[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 8 (Friday, January 11, 2008)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 2081-2142]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E7-24860]



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Part II





Department of Health and Human Services





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Administration for Children and Families



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45 CFR Part 1355



Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 8 / Friday, January 11, 2008 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Administration for Children and Families

45 CFR Part 1355

RIN 0970-AC23


Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System

AGENCY: Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), 
Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Department of Health 
and Human Services (DHHS).

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

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SUMMARY: The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is 
proposing to amend the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting 
System (AFCARS) regulations at 45 CFR 1355.40 and the appendices to 
part 1355 to modify the requirements for States to collect and report 
data to ACF on children in out-of-home care and in subsidized adoption 
or guardianship arrangements with the State. This proposed rule also 
implements the AFCARS penalty requirements of the Adoption Promotion 
Act of 2003 (Pub. L. 108-145).

DATES: In order to be considered, we must receive written comments on 
this notice of proposed rulemaking on or before March 11, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit written comments 
regarding this proposed rule via regular postal mail to Kathleen 
McHugh, Director, Division of Policy, Children's Bureau, Administration 
on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and 
Families, 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20024. 
Please be aware that mail sent to us may take an additional 3-4 days to 
process due to changes in mail handling resulting from the anthrax 
crisis of October 2001. If you choose to use an express, overnight, or 
other special delivery method, please ensure first that they are able 
to deliver to the above address. You may also transmit comments 
electronically via e-mail to [email protected] or via the Internet 
at: http://www.regulations.gov. We urge you to submit comments 
electronically to ensure they are received in a timely manner. Please 
be sure to include identifying information on any correspondence. To 
download an electronic version of the rule, you should access http://www.regulations.gov/. Comments will be available for public inspection 
Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the above address by 
contacting Miranda Lynch at (202) 205-8138.
    Comments that concern information collection requirements must be 
sent to the Office of Management and Budget at the address listed in 
the Paperwork Reduction Act section of this preamble. A copy of these 
comments also may be sent to the Department representative listed 
above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kathleen McHugh, Director of Policy, 
Children's Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 
(202) 401-5789 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Do not e-mail 
comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to this address.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The preamble to this notice of proposed 
rulemaking is organized as follows:

I. Background on Foster Care and Adoption Data Collection
II. Consultation and Regulation Development
III. Overview of Major Revisions to AFCARS
IV. Section-by-Section Discussion of NPRM
V. Impact Analysis
VI. List of Subjects

I. Background on Foster Care and Adoption Data Collection

    In 1982, the Department, through a grant to the American Public 
Human Services Association (formerly the American Public Welfare 
Association), implemented the Voluntary Cooperative Information System 
(VCIS) to collect aggregate information annually about children in 
foster care and special needs adoption from State child welfare 
agencies. While some States reported data to VCIS, by 1986, Congress 
and other stakeholders recognized that there were a number of 
weaknesses in VCIS. Namely, VCIS was criticized for intermittent 
reporting by the States; the use of a variety of reporting periods; a 
lack of common definitions for data elements; a lack of timeliness of 
the data, poor data quality, and the collection of aggregate data which 
had limited analytic utility.
    As a result of these and other concerns, the President signed 
Public Law 99-509 on October 21, 1986, which in part added section 479 
to title IV-E of the Social Security Act (the Act). Section 479 of the 
Act describes the series of steps that the Department of Health and 
Human Services (DHHS) was required to take to establish a national data 
collection system for adoption and foster care. We were required to 
develop a system that avoids unnecessary diversion of resources from 
agencies responsible for adoption and foster care and assures that the 
data collected is reliable and consistent over time and across 
jurisdictions through the use of uniform definitions and methodologies. 
Furthermore, the law required the system to provide comprehensive 
national information on the demographic characteristics of adopted and 
foster children and their parents (biological, foster and/or adoptive 
parents); the status of the foster care population (including the 
number of children in foster care, length of placement, type of 
placement, availability for adoption, and goals for ending or 
continuing foster care); the number and characteristics of children 
placed in or removed from foster care; children adopted or with respect 
to whom adoptions have been terminated; children placed in foster care 
outside the State which has placement and care responsibility; and, the 
extent and nature of assistance provided by Federal, State and local 
adoption and foster care programs and the characteristics of the 
children to whom such assistance is provided.
    The President signed into law the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act 
of 1993 (Pub. L. 103-66) on August 19, 1993. Public Law 103-66 provides 
States with the opportunity to obtain title IV-E funds to plan, design, 
develop, and implement a Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information 
System (SACWIS). On December 22, 1993, ACF published final rules to 
establish the AFCARS and implement SACWIS.
    In the AFCARS final rule we required States to submit certain data 
to us on a semi-annual basis about children in foster care and 
adoptions that involve the State agency. The rule required States that 
chose to develop a SACWIS to ensure that their system could report 
information to AFCARS. We also set forth data standards that each State 
must meet to be considered in compliance with the AFCARS requirements.
    States were required to report the first AFCARS data to us for FY 
1995. However, it was not until FY 1998, when we implemented AFCARS 
financial penalties for a State not submitting data or submitting data 
of poor quality that the data became stable enough for ACF and others 
to use for a wide variety of purposes.
    The President signed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 
(Pub. L. 105-89) in November 1997, which required the use of AFCARS 
data for two specific activities: The calculation of Adoption Incentive 
Payments (section 473A of the Act) and the Child Welfare Outcomes 
Annual Report (section 479A of the Act). Since that

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time, data from AFCARS also has been used to provide samples for the 
Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) and title IV-E reviews; to 
develop outcome and performance measures for the CFSR, the Office of 
Management and Budget's Program Assessment and Rating Tool (PART) and 
the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA); to calculate State 
allocations for the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (section 
477 of the Act); to generate short- and long-term budget projections; 
to conduct trend analyses for short- and long-term program planning; 
and to respond to requests for information from the Congress, other 
Federal agencies, States, media and the public about children in foster 
care and children being adopted.
    Due to a settlement of several States' appeals of AFCARS penalties, 
ACF discontinued withholding Federal funds for a State's failure to 
comply with AFCARS requirements in January 2002 (see ACYF-CB-IM-02-03). 
However, late in 2003 the President signed the Adoption Promotion Act 
of 2003 (Pub. L. 108-145), which required ACF to institute specific 
financial penalties for a State's noncompliance with AFCARS 
requirements. We notified States in ACYF-CB-IM-04-04 issued on Feb. 17, 
2004, that we will not assess penalties until we issue revised final 
AFCARS regulations, the subject of this proposed rule.

II. Consultation and Regulation Development

    In the preamble to the AFCARS final regulation issued in 1993, we 
indicated that we would revisit the regulations to assess how we may 
improve AFCARS (58 FR 67917). This proposed rule is the culmination of 
that process. We undertook an intensive review of every aspect of 
AFCARS in developing the proposals in this NPRM. We analyzed the types 
of technical assistance requested by and provided to States, our 
findings from AFCARS assessment reviews, and reports from the past 
several years issued by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) and the 
Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on AFCARS-related 
issues.
    ACF also consulted with the public through a variety of focus 
groups and a Federal Register notice (68 FR 22386, April 28, 2003) 
seeking comments. More than 80 people participated in the focus groups, 
and over 40 individuals and groups submitted written comments in 
response to the Federal Register announcement. Thirty-two States, 15 
national organizations and 20 interested members of the public provided 
comments through one or more of these mechanisms.
    During consultation we solicited feedback on:
     The specific strengths of AFCARS;
     The specific weaknesses of AFCARS or suggestions for areas 
of improvement, including ideas about how the suggested improvement 
could be made and how the Federal government could facilitate the 
changes;
     Data elements currently in AFCARS that could be deleted 
and any elements that should be added;
     Strategies to improve data quality for AFCARS, including 
the use of incentives; and
     How the AFCARS data files are structured and submitted.
    Many stakeholders recognized that AFCARS has considerable strengths 
that include, but are not limited to: The ability to produce timely 
reports that estimate the number of children in foster care and those 
being adopted; the ability to support in-depth analyses of case-level 
data; and the ability to generate information that had not been 
anticipated when AFCARS was established.
    However, commenters also noted that expansion of the use of AFCARS 
data has highlighted areas that need improvement. For example, there 
are substantive gaps in the areas covered by the current data elements 
such as information about adoption disruptions, the placement 
experiences of sibling groups, the demographics and assistance provided 
to children under adoption assistance agreements, where children are 
placed when they are placed out-of-State, and the identification of the 
different populations served by child welfare agencies (e.g. children 
in out-of-home care due primarily to their involvement with juvenile 
justice or their need for mental health services). In particular, 
stakeholders point out that data from AFCARS is insufficient to support 
expanded analysis of data for the CFSRs and other performance measures. 
Many commenters also believe that we need to refine some of the 
definitions of AFCARS data elements and their response categories (e.g. 
expand reasons for exit), and how these and other changes in data 
elements might be facilitated in the future. In addition to the need 
for new and refined data elements, stakeholders noted that the data 
structure of AFCARS may need to be revised to take advantage of 
advances in information technology and/or to make possible the 
utilization of a wider variety of analytical techniques.
    The section-by-section summary provides more discussion on how 
specific comments factored into our proposal.

III. Overview of Major Revisions to AFCARS

    In this NPRM we are focusing our improvements on five general 
areas: Restructuring the data to capture more information over time; 
expanding the reporting populations; capturing greater detail on 
children in out-of-home care; improving the quality of data; and 
eliminating unnecessary data and inefficiencies in the data submission 
process.

Restructuring Data

    We propose that AFCARS data support longitudinal data analysis by 
capturing more comprehensive information on a child's experiences in a 
State's foster care system. The existing AFCARS requires that States 
report some living arrangement, provider, and permanency information 
relative to the child's most recent experiences in his/her most recent 
foster care episode only. We propose instead, that States collect and 
report information on: (1) The timing and circumstances of each of the 
child's removals from home and placements in out-of-home care, (2) the 
timing and type of each permanency plan decision (e.g., reunification 
or adoption) made for a child, (3) the time span and nature of each 
living arrangement the child experiences while in foster care, (4) 
details on each foster family home provider, if applicable, and (5) the 
timing and circumstances of each of the child's exits from out-of-home 
care.

Expanding Reporting Populations

    We propose to expand the foster care reporting population to 
include, generally, all children who have been placed away from their 
parents or legal guardians for whom the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
has placement and care responsibility. In doing so, we are also 
renaming the reporting population as the ``out-of-home care reporting 
population.'' This reporting population includes children who are in 
living arrangements that are not traditionally considered foster care 
under our title IV-B and IV-E program rules. Children who are under the 
placement and care responsibility of the State agency and are placed in 
juvenile justice facilities and other living arrangements which are 
non-reimbursable under title IV-E such as psychiatric treatment 
facilities are included in the revised AFCARS out-of-home care 
reporting population. In the existing regulation, children who were in 
juvenile justice facilities and other facilities not traditionally 
considered

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foster care were included in AFCARS in limited circumstances. We also 
have expanded our reporting population to include children who are the 
subject of a guardianship subsidy agreement, whereas these children are 
not currently reported to AFCARS.

Capturing Greater Detail

    We have added and clarified a number of elements so States may 
provide us with greater detail on the demographics and circumstances of 
children in out-of-home care. These changes are designed to permit 
enhanced analysis of the factors that may affect a child's permanency 
and well-being and include:
     New elements that allow us to identify certain populations 
of children who are dealing with issues other than child maltreatment, 
such as children who are involved in the juvenile justice system prior 
to and during their out-of-home care stay and those who are out of 
their own homes to obtain mental health services;
     New elements for States to update information on the 
circumstances affecting the child and family during the child's out-of-
home care stay;
     New elements that allow us to identify where more than one 
family member is in out-of-home care, such as sibling groups and minor 
parents who have their children with them in out-of-home care;
     New elements to better describe the household composition 
of the homes from which children are removed and the location and type 
of living arrangements in which children are placed by the State 
agency;
     Elements that tell us about a child's well-being including 
new elements on immunizations and educational performance as well as 
clarified elements on children's health, behavioral and mental health 
conditions;
     Revised and new elements that enhance our understanding of 
domestic and intercountry adoptions, prior adoptions and adoption 
disruptions, displacements and dissolutions; and,
     Revised and new elements designed to better track State 
and Federal financial support of foster care, adoption subsidies, 
adoption nonrecurring costs and guardianships.

Improving Data Quality

    We propose to improve AFCARS data quality in several ways. First, 
we propose to clarify many existing element descriptions that 
stakeholders informed us were problematic. Second, we propose to 
strengthen our assessment and identification of errors within a State's 
data file. In particular, we are proposing to develop cross-file checks 
to identify defaults and other faulty programming that result in skewed 
data across a State's entire data file. Finally, we propose to 
implement penalties for States that do not meet our file and data 
quality standards for AFCARS consistent with section 474(f) of the Act.

Eliminating Unnecessary Features

    We propose to eliminate a number of features in the AFCARS 
regulation that are no longer useful to us or the States. We propose to 
dispose of State reporting of summary adoption and foster care files, 
merge most currently reported adoption information into the foster care 
data file and take technical submission requirements out of the 
regulation.
    These major changes to AFCARS along with all other features of the 
proposed database are detailed in the section-by-section discussion 
below.

IV. Section-by-Section Discussion of NPRM

    The reader should note that the proposed regulations will replace 
in their entirety the existing AFCARS regulations at 45 CFR 1355.40 and 
the appendices to part 1355. Although we are retaining certain 
requirements of the existing AFCARS, such requirements are often set 
forth in different and new sections or paragraphs in this proposed 
rule.

1355.40 Scope of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting 
System

    In section 1355.40 we propose a scope statement for AFCARS. The 
proposed scope statement explains which entities must report data to 
ACF and the data that those entities must report.
Section 1355.40(a)
    In paragraph (a), we propose that all State agencies that 
administer titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act collect and report 
information to AFCARS. This is consistent with the existing scope of 
AFCARS and our legislative authority in section 479 of the Act. 
Currently, all States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico operate 
title IV-B and IV-E programs.
Section 1355.40(b)
    In paragraph (b), we describe the scope of the AFCARS requirements. 
We propose that a State collect and submit to us, on a semi-annual 
basis, information on a child's experiences in out-of-home care and 
information on children under adoption assistance and guardianship 
subsidy agreements.
    The scope of the proposed requirements is broader than the current 
AFCARS in three significant ways. First, the scope of the AFCARS out-
of-home care reporting population, currently known as the ``foster 
care'' reporting population has changed to include, generally, all 
children who are living away from their parents or legal guardians for 
whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility. Currently, 
the AFCARS foster care reporting population focuses primarily on 
children in foster care settings as defined by the title IV-B and IV-E 
programs only. Second, we are expanding the scope of certain 
information to include a child's entire historical and current 
experience in out-of-home care so that we can establish a more 
comprehensive and longitudinal database. Currently State agencies 
report to AFCARS limited information on a child's most recent and first 
foster care episode during the report period. Finally, we propose that 
States report on children involved in adoption agreements and 
guardianship subsidy arrangements on an ongoing basis. At the present 
time, State agencies report to AFCARS information on finalized 
adoptions in which the State agency was involved at the point of 
finalization only. In large part, we are expanding the scope of AFCARS 
data in response to overwhelming support for doing so from stakeholders 
and to meet our program needs. The full extent of these proposed 
changes is explained further in subsequent sections on the reporting 
population and data elements.
    A few commenters suggested that ACF also consider expanding the 
scope of AFCARS to require State agencies to collect and report 
detailed information on children who receive child welfare services in 
their own homes. We believe that requiring States to report data on 
these activities to AFCARS exceeds our existing legislative authority 
in section 479 of the Act. Even so, we wish to note that AFCARS is not 
the sole data-related activity in child welfare that ACF manages. 
Through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), 
States voluntarily provide us with data on child maltreatment and the 
extent to which the State child protective services agency provides 
services. We encourage State agencies to use the same unique person 
identifiers in AFCARS and NCANDS so that we can understand to what 
extent children receive prevention services before they must enter out-
of-home care. In addition, we have proposed a mandatory reporting 
system under the Chafee Foster Care Independence

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Program (section 477 of the Act) which, in part, will require States to 
submit detailed information on the independent living services they 
provide to youth who are in foster care, or who have aged out of foster 
care (see 71 FR 40346). In that NPRM we propose to require States to 
use the same unique person identifier (child case or record number) for 
reporting a child's independent living services as they do for AFCARS. 
We believe, therefore, that we have adequate provisions for States to 
report on how they serve our nation's most vulnerable children and 
families without exceeding our legislative authority for AFCARS.
Section 1355.40(c)
    In paragraph (c) we define the scope of out-of-home care for AFCARS 
purposes which serves as a basis for the out-of-home care reporting 
population. ``Out-of-home care'' refers to children who have been 
placed away from their parents or legal guardians for a period of 24 
hours or more and for whom the State title IV-B/IV-E agency has 
placement and care responsibility, regardless of the child's living 
arrangement. This is different than our programmatic definition of 
foster care in 45 CFR 1355.20, and thus the scope of the current AFCARS 
foster care reporting population (see 45 CFR 1355.40(a)(2) and appendix 
A to part 1355, section II) in a number of ways. The most significant 
difference between the two terms is that the proposed AFCARS definition 
of out-of-home care will include children who are placed away from 
their parents for whom the State title IV-B/IV-E agency has placement 
and care authority, irrespective of their living arrangement. This 
stands in contrast to the foster care definition used for the title IV-
B and IV-E programs in 45 CFR 1355.20 and policy in the Child Welfare 
Policy Manual Section, which incorporates traditional foster care 
settings only (e.g., foster family homes, child care institution and 
group homes).
    We believe it is essential to develop a definition of out-of-home 
care for the purpose of data reporting distinct from the definition of 
foster care for the Federal child welfare programs, to meet their 
separate goals. The programmatic definition of foster care is for the 
purposes of describing the population for whom States must meet Federal 
child welfare requirements for safety, permanency and well-being as 
described in titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act and 45 CFR 1355, 1356 and 
1357. Nothing in this proposal changes to whom the Federal child 
protection requirements apply. AFCARS, on the other hand, has as one of 
its central goals as described in section 479 of the Act, the ability 
to provide comprehensive national information on the dynamics of 
children in the foster care system, including ``the status of the 
foster care population (including the number of children in foster 
care, length of placement, type of placement, availability for 
adoption, and goals for ending or continuing foster care),'' and ``the 
number and characteristics of children placed in or removed from foster 
care.'' Our experience with AFCARS is that the existing data on the 
number of children in foster care, the length of placements, and the 
characteristics of children as they move in and exit foster care is 
incomplete and often misleading without additional information about 
when children move from those out-of-home care living arrangements that 
are within the scope of foster care to detention facilities, 
psychiatric hospitals, assessment centers, and other facilities that 
are outside the scope of foster care. Particularly, as we have 
conducted AFCARS assessment reviews and CFSRs in many States, we have 
been challenged in pinpointing the scope of each State's foster care 
system and therefore, whether certain Federal child welfare 
requirements apply. By defining the AFCARS out-of-home care reporting 
population broadly, along with more specifically defining the type of 
living arrangements and circumstances of a child's stay in out-of-home 
care we believe that we can better track how and why children enter 
foster care, understand the dynamics of State foster care systems, and 
distinguish the subpopulation for whom State child welfare agencies are 
accountable to meet the Federal child protection requirements (section 
422(b)(8)(A) of the Act).
    We have specified in this proposed regulation that for AFCARS, we 
are seeking information on children who are under the placement and 
care of the State agency and away from their parents for 24 hours or 
more. This timeframe has not changed. However, the timeframe was noted 
in an appendix to the regulation rather than in the regulation text 
itself. We see no reason to include children in AFCARS who have been 
out of their homes for fewer than 24 hours.
    The proposed regulatory definition of out-of-home care also 
clarifies that the term refers to children who are considered minors 
according to the State's age of majority. This proposal is consistent 
with existing AFCARS policy (Child Welfare Policy Manual 1.3) and our 
regulatory definition of children at 45 CFR 1357.10(c) for the programs 
under title IV-B of the Act. We understand that most States consider 
young people up to age 18 as children. Several States, however, 
consider older youth (i.e., up to age 21) who are in their placement 
and care responsibility as minors.

