1986 to assist foster youth ages 16 to
18 whose original families qualified for Aid to Families with Dependent Children
(AFDC), in achieving independence. The legislation authorized mandatory funding to
states under a new Section 477 of the Social Security Act. States were awarded a share
of independent living funds based on the number of children receiving federal foster care
payments in FY1984.6 In 1987, legislation (P.L. 100-647) was enacted to expand the
program to serve any foster care children age 16 or older (regardless of AFDC status) and
to provide independent living services to certain youth for six months after leaving care.
The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-508) gave states the option of
providing independent living services to youth until age 21, and in 1993, Congress
permanently authorized funding for the program at $70 million annually (P.L. 103-66).
John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program
The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-169) replaced
the 1986 Independent Living Program with the Chafee Foster Care Independence
Program (CFCIP) and doubled the annual funds available to states from $70 million to
$140 million. In addition, the law removed a disincentive for youth to accumulate
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, The
AFCARS Report, September 2002 and September 2004, at [http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Outcomes 2003: Annual Report
to Congress, Executive Summary, June 2006, p. 2.
Mark E. Courtney and Darcy Hughes Heuring. The Transition to Adulthood for Youth “Aging
Out” of the Foster Care System in Wayne G. Osgood et al., eds., On Your Own Without a Net:
The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations (Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press, 2005), pp. 27-32.
See, for example, Peter J. Pecora et al. Improving Foster Family Care: Findings from the
Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study, Casey Family Programs, 2005, pp. 1-2.
AFDC was the federal-state cash welfare program that was replaced by the Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 1996.
earnings or other resources to assist in their transition to independent living. Eligibility
for foster care maintenance payments under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act is based
on whether the children’s original families would qualify for AFDC, as it was in effect
on July 16, 1996. Under these rules, children cannot remain eligible for Title IV-E
services if they accumulate assets of more than $1,000. P.L. 106-169 changed this asset
limit to $10,000. The act also encouraged states to provide Medicaid coverage to youth
ages 18, 19, and 20 who have emancipated from foster care. In 2002 (P.L. 107-133),
discretionary funds — up to $60 million annually — were authorized for eligible current
and former foster care youth to receive education and training vouchers.
Overview. The Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (P.L. 106-169) required
states to expand the population of youth who receive independent living services to
include those who have “aged out” of foster care (until their 21st birthday) and those of
any age in foster care who are expected to leave care without placement in a permanent
family. Services may consist of educational assistance, vocational training, mentoring,
preventive health activities, and counseling. States may dedicate as much as 30% of their
program funding toward room and board for youth ages 18 through 20. Since FY2003,
states have received an average of $44.5 million annually to provide education and
training vouchers worth up to $5,000 to youth eligible under the CFCIP and youth
adopted from foster care after 16 years of age. The vouchers are available for the cost of
attendance at an institution of higher education, as defined by the Higher Education Act
of 1965.7 Only youth receiving a voucher at age 21 may continue to participate in the
voucher program until age 23. A recent study of the use of voucher funds by 1,700
recipients in a small number of states demonstrates that these states are providing
vouchers up to $5,000 primarily to students ages 18 and older to study a wide range of
topics at vocational institutions and colleges.8
Medicaid Provisions. P.L. 106-169 encouraged states to provide Medicaid
coverage to emancipating foster care youth and also amended the Medicaid program to
permit states to make all youth who “age out” eligible until their 21st birthday. Based on
a June 2005 review of state Medicaid plans, 10 states (Arizona, California, Kansas,
Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and
Wyoming) extended Medicaid coverage to youth eligible under P.L. 106-169.9 In 2006,
Iowa and Indiana began providing coverage to former foster care youth through the
CFCIP option. In all states, youth age 19 or younger with family incomes at or below
100% of the federal poverty limit (or up to 250% in some states) are eligible for Medicaid
or SCHIP. Youth who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP may be eligible for
Medicaid coverage through the “Ribicoff” pathway, named for the late former senator,
Abraham Ribicoff. Ribicoff youth meet the income and resource requirements for the
former AFDC program but do not meet other categorical requirements for AFDC. Over
half of all states have opted to provide coverage to former foster care youth through the
Ribicoff pathway, although length of eligibility for coverage varies across these states.
See Sections 102 and 472 of the Higher Education Act of 1965.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Justifications of Estimates for Appropriations
Committees FY2007, Administration for Children and Families, p. D-83. No additional
information about this study is currently available.
See, Abigail English et al., Health Care for Adolescents and Young Adults Leaving Foster
Care: Policy Options for Improving Access, Center for Adolescent Health & the Law, 2006, p.
4. Puerto Rico was not included in this analysis.
State Requirements. To be eligible for CFCIP funds, a state must submit a fiveyear plan describing how the state intends to design and deliver its independent living
program across all political subdivisions; serve a range of youth of various ages and stages
of development; use objective criteria for determining eligibility for services under the
programs; involve the public and private sectors in assisting adolescents in foster care
achieve independence; and cooperate in national evaluations of the programs. States must
also certify that, among other requirements, they are providing assistance and services to
former foster care youth ages 18 to 21 and coordinating the independent living programs
with other youth programs at the local, state, and federal levels.
