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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senators Baldwin and Portman Introduce Therapeutic Foster Care Bill

February 13, 2014 | Children and Youth | Medicaid | Comments
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On February 4, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide for a standard Medicaid definition for therapeutic foster care.

Therapeutic foster care (often referred to as “Treatment Foster Care” or TFC) is the evidence-informed, trauma-informed, and highly effective placement of children and youth with serious medical, psychological, emotional and social needs. Under the TFC model, foster parents are given special training to address the needs of youths with major mental health challenges and children receive intensive in-home services to sustain them in the community.

TFC provides critical services to approximately 40,000 foster children across the country. The model works to keep its particularly vulnerable youth out of costly and often ineffective institutional care. In addition, it provides needed clinical therapy options to youth in lieu of overmedication.

Despite the benefits of TFC, current law does not provide for a standard definition of TFC under Medicaid. Though TFC services are provided across the country—and are reimbursed through

Medicaid and other child welfare funding streams—the lack of a federal standard definition impairs TFC quality and access.

The Quality Foster Care Services Act fixes this problem by establishing a federal Medicaid definition for TFC. This clarification will promote accountability for states offering TFC, identify financing options, and drive personnel training and standards.

The legislation is endorsed by a significant number of national children’s and mental health organizations, including the National Council. Bipartisan companion legislation is being introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).