1355.41 Reporting Populations

    We propose to add a new section 1355.41 on reporting populations to 
this part.
Section 1355.41(a) Out-of-Home Care Reporting Population
    In paragraph (a), we propose a new out-of-home care reporting 
population which identifies children States must include in an AFCARS 
out-of-home care data file. In general, we propose that State agencies 
must report information to AFCARS consistent with the AFCARS out-of-
home definition; that is, all minor children who have been placed away 
from their parents or legal guardians for a period of 24 hours or more 
and for whom the State title IV-B/IV-E agency has placement and care 
responsibility.
    In subparagraphs (a)(1)(i) through (a)(1)(iv), we propose to 
expound on which children are included in the reporting population. 
Although some of the children described in these subparagraphs are 
covered implicitly in the reporting population as generally stated in 
paragraph (a)(1), the subcategories provide more detail on the scope of 
the reporting population.
    In subparagraph (a)(1)(i), we propose to clarify that the reporting 
population is inclusive of any child who is under the placement and 
care responsibility of another public agency that has an agreement 
under section 472(a)(2)(B) of the Act with the title IV-B/IV-E agency 
for the payment of foster care maintenance payments on the child's 
behalf. This provision is consistent with existing AFCARS regulations 
that define the foster care reporting population (Appendix A to 45 CFR 
1355, Section II). Typically, State agencies enter these agreements 
with Indian tribes, and separate juvenile justice agencies or mental 
health agencies in order for the State to claim title IV-E on behalf of 
children who are otherwise eligible for the foster care maintenance 
payments program. These other public agencies do not submit information 
on children in the reporting population to ACF separately from the 
title IV-B/IV-E State agency. Rather, this information must be a part 
of the title IV-B/IV-E State agency's AFCARS submission.
    In subparagraph (a)(1)(ii), we propose to codify existing policy 
that a State

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continue to collect and report information to AFCARS for as long as the 
State is making title IV-E foster care maintenance payments on the 
child's behalf, regardless of the State's age of majority (Child 
Welfare Policy Manual 1.3 2). Under the title IV-E program, 
the State is permitted to make foster care maintenance payments for 
young people who have attained 18 years of age, but not yet 19 years of 
age, who are full-time students expected to complete their secondary 
schooling or equivalent training before reaching age 19 (Child Welfare 
Policy Manual 8.3A.2 1). We acknowledge that this condition 
may require the State to report data beyond the State's age of majority 
as described in 1355.40(c). However, this provision is necessary to 
allow us to track the extent of assistance and the characteristics of 
all children for whom State agencies make Federal foster care 
maintenance payments consistent with section 479(c)(3)(D) of the Act.
    In subparagraph (a)(1)(iii), we propose to include in the out-of-
home care reporting population a child under the State agency's 
placement and care responsibility who is in any living arrangement, 
regardless of whether that living arrangement is a traditional foster 
care setting. We explain that States are to include children in out-of-
home care who are placed in settings such as detention facilities, 
psychiatric or other hospitals, and jails, but this is not an all-
inclusive list. The specified facilities have been raised most 
frequently in questions by State agencies because some youth may 
transition in and out of traditional foster care settings and these 
facilities. We want to clarify explicitly that a child who is in a 
living arrangement that is not a traditional foster care setting is a 
part of the AFCARS out-of-home care reporting population if the child 
is away from his parents or legal guardians while under the State title 
IV-B/IV-E agency's placement and care, even if the child remains in 
that setting for the entire report period. We understand that, in 
practice, most State agencies may not have included these children in 
the AFCARS foster care population to date, since our current policy 
does not require this reporting. Our current policy requires only that 
a State report a child who moves from a traditional foster care 
placement to a juvenile justice placement, as long as the State intends 
to return the child to foster care (Child Welfare Policy Manual 1.3 
12).
    As discussed previously, we believe that it is beneficial to compel 
State agencies to collect and report information to us on an ongoing 
basis when the child is under the State agency's placement and care 
responsibility away from his parents or legal guardians, regardless of 
the setting. We believe that doing so will allow us to follow a child 
through the various out-of-home placement settings that are connected 
closely to the foster care system but may not be managed by the State 
child welfare agency directly. Including these settings will permit 
States and ACF to complete longitudinal analyses of children's out-of-
home care experiences, as advocated by States and others in the field. 
In addition, we believe that requiring State agencies to submit 
information on a child's entire experience while under the placement 
and care responsibility of the State, rather than having to generate 
information based on identifying select types of settings, will be less 
burdensome. We welcome comment on this proposal.
    The reader should note that although the State will report all 
children placed away from their parents and legal guardians under its 
placement and care authority regardless of the child's living 
arrangements, States and ACF will be able to identify children who are 
in the narrower definition of foster care as defined by our program 
rules. This is because we are proposing to better categorize a child's 
living arrangements in the data elements. We will, therefore, be able 
to select samples for reviews or other analyses that look at foster 
care as used in the title IV-B and IV-E programs separately from other 
living arrangements.
    In subparagraph (a)(1)(iv), we require that a State continue 
reporting a child to AFCARS who is missing or has run away, is 
attending camp or on vacation, or is visiting with his immediate or 
extended family. In these situations, the child remains in out-of-home 
care under the agency's placement and care responsibility. These 
situations do not represent a State agency's need to move the child.
    Finally, in paragraph (a)(2) we propose that the State discontinue 
reporting a child to AFCARS if the State agency's placement and care 
authority ends (or is discharged), if the State agency returns the 
child home to his or her parents or legal guardians, or the child 
reaches the age of majority unless such a child continues to receive 
title IV-E foster care maintenance payments. The child has exited the 
reporting population for AFCARS purposes and has completed an out-of-
home care episode in these circumstances. This provision is, in part, a 
departure from the existing regulation. Many States over the years and 
during consultation have highlighted the need for more definitive 
guidance on when the child should be considered to have exited the 
AFCARS reporting population. States have pointed out that when a child 
leaves the AFCARS reporting population is of critical importance in 
defining consistently the length of time a child stays in foster care, 
as well as re-entries into foster care, for the CFSRs and other Federal 
child welfare outcome measures.
    We propose to continue State reporting of information until the 
child is no longer under the agency's placement and care responsibility 
because we are interested in understanding the child's entire out-of-
home experience. Children who are legally discharged from the State 
agency's placement and care responsibility have always been considered 
to have exited foster care under the existing AFCARS requirements. This 
would include children who may remain away from their parents or legal 
guardians but whose placement and care responsibility are transferred 
to another agency with no connection to the State agency.
    However, we propose for the first time that children who are 
returned home to their parents or guardians be excluded from the AFCARS 
reporting population. Previous policy suggested that a State report to 
AFCARS children who were returned home and supervised by the State 
agency in an after-care status for a period of six months, unless a 
court order indicated another time period (Child Welfare Policy Manual 
1.2B.7 7 and 1.3 11). Because we do not have a 
specific response option for States to report children in an after-care 
status in the existing AFCARS, we have instructed States to report the 
child on a trial home visit. There is, however, a distinction between a 
child who is visiting home, whether to stay connected to his or her 
family or to try reunification, and a child who the State agency has 
returned home. We agree with the States that contend that even though a 
State may continue to have some ongoing role in supervising or 
monitoring the child in his home, the child is no longer in out-of-home 
care for all practical purposes, but is at home. Furthermore, some 
State courts do not discharge a State's placement and care 
responsibility routinely, or in a timely fashion; sometimes this event 
occurs months after a child is in his or her own home. We concur that 
children in these situations should not be considered to be part of the 
AFCARS out-of-home care reporting population so as not to distort a 
child's length of

[[Page 2087]]

stay in care. We welcome comments on this proposal.
    We also want to clarify here that the proposed out-of-home care 
reporting population does not include those children who are under the 
State agency's ``supervision'' authority, unlike the current 
regulation. We found the reference to supervision to be problematic 
because we never defined the term ``supervision'' further in AFCARS 
regulations or policy. Thus States have questioned whether the existing 
reporting population includes children in a variety of settings for 
whom the State agency has only a legal duty to supervise with no 
concurrent placement and care responsibility. We wish to be clear that 
children who are receiving services only in the homes of their parent 
or legal guardian(s) and children who may be placed away from their 
parents or legal guardians but for whom the State title IV-B/IV-E 
agency has no placement and care responsibility are not a part of the 
proposed AFCARS out-of-home care reporting population.
Section 1355.41(b) Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Subsidy 
Reporting Population
    In subparagraph (b)(1), we propose that the State include 
information on all children for whom there is either a title IV-E 
adoption assistance agreement or a State adoption assistance agreement 
in effect during the report period. This includes children in a pre-
adoptive living arrangement. Children under such adoption agreements 
are a part of the reporting population regardless of whether a 
financial subsidy is paid on the child's behalf. We believe that 
requiring State agencies to collect and report information on these 
populations is necessary since there is no reliable information on 
these populations other than State claims data for Federal adoption 
funds, which have substantial analytical limitations.
    As a result of successful adoption initiatives, some States now 
have more children receiving adoption assistance than receiving foster 
care maintenance payments. With the increased activity in adoption and 
the corresponding outlays for the program, there has been an increase 
in requests for information about the population from the Congress, 
States, the media, and other sources. There also is a growing need at 
the Federal level for information to use for planning and budget 
projection purposes.
    Children who are in out-of-home care and who are the subject of a 
title IV-E adoption assistance agreement are likely to show up in both 
the out-of-home care and adoption assistance subsidy files until the 
point of the finalization of the adoption. In part, this is because 
sections 473 and 475(3) of the Act require States to enter into title 
IV-E adoption assistance agreements with adoptive parents prior to the 
finalization of a child's adoption, during which time the child may 
remain in out-of-home care. This may be true of children under State 
adoption assistance agreements as well, depending on State 
requirements. However, we believe we need this duplication of data in 
order to get complete information on the child's out-of-home care and 
adoption assistance experiences. Since we understand that the time 
between when an adoption assistance agreement becomes effective and the 
finalization of the child's adoption is relatively short, we expect 
such duplication to be limited. We welcome comments on this proposal.
    In subparagraph (b)(2), we seek information on children on whose 
behalf a subsidy is paid pursuant to a guardianship agreement with the 
State agency because we are interested in providing a national picture 
of children in these arrangements for the first time. We are not 
proposing that States include in the reporting population children who 
may be the subject of a guardianship or guardianship agreement in which 
a financial subsidy is not paid to the child's guardian. We believe 
that non-subsidized guardianships are a small portion of the 
guardianship arrangements in which State agencies are involved, that 
States maintain little information on them and there exists no 
compelling interest for ACF to require States to report information on 
these arrangements.
    States provide guardianship subsidies to a legal guardian for the 
care and support of a child who may be at risk of entering foster care 
or who may have otherwise remained in foster care. Although there is no 
Federal requirement or entitlement funding for States to provide 
guardianship subsidies, we understand that more than half of the States 
provide these supports to encourage greater permanency for children for 
whom adoption and reunification have been ruled out.
    States have established subsidized guardianship programs using 
State and local funds and funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy 
Families Program. Seven States have obtained a child welfare 
demonstration waiver pursuant to section 1130 of the Act to test the 
effectiveness of a subsidized guardianship program for children in 
foster care. The demonstration waivers provide States with greater 
flexibility to use title IV-B and title IV-E funds for services that 
can facilitate improved safety, permanency and well-being for children. 
(Our authority to permit States to conduct new waivers expired in March 
2006). Our proposed reporting population includes children in any 
subsidized guardianship arrangement regardless of the source of 
funding.

1355.42 Data Reporting Requirements

    We propose to add a new section 1355.42 on data reporting 
requirements, including the report periods for the data files, general 
provisions for collecting and submitting the out-of-home care and 
adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy files, and record 
retention rules to comply with AFCARS requirements.
Section 1355.42(a) Report Periods and Deadlines
    In paragraph (a), we propose that each State submit an out-of-home 
care data file and an adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data 
file to ACF on children in the reporting populations on a semi-annual 
basis. The report periods extend from April 1 to September 30 and from 
October 1 to March 31 of each Federal fiscal year. These report periods 
are the same as in the existing AFCARS.
    Several stakeholders suggested that we consider moving to annual, 
or even less frequent reporting, rather than semi-annual reporting of 
AFCARS data. Many commenters were concerned about the perceived 
complications of ACF compiling an annual file from two semi-annual 
submissions for the purposes of the CFSRs and the annual outcomes 
report to Congress. We want to assure States that we are able to create 
an annual file. We believe that some States' concerns about compiling 
an annual file were related to their inability to replicate the 
information from ACF precisely. ACF has recently started using a 
readily-available software program. The logic associated with this 
software's de-duplication function is readily transferable to other 
software packages; therefore, States will be able to replicate the 
annual files more easily. Finally, we expect that the new requirements 
proposed here for using a permanent and encrypted person identification 
number (see proposed 45 CFR 1355.43(a)(4), 1355.43(a)(5) and 
1355.44(a)(3) in this NPRM) will aid both our own and States' ability 
to create annual files.
    Further, we believe that an annual submission would hamper our 
ability to provide timely data and analysis to stakeholders and would 
not meet our needs. A six-month submission process

[[Page 2088]]

is preferable because AFCARS is now linked inextricably to a number of 
ACF priorities and legislative requirements, including the CFSRs and 
title IV-E eligibility reviews. For example, most States are monitoring 
their progress in achieving the steps of their CFSR program improvement 
plans on a quarterly basis. Because States submit AFCARS twice a year, 
we can provide States with their results on the statewide data 
indicators every six months for comparison. A move to annual 
submissions would mean that a State would not be able to use AFCARS 
data to see how it has improved as timely. Annual data would add six 
additional months to the time it would take ACF to verify whether a 
State has achieved the agreed upon amount of improvement for a CFSR 
program improvement plan. Also, annual AFCARS submissions would mean 
that our period under review for the CFSR onsite review would need to 
be extended and we could not review States as frequently because they 
are tied to the AFCARS report period. Finally, the title IV-E 
eligibility reviews require that we select a sample of children who 
received foster care maintenance payments during a six-month period 
that coincides with the State's most recent AFCARS submission (45 CFR 
1356.71). In formulating the title IV-E reviews, we chose a recent six-
month AFCARS period specifically so that we would review recent cases 
of children in foster care.
    We also propose in paragraph (a) that State agencies submit their 
data files to us within 15 calendar days of the end of the report 
period. If this date falls on a weekend, the State must submit their 
files by the end of the following Monday. This is a change from the 
current AFCARS, which allows a 45-day period in which State agencies 
may prepare their data files for submittal to ACF. Although some 
stakeholders requested more time to prepare their files, we believe 
that the shorter time frame is workable and will also better meet State 
and Federal needs for data.
    As mentioned earlier, AFCARS data is used extensively in a number 
of ACF priorities and requirements, including the Child and Family 
Service Reviews. If ACF receives the data a month earlier than we do 
now, we will be better able to analyze the data for use in CFSR data 
profiles and program improvement plans. Also, since adoption incentive 
funds are tied to how well States perform in increasing their adoptions 
as seen in the AFCARS data, we can award adoption incentive funds to 
States sooner.
    The vast improvements in automation in the field of child welfare 
strengthen our belief that a State can prepare data files within 15 
days. Now States can record and verify data in a more timely fashion 
than when the original AFCARS regulation was issued. Finally, we have 
provided significant technical assistance to States to encourage 
ongoing quality assurance checks on the data recorded in their 
information systems. We believe that State agencies will be able to 
meet this shorter time frame for submitting data with continued and 
routine use of our data quality utilities. We welcome comment on the 
shorter submission time frame.
    Finally, in paragraph (a) we require that State agencies submit 
their data to us in two separate data files. Currently, State agencies 
must submit four data files (Appendices A and B to 45 CFR 1355): (1) A 
detailed foster care file with information on a child in foster care 
during the report period; (2) a detailed adoption file with information 
on all children adopted during the report period in whose adoption the 
State agency has some involvement; (3) a foster care summary file in 
which the State indicates the total number of foster care records and 
the age distribution of children in those records; and, (4) an adoption 
summary file in which the State indicates the total number of adoption 
records and the age distribution of the children adopted.
    We propose to eliminate the existing foster care and adoption 
summary files because they are no longer necessary. ACF originally 
intended to use the summary files to verify the completeness of a 
State's data submissions and to ensure that the file was not corrupted 
during transmission. The summary files also were to serve as a quick 
count of the number of children in foster care and those being adopted. 
However, because the summary files contain aggregate data, the number 
of children who entered, were discharged, were adopted, were served or 
were in care on a specific day cannot be determined. Further, we are 
able to use new technology that is better able to verify the 
completeness of a State's data submission without requiring the State 
to generate summary files.
    The proposed out-of-home care data file contains the majority of 
information that State agencies report to us currently in the detailed 
foster care and adoption data files. We propose to discontinue the 
submission of voluntary adoption data and eliminate the separate 
adoption data file. Rather, children who are adopted from out-of-home 
care will be included in the out-of-home care data file, and children 
for whom the State agency has been involved in their adoption by 
entering into an adoption assistance agreement will be included in the 
adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data file (some children 
will be reported in both files). The current separate adoption data 
file was developed originally to permit State agencies to submit data 
on all adoptions (inclusive of private, independent, or international 
adoptions in which the State agency was not involved) without the data 
appearing erroneous due to duplicated information that may have 
resulted from States' obtaining the data from a variety of sources. For 
example, had States obtained their data on all adoptions from court 
records and incorporated that data into the foster care data file, 
public agency adoptions would have been duplicated. This strategy was 
based on the premise that State agencies would voluntarily submit data 
on adoptions outside of the public agency. However, just a few States 
have submitted non-public agency adoption data consistently, making the 
information unusable.
Section 1355.42(b) Out-of-Home Care Data File
    In paragraph (b), we provide instructions on how the State must 
report the out-of-home care information under the proposed 45 CFR 
1355.43.
    Specifically, in paragraph (b)(1), we propose that a State provide 
us with the most recent information for the elements regarding general 
information, child information, and parent or legal guardian 
information (proposed 45 CFR 1355.43(a), (b) and (c)). This means that 
in each file submission we are seeking current, point-in-time data for 
these elements similar to the time frame for most elements in the 
existing AFCARS. This information is largely demographic in nature, and 
tends to remain static over a six-month report period or even longer. 
For example, information on the child's parent, such as race, ethnicity 
and date of birth, does not change over the course of a report period.
    In paragraph (b)(2), we propose that a State submit recent and 
historical information for the elements regarding removal information, 
living arrangements and provider information, permanency plans and 
ongoing circumstances, general exit information, and exit to adoption 
information (proposed 45 CFR 1355.43(d), (e), (f), (g) and (h), 
respectively). This information is required, unless the exception 
described below applies. This means that for every file submission, we 
are seeking information on the child's lifetime experience while in 
out-of-home care in the State's placement and

