Better data and guidance can help states reinvest more than $800 million from fiscal year (FY) 2015-2019 in adoption savings – the result of 2008 legislation to increase Federal reimbursement of state assistance payments to adoptive families.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that oversight of states’ adoption savings reinvestment by The Children’s Bureau – part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – has been hindered by a lack of detailed data.

Additionally, there isn’t a statutory deadline for states to spend their savings, while the state data the Children’s Bureau collects annually doesn’t allow for definitively determining states’ compliance with “the requirement to spend at least 30 percent of their annual adoption savings on post-permanency and preventative services, including at least 20 percent on post-permanency services,” GAO said.

“Nearly half (23 of 52) of the states reported in GAO’s survey at least one significant challenge to reinvesting their adoption savings, most often citing early spending difficulties such as needing time to understand the new requirements and competing state budget priorities,” wrote GAO. “Most of the 28 states that received technical assistance from the Children’s Bureau in fiscal year 2019 reported it was helpful, but 22 states wanted more assistance.”

GAO made a pair of recommendation recommendations for ACF. HHS disagreed with the first recommendation and agreed with the second. Those recommendations are:

  1. ACF should collect additional state data to improve its oversight; and
  2. HHS should provide guidance or technical assistance to states on services that count toward the 20 and 30 percent requirements and on timely reinvestment of their adoption savings.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.