When the V.I. Department of Human Services (DHS) recently developed and submitted its grant application for Title IV-E approval, federal officials commended it for the efficient manner in which the application was processed.
Specifically, Alphonso Nicholas, regional program manager of the Child Welfare Children’s Bureau Region II, said, “The nine months committed to the Virgin Islands’ grant application is recognized as the fastest of any state or territory. From its inception, the territory’s grant application had the level of commitment and expertise to meet the scrutiny of the federal government.”
Commissioner designee Dr. Anita Roberts said, “We are approved, and all effort towards the approval of this federal grant is the impetus to put forth a strategy to achieve our stated program goals. Now that we are a Title IV-E agency, it widens opportunities for individuals in foster care, adoption subsidies and kinship guardianship. We now must push to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and any other impediments in order to realize the full benefit of the Title IV-E program. To that end, the department anticipates that we will need amendments to local and federal laws, and we intend to engage our elected officials.”
The implementation of the Title IV-E program will require specific legislative reforms that must be addressed to ensure a path towards permanency for children in foster care, adoption and kinship guardianship. Consequently, the V.I. must comply with certain federal requirements.
According to Assistant Commissioner Janet Turnbull-Krigger, “An example of needed legislation is that all persons over the age of 16 in foster care must receive a credit report on an annual basis in order to combat the growing threat of identity theft, to which minors in foster care are particularly vulnerable. Legislative mandate also is needed where actions to achieve permanency must be accompanied by ‘reasonable efforts’ to keep children in their homes or in the care and custody of family members.”
There is also the need for changes to existing federal law. The U.S.V.I. and other territories are bound by established ceiling amounts under the Social Security Act, Section 1108, which limits reimbursable funding. This includes a variety of federally-funded health care programs such as Medicaid.
Roberts also said, “In applying for Title IV-E funds, the department affirms its policy decision to enhance the territory’s child welfare services and related programs. It is imperative that the Virgin Islands continue to lobby Congress to have this ceiling removed and/or revised to allow the Department of Human Services to fully explore its options under the Title IV-E program.”