[[Page 2089]]

care responsibility as described through the reporting of these 
elements. This will allow ACF to develop a comprehensive picture of a 
child's lifetime experience with entries, living arrangements, 
permanency plans, and exits while in the State's child welfare system. 
This is in contrast to the existing AFCARS, which requires that a State 
submit certain detailed information on the child's current foster care 
episode and current placement setting only.
    We want to be clear that we propose that State agencies submit 
recent and historical information pertaining to removals, permanency 
plans and circumstances, living arrangements and exits every report 
period rather than updates on children who were in out-of-home care 
before or who remain in out-of-home care from one report period to the 
next. This is because we have learned from the existing structure of 
AFCARS that gaps in information raise numerous questions about the 
child's experiences and make the data more difficult to analyze. Part 
of our goal in developing this proposed regulation is to eliminate 
features of the existing AFCARS that hinder the collection of reliable, 
quality data. If we were to ask State agencies to report only changes 
in the child's living arrangements, permanency goals, entry into or 
exit from out-of-home care we would not have a way to verify that the 
child's experiences have, in fact, remained the same. We also believe 
that this approach is less burdensome on States. Although sending a 
child's history involves submitting more data to us than an update as 
children exit and re-enter out-of-home care and their living 
arrangements and permanency plans change, we believe that it is less 
complicated and therefore requires fewer State resources than the 
alternative. In other words, sending a child's full history requires 
the State to submit all the information it has on these elements, 
rather than figure out a way to cull out only the information that has 
changed each report period.
    We propose to get more comprehensive data for certain elements in 
response to our own need for data and in response to stakeholders' 
requests that ACF consider how to move AFCARS towards gathering some 
longitudinal information. Many States noted that they already have this 
capability. A number of States also asserted that the breadth of this 
information allowed them to conduct more sophisticated analysis on what 
happens to a child, or groups of children in foster care. Further, 
States and other stakeholders saw this type of information as critical 
to the CFSRs. In particular, stakeholders believe that longitudinal 
data would better inform CFSR measures such as time in foster care, 
foster care re-entries and the stability of foster care placements. For 
example, once we have information on all out-of-home care episodes a 
child experiences, we can potentially analyze data to determine whether 
children entering out-of-home care for the first time after a certain 
point in time have more positive outcomes than those who entered out-
of-home care earlier. Also, we can potentially use the data to improve 
upon our placement stability measure by not only analyzing the number 
of placements that a child experiences in an episode, but the type of 
placements as well. Further, with the richness of data that 
longitudinal information can provide, ACF and States can be better 
informed in developing and implementing program improvement plans to 
address compliance issues raised during a CFSR. In light of the results 
of the first round of CFSRs and the challenges that are ahead for 
States in implementing changes to their child welfare systems, we find 
the potential to have improved data for use in the CFSR and other 
priorities a compelling reason for proposing these changes. We welcome 
comments on this approach.
    We chose to propose gathering comprehensive data on removals, 
permanency plans and ongoing circumstances, living arrangements and 
exits after considering whether a more limited approach to developing 
longitudinal data would meet our needs for data, as well as those of 
the States. The limited option would require a State to submit detailed 
removal, permanency plan, living arrangement and exit information on 
the child's four most recent out-of-home care episodes. We also 
considered requiring detailed living arrangement information on the 
child's four most recent living arrangements only. Under this option, 
the State would inform us how many total removals and living 
arrangements the child had experienced. We considered four out-of-home 
care episodes because our analysis of existing AFCARS data suggests 
that the vast majority (approximately 99 percent) of children in the 
existing foster care reporting population have no more than four foster 
care episodes. This option would allow us to capture almost all foster 
care episodes without requiring State agencies to submit extensive 
histories on children. We similarly thought that limiting the number of 
living arrangements that State agencies would report to AFCARS would 
minimize the burden of this approach.
    Ultimately, we decided that this more narrow approach was not 
sufficient. One problem with a limited longitudinal database was that 
we would have no information on the children who present some of the 
more significant challenges to States. Children who experience high 
numbers of multiple living arrangements or frequently enter and exit 
out-of-home care are some of the nation's most vulnerable children. 
Furthermore, these children often require States to expend more of 
their resources to address their problems.
    In paragraph (b)(3), we propose an exception to the requirement to 
report complete information on all out-of-home care episodes for 
children in the reporting population. The exception applies to those 
children who had an out-of-home care episode prior to the effective 
date of the forthcoming final rule. Specifically, the exception applies 
to: (1) Children who are in out-of-home care on the effective date who 
also had a prior episode before the final rule goes into effect, and 
(2) children who enter out-of-home care after the effective date who 
had a prior episode before the final rule goes into effect. For such 
children, we are proposing that the State report the child's removal 
dates, exit dates and exit reasons (1355.43(d)(1), (g)(1), and (g)(3) 
respectively) for each out-of-home care episode that occurred before 
the final rule effective date. The exception does not apply to a 
child's ``open'' or ongoing episode that coincides with the effective 
date of the final rule; for such children we propose that a State 
report all information described in paragraphs (b)(1) and (b)(2) during 
that ongoing out-of-home care episode. As time passes after the final 
rule goes into effect, this provision will apply to a diminishing 
number of children who are in the out-of-home care reporting 
population.
    We propose this exception to the general rule to report complete 
information in order to strike a balance between our desire for recent 
and historical information on all children in out-of-home care in 
accordance with the proposed new AFCARS elements with the challenge 
that some State agencies may face in gathering this information for a 
child's previous contacts with the State child welfare system before 
these new rules go into effect. We chose to have State agencies report 
at least the child's prior removal and exit dates and exit reasons, 
because we believe these elements are most critical to our ability to 
construct certain cohorts of children for analysis in the CFSRs and 
other outcome-based activities. Further, States

[[Page 2090]]

currently collect this information in the normal course of their 
casework activities for children in foster care and report some 
information for these elements under the existing AFCARS.
    Our expectation is that for children who experience an out-of-home 
care episode prior to the implementation of the proposed new AFCARS, 
States will report more than the minimum information required by the 
exception. We expect, but do not require, States to provide as much 
information as they have in their case files and information systems on 
the child's out-of-home care episodes that occur before the effective 
date of the final rule and at least as much information as they report 
currently under the existing AFCARS. States that do not provide this 
additional information will not be penalized. States that provide it 
with errors will not be penalized either. From our review of States 
with a SACWIS, we have found that many States are collecting 
comprehensive information and information that pertains to the proposed 
new elements. Therefore, we believe that it is reasonable to expect 
States to provide us with information on the new elements regarding 
prior episodes even in the absence of a mandate. In fact, we considered 
establishing different exceptions to the requirement to report 
comprehensive information for those States that have an operational 
SACWIS versus those that do not because we believe that the type of 
information they are able to collect and report is more complete and 
robust than other States. Even so, since this is the first time we are 
requiring certain information in AFCARS, we believe that we must allow 
all States an equal opportunity to collect the proposed information for 
children who already are known to the State.
    Finally, we acknowledge that even though we propose that States 
report a child's removal and exit dates and exit reasons of the out-of-
home care episodes that occur prior to the final rule effective date, 
this limited information will be newly required for some children in 
certain circumstances. In particular, since we propose to expand the 
reporting population to include children who are in out-of-home care 
settings that are not considered foster care under our program rules, 
States have not consistently reported removal and exit dates and exit 
reasons for AFCARS purposes. Further, since the existing AFCARS 
requires that States report the date of first and latest removal and 
exit reason for the most recent foster care episode in a six-month 
period, some children may have interim removal dates and exit dates and 
reasons that States currently are not reporting to us. We still 
believe, however, that while this proposed reporting may be newly 
required, States generally have this information as a matter of course 
in their own information systems and this requirement would not produce 
an undue burden. We welcome comment on this provision.
Section 1355.42(c) Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Subsidy Data 
File
    In paragraph (c), we propose that the State submit recent, point-
in-time information for all elements in this data file. This 
information is needed only at a given point in the report period 
because it is static over time. For example, adoption subsidies may 
remain the same over many years or for the duration of the adoption 
assistance agreement, unless the parent requests a change in the amount 
of the subsidy, or the child's circumstances change.
Section 1355.42(d) Reporting Missing Information
    In paragraph (d), we propose how the State must report missing 
information. If the State agency fails to collect the information for 
an element, the State agency must report the element as blank or 
missing. The State agency may not develop program codes that default or 
map information that caseworkers did not collect or enter into the 
State's information system to a valid response option. This is the case 
even when there may be a response option for an element that allows the 
State to indicate that the information has not yet been determined or 
is unknown. This provision is consistent with ACF's longstanding 
practice; however, States have pointed out that there is no official 
guidance on this issue. Therefore, we wish to state unequivocally that 
this practice of defaulting is not permitted.
    For example, we propose that the State indicate the specific 
permanency plan for a child or indicate that the permanency plan has 
not yet been determined for the child. If the State's information 
system is programmed in a way to allow the worker to select various 
plans (i.e., adoption, reunification, etc.) or not input the 
information at all (i.e., leave the information blank), the State 
agency may not report to ACF the child's plan as ``not yet 
determined,'' when the State does not have any information. Rather, the 
State may only report that the plan is ``not yet determined'' if the 
State has programmed its information system in a way that allows the 
worker to select that he/she has actually not yet determined the plan.
Section 1355.42(e) Electronic Submission
    In paragraph (e) of this section we propose that States submit 
their data files to ACF electronically, consistent with ACF's 
specifications. States currently submit their data files to us 
electronically; however, we are removing from the regulation a number 
of technical specifications that detail how States must submit their 
files electronically (see appendix C to part 1355). Instead, we will 
issue technical requirements and specifications through official ACF 
policy subsequent to our issuance of the final rule. We have learned 
through our experience with the existing AFCARS that it is prudent not 
to regulate the technical specifications for transmitting data. As 
technology changes, we must be able to keep pace with the most current, 
practical and efficient transmission methods that will meet State and 
Federal needs.
    We are particularly interested in exploring new technologies due to 
the enactment of the E-Government Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107-347). This 
law focuses the Federal government on using improved internet-based 
technology to make it easier for State or local governments and 
citizens to interact with the Federal government. One internet-based 
technology that we are exploring for AFCARS is the use of Extensible 
Mark-Up Language (XML). XML is a text-based format that allows entities 
to describe, deliver and exchange data among a range of applications, 
provided that the sender and receiver have agreed in advance on the 
data definitions. We believe that XML has several benefits to States 
and ACF, including:
     Enabling the integration and collation of any data and 
information irrespective of storage environment or document type;
     Facilitating data interchange independent of the operating 
system and hardware; and,
     Allowing new data elements to be added readily with 
minimal changes to the data file format.
    We recognize that some States already have implemented the use of 
XML to transfer data, while others may have encountered some barriers 
to doing so.
Section 1355.42(f) Record Retention
    In paragraph (f), we propose that States retain records for as long 
as necessary to comply with the AFCARS reporting requirements. In 
particular, we are making Departmental record retention rules in 45 CFR 
92.42(b) and

[[Page 2091]]

(c) inapplicable to AFCARS. These Departmental record retention rules 
require States to retain financial and programmatic records, supporting 
documents, and statistical records related to Federal programs and 
requirements for a period of three years. Because we are seeking 
comprehensive data on children in out-of-home care, including 
information on their prior experiences with the child welfare system, a 
three-year retention period is insufficient.
    Practically, this means the State must keep applicable records 
until the child reaches the age of majority in the State, or else is no 
longer of an age to be in the reporting populations. This is because we 
propose that a State keep a child's identification number consistent 
over time and indicate the child's entire history with the child 
welfare system. Since a child's information is likely to be contained 
in an automated information system and relatively simple to archive, we 
believe these record retention rules are reasonable.

1355.43 Out-Of-Home Care Data File Elements

    We propose to add a new section 1355.43 providing all elements for 
the out-of-home care data file. Under this section, each element is 
described in detail and the acceptable response options are also 
defined. (Attachment A to the preamble contains a quick reference of 
all the out-of-home care elements.) We propose that the State agency 
must collect and report the information described in these elements for 
each child in the out-of-home care reporting population.
Section 1355.43(a) General Information
    In paragraph (a) of this section we propose that States collect and 
report general information that identifies the reporting State and the 
child in out-of-home care.
    State. In paragraph (a)(1), we propose that the State responsible 
for reporting the child identify itself using the numeric two-digit 
State Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) code. We use the 
FIPS code because it is a standard issued by the National Institute of 
Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure uniform identification of 
geographic entities through all Federal government agencies. The 
requirement for the State to identify itself is not new (see appendix A 
to part 1355, section II, I.A); however, the existing regulation 
incorrectly requests that the State use the alphabetic U.S. Postal 
Service abbreviation rather than the FIPS code. We corrected this 
mistake in policy (Child Welfare Policy Manual 1.2A.3 1 and 
1.2B.2 4), but are now codifying it in regulation.
    Report date. In paragraph (a)(2), we propose that a State continue 
to indicate the report period date (see appendix A to part 1355, 
section II, I.B). Specifically, States are to report to us the last 
month and year that corresponds with the end of the report period, 
which will always be either March or September of any given year.
    Local agency. In paragraph (a)(3), we propose that the State report 
to us the local agency that has responsibility for the child using a 
five-digit FIPS code. The local agency must be the county or a county 
equivalent unit which has responsibility for the child. The information 
requested is the same as in the existing AFCARS regulations (see 
appendix A to part 1355, Section II, I.C). However, consistent with 
existing policy we want to emphasize that we are interested in the 
location of the agency that has responsibility of the child, and not 
the county where the child is residing (Child Welfare Policy Manual 
1.2B.2 3).
    Child record number. In paragraph (a)(4), we propose that the State 
report the child's record number, which is a unique person 
identification number, as an encrypted number. The person 
identification number must remain the same for the child until the age 
of majority, no matter where the child lives while in the State's 
placement and care responsibility and across all report periods and 
episodes of out-of-home care. If the child was previously adopted in 
the State, however, the State may provide a new record number for the 
child. The State must apply and retain the same encryption routine or 
method for the person identification number across all report periods. 
The State's encryption methodology must meet all ACF standards that we 
prescribe through technical bulletins or policy.
    This is a revised element in that we are no longer allowing the use 
of sequential numbers for AFCARS and propose rules for encryption and 
consistent numbers (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, I.D). The 
changes to this element are based on findings from AFCARS reviews and 
technical assistance which indicate that some States use different 
identification numbers or change key or seed numbers for the same 
child. One issue that has been identified in some States that do not 
have a SACWIS is that the child's record number may change if the child 
moves within the State. We are concerned about a State's ability to 
track a child's complete out-of-home care experience in the State when 
they do not use the same identification number, so we propose that 
States discontinue this practice.
    Further, we believe that States share our desire to understand the 
entire experience of a child with the State's child welfare system. 
Numerous commenters on the Federal Register notice suggested keeping a 
child's identification number consistent through his or her child 
welfare experience. That is why we also have required States to use the 
same single person identification number for reporting a youth to the 
National Youth in Transition Database and encouraged States to use the 
same number for reporting a child to the National Child Abuse and 
Neglect Data System (NCANDS).
    Encryption will ensure that the child's identity will remain 
confidential. Encryption is one of a number of different methodologies 
that a State can use to code confidential information. However, we are 
requiring encryption as opposed to other methods of coding confidential 
data, like sequential numbering, because it is secure and easier than 
other methods to cross-reference files for identification at a later 
date. For example, encryption protects a child's sensitive information 
by masking the State or local agency's person identification number 
from Federal staff, researchers or other persons who may come into 
contact with the data the State submits to ACF. In practice, a State 
encrypts a record number by introducing a seed or key number into a 
mathematical formula to code the numbers. The State reveals the 
original person identification number by re-introducing the same seed 
or key number to reverse the mathematical formula, a process known as 
decryption. The State ensures confidentiality by keeping the 
mathematical formula secure and limiting access to the formula to 
authorized persons only.
    Encryption also is more efficient than some other methods because 
the State need only safeguard the seed or key number, not a whole list 
of numbers, which crosswalk between the masked identification number 
and the real record number. Furthermore, the vast majority of States 
use encryption methods already in reporting information to AFCARS. The 
few States that do not use encryption currently have indicated to ACF 
that they intend to use encryption in the near future. We believe, 
therefore, that requiring an encryption method will impose a minimal 
burden on States.
    Finally, we have created an exception to the general requirement 
that a child's

[[Page 2092]]

record number remains the same until the age of majority. The exception 
is for a child who re-enters out-of-home care following an adoption. We 
are making this exception in recognition of some State policies to 
change identifiers for children when they are adopted after being in 
out-of-home care. Regardless of a change in the child's record number, 
the State must report the child's entire child welfare experience.
    Family Record Number. In paragraph (a)(5), we propose for the first 
time that the State report a unique and encrypted family record number 
that is associated with the child. Provided the child's family remains 
the same during the child's out-of-home care and any subsequent out-of-
home care episodes, this number must remain the same regardless of 
where the child or family resides. However, should the child's family 
change due to adoption we propose that the State submit the adoptive 
family's record number.
    Although we have not requested this information before in AFCARS, 
we believe that all States use a family number or equivalent in their 
case management systems to identify the family in which the child in 
foster care is a member. We propose to collect this information 
primarily to aid in the identification of sibling groups, which we 
describe in greater detail in section 1355.43(b)(11).
Section 1355.43(b) Child Information
    In paragraph (b) we propose that States collect and report various 
characteristics of the child in the out-of-home care reporting 
population.
    Child's date of birth. In paragraph (b)(1), we propose to continue 
to require States to report the child's date of birth (see appendix A 
to part 1355, section II, II.A). The only change that we made in the 
proposed definition is to no longer instruct States to report an 
abandoned child's date of birth as the 15th of the month. During AFCARS 
assessment reviews, we found that many States were not aware of this 
instruction or that workers were reluctant to enter an unknown birth 
date as the 15th of the month. Moreover, we have come to realize that 
the State child welfare agency is often able to establish or estimate 
an abandoned child's date of birth quickly by consulting with health 
officials and/or records. Therefore, we are requiring that the State 
always provide the child's actual or estimated date of birth.
    Child's gender. In paragraph (b)(2), we propose that States report 
information on the child's gender, consistent with the existing 
regulation (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, II.B).
    Child's race. In paragraph (b)(3) we propose to continue to require 
information on the race of the child (see appendix A to part 1355, 
section II, II.C). The racial categories of American Indian or Alaska 
Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other 
Pacific Islander and White listed in proposed subparagraphs (b)(3)(i) 
through (b)(3)(v) are consistent with the Office of Management and 
Budget's (OMB) standards for collecting information on race. (See OMB's 
Provisional Guidance of the Implementation of the 1997 Standards for 
Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/re_guidance2000update.pdf for more information.) Each racial 
category is a separate data element to represent the fact that the OMB 
standards require States to allow an individual to identify with more 
than one race. Consistent with the OMB standards, self-reporting or 
self-identification is the preferred method for collecting data on race 
and ethnicity. This means that the State is to allow the child, if age 
appropriate, or the child's parent(s) to determine race.
    If the child's race is unknown, the State is to so indicate in 
subparagraph (b)(3)(vi). A child's race can be categorized as unknown 
only if a child or his parents do not actually know the child's race. 
The fact that the State agency has not asked the child or parent for 
the child's race is not an acceptable use of the unknown response 
option. Further, it is acceptable for the child to identify that he or 
she is multi-racial, but does not know one of those races. In such 
cases, the State must indicate the racial classifications that apply 
and also indicate that a race is unknown. If the child is abandoned, 
the State must so indicate in subparagraph (b)(3)(vii). We have 
provided a definition of abandoned so that we are clear that it is to 
be used in very restrictive circumstances and not any time a parent may 
be temporarily unavailable. If a child or young person who was 
abandoned as an infant identifies as being of a certain race or 
multiple races, the State must indicate the applicable race(s), rather 
than abandoned. Finally, in the situation in which the child or child's 
parent declines to identify any race, the State must so indicate in 
subparagraph (b)(3)(viii).
    Child's Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. In paragraph (b)(4), we 
propose that a State report the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of the 
child. Similar to race, these definitions are consistent with the OMB 
race and ethnicity standards and should be self-reported by the child 
or his parent. Also, the State may report whether the child's ethnicity 
is unknown because the parent or child does not know the information, 
whether the child is abandoned, or that the child or parent has 
declined to provide this information.
    In the elements in paragraph (b)(5) and its subparagraphs, we 
propose for the first time that the State report the child's use of 
language. We propose to collect this information because we believe 
language is an important characteristic of a child that may aid the 
State in delivering services to him or her. Further, those children who 
do not speak English or who communicate through sign language may face 
particular challenges in a State's child welfare system. If we collect 
this information we will be able to analyze the data to see if language 
used has an effect on a child's experience in foster care. We believe 
that having this information will be a greater benefit to ACF and the 
States than the relatively low burden on caseworkers in collecting the 
data. We welcome comments on this new element.
    Child's language. In paragraph (b)(5), we propose that the State 
indicate whether the child is verbal, pre-verbal or non-verbal. We are 
defining verbal to include the use of any language, whether it be a 
spoken language or other communication, such as sign language. A child 
who is pre-verbal is one who is too young to use language. A non-verbal 
child is a child who is of an appropriate age to use language but 
appears unable or incapable of using language. The child may be non-
verbal due to a significant developmental delay or severe deprivation 
of exposure to language. We believe that we must capture a child's 
ability to be verbal along with the specific languages the child uses 
to be able to analyze this characteristic correctly.
    Languages used. In subparagraph (b)(5)(i), we require that the 
State indicate all the languages that a child uses, if appropriate. We 
have provided several response options that reflect the most common 
languages used in the United States. However, the State is to indicate 
any other language(s) the child uses that is not in that list. For a 
child who uses sign language, the State is to indicate that the child 
uses sign language in addition to any other language (e.g., English or 
Spanish) used.
    Language preference. In subparagraph (b)(5)(ii), we propose that 
the State indicate the language with which the child has the greatest 
facility if the child uses more than one language. For children who are 
bilingual or multilingual with an equal facility in those languages, 
the State may indicate all that apply.

[[Page 2093]]

    We considered requesting information on the child's primary 
language only, but found this terminology problematic for individuals 
who may be bilingual or multilingual. We also considered whether we 
should ask which language the child used in his/her home, but found 
that construction equally problematic for multilingual families. We 
believe that allowing the State to identify the languages used by the 
child and the ones in which the child has the greatest facility is the 
most straightforward way of gathering the information we desire.
    Health, behavioral or mental health conditions. In paragraph 
(b)(6), we propose to continue to require States to report information 
on whether a child has been diagnosed with a health, behavioral or 
mental health condition, with some modifications (see appendix A to 
part 1355, section II, II.D). Information pertaining to the health 
characteristics of a child is important in understanding the length of 
time children remain in care, their placement needs, and, in general, 
the needs of children being served by the agency. We believe that by 
collecting this information in AFCARS, we can better support the CFSR 
in gathering information on children's well-being. Further, requiring 
this information is consistent with the provision in section 475(1)(C) 
of the Act for the State to have a case plan that includes the child's 
health records and known medical problems.
    We propose to continue to require that the State indicate diagnoses 
made by a qualified professional only as determined by the State. A 
qualified professional may be a doctor, psychiatrist, or, if applicable 
in the State, a licensed clinical psychologist or social worker. We 
make this distinction as a means to gather information on medically 
diagnosed conditions rather than conditions that may be observed by a 
caseworker to determine the most appropriate placement or referrals for 
a child. Additionally, this data element will provide ACF with 
information on whether children in out-of-home care have received a 
clinical assessment for the diagnosed conditions.
    The proposed language also expands upon the types of conditions in 
the existing regulation. We chose to expand the list of conditions 
because we learned through AFCARS and SACWIS reviews and providing 
technical assistance that States had difficulty matching children's 
actual diagnoses with the existing AFCARS categories. We believe that 
this has caused data on children's health conditions to be 
underreported in the past. We developed the new AFCARS categories based 
on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the 
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition 
(DSM IV). We separated some conditions that are grouped together in one 
category in either the ICD or the DSM IV in order for the information 
to better meet our needs. We tried to create categories that 
distinguish conditions that may be more medically/physically based, 
education-related, or mental/emotional in nature.
    Specifically, we propose to continue to collect information on 
whether a child is visually or hearing impaired but have made the two 
into separate response options because the needs of these two groups 
are distinct. We continue to gather information on mental/emotional 
disorders but have narrowed the definition to those types that are more 
severe or prolonged in nature. We have broken out the previous category 
by adding childhood disorders and anxiety disorders. The DSM IV 
categorizes learning disabilities under ``disorders usually first 
diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or adolescence.'' We believe, since 
this condition relates to educational achievement, that it should be 
separated from the other conditions listed in ``childhood disorders.'' 
Also, we propose to add categories related to drug and substance abuse 
separately in order to distinguish these disorders from other 
behaviors. Finally, we have added the specific category ``developmental 
disability'' to reflect the definition in section 102(8) of the 
Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 
(Pub. L. 106-402).
    We also propose to change the title of these elements from 
``disabilities'' to ``health, behavioral or mental health conditions.'' 
Our intent for collecting this information is to gather data on the 
problems, disorders, and behaviors of the children in out-of-home care, 
rather than pinpoint children whose conditions meet a narrow 
construction of disability. Also, since what is considered a disability 
can vary for Federal or State programs, insurance purposes, or other 
benefits, we chose to use a more general term.
    Finally, we want to be clear that States must report information 
known prior to the child's current out-of-home care episode. It is 
likely that some of the diagnosed conditions will not be corrected or 
cured in a short period of time. Therefore, if a child re-enters out-
of-home care, the State must report the previously known diagnosis if 
it is still applicable. This principle also applies to a child newly 
entering out-of-home care who has a known diagnosed condition. For 
instance, a child may have been born with a congenital defect and is 
undergoing treatment (or not) for the problem. If the State agency is 
aware and has obtained a medical summary, then this information should 
be recorded and reported to AFCARS.
    Current immunizations. In paragraph (b)(7), we propose for the 
first time that a State indicate whether the child's immunizations are 
current as of the end of the report period. A State agency is to 
indicate whether the child's immunizations are current, or the State 
agency may indicate that it has not yet determined the status of the 
child's immunizations because it has not compiled or obtained the 
child's immunization records. If a child is too young to be immunized 
at the time of reporting, i.e., the child is a newborn, the State may 
indicate that the child's immunizations are current. For the purposes 
of AFCARS, we are requiring that States determine whether immunizations 
are up-to-date in accordance with the Recommended Childhood and 
Adolescent Immunization Schedule (available from the Centers for 
Disease Control (CDC)) in consultation with the child's practitioner.
    We are seeking this information because we are interested in 
gathering data that will allow us to understand more about a child's 
well-being while in out-of-home care. Further, this information is 
readily available to States in most cases since it is a required part 
of a foster child's case plan (section 475(1)(C)(v) of the Act).
    Educational Performance. In paragraph (b)(8), we propose for the 
first time that a State report information on whether the child has 
repeated grades in school (in subparagraph (b)(8)(i)) and the number of 
repeated grades (in subparagraph (b)(8)(ii)). In subparagraph 
(b)(8)(ii), the State must consider each time a child repeats a grade 
separately. For example, if a child remained in the tenth grade for 
three school years, the State must report the number of grades repeated 
as two.
    We have chosen grade level performance as a proposed new data 
element in an effort to learn more about a child's well-being while in 
out-of-home care. A recent study of students in Illinois indicated that 
children in foster care are more likely to be behind in their grade 
level performance than students who have not experienced a removal from 
home (Chapin Hall, Educational Experiences of Children in Out-Of-Home 
Care, 2004). We believe that grade level performance is an appropriate 
indicator of educational performance because it is used

[[Page 2094]]

consistently across the country, is appropriate for all school-age 
children, and relatively simple for a State agency to collect and 
report. Further, we believe that this element is consistent with the 
statutory requirement for States to compile information on the child's 
grade level performance while in foster care (section 475(1)(C)(ii) of 
the Act).
    Special education. In paragraph (b)(9), we propose to collect 
information for the first time about whether the child received special 
education instruction during the report period. The term ``special 
education,'' as defined in 20 U.S.C. 1401(29), means specifically 
designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs 
of a child with a disability. States are to indicate whether the child 
received special education during the report period, or indicate that 
the State agency has not yet determined whether the child is receiving 
special education. We are specifically requesting that States indicate 
whether the child actually receives special education instruction, 
rather than whether the child needs or has been referred for special 
education services. We believe that data on whether the child actually 
receives special education will be more reliable than information on 
eligibility for such services and this information will be simpler for 
States to obtain.
    We propose to collect this information because of our interest in 
monitoring the well-being of children in the out-of-home care reporting 
population and our desire to provide a more comprehensive picture of 
the needs of children. We also believe that gathering this information 
is consistent with the case plan requirements in section 475(1)(C) of 
the Act.
    Prior adoption. In paragraph (b)(10), we propose to continue the 
requirement for the State agency to report whether the child has 
experienced a prior finalized adoption (see appendix A to part 1355, 
section II, II.E). We clarify in the proposed regulation text that we 
are interested in whether the child has experienced a finalized 
adoption prior to the current out-of-home care episode as opposed to an 
adoption that occurs during the current out-of-home care episode. We 
also are clarifying that the State is to include any type of prior 
adoption in this element, regardless of whether the adoption was 
public, private, independent, or an intercountry adoption. Many 
commenters on the Federal Register notice expressed a desire for 
continuing and expanding the information we collect on prior adoptions 
to better determine the extent to which children in out-of-home care 
are involved in dissolved adoptions where the adoptive parents' rights 
are terminated and displaced adoptions where the child enters out-of-
home care after a finalized adoption.
    Prior adoption date. In paragraph (b)(10)(i), we propose for the 
first time that a State report the finalization date of the child's 
prior adoption. In the case of an intercountry adoption, the child's 
parents may have gone through a readoption process in the State where 
they reside. While in many cases this process is optional for a child 
whose adoption was finalized in the originating country, we understand 
that there are some States that require the child to be readopted in 
his/her State of residence. In such cases, we are requiring that the 
State provide the date that the adoption is considered final in 
accordance with the State's laws on readoption.
    In the existing AFCARS, we ask the State to report the child's age 
range at the time of the prior finalized adoption (appendix B to part 
1355 section II, II.E). This information, however, was insufficient to 
determine accurately when the child was previously adopted. Thus, we 
propose that the State report the actual finalization date to allow us 
to determine how much time has elapsed between the child's previous 
adoption and his or her current out-of-home care stay.
    Prior adoption type. In paragraph (b)(10)(ii), we seek information 
for the first time on the type of adoption the child experienced 
previously. In this element, States must distinguish between a prior 
adoption that occurs out of the reporting State's foster care system, 
another State's foster care system, an intercountry adoption, or 
another type of private or independent adoption. Commenters on the 
Federal Register notice believed that an element of this nature would 
be useful in informing our understanding of dissolved and displaced 
adoptions.
    We define intercountry adoptions as those that occur in another 
country, or those adoptions that are finalized in the United States 
after the foreign child has been brought into the country for the 
purposes of adoption. Another country in this case means any country 
outside of our definition of a State for title IV-B in 45 CFR 1355.20. 
We seek this information primarily in response to the requirements of 
the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-279). The IAA 
added section 422(b)(14) to the Social Security Act and requires that a 
State collect and report certain information on children who are 
adopted from other countries and who enter State custody as a result of 
the disruption of a placement for adoption or the dissolution of that 
adoption. This information will allow us to compile the number of 
children and permanency plans for children involved in dissolved 
adoptions and from where such children originated.
    Prior adoption location. In subparagraph (b)(10)(iii), we propose 
that a State submit the FIPS code which corresponds with the State or 
country in which the child was previously adopted, if applicable. This 
also is a new element. We propose to collect this information so that 
we can calculate accurately the dissolution and displacement rates for 
both the State in which the child was adopted and the State in which 
the displacement or dissolution occurred. Further, collecting 
information on the actual country of the prior adoption will inform our 
understanding of intercountry adoptions that require the intervention 
by State public child welfare agencies consistent with the IAA.
    Number of siblings living with the child at removal. In paragraph 
(b)(11), we propose for the first time that the State report the total 
number of siblings living with the child at the time of the child's 
removal from home, if any. These siblings may be biological, legal or 
by marriage but cannot be adults according to the State's age of 
majority. The State is not to include the child who is the subject of 
the report (i.e., the child whose record number is reported for the 
element in paragraph (b)(4)) in this count.
    We wish to be clear that States must report only the number of the 
child's siblings who were living with the child at removal and not the 
total number of siblings of the child. This includes all siblings 
living with the child at removal, whether the sibling relationship is 
biological, legal or by marriage. We are making this distinction 
because it is more useful for us to know the number of sisters and 
brothers who lived with the child rather than the sum total of all 
siblings regardless of where they lived. Since we are interested in 
understanding the dynamics of sibling groups for permanency planning 
purposes, we do not believe it is necessary for the State also to 
report information on a child's brothers or sisters who are not present 
in the home and for whom the parent/legal guardian may not be 
responsible.
    The reason that we require States to report this information is 
because we want to get an accurate count of the number of siblings in 
out-of-home care who were actually living together at one time prior to 
the entry of the child into out-of-home care. We need this element 
specifically so that we can understand

[[Page 2095]]

when the number of siblings in out-of-home care is different from the 
number of siblings who were living together at removal. For example, it 
is possible that the mother could give birth to an infant who is 
removed from home after the reported child enters out-of-home care, 
thereby increasing the count of the number of children in out-of-home 
care, but not the number of siblings in the AFCARS population when the 
child was removed. This has implications for the child's permanency 
plan and State agency expectations for placing siblings together.
    We propose this element, along with the family identification 
number (discussed previously) and the number of siblings placed 
together (described later), in order to get information on sibling 
groups for a variety of reasons. Good practice dictates that, where 
possible and in the best interests of the child, siblings in out-of-
home placements should be placed together. However, we also know that 
addressing the needs of sibling groups provides agencies with special 
challenges. The data that we propose to collect, among other things, 
will provide us with extremely useful information about siblings. For 
example, this data will allow us to analyze how being a part of a 
sibling group involved with the child welfare agency affects the 
timeliness and success of reunification. Furthermore, it is especially 
important to know about sibling groups for adoption purposes, since we 
know that many children placed into out-of-home care are later placed 
for adoption. In addition, most States use ``sibling'' groups as one of 
the special needs categories for providing adoption subsidies. We 
understand that this is one of the most difficult groups of children 
for whom States must find adoptive homes.
    Many Federal Register commenters agree that we need to modify 
AFCARS to obtain information on siblings. Commenters believe that such 
data will allow States to track sibling groups that are placed together 
or apart; analyze how well agencies preserve sibling attachments, as 
well as determine and implement services that specifically address the 
needs of sibling groups. Typically, States have this information in 
case files, but it is not yet an established practice for all States to 
track this information in their case management systems. We found 
through the CFSRs that a State can lose track of a child's siblings. We 
believe that requiring States to report sibling groups through AFCARS 
will decrease the frequency of this happening.
    Finally, requiring sibling information in AFCARS will be useful for 
the CFSRs. In the CFSR, we rate States on several items that relate to 
this issue, such as preserving family connections, visiting between 
children in foster care and their families, and relative placements. As 
States enter program improvement plans (PIPs) to improve these areas, 
it will be helpful to have this data in AFCARS to be able to identify 
where the problems are and track progress over time. We also rate the 
safety and well being items on all children in the family, regardless 
of whether the case is a foster care case.
    Minor parent. In paragraph (b)(12), we propose that the State 
collect and report the number of children either fathered or borne by 
the young person in the State's AFCARS report. If the young person has 
no children, the State must indicate zero. States are to report the 
total of all children of the young parent, irrespective of whether or 
not such children live with their parent.
    Commenters requested an element of this nature and we feel it is 
important for us to have improved data about the characteristics of 
young people in out-of-home care. This information can allow us to 
analyze the extent to which having children affects a youth's 
permanency plan. This data element also will be used in conjunction 
with a subsequent data element in 45 CFR 1355.43(e)(9) about the 
population of young people in out-of-home care who have children for 
whom they are responsible and are living with them. The combination of 
information in the two elements will allow us to determine the number 
of young people in out-of-home care who have children, and the extent 
to which those young people are responsible for the care of their 
children.
    Child financial and medical assistance. In paragraph (b)(13), we 
propose that a State report for the first time the type of financial 
and medical assistance that the child received during the current six-
month report period. The State is to indicate whether the child 
receives benefits under title XVI of the Act (including SSI), the 
State's Medicaid program including under title XIX waivers or 
demonstrations, the State's Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) 
including under title XXI waivers or demonstrations, a State adoption 
subsidy, a State foster care payment, child support, other financial 
assistance or no financial assistance.
    While there are elements in the existing AFCARS that require States 
to report the sources of Federal support for the child, this element is 
different in that it focuses on a variety of financial and medical 
assistance rather than just Federal support. The statute at section 
479(c)(3)(D) of the Act requires that we collect national information 
on ``the extent and nature of assistance provided by Federal, State, 
and local adoption and foster care programs.'' As such, we believe that 
expanding the scope of our financial and medical assistance elements to 
gather more information on assistance for the child is required by law. 
This proposed element, in conjunction with the following element on 
receipt of title IV-E foster care maintenance payments and elements in 
the living arrangement section of this NPRM (1355.43(e)), will allow us 
to gather more information on the kinds of financial and medical 
assistance that support children in out-of-home care.
    Title IV-E foster care during report period. In paragraph (b)(14), 
we propose a new element for the State to report specifically whether 
the child received a title IV-E foster care maintenance payment during 
the current report period. The State is to respond affirmatively that 
the child has received a title IV-E foster care maintenance payment 
only if one was paid on the child's behalf during the current six-month 
report period, or the child is eligible for the program in accordance 
with section 472(a) of the Act and the State will claim Federal 
reimbursement under title IV-E for the child's foster care maintenance 
payment.
    This element is used primarily to extract the title IV-E foster 
care eligibility review samples. Currently, the title IV-E foster care 
eligibility review sample is drawn from an existing AFCARS element that 
requires States to identify foster care maintenance payments as one of 
many Federal sources of support for the child. We have learned through 
technical assistance and AFCARS assessment reviews, however, that 
States often report this element incorrectly. A common mistake with the 
existing element involves the State indicating that the child is 
receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance payments when the child 
has met some title IV-E eligibility requirements (e.g., AFDC 
eligibility) but not all. We wish to isolate this element so that we 
can clearly define it and improve the sample selection process for the 
title IV-E foster care eligibility reviews.
Section 1355.43(c) Parent or Legal Guardian Information
    In paragraph (c), we are seeking demographic information on the 
child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
    Year of birth of parent(s) or legal guardian(s). In paragraphs 
(c)(1) and

[[Page 2096]]

(c)(2), we propose that the State collect and report to AFCARS the 
birth year of the child's parents or legal guardians. This information 
is sought on the child's parent or legal guardians regardless of with 
whom the child is living at the time of removal from home. If the State 
cannot obtain this information because the child is abandoned, the 
State must so indicate. This information differs from the existing 
AFCARS in that we currently request the year of birth of the child's 
caretakers from whom he or she was removed (see appendix A to part 
1355, section II, VII.B). The information collected under the existing 
regulation does not clearly indicate whether the child's caretaker was 
the parent, legal guardian, or some other person who was temporarily 
taking care of the child at the time that the child was removed from 
home. Because of this lack of clarity, our ability to analyze the 
existing data is limited.
    We believe that focusing the proposed elements on the child's 
parents or legal guardians is more consistent with the statutory 
mandate to collect demographic information on the biological and 
adoptive parents of children in foster care (section 479(c)(3)(A) of 
the Act). By expanding our requirement to gather the year of birth of 
all legal parents (i.e., inclusive of biological parents, adoptive 
parents and stepparents) or the child's legal guardian, we believe we 
are better meeting the intent of the statute to understand the 
characteristics of persons who are legally responsible for children who 
must enter foster care.
    Mother married at time of the child's birth. In paragraph (c)(3), 
we propose that a State report to us whether the child's biological 
mother was a married person at the time the child was born. This 
element is similar to one that States collect currently, except that in 
the existing element we require that a State provide this information 
only for children who are adopted (see appendix B to part 1355, section 
II, IV.B). We believe that this information is better suited for the 
out-of-home care reporting population as a whole. According to 
comments, some stakeholders believed this information was unnecessary 
while others believed it should be expanded to be reported for the 
entire out-of-home care reporting population. We chose to expand the 
reporting of this element for a few reasons. First, we understand from 
AFCARS assessment reviews that many States already collect this 
information when a child enters out-of-home care rather than at the 
point of adoption, so broadening the scope of this requirement should 
not increase the burden on States. Second, from our analysis of the 
existing data on whether the child's mother was married at the time of 
the child's birth, we have found that the marriage rates in our 
population are lower than the national average. According to the 
National Center for Health Statistics, 34% of births are to unmarried 
women compared to over half of the births of children adopted from 
public foster care systems. One of the priorities of this 
administration is to promote healthy marriages, in part, because 
researchers have found many benefits for children and youth who are 
raised by parents in healthy marriages. In that context, we are 
interested in gathering data that may help us assess if a mother's 
marital status at the time of the child's birth is a factor in a 
child's child welfare experience. This collection also is consistent 
with the statutory mandate to collect demographic information under 
section 479(c)(3)(A) of the Act.
    Termination of parental rights petition. In paragraphs (c)(4) and 
(c)(6), we seek new information on the date that a petition to 
terminate parental rights (TPR) was filed against the child's parents. 
This information will provide us with data we can use to evaluate how 
States are complying with the requirement in section 475(5)(E) of the 
Act to file a petition to terminate the parental rights of certain 
children in foster care. Further, this information, in conjunction with 
information collected on final dates of TPR and adoption, will help us 
determine how long it takes for permanency to be achieved for children 
who are adopted.
    Termination of parental rights. In proposed paragraphs (c)(5) and 
(c)(7), we continue the existing requirement for States to collect and 
report data on the date that parental rights are terminated for each 
parent (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, VIII).
    For all data elements related to the termination of parental 
rights, we propose to clarify that we are seeking information on a 
child's putative father, if applicable. A putative father is a person 
who is alleged to be the father of a child, or who claims to be the 
father of a child, at a time when there may not be enough evidence or 
information available to determine if that is correct. For the current 
AFCARS we have fielded questions on whether States should provide 
information on putative fathers. Since States must terminate the 
parental rights of any putative fathers to ensure that a child legally 
is free adoption, we want to be clear that we are interested in this 
information as well.
    Finally, we would like to note that we propose to eliminate the 
existing element on the family structure of the child's caretakers from 
whom the child was removed (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, 
VII.A). We concur with several commenters to the Federal Register 
notice that this information is not useful as currently constructed. 
However, we have proposed alternative elements in paragraph (d) that we 
believe will give us better insight into the composition of the child's 
household at the time of removal.
Section 1355.43(d) Removal Information
    In paragraph (d) we propose that the State submit information 
related to the child's removal from home and the assumption of 
responsibility by the State agency for placement and care of the child. 
We request that for any child in the reporting population, the State 
submit removal information regarding every occasion that the child is 
removed from home until the child has reached the age of majority. This 
is a significant change from the existing AFCARS, where we require 
detailed removal information on the child's most recent removal only.
    The major reason for making this change is that we will be able to 
analyze more accurately the frequency and circumstances surrounding a 
child's entry into out-of home care. As pointed out earlier, many 
States and other stakeholders have indicated that longitudinal data 
that permits the examination of entry, exit, permanency plan and living 
arrangement information is critical to the CFSR process and other 
efforts to measure outcomes.
    Date of child's removal. In paragraph (d)(1), we propose that the 
State collect and report the date or dates on which the child was 
removed from his or her parents or legal guardians and placed under the 
placement and care responsibility of the State title IV-B/IV-E agency. 
This proposed element differs from the existing AFCARS, which asks for 
the dates of the child's first removal and latest removal from home for 
the purpose of placement in a foster care setting (see appendix A to 
part 1355, section II, III.A). The proposed element requires the State 
to report all removal dates in one element and clarifies which dates 
the State must report in certain circumstances.
    In many cases the date of the child's removal will be when the 
child is removed physically from his home and placed directly into out-
of-home care. However, for a child who was already away from his 
parents at the time the

[[Page 2097]]

State child welfare agency receives placement and care responsibility 
(i.e., in the case of a runaway, constructive removal, or transfer of 
placement and care responsibility from a separate public agency), the 
State agency must report the date when it receives placement and care 
responsibility rather than the date of physical removal. Further, if 
the child was in out-of-home care previously and returned home with 
continued State agency placement and care responsibility (which must be 
reported as an exit in accordance with our proposed reporting 
population), the date of the child's removal is the date of the new 
removal from the child's home.
    A major reason why we are proposing that States report all removal 
dates is so that we can accurately analyze a child's repeat foster care 
re-entry rate for CFSR purposes, particularly any associated length of 
time to re-entry. Currently, we are able to measure a child's re-entry 
rate using AFCARS information, but this information has limitations. 
For example, the current AFCARS does not allow us to analyze the 
child's entire detailed history of removals. Furthermore, by requiring 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency provide us with all of the dates 
in a child's entire removal history, rather than only the first and 
current removal dates, we can identify trends that might assist States 
in better understanding their data and making program improvements as 
needed. Without the entire history, we are unable to determine, for 
example, the effects of States' program improvement planning efforts on 
repeat entries into foster care, the duration of all episodes of foster 
care, and the outcomes of a child's stay in foster care.
    We do not believe that the changes to the removal date will be an 
additional burden on States because we understand that most, if not all 
States, have this information in their existing information systems. In 
fact, this proposal may ease State burden such that the State can 
simply transmit all of its removal date information, rather than 
separating out which dates to report for AFCARS purposes only. We 
welcome comments on this proposal.
    Removal transaction date. In paragraph (d)(2), we propose that the 
State title IV-B/IV-E agency continue to report the date that the State 
agency entered the child's removal date into the State's information 
system (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, III.A). This 
transaction date must accompany every removal date. This must be a 
computer-generated, non-modifiable date. To be timely, the date must be 
entered within 15 days of the child's removal from his/her parent and 
placement under the agency's responsibility.
    Although this is a significant change in the time frame for the 
State to enter the date of a child's removal, we have found that States 
report more accurate, high quality data when the transaction date is 
entered into the information system close in time to the event that it 
describes. This is our ultimate goal with this proposed change; to have 
accurate dates of removal for all children reported. A child's removal 
date is one of the most critical data elements in the AFCARS, as it is 
the anchor date for calculating certain CFSR outcome measures and is 
necessary for other purposes as well.
    Some commenters to the Federal Register notice suggested that 
entering the transaction date should be secondary to ensuring child 
safety. We agree that child safety is paramount, and understand the 
competing demands placed on child welfare workers. However, we have not 
changed our position that States must enter the child's removal date 
into the State's information system in a timely manner. Further, 
information from our analysis of AFCARS data submitted for the FY 2003 
and FY 2004 report periods indicate that three-fourths of the cases are 
entered within 15 days of the child's removal. Therefore, we do not 
believe that this proposed change will be a significant departure from 
State practice in most instances. We welcome comments on this proposed 
change.
    Environment at removal. In paragraph (d)(3), we propose that the 
State agency report if the child was living in a household or in 
another environment at the time of each removal. This is a new element. 
We propose that States report whether the child was living in a 
household or another environment (e.g., the child has run away) so 
that, in conjunction with the two subsequent elements on household 
composition and biological parents' marital status, we can learn more 
about the child's home or situation prior to entering out-of-home care. 
The existing AFCARS requires a State to report the family structure of 
the child's caretakers at removal. We have found this information to be 
insufficient for our analytical needs as it does not provide 
information about with whom the child was living, if anyone, or 
identify family relationships specifically. We believe that more detail 
about the child's environment at removal will inform our analysis of 
how children come into out-of-home care and their child outcomes.
    Household composition at removal. In paragraph (d)(4) and its 
subparagraphs (d)(4)(i) through (xi), we propose for the first time 
that the State report all adults in the child's household with whom the 
child was living at the time of each removal. We propose that States 
identify the composition of the child's household if the child was 
actually removed from a home environment as identified in the previous 
element. States may identify parents, grandparents, other relatives, a 
paramour of a parent or caretaker, other non-relatives, adult siblings, 
or other non-related caretakers, by indicating how many of each 
category of persons was in the home. For example, if the child was 
living with the biological mother and stepfather at removal, the State 
would indicate that there was one biological parent, one stepparent, 
and indicate a zero for all other persons.
    We propose to require that States report this information because 
we want to gather as much information as is practical about a child's 
life at the time of removal to conduct various analyses relating to 
under what circumstances and with whom children are living before they 
enter out-of-home care. We are aware that some children who are legally 
removed from their parents do not live with them at the point of 
removal, or are also cared for by another adult. Some may be living 
informally with relatives or neighbors. In short, having this 
information will enrich what we know about children who enter out-of-
home care.
    We have been careful to clarify in our description of a non-related 
caretaker that States report information on only those persons who have 
assumed responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child. This is 
because we are interested in collecting information on those persons 
who have an ongoing caretaking role for the child as opposed to those 
who may have temporary physical possession of the child. We believe it 
serves little analytic purpose to gather information on persons who are 
not part of the child's household prior to the child's entry into out-
of-home care. For example, there may be a situation where a parent 
leaves the child with a babysitter or neighbor for the day but has not 
returned a couple of days later, at which point the babysitter or 
neighbor contacts the child welfare agency. In such a situation, the 
babysitter or neighbor has not assumed responsibility for that child 
and the State must report information on the persons in the child's 
household instead. We welcome comments on this element.
    Biological parents' marital status. In paragraph (d)(5), we propose 
that the State report the marital relationship