A November 2004 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
found that while 40 states expanded existing independent living services to younger youth
and 36 states reported serving youth older than they had previously served since the
passage of P.L. 106-169, one-third of the states served less than half of all eligible youth.10
GAO also found gaps in securing housing and the availability of mental health services
and mentoring services. Further, while 49 states reported increased coordination with a
number of programs that provide or supplement independent living services, child welfare
administrators and youth said that they were unaware of these services. GAO concluded
that the lack of uniformity among the states’ five-year plans impedes the federal
government from using the plans to monitor how well the programs serve youth.
Funding and Allotment. The FY2006 omnibus spending measure (P.L. 109-149)
appropriated $140 million in mandatory funds for the CFCIP and $46.2 million in
discretionary funds for the voucher program. The Senate and House Appropriations
Committees have recommended this same level of funding for FY2007 (H.Rept. 109-515
and S.Rept. 109-287). Table 1 at the end of this report provides the federal CFCIP and
voucher allotments for each state in FY2005 and FY2006. The FY2007 budget for HHS
is under a continuing resolution through February 15, 2007, and funding for the program
remains at the FY2006 level. To receive Chafee general funds and voucher funds, states
must provide a 20% non-federal match. States have two fiscal years to spend their CFCIP
and voucher funds. Funds not spent in that time frame revert to the federal treasury. In
FY2004 (the most recent data available for returned funds), states were allocated a
combined total of $140 million in general CFCIP funds, 19% of which was returned to
the treasury.11 Also in FY2004, states received $44.1 million in funds for the vouchers
and returned 24.3% of those funds.12
States may apply to receive mandatory funds for all purposes specified in the CFCIP.
These funds are distributed to each state based on its proportion of the nation’s children
U.S. Government Accountability Office. HHS Actions Could Improve Coordination of
Services and Monitoring of States’ Independent Living Programs, GAO-05-25, November 2004.
Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, and New York returned their full allocations, and Illinois,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, and New Jersey returned between 11.3% and
81.4% of their allocations. Final data were not available for seven states (North Carolina, North
Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).
Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Wisconsin returned their full allocations and
10 states (California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, and
Ohio) returned between 0.3% and 53.9% of their allocations. Final data were not available for
14 states (Alaska, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia).
in foster care. However, the law’s “hold harmless” clause precludes any state from
receiving less than the amount of funds it received in FY1998 or $500,000, whichever is
greater. Although the general funding for independent living services doubled nationally
under P.L. 106-169, the percentage increase in funds received has varied across states, and
two states (Louisiana and New York) and the District of Columbia received nearly the
same amount of funds allotted to them prior to the enactment of the CFCIP legislation.
Like the CFCIP’s mandatory funds, discretionary funds for the education and training
vouchers are distributed based on a state’s proportion of foster care children nationwide.
(There is no hold harmless provision for these funds.)
Data Reporting and Evaluation. P.L. 106-169 requires that HHS identify the
data needed to track the characteristics and outcomes of children to assess the
performance of states in operating independent living programs. P.L. 106-169 further
requires that states failing to comply with the data reporting requirement will be penalized
an amount equal to 1% to 5% of their allotments. A notice of proposed rulemaking,
published on July 14, 2006 in the Federal Register (Vol. 71, No. 35), establishes a data
collection system, known as the National Youth in Transition Database, to track the
characteristics and outcomes of current and former foster care youth receiving (or not
receiving) independent living services.13 The NPRM outlines the data elements and the
penalty structure for non-compliance with the regulations.
P.L. 106-169 also provides that HHS must conduct evaluations of state independent
living programs funded by the act and deemed to be innovative or of national significance.
Of all the funds authorized for the CFCIP, 1.5% ($2.8 million in FY2006) is reserved for
HHS to conduct evaluations of innovative and potentially significant state CFCIPs. HHS
has contracted with the Urban Institute and its partners to conduct a five-year evaluation
of 1,400 youth participating in four independent living programs in California and
Massachusetts. The goal of the evaluation is to determine the effects of the programs in
achieving key outcomes such as increased educational attainment.
Legislation in the 109th Congress
On July 27, 2005, Representative Danny Davis introduced the Strengthening the
Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (H.R. 3471). The purpose of the legislation was
to address weaknesses in the implementation of the CFCIP. Drawing, in part, on the
findings of the November 2004 GAO report, the legislation would have required HHS to
distribute information about non-Chafee federal programs that may assist emancipating
foster youth and create a uniform reporting format for state Child and Family Service
plans and progress reports. The legislation would have also expanded CFCIP eligibility
to youth in or exiting from foster care after reaching age 14.
For additional information, see CRS Congressional Distribution Memorandum, Notice of
Proposed Rule Making To Implement the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act Database, by
Adrienne Fernandes (available upon request from CRS at 7-5700).
Table 1. FY2005 and Estimated FY2006 Federal CFCIP General and
Voucher Allotments by State ($ in thousands)
Estimated FY2006 Allotments
District of Columbia
Source: Table prepared by the Congressional Research Service based on data provided by the U.S.
Department Health and Human Services, August 2006.