[[Page 2098]]

between the child's biological parents if the child was removed from at 
least one biological parent. We propose that the State report whether 
the biological parents are married to each other and whether they are 
living together at the time of the child's removal. We also have a 
category for a deceased biological parent that should be used 
regardless of the parents' marital status at the time of the parent's 
death. We are proposing this element because, as noted earlier, we are 
interested in the role that marriage plays in positive child outcomes, 
particularly as it relates to the child's biological parents.
    Manner of removal. In paragraph (d)(6), we propose that the State 
title IV-B/IV-E agency continue to collect and report on the State's 
authority to remove the child from home for each removal (see appendix 
A to part 1355, section II, IV.A). We have made no changes to the 
information that is reported, except that it must be reported for every 
removal the child experiences. Specifically, the State title IV-B/IV-E 
agency is to indicate whether the State's authority for removing the 
child from home for each removal was based on a court order or a 
voluntary placement agreement. If this is not yet determined, the State 
must so indicate and update the record to reflect the manner of removal 
once it is known. We continue to envision that the ``not yet 
determined'' category will happen in short-term cases only since 
establishing the appropriate legal authority to remove a child from 
home is an initial and critical State agency responsibility.
    We considered making changes to this section in an attempt to 
distinguish court orders that are for the placement of children into 
the agency's responsibility for dependency reasons and those that are 
for juvenile justice agency involvement reasons. Because State practice 
with regard to this issue is so varied, we do not think that there is a 
single way to categorize court orders. Therefore, we propose changes to 
the elements related to child and family circumstances at removal and 
juvenile justice involvement to gather information on children with 
juvenile justice agency involvement.
    Child and family circumstances at removal. In paragraph (d)(7), we 
propose to collect data about the circumstances surrounding the child 
and family at the time of the child's removal from home. While 
currently we collect information on the circumstances associated with a 
child's most recent removal (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, 
IV.B for all response options), we propose in this element to require 
this information for every removal and expand the list of 
circumstances, among other things, to include juvenile justice 
information.
    We do not characterize these circumstances as the reasons for or 
causes of removal, although certainly some of these factors may have 
been the sole basis for the removal. Consistent with the existing 
AFCARS, we propose that the State agency only include information in 
this element that it has gathered about the child, the child's family 
and circumstances at the time the agency removes the child from home. 
As the State investigates and works with a family, the agency may learn 
of other factors or underlying issues that could have contributed to or 
necessitated removal. But we are not seeking that information here. 
Rather, we propose additional elements to capture circumstances that 
may arise during the course of the child's stay in out-of-home care as 
discussed later in the permanency and exit sections of the NPRM. In 
this element, we wish to understand, in a comprehensive manner, what is 
occurring in a child's life at the time of removal. Therefore, we 
propose to retain the current feature of AFCARS to require that the 
State indicate all of the circumstances associated with a child's 
removal. We have had concerns with the practice in some State agencies 
of reporting only the primary reason associated with the child's 
removal, leaving out important information about other relevant 
circumstances. We want to emphasize here that the State must report all 
of the circumstances at the time of the child's removal. Below, we 
explain all the response options for this element.
    Juvenile Justice. We propose two new response options for 
circumstances at removal that are juvenile justice related. Currently, 
in AFCARS, the circumstances associated with the child's removal do not 
include the child's involvement, if any, with the juvenile justice 
system. Consequently, we have not been able to identify which children 
begin their out-of-home care experience with alleged or adjudicated 
delinquent or status offenses. As indicated earlier, we have heard 
through a variety of sources, including comments on the Federal 
Register notice and the CFSRs, that it is important to clarify the 
characteristics of the reporting population so that we will be able to 
analyze the differences in various CFSR and other outcome measures.
    Specifically, we propose that a State report whether the child is 
alleged or found to be a status offender at removal. We propose to 
define status offenses as those that are specific to juveniles, 
including but not limited to, running away from home, underage alcohol 
violations and truancy. We propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E 
agency report a child status offender even if the status offense is 
alleged. We also request that the State report whether, at the time the 
child was removed from home, the child is an alleged or adjudicated 
delinquent. States are to indicate this circumstance irrespective of 
whether the child has had a hearing or a trial or has been found guilty 
for the delinquent act of which he or she was accused. We are more 
interested in knowing whether the young person has been involved in a 
juvenile justice type of activity rather than whether the young person 
was found guilty. Primarily, our goal is to obtain additional 
information about the reporting population when there is involvement 
with the juvenile justice system, even if the offense is not later 
adjudicated.
    Runaway. We propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect 
and report whether, at the time the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
assumed placement and care responsibility for the child, the child had 
run away from home. Currently in AFCARS, we collect this information 
through the ``child behavior problem'' element. We propose now that 
States report separately on children who have run away at the time that 
the agency takes responsibility for the child. With increased interest 
and focus on missing children, we agree with the Federal Register 
respondents who believe that running away from home is a specific child 
behavior that needs to be tracked separately from general child 
behavior problems.
    Physical abuse. We propose that States continue to collect and 
report whether physical abuse was a condition associated with the 
child's removal. This type of child maltreatment remains a significant 
condition associated with a child's entry into out-of-home care. We 
propose to maintain the definition of physical abuse that currently 
appears in AFCARS. The definition of physical abuse is: ``alleged or 
substantiated physical abuse, injury or maltreatment of a child by a 
person responsible for the child's welfare.'' We believe that this 
definition adequately captures both substantiated and alleged child 
physical maltreatment. We considered using the National Child Abuse and 
Neglect Data Systems (NCANDS) definition of physical abuse, which is: a 
``type of maltreatment that refers to physical acts that caused or 
could have caused physical injury to the child.'' However, the NCANDS 
definition does not capture the concept of alleged physical abuse. 
Specifically, the NCANDS

[[Page 2099]]

definition of physical abuse contemplates that the physical abuse of 
the child has been substantiated, rather than merely alleged. Because 
the circumstances of removal have to be reported to AFCARS when the 
child is removed from the home, it is unlikely that physical abuse 
already will have been substantiated in all cases. We therefore believe 
that the current definition better captures what is possible to report 
at an early stage.
    Sexual abuse. We propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
continue to collect and report whether sexual abuse was a condition 
associated with the child's removal. This type of child maltreatment 
remains a significant condition associated with a child's entry into 
out-of-home care. We propose to maintain the definition of sexual abuse 
that currently appears in AFCARS. The definition of sexual abuse is: 
``alleged or substantiated sexual abuse or exploitation of a child by a 
person who is responsible for the child's welfare.'' We believe that 
this definition adequately captures both substantiated and alleged 
child sexual abuse and exploitation. We considered using the NCANDS 
definition for sexual abuse, which is: ``a type of maltreatment that 
refers to the involvement of the child in sexual activity to provide 
sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including 
contacts for sexual purposes, molestation, statutory rape, 
prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, or other sexually 
exploitative activities.'' However, the NCANDS definition does not 
capture the concept of alleged sexual abuse. Specifically, the NCANDS 
definition of sexual abuse contemplates that the sexual abuse of the 
child has been substantiated rather than alleged. Because the 
circumstances of removal have to be reported to AFCARS when the child 
is removed from the home, it is unlikely that sexual abuse already will 
have been substantiated in all cases. We therefore believe that the 
current definition better captures what is possible to report at this 
early stage.
    Psychological or emotional abuse. We propose that the State collect 
and report whether alleged or substantiated psychological or emotional 
abuse by a person who is responsible for the child's welfare was a 
circumstance of removal from the home. This includes verbal abuse 
directed against the child by the person who is responsible for the 
child's welfare. This is a proposed new response option. In AFCARS 
currently, we do not require the State to report specifically on 
emotional or psychological abuse as a circumstance associated with 
removal. In Sec.  1.2B3 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual (Question 
and Answer 3), however, we instruct that circumstances of 
``mental abuse'' should be considered as neglect for AFCARS purposes. 
By adding a response option for psychological or emotional abuse, we 
propose to distinguish neglect from psychological and emotional abuse, 
which we believe is a useful distinction to make.
    Neglect. We propose that the State continue to collect and report 
whether neglect was a condition associated with the child's removal. 
This type of child maltreatment remains a significant condition 
associated with a child's entry into out-of-home care. We propose to 
maintain the definition of neglect that currently appears in AFCARS, as 
we believe it adequately captures both substantiated and alleged child 
neglect. We considered using the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data 
Systems (NCANDS) definition of neglect, which also includes deprivation 
of necessities. That definition is: ``a type of maltreatment that 
refers to the failure by the caretaker to provide needed, age-
appropriate care although financially able to do so, or offered 
financial or other means to do so.'' However, the NCANDS definition 
does not capture the concept of alleged abuse. Specifically, the NCANDS 
definition of neglect contemplates that the neglect of the child has 
been substantiated, rather than alleged. Because the circumstances of 
removal have to be reported to AFCARS when the child is removed from 
the home, it is unlikely that neglect already will have been 
substantiated in all cases. We therefore believe that the current 
definition better captures what is possible to report at this early 
stage.
    Medical neglect. We propose a new response option that will allow 
the State to report whether medical neglect was a circumstance of 
removal from the home. We propose that medical neglect is defined as an 
alleged or substantiated type of maltreatment that is caused by a 
failure of a child's caretaker to provide for the appropriate health 
care of the child, even though the caretaker is financially able to do 
so, or is offered assistance to financially do so. We have modeled the 
definition on the NCANDS definition. However, we propose to include the 
concept of `alleged' medical neglect to the definition because, as we 
have explained, an allegation of medical neglect is not always 
substantiated at the time of removal.
    Domestic violence. We also propose a new response option for the 
State to report whether domestic violence was a circumstance associated 
with the child's removal from the home. We propose to define domestic 
violence as ``alleged or substantiated physical or emotional abuse 
between one adult member of the child's home and a partner.'' In 
proposing this definition, we do not want to limit the definition, for 
example, to violence between the parents of the child who is removed 
from the home. Instead, we construe this term broadly to mean any 
person who is or was a partner to an adult living in the home. We 
believe that this broad definition accurately reflects the reality of 
many domestic violence circumstances. As with other elements, we 
considered adopting the NCANDS definition, but decided that the 
definition was too limiting for our purposes because it defines 
domestic violence as occurring between spouses or parent figures. 
Additionally, the NCANDS definition does not address allegations of 
domestic violence. As we have explained, at the time of removal, 
workers are likely to have allegations of conduct to report to AFCARS, 
and not always substantiations.
    Abandonment. We propose that the State continue to report 
abandonment as a circumstance of removal, but we propose a change in 
the definition of an abandoned child for AFCARS reporting. We propose 
now to define abandonment to mean that the child is left alone or with 
others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. The current AFCARS regulations define 
abandonment as ``child left alone or with others, caretaker did not 
return or make whereabouts known.'' The major difference with the 
proposed definition is that abandonment only includes the circumstance 
where the parent's identity is unknown. That is not always the case 
under the current AFCARS, since the definition of abandonment is 
broader and encompasses both the situations in which the State knows 
the parent's identity, and when it does not. The circumstance where the 
child is left alone and the parent's identity is known, but the agency 
does not know where the parent is, will now be reported in the new 
response option ``failure to return.''
    We propose this change so that we can identify the truly abandoned 
child whose parents are unknown from a child who is left with others, 
but the State knows the identity of the parent. We are often asked by 
members of Congress and others to identify cases of abandoned children 
(most often infants) in which the parents have left the child alone, 
with someone, or somewhere, but have not made their identity known. 
Further, information requests regarding this population of children 
have

[[Page 2100]]

increased with the proliferation of ``safe haven laws.'' Currently, we 
are unable to distinguish this specific population of children in 
AFCARS, because as we have explained, the current definition of 
abandonment is broad. Furthermore, the permanency planning needs of 
these children are different from those of a child whose parents are 
known. For instance, both under the Child Abuse Protection and 
Treatment Act (CAPTA) program and the title IV-E program, States are 
required to expedite permanency for an abandoned child since there is 
not an identified parent with whom the agency can work toward 
reunification.
    Failure to provide supervision. We propose a new response option 
for the State to report whether a parent or legal guardian's failure to 
supervise a child is a circumstance of the child's removal. This 
includes when the parent or legal guardian fails to provide adequate 
care and/or age appropriate supervision for the child on a recurring or 
long-term basis. Currently in AFCARS, we advise States to report a 
parent's failure to supervise as ``neglect'' through instruction in 
section 1.2B.3 of the Child Welfare Policy Manual (Question and Answer 
5). We believe, however, that a failure to supervise is 
distinct enough from general child neglect to warrant a separate 
element.
    Failure to return. We also propose a new response option for the 
State to report the circumstance of a caretaker who leaves the child 
alone or with others and does not return for the child or make his/her 
location known to the child welfare agency. Currently, States report 
this circumstance under the category of ``abandonment.'' As we 
explained earlier, we propose that States report this type of 
circumstance in a separate data element from ``abandonment'' so that we 
can identify a truly abandoned child from one where the whereabouts of 
the parent are not known. As we noted earlier, we often are asked by 
members of Congress and others to identify abandoned infants, but under 
the current AFCARS we are unable to make these distinctions. Therefore, 
we are not proposing that the State provide new information, but that 
the State report the information to us differently.
    Caretaker's alcohol abuse. We propose that the State continue to 
collect and report whether the child's parent, legal guardian or other 
responsible caretaker's compulsive use of alcohol was a circumstance of 
the child's removal from the home. However, we propose to change the 
definition slightly because we believe that such changes will more 
readily and accurately reflect our intent. Currently in AFCARS, the 
State title IV-B/IV-E agency collects and reports information about a 
caretaker's compulsive use of alcohol that ``is not of a temporary 
nature.'' We do not want to limit this circumstance to long-term abuse 
of alcohol only, as we believe that even short-term abuse has 
deleterious effects on the child.
    Although some stakeholders advised us to apply the NCANDS 
definition of alcohol abuse to AFCARS, we have decided not to adopt the 
NCANDS definition. NCANDS defines alcohol abuse as ``compulsive use of 
alcohol that is not of a temporary nature. Applies to infants addicted 
at birth, or who are victims of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or who may 
suffer other disabilities due to the use of alcohol during pregnancy.'' 
The NCANDS definition does not include the concept of alleged alcohol 
abuse. At the time of removal, it is likely that the State will be able 
to report unsubstantiated or alleged conduct only. We therefore believe 
it is important to include the notion of alleged alcohol abuse for 
AFCARS purposes. The NCANDS definition also expressly excludes the 
concept of temporary alcohol abuse, which as explained above, we 
believe is relevant to an assessment of the child's circumstances at 
removal. Finally, the NCANDS definitions include infants who are born 
addicted at birth. As we have explained below, for AFCARS purposes, we 
want to be able to identify clearly when an infant is addicted to 
alcohol at birth as opposed to an adult caretaker who compulsively uses 
alcohol.
    Caretaker's drug abuse. We propose that the State continue to 
collect and report whether the child's parent, legal guardian or other 
caretaker's compulsive use of drugs is a circumstance of the family at 
the time of removal. We have suggested the very same modifications to 
this data element as the response option related to caretaker's abuse 
of alcohol for the same reasons.
    Child alcohol use. We propose that the State continue to report 
whether the child's alcohol use was a circumstance of the child's 
removal from home. This proposed response option differs from the 
existing one, however, by no longer capturing situations in which the 
child is born addicted to alcohol at birth. We believe that an infant 
who is exposed to alcohol in utero is different from a child who 
compulsively uses alcohol of his or her own accord.
    Child drug use. We propose that the State continue to report 
whether the child's drug use was a circumstance at the time of the 
child's removal from home. This proposed element differs from the 
current element, however, by no longer capturing situations in which 
the child is born addicted to drugs at birth. As stated above, we 
believe that an infant who is exposed to drugs in utero is different 
from a child who compulsively uses drugs of his or her own accord.
    Prenatal alcohol exposure. We propose that the State collect and 
report whether a child has been prenatally exposed to alcohol that has 
resulted in fetal alcohol exposure, fetal alcohol effect or fetal 
alcohol syndrome. Currently in AFCARS, we do not require the State 
provide information separately on this circumstance. Instead, States 
report ``infants addicted at birth'' as part of a child's own alcohol 
abuse. This new response option will allow us to distinguish a child 
whose removal circumstances involve prenatal alcohol exposure from a 
child who has his or her own alcohol use issues.
    Prenatal drug exposure. We propose that the State collect and 
report whether a child has been exposed to drugs prenatally. Currently 
in AFCARS, we do not require the State to provide information 
separately on this circumstance; instead States report ``infants 
addicted at birth'' as a part of a child's own drug abuse. This new 
response option will allow us to distinguish a child whose removal 
circumstances involve prenatal drug exposure from a child who has his 
or her own drug use issues.
    Diagnosed condition. We propose that the State continue to report 
whether the presence of a child's diagnosed health, behavioral or 
mental health condition was a circumstance associated with the child's 
removal from the home. States currently report similar information as 
``child disability'' but we propose here to modify this definition to 
align with the diagnosed condition element in paragraph (b)(6). We 
continue to believe the collection of this information is necessary to 
understanding the status of children when they are removed from their 
homes. We know that some children are placed out of their homes not 
because they have been abused or neglected, but because they have a 
condition, circumstance or disability that causes their parent or 
caretaker to be unable to care for them. Furthermore, a child's 
diagnosed condition or disability significantly impacts a child's 
permanency and other factors. Thus, it is essential that we know 
whether the child's diagnosed condition or disability is related to the 
removal from home.
    Inadequate access to mental health services. We propose a new 
response

[[Page 2101]]

option that the State collect and report whether a circumstance of a 
child's removal was in order to access mental health services. We agree 
with the Federal Register commenters who suggested that we should know 
when a child needing mental health services is placed in out-of-home 
care so that the State can ensure that the child can access mental 
health services. Many stakeholders increasingly have become interested 
in this topic, including States and the Congress. Some States have 
enacted or proposed laws to ensure that parents can relinquish 
placement and care responsibility for their children to the State for 
the purpose of mental health treatment without losing custody of the 
child. This response option will help us to determine the breadth of 
such circumstances in particular States and nationwide.
    Inadequate access to medical services. We propose a new response 
option that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect and report whether 
a circumstance of the child's removal from the home was in order to 
access medical services. We understand that sometimes children have 
specific medical conditions that are separate from a child's mental 
health needs. Therefore, we are adding this circumstance of removal so 
that States can indicate all of the possible situations that exist when 
a child is removed from home. Inadequate access to medical services may 
include situations where the child's caretakers seek the child's 
removal to access a medical service that they cannot provide. It does 
not include instances of withholding medical services or medical 
neglect. We are not sure how often this is a circumstance related to a 
child's placement outside of the home, but want to provide a complete 
list of possible circumstances.
    Child behavior problem. We propose that the State continue to 
collect and report information about whether a child's behavior 
problem(s) was a circumstance associated with the child's removal from 
the home. We propose to maintain most of the definition that currently 
appears in AFCARS, but propose to alter it slightly for clarity and 
accuracy. Currently in AFCARS, we include adjudicated conduct and a 
child who has run away from home or another placement in the definition 
of ``child behavior problem.'' We specifically propose to exclude 
status offenses, juvenile delinquent conduct and running away from the 
category of ``child behavior problem.'' We propose that both runaway 
and juvenile justice children be reported separately so that we can 
identify clearly a behavioral problem that has already come to the 
attention of the juvenile justice agency. Thus, we are redesigning this 
response option to capture situations when a parent is unable to manage 
the child's behavior, but there has been no involvement by the juvenile 
justice system.
    Death of caretaker. We propose that the State continue to collect 
and report information on whether the death of a child's parent, legal 
guardian or caretaker was a circumstance of the child's removal from 
home. We are modifying this response option to capture whether the 
death of a child's legal guardian was a circumstance of removal.
    Incarceration of caretaker. We propose that the State continue to 
collect and report information on whether the parent, legal guardian or 
caretaker's incarceration was a circumstance of the child's removal 
from home. We have modified this response option to read ``a child's 
parent, legal guardian or caretaker is temporarily or permanently 
placed in jail or prison which adversely affects his/her ability to 
care for the child.'' This new definition will broaden the current 
AFCARS definition to include when the parent, legal guardian or 
caretaker's incarceration is not only in jail but in prison as well. We 
understand that jails are typically local facilities that are used to 
incarcerate a person for less than a year, whereas prisons are State or 
Federal facilities that can confine a person for a longer period. We 
have also modified this response option to capture information on the 
incarceration of a legal guardian. Previously the response option 
referred to the parent or caretaker only.
    Caretaker's inability to cope. We propose that the State collect 
and report information on whether a parent, legal guardian or 
caretaker's inability to cope due to a physical or emotional illness or 
disabling condition adversely affecting the parent's ability to care 
for the child is a condition related to the child's removal from the 
home. This response option is the same as the existing one.
    Caretaker's limited mental capacity. We propose that the State 
collect and report separately as a circumstance of removal whether a 
child's parent, legal guardian or caretaker's limited mental capacity 
is adversely affecting the person's ability to care for the child. This 
is a new response option. We propose that limited mental capacity means 
that the parent, legal guardian or caretaker has limitations in his/her 
ability to function in areas of daily life, such as communication or 
self-care. It also may be characterized by a significantly below-
average score on a test of mental ability. Previously, States reported 
a caretaker's limited mental capacity in the response option for a 
caretaker's inability to cope. However, since low cognitive functioning 
is distinct from low emotional functioning, we wish to capture those 
circumstances in a separate response option so we can understand them 
more clearly. Moreover, many States include limited mental capacity 
separately in their SACWIS. Therefore, this may not be a significant 
change for many States.
    Inadequate housing. We propose that the State continue to collect 
and report whether inadequate housing was a circumstance of the child's 
removal from the home. We continue to define inadequate housing as 
housing facilities that are ``substandard, overcrowded, unsafe or 
otherwise inadequate, resulting in their not being appropriate for the 
parents and child to reside together.'' Homelessness is also included 
in the definition of this response option. We see no reason to make 
changes here as this definition is adequate for our information 
purposes and stakeholders did not raise concerns.
    Disrupted intercountry adoption. We propose to include a disrupted 
intercountry adoption as a new child and family circumstance of 
removal. We are referring to the specific situation where a child has 
been brought into the United States for the purpose of adoption and 
placed in a preadoptive home but that placement has been disrupted and 
the child enters out-of-home care before the child's adoption is 
finalized. We are including this response option to address the 
requirement in section 422(b)(14) of the Act, for States to report 
information on children who enter State custody as a result of the 
disruption of a placement of an intercountry adoption.
    Voluntary relinquishment. We propose that the State report whether 
a voluntary relinquishment was a circumstance of the child's removal 
from home as under current AFCARS requirements. We have retained the 
definition of relinquishment as ``the biological/legal parent(s) in 
writing, assigned the physical and legal custody of the child to the 
agency for the purpose of having the child adopted.'' In this 
circumstance, a parent has voluntarily surrendered his or her parental 
rights to the title IV-B/IV-E agency and the State agency may place the 
child for adoption. We see no reason to change the definition.
Section 1355.43(e) Living Arrangement and Provider Information
    In paragraph (e), we propose that the State collect and report 
information on

[[Page 2102]]

each of the child's living arrangements every time the child is in out-
of-home care, as well as information about the providers who are caring 
for the child. We have modified our living arrangement types from the 
current AFCARS requirements (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, 
V.A) to accommodate the changes to the reporting population. 
Specifically, we are proposing that States report information on 
children who are in out-of-home care for AFCARS purposes, regardless of 
the type of setting. Furthermore, we propose to require that a State 
send us the child's full history of living arrangements and the 
provider information every time the State submits an out-of-home care 
data file. We want this historical information rather than just updates 
on the child's living arrangements from one report period to the next 
and for every out-of-home care episode. We explain our reasons more 
fully below.
    During consultation, many urged us to consider amending the AFCARS 
regulations with the goal of gathering longitudinal information for 
children in out-of-home care. Many States already have this capability. 
Hence, we propose to restructure the provider and living arrangement 
information so that we can develop comprehensive longitudinal data on a 
child's entire experience in his or her living arrangements. This is in 
contrast to the existing AFCARS, which requires that the State title 
IV-B/IV-E agency submit detailed information only on the child's 
current placement setting at the end of a report period and provide a 
count of placement settings during the child's current foster care 
episode. Moreover, when 12-month annual files are constructed from the 
AFCARS semi-annual submissions, only the information on the last 
placement setting is retained. This limits the types of analyses that 
can be conducted.
    Information on each of the child's living arrangements is critical 
to the CFSRs. In particular, stakeholders believe that comprehensive 
and longitudinal placement data will better inform CFSR measures 
related to the stability of foster care placements. For example, once 
we have comprehensive and longitudinal information, we can follow 
groups of children who enter foster care at different points in time to 
assess the impact of various policy changes on the course of their 
placement changes. Also, we potentially can use the data to improve our 
placement stability measure by not only analyzing the number of 
placements that a child experiences in foster care, but the type of 
placements, as well. We are interested in being able to explore whether 
children are moving from one living arrangement to another in support 
of their permanency goals. Further, with the amount of data that 
comprehensive longitudinal information can provide, ACF and States can 
be better informed in developing and implementing program improvement 
plans to address issues raised during a CFSR.
    We have heard from Federal Register respondents and other 
stakeholders that placement setting data is the most challenging for 
States to report and for others to analyze. Our current rules attempt 
to guide States toward which placement settings count for AFCARS 
purposes based on criteria such as whether the State agency intends for 
the child to return to a traditional foster care setting. We realize 
that such criteria are subjective and are not used consistently across 
States or even within a State. The proposed living arrangements 
elements, along with changes to the reporting population, will 
alleviate this problem by requiring a State to report all living 
arrangements while a child is under the State agency's placement and 
care responsibility.
    Finally, we would like to note that the information in this living 
arrangement section is required regardless of whether the living 
arrangement is under the direct responsibility of the title IV-B/IV-E 
agency or another private or State agency. We have learned through our 
AFCARS assessment reviews that some States failed to provide detailed 
demographic information on foster parents because they were licensed or 
managed by a private agency. The State must report living arrangement 
information for all children in the AFCARS reporting population in 
accordance with the element definitions irrespective of any agreements 
or contractual arrangements.
    Date of living arrangement. In paragraph (e)(1), we propose for the 
first time that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect and report the 
month, day and year of each of the child's living arrangements in each 
out-of-home care episode. This is different from the existing elements 
that relate to placements, in which States report the date the child 
was placed in the current placement setting, or on a trial home visit, 
and a count of how many times the child changed placement settings (see 
appendix A to part 1355, section II, III.B).
    In general, States will report the date the child is physically 
removed and placed by the State agency in the living arrangement. 
However, there are two exceptions to this general rule--when a child is 
already in a living arrangement at the beginning of the out-of-home 
care episode and when a child runs away in the midst of an out-of-home 
care episode. For a child who is already living in a foster family 
home, other facility, or has run away from his or her home or facility 
at the time the State title IV-B/IV-E agency receives placement and 
care responsibility for the child, the State must provide the date of 
the State agency receiving placement and care. When a child runs away 
from a living arrangement during his or her out-of-home care episode, 
the State must report in this element the date the child runs away. 
While being on runaway status is not a living arrangement per se, we 
want the date the child runs away so that that we can calculate the 
actual time the child is absent from the provider or facility without 
permission. The original date of placement in a living arrangement 
prior to a State agency obtaining placement and care responsibility in 
these circumstances, we believe, is not information we need since it 
falls outside of how we are defining out-of-home care in AFCARS. 
Further, we would need additional elements for States to provide more 
contextual information on why the date of the living arrangement 
precedes the date of removal report in order to distinguish it from a 
data error. We welcome comments on this approach.
    We are no longer seeking the date that the child begins a trial 
home visit. Current policy requires a State to report the date the 
child enters a trial home visit (Child Welfare Policy Manual 1.2B.7 
23). As we explained in the reporting population section of 
the preamble, if the State title IV-B/IV-E agency returns the child 
home the child exits the AFCARS reporting population. If the child is 
visiting family, whether it is for a trial reunification or to remain 
connected with the family, the State must not indicate any change in 
the child's living arrangement.
    We believe that this new approach to capturing information on dates 
of living arrangements will provide us with a more complete view of a 
child's placement experiences, as well as help us to determine whether 
a child's living arrangements are long-term or change frequently.
    Living arrangement type elements. In paragraph (e)(2) through 
(e)(4), we propose that the State indicate more precisely the type of 
living arrangement for the child. Currently, the State is required to 
tell us whether the child is in a preadoptive home, a relative or non-
related foster family home, a group home, institution, supervised 
independent living setting, or whether the child has runaway or is on a 
trial

[[Page 2103]]

home visit (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, V.A). We have 
found that these options, which were intended to be mutually exclusive, 
did not capture fully the range of living arrangements. Commenters also 
opined that more detailed information was needed to better understand 
the types of homes and facilities where children lived in out-of-home 
care. Further, since we have expanded our reporting population 
definition, we have made an effort to better categorize the living 
arrangements so that we can distinguish them. These distinctions are 
explained further below.
    Foster family home. In paragraph (e)(2), we propose that the State 
identify whether the child's living arrangement is a foster family 
home. This is a new element which will allow us to further identify the 
type of living arrangement for the child. If the child is placed in a 
foster family home, the State must go on to further categorize the 
foster family home and provide demographic information for the foster 
parent(s). Otherwise, the State must indicate another type of living 
arrangement in which the child is placed. If the child has run away 
from a foster family home or other living arrangement, then the State 
must indicate that the child is not in a foster family home.
    Foster family home type. In paragraph (e)(3), we propose that the 
State identify whether the foster family home is licensed, therapeutic, 
provides shelter care, or is that of a relative, and/or a preadoptive 
home. This is a new element. The State is to identify all foster family 
home types that apply. In the current placement setting element in 
AFCARS, States can choose among three options which were designed to be 
mutually exclusive: Preadoptive home, relative foster family home 
(which could be licensed or not) and a licensed non-relative foster 
family home. These response options and definitions provided us with 
limited analytical possibilities. For example, we could not determine 
whether children were placed in preadoptive homes that were also 
relative homes. Further, we did not know the extent to which children 
were placed in licensed foster family homes. We believe that requiring 
the State to indicate separately all possible characteristics of a 
foster family home will allow us to improve how we use this 
information. The specific response options are discussed below.
    We have added a licensed foster family home as its own response 
option so that we can clearly identify when a child is placed in a 
licensed foster family home. While States are not permitted to use 
title IV-E funds to support unlicensed foster family homes, States may 
use their own funds to do so. We hope this information will help us 
learn more about how the use of unlicensed foster family care affects a 
child's outcomes.
    A therapeutic foster home is a foster family that provides 
specialized care and services. Therapeutic foster homes for children 
with more challenging behaviors or needs are more prevalent today than 
when AFCARS was originally developed. Adding this option is in line 
with our goal to have the data more accurately reflect a child's living 
arrangements. Further, this element, along with elements that detail 
the circumstances of the child's removal and the child's conditions, 
will allow us to get a richer picture of the needs of children in out-
of-home care.
    We propose to add shelter care foster family home as a response 
option so that we can track how States use shelter care. We have 
defined a shelter care foster family home as one that is designated by 
the State agency or licensed by a licensing entity as a shelter care 
home and is short-term or transitional in nature. We understand that 
shelter care is used to provide States with an opportunity to assess 
the child's needs and future placements while providing care and 
protection for the child. However, we have some concerns about the 
stability of children's placements when States use shelter care, and 
particularly when used for young children. We hope that by capturing 
the phenomena of shelter care in the data we will be able to analyze 
how shelter care affects children's permanency. We welcome comments on 
this response option and its description.
    The amended response option of relative foster family home allows 
us to determine whether or not there is a kin relationship between the 
child and the foster parents. This response option is consistent with 
our goal to better understand the relationship between a child in 
foster care and the child's caregivers. The response option is limited 
to persons related by a biological, legal or marital connection and 
does not include fictive kin (i.e., non-relatives who have a pre-
existing relationship with the child, such as godparents, neighbors, 
and teachers).
    Finally, we propose a response option of a ``pre-adoptive home.'' 
However, we propose to define a pre-adoptive home as one in which the 
family and agency have agreed on a plan to adopt the child. We believe 
this definition is more precise than the current definition of pre-
adoptive home, which only indicates that the family ``intends'' to 
adopt the child. By changing the definition to include agency 
participation, we wish to convey concrete circumstances where the 
agency and the foster family are working in concert to achieve 
permanency for the child through the foster family adopting the child.
    Other living arrangement type. In paragraph (e)(4), we propose that 
the State identify whether a child is placed in one of eleven living 
arrangements for a child who is not placed in a foster family home. The 
proposed living arrangements are mutually exclusive and are as follows: 
Group home-family-operated, group home-staff-operated, group home-
shelter care, residential treatment center, child care institution, 
child care institution-shelter care, supervised independent living, 
juvenile justice facility, medical or rehabilitative facility, 
psychiatric facility, and runaway. This is a new element although the 
current AFCARS placement setting options include most of these living 
arrangement types, or a variation thereof. We propose to modify and 
expand the existing AFCARS list, as we have found that the current 
AFCARS living arrangement options do not represent adequately the 
various types of living arrangements for a child in foster care. 
Further, we propose three of the new living arrangements (juvenile 
justice facility, medical or rehabilitative facility, and psychiatric 
facility) because we have expanded our reporting population to include 
children who are under the agency's placement and care responsibility 
who may be living in a facility outside the scope of foster care. 
Commenters also believed that the living arrangement response options 
should be more detailed and better defined.
    We propose to continue to include group homes as a type of living 
arrangement; however, we propose to require that the State title IV-B/
IV-E agency report whether the group home is family operated or staff 
operated, or regardless of who operates it, a shelter care group home. 
We propose to define a family operated home as a group home setting 
that provides 24-hour care in a private family home in which the family 
members are the primary caregivers. A staff operated group home is 
characterized as one in which staff provides 24-hour care for children 
through shifts or rotating staff. A shelter care group home also 
provides 24-hour care but is designated by the State agency or the 
State agency's licensing entity as providing shelter care.
    Determining whether a child has been placed into a family operated 
or a staff operated group home will provide us with further insight 
into the child's

[[Page 2104]]

living arrangement. Currently under AFCARS, we define group home as a 
small, licensed group setting that generally has from seven to twelve 
children. We have found that this definition was too limiting and did 
not reflect the actual living arrangements available to children in 
some States. Therefore, our new proposed definitions do not include a 
specific number of children who reside in the group setting. Further, 
as stated earlier, we are concerned about the placement stability of 
children that are placed in shelter care and want to be able to 
identify any trends in using shelter care. Our concern is compounded 
for young children who are placed in shelter care facilities that 
involve congregate (group) care, so we are adding this category as a 
separate response option. We do not believe it is necessary to 
determine whether shelter care group homes are operated by a staff or 
family, but welcome comments on this response option.
    We propose to add residential treatment centers as a type of living 
arrangement and define them as facilities that are for the purpose of 
treating children with mental health or behavioral conditions. 
Currently, in AFCARS, we include ``residential treatment facilities'' 
in the definition of ``institutions,'' rather than as a separate 
option. We propose to make this a separate and distinct option so that 
we may identify a child's living arrangement with more specificity and 
detail.
    We propose to identify a child care institution as a new living 
arrangement type. We do not believe that the current AFCARS definition 
of an ``institution'' accurately reflects the type of living 
arrangements in which children reside because the definition does not 
provide enough specificity. We are defining a child care institution as 
a private facility, or public child care facility for no more than 25 
children, which is licensed by the State or tribal licensing authority. 
This definition is a statutory definition for the title IV-E program 
which we believe is most suitable here as well. We exclude other 
institutions whose primary purpose is to secure children who have been 
determined to be delinquent from this definition of a child care 
institution. Furthermore, we are modifying the current definition of 
institutions to exclude residential treatment facilities, which we now 
include as a living arrangement for States to report separately.
    We propose to identify a child care institution that is also 
designated as a shelter care facility. This is a new response option so 
that we can examine the use of shelter care as discussed previously. We 
welcome comments on this response option.
    We propose to maintain supervised independent living as a living 
arrangement and propose one change to the definition that currently 
appears in AFCARS for consistency with the reporting population 
definition. Currently, the definition of supervised independent living 
is an alternative transitional living arrangement where the child is 
under the supervision of the agency. We want to be clear that the State 
is only to report living arrangements where the child is under the 
placement and care of the State, not simply being supervised by the 
State.
    We propose for the first time that the State indicate whether a 
child's living arrangement is a juvenile justice facility. We are 
defining a juvenile justice facility as a secure facility or 
institution in which alleged or adjudicated juvenile delinquents are 
housed while under the State agency's responsibility for placement and 
care. This definition is broad enough to include all manner of juvenile 
facilities, whether they are locked or employ some type of treatment 
component.
    We are adding a medical or rehabilitative facility as a new living 
arrangement type. We define a medical or rehabilitative facility as one 
where a child receives medical or physical health care. This could 
include a hospital or facility where a child receives intensive 
physical therapy.
    We also propose for the first time that the State report whether a 
child is in a psychiatric facility. We are defining a psychiatric 
facility as one in which a child receives emotional or psychological 
health care. This includes both psychiatric hospitals and residential 
treatment centers.
    Finally, we have defined the response option of runaway as a child 
who has left without authorization any home or facility in which the 
child was placed. The current living arrangement definition of runaway 
refers to a child who has ``run away from the foster care setting.'' We 
have broadened the definition so that it is clear that this runaway 
response option must be used any time a child has left a living 
arrangement without authorization.
    We propose to remove trial home visits as a possible response 
option, because we do not view a trial home visit as a specific living 
arrangement as discussed above.
    Private agency living arrangement. In paragraph (e)(5), we propose 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect and provide information 
about whether each of the child's living arrangements are licensed, 
managed, or run by a private agency. This is a new element. The State 
is to indicate whether the living arrangement has private agency 
involvement. If the State has indicated in the previous element that 
the child has run away, the State is to so indicate here for 
consistency purposes.
    As States increasingly use private agencies to perform a variety of 
child welfare services, there are important implications for the 
State's oversight of its responsibilities to children in foster care. 
We have learned from the CFSRs that States have had varied levels of 
success with contracting out child welfare services. We believe that by 
tracking the use of private agency involvement in living arrangements, 
we may be able to analyze its impact on child outcomes. We welcome 
comments on this proposal.
    Location of living arrangement. In paragraph (e)(6), we propose 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency continue to report whether the 
child has been placed outside of the reporting State (see appendix A to 
part 1355, section II, V.B). If the child has run away, the State is to 
so indicate. As with the current AFCARS, only the State with placement 
and care responsibility of the child should include the child in the 
reporting population. With this information ACF and States may be able 
to explore the extent to which out-of-State placements occur, the 
reasons for those placements, and to what extent they affect timely 
permanency for children. Additionally, this information is required by 
statute at section 479(c)(3)(C)(iii) of the Act.
    State or country where the child is living. In paragraph (e)(7), we 
propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the FIPS code of 
the State or country outside of the U.S. where the child is placed for 
each living arrangement that is outside of the reporting State. Some 
commenters requested that we propose an element in AFCARS that 
identifies where children in interstate placements are located.
    Federal law is clear that delays in foster or adoptive 
interjurisdictional placements are not to be tolerated (section 
471(a)(23) of the Act). Our analysis of existing data on out-of-State 
placements demonstrates that it takes much longer to achieve permanency 
for children who are placed out-of-State compared to children whose 
placements are intrastate. We hope that expanding on this information 
will support more sophisticated analyses of out-of-State placements. We 
believe that requiring States to identify the specific location of a 
child's out-of-State placement is consistent with the statutory

[[Page 2105]]

requirement that a State have a Statewide information system from which 
the State can readily identify the location of a child in foster care, 
or who has been in foster care in the preceding 12 months (section 
422(b)(8)(A)(i) of the Act).
    Number of siblings placed together. In paragraph (e)(8), we propose 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the number of the child's 
siblings who are placed together with the child who is the subject of 
the record, as of the last day of the child's stay in that living 
arrangement. In the case of an ongoing living arrangement at the end of 
a report period, the State is to report the number of siblings in the 
same living arrangement on the last day of the report period. States 
are not to include the child who is the subject of the record in the 
count of siblings placed together. For example, if the child is placed 
in a foster family home with the child's two sisters, the State would 
indicate ``2'' for this element because the total should not include 
the child who is the subject of the record.
    This information, in conjunction with the family identification 
number and number of siblings with child at the time of removal, will 
increase our ability to identify sibling groups in out-of-home care. We 
are requesting this information because we are often asked by 
stakeholders whether sibling groups are being placed together in out-
of-home care. This information will allow States and the Federal 
government to analyze how often siblings are placed in living 
arrangements together when placed out of their own homes. As noted 
earlier, this information also will be useful in the CFSR process as it 
will provide rich information about patterns of sibling placements in 
terms of the current status of the child and for sampling and data 
profile purposes as well.
    Number of children living with the minor parent. In paragraph 
(e)(9) we propose the State report the number of children living with 
their minor parent in each living arrangement. If the child who is the 
subject of this record is not a minor parent, the State agency must 
leave this element blank. We propose that a State agency include in 
this count only those children for whom the minor parent is responsible 
and who are in the same living arrangement, not those children who are 
also in the out-of-home care reporting population on their own merit 
and who may or may not be placed with their minor parent.
    For example, if a teenager is in a child care institution while the 
teenager's infant child is in out-of-home care in the foster family 
home of the teenager's aunt, the State would report ``0'' for this 
element. Further, if a teenager's infant child has been removed from 
his or her care, the State agency has assumed placement and care 
responsibility and placed the child in the foster family home of the 
teenager's grandmother, the State would report ``0'' for this element 
even if the teenager is also placed in the foster family home of the 
grandmother.
    We are requiring that States report this information because we 
want to know when a minor parent in out-of-home care is responsible for 
the care of his or her own child living with him or her. In general, 
children of youth in out-of-home care who are living with their minor 
parent(s) are not themselves considered to be in out-of-home care if 
they have not been removed from their parent(s) and placed under the 
State agency's placement and care responsibility. However, these young 
parent-child(ren) families require enhanced resources from the child 
welfare system. This is acknowledged in the title IV-E program in which 
a minor parent's foster care maintenance payment must include the costs 
for any child placed in the same living arrangement with him or her. In 
addition, the out-of-home care patterns of these young parent-children 
families may differ in a variety of ways from those exhibited by youth 
in care who are not parents. There could also be differences among 
those youth who are parents, relating to whether or not their children 
are living with them. For example, youth with children living with them 
in care may have different permanency plans, living arrangements, 
lengths of stay in foster care, exit destinations, and/or patterns of 
re-entry than other youth in care. Examination of trends in these 
patterns can inform State policy so that necessary resources can be 
made available to meet the needs of these families.
    Foster parent's marital status. In paragraph (e)(10), we propose 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency continue to report information 
regarding the foster parent's marital status. This is basic demographic 
information about the child's provider that we must continue to collect 
in AFCARS because it is required by section 479(c)(3)(A) of the Act. 
However, we have modified the name of the element and added to the 
definition for clarity and accuracy. Currently in AFCARS, this element 
is called ``Foster Family Structure'' and the State must report whether 
the child's foster parent(s) are a married couple, unmarried couple, 
single male or single female (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, 
IX.A). We now propose to include these same four marital status 
options, as well as one other category of marital status: separated. 
Additionally, we specify that the State agency should report this 
information for each foster family home in which the child is placed.
    We propose that a ``married couple'' means that the foster parents 
are considered united in matrimony according to the laws of the State 
in which they live. This category would include common law marriage, 
where State law provides for such. The State agency should choose 
``unmarried couple'' if the foster parents live together as a couple, 
but are not united in matrimony according to the laws of the State in 
which they live. ``Separated'' means that the foster parents legally 
are separated, or are living apart, but remain legally married. A 
single female/male is a foster parent who is not married, and is not 
living with another individual as part of a couple. If a State 
indicates that the foster parents are a married couple or an unmarried 
couple, then the State is also to provide information on all elements 
for a `second' foster parent in the elements that follow. If the foster 
parent is a single person, or separated, then the State must provide 
information for the data elements regarding one foster parent only. 
There is not a separate category for a foster parent who is a widow/
widower. Such individuals should be reported according to their current 
marital/living situation (e.g., single if the foster parent has not 
remarried or is living as part of an unmarried couple.)
    Foster parent(s) relationship to the child. In paragraph (e)(11), 
we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency identify the familial 
relationship, if any, of the foster parent(s) to the child for each 
foster family home in which the child is placed. This includes pre-
adoptive homes in which the child is placed. We propose to include the 
following relationship options: siblings; maternal and paternal 
grandparents; or other maternal or paternal relatives. Relatives, by 
definition, are limited to persons related by a biological, legal or 
marital connection and do not include fictive kin. We propose that the 
State title IV-B/IV-E agency will report also if the child is not 
related to the foster parent(s). Currently in AFCARS, States report on 
whether a child is placed in a relative foster home, but we do not know 
the specific relative with whom the child is placed. We believe that it 
is essential to obtain this information, primarily so we can understand 
the trends surrounding relative, and particularly grandparent, care of 
children in the child welfare system. Further, several commenters 
suggested

[[Page 2106]]

that we collect more detailed information on the relationship between 
foster parents and their charges. The data we derive from this element 
also may provide insight into the extent to which States involve 
paternal relatives in caring for a child whose parents or legal 
guardians cannot care for him or her.
    Year of birth for foster parent(s) elements. In paragraphs (e)(12) 
and (e)(16), we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect 
and report the year of birth for the foster parent(s). States collect 
similar information in the existing AFCARS (see appendix A to part 
1355, section II, IX.B). Currently in AFCARS, we instruct the State 
agency to estimate a year of birth if the foster parent(s) exact birth 
date is unknown. We propose to delete this instruction to estimate the 
foster parent(s) date of birth. We expect that the State will always 
have the date of birth for a foster family provider with whom a child 
under State responsibility is placed. We also propose that the State 
title IV-B/IV-E agency report the foster parent(s) year of birth for 
every foster family home in which the child has been placed. This is 
basic demographic information about the child's foster parent that we 
must collect in AFCARS, as it is statutorily required.
    Race of foster parent(s). In paragraphs (e)(13)(i)-(vii) and 
(e)(17)(i)-(vii), we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
collect and report the race of the foster parent(s). The proposed 
element is similar to that in the existing AFCARS requirements (see 
appendix A to part 1355, section II, IX.C). This is basic demographic 
information about the child's foster parent that is statutorily 
required.
    Currently in AFCARS, we explain that an individual's race is 
determined by how they define themselves or by how others define them. 
We propose to modify this explanation. We now propose that race and 
ethnicity are characteristics that the individual determines and self-
identifies, irrespective of how others define them. This is consistent 
with the Office of Management and Budget's standards regarding racial 
identification. We propose to include the following racial categories: 
American Indian or Alaska native; Asian; Black or African American; 
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; or White. The racial 
categories are consistent with the Office of Management and Budget's 
(OMB) standards for collecting information on race. Additionally, we 
include new categories for individuals who decline to identify their 
race or whose race is unknown.
    Latino/Hispanic ethnicity of foster parent(s). In paragraphs 
(e)(14) and (e)(18), we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
report the Latino/Hispanic ethnicity of the foster parent(s). The 
proposed element is similar to one in the existing AFCARS requirements 
(see appendix A to part 1355, section II, IX.C). Similar to the race 
element, we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency report 
whether the foster parent(s) self-identify as being of Hispanic or 
Latino ethnicity. Foster parents may decline to identify whether they 
are of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity or indicate that they do not know 
their ethnicity. This is basic demographic information about the 
child's foster parent that is statutorily required.
    Language of foster parent(s) elements. In paragraph (e)(15) and 
(e)(19), we propose new elements for the State to collect and report 
information on the foster parent(s) languages. We propose to collect 
this information because we believe knowing the foster parent's 
language will assist the worker in providing services to the child and 
family. The foster parent language elements in subparagraphs (i), 
language used and (ii), language preference, mirror the language 
elements for the child. We do not believe it is necessary to have an 
element for the State to indicate whether the foster parent is verbal 
because we expect that all foster parents will be verbal, which is 
inclusive of using sign language.
    Sources of Federal assistance in living arrangement. In paragraph 
(e)(20), we propose that the State collect and report the Federal 
assistance that support room and board payments made on behalf of the 
child in each living arrangement. The State is to indicate all sources 
of Federal assistance that apply. This element is a significant change 
from the existing AFCARS element on financial assistance, as we want to 
capture the types of Federal funds that are supporting the child's 
maintenance (i.e., room and board) in out-of-home care and we propose 
that the State report this information for each of the child's living 
arrangements. State agencies may indicate that the child's room and 
board are supported with title IV-E foster care, title IV-E adoption 
subsidy, title IV-A TANF, title IV-B Child Welfare Services, title XX 
Social Services Block Grant, other Federal funds, or no Federal funds.
    We have specified in the response options that States are to report 
a funding source of either title IV-E foster care or adoption subsidy 
when the child is eligible for such funds. Eligible means that the 
child has satisfied fully all of the criteria for the foster care 
maintenance payments program in section 472 of the Act (including 
requirements for a placement in a licensed or approved foster family 
home or child care institution) or section 473 of the Act (including 
requirements for the child to be placed in a preadoptive home with an 
adoption assistance agreement signed by all parties in effect). We 
chose to specify that the child be eligible for such funds, rather than 
paid such funds because States are reimbursed by the Federal government 
for allowable title IV-E foster care maintenance payments and adoption 
subsidies. States therefore submit claims for their allowable costs 
after they have made payments on behalf of eligible children, sometimes 
months after the fact. The timing of States' reimbursement for title 
IV-E payments and submitting AFCARS reports may be such that a child 
may not have actually ``received'' a Federal payment at the time that 
we are requesting such information.
    We have tied the reporting of this information to a particular day 
within each living arrangement. If the child has already left a living 
arrangement by the time the State reports the information, then the 
State is to report the Federal funds supporting the child's maintenance 
on the last day the child was in the living arrangement. If the child, 
however, is in a living arrangement on the last day of the report 
period, then the State is to report the Federal funding sources on the 
last day of the report period. We propose to focus on the Federal funds 
provided on a particular day within a living arrangement so that we can 
better analyze the sources of Federal funds supporting children's room 
and board in out-of-home care. Further, with the proposed new element 
amount of payment (see discussion below), we can estimate better the 
title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance payments made in each 
living arrangement.
    Finally, although some commenters suggested that financial 
information was not necessary, we propose to collect this information 
because section 479(c)(3)(D) of the Act requires that we collect the 
nature of assistance provided by Federal, State, and local adoption and 
foster care programs.
    Amount of payment. In paragraph (e)(21), we propose that the State 
report the per diem amount paid on behalf of a title IV-E eligible 
child for either the last day of the living arrangement, or the last 
day of the report period if the living arrangement is ongoing. The 
State is to report this information for every living arrangement in 
which title IV-E adoption assistance or title IV-E foster

[[Page 2107]]

care was a source in accordance with the element described in paragraph 
(e)(20). If no such payment has been made, the State title IV-B/IV-E 
agency should so indicate by reporting a zero payment.
    Our proposal is distinct from the current AFCARS regulation (see 
appendix A to part 1355, section II, XII). Currently, States report the 
total amount of the monthly foster care payment, regardless of the 
source, i.e., whether it was Federal, State or another source of funds. 
States also report the total monthly amount of the adoption subsidy for 
the child and indicate whether the subsidy was paid under title IV-E. 
We are no longer asking for the State to report the monthly amount, but 
the daily amount, as we will calculate the monthly rate based on the 
per diem rate that the State reports to us. As we understand it, State 
information systems are designed such that the daily rate is readily 
available for reporting. Therefore, this aspect of the proposal should 
be less of a burden on States and in line with how their information 
systems are structured. We also are making a change in that we propose 
that States report the amount of the payment only when a title IV-E 
payment is made on behalf of a child. Currently, the State is to report 
the amount of the payment regardless of the source. This change is made 
as we primarily are interested in knowing about the amount of funds 
under the Federal foster care and adoption assistance programs, since 
these are the two largest programs for which we have fiscal oversight 
responsibility.
Section 1355.43(f) Permanency Plan Information and Ongoing 
Circumstances
    In paragraph (f), we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency 
provide information on each permanency plan for the child in every out-
of-home care episode.
    In general we are expanding our current AFCARS information by 
increasing the number of permanency plan options, requesting 
information on concurrent permanency plans, and the ongoing 
circumstances or issues children and families face while the child is 
in out-of-home care. We believe these changes will allow us to track 
better the actual plans that State agencies develop for children in 
their placement and care responsibility. Further, we believe that 
getting more comprehensive permanency plan information and a sense of 
the ongoing circumstances of families over the child's entire 
involvement with the child welfare system will aid our ability to 
analyze the data. In particular, this information may inform both the 
Statewide assessment and onsite portions of the CFSRs. Further, more 
detailed permanency plan data will allow us to analyze how States are 
meeting the provisions of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) for 
more timely permanency for children in foster care.
    Although Federal regulations (45 CFR 1356.21(g)) require States to 
develop permanency plans for children in foster care consistent with 
the program definition, we understand that most States develop and 
update permanency plans for all children in their care and placement 
responsibility regardless of the child's living arrangement, consistent 
with good practice. We will not penalize States for indicating that a 
permanency plan has not yet been established for those children for 
whom a permanency plan is not required by Federal rules. Therefore, we 
propose that States report this information for all children in the 
out-of-home care reporting population if that information has been 
collected in accordance with best practices procedures.
    Permanency plan. In paragraph (f)(1), we propose to require that 
States indicate the type of permanency plan established for the child. 
We propose to include additional permanency plan options and modify the 
current response options in AFCARS (see appendix A to part 1355, 
section II, VI) to better reflect our understanding of current State 
practice.
    The State is to indicate that the permanency plan is to ``reunify 
with parent(s) or legal guardian(s)'' if the State is working with the 
child's family for a limited time to establish a stable family living 
environment. This is a modification from the current AFCARS 
instruction. Currently, States indicate whether a child is reunifying 
with a parent or principal caretaker from whom the child was removed. 
We have replaced the term ``principal caretaker'' with ``legal 
guardian'' because we believe the latter better reflects the persons 
with whom the State would be working toward reunification. Further, we 
are no longer limiting reunification to situations in which the plan 
for the child is to be reunited with the parent or legal guardian from 
whom the child was removed. Although we understand that States may be 
required by their own laws to make 'reasonable efforts'' to reunite a 
child with the person from whom removal occurred, we believe that 
reunification occurs when a child is reunited with a noncustodial 
parent, as well.
    The State must indicate that the permanency plan is to ``live with 
other relatives'' when the State is working towards the child living 
permanently with a relative, other than his or her parents or legal 
guardians. We are modifying this definition from the existing AFCARS 
definition to remove the instruction that such relatives are ``other 
than the ones from whom the child was removed.'' This instruction is no 
longer necessary given the changes made to the reunification response 
option above. We modify also the existing AFCARS definition to remove 
the instruction that ``this could include guardianships'' since 
guardianships are most often a separate and distinct plan from living 
with relatives. We describe the guardianship plan options below.
    We propose to retain the current plan definition of ``adoption'' 
which is to facilitate the child's adoption by relatives, foster 
parents, or other unrelated individuals.
    We propose to include ``independent living'' as a permanency plan 
option, replacing the current AFCARS case plan goal entitled 
``emancipation'' to reflect more accurately our intent. We have 
modified the existing AFCARS definition for ``emancipation'' so that 
States choose this option when the child either is eligible for, or 
already receiving independent living services. This is one of the 
distinguishing factors between the plan of ``independent living'' and 
of ``planned permanent living arrangement.''
    We propose to include ``planned permanent living arrangement'' as a 
permanency plan option to replace the current AFCARS case plan goal of 
``long term foster care.'' This is primarily a name change only, as we 
have kept the definition similar to that of long term foster care for 
the planned permanent living arrangement option. The primary reason for 
this change is that the ASFA removed the plan ``long term foster care'' 
from the statute and replaced it with ``planned permanent living 
arrangement'' as a permanency plan. As indicated in comments to the 
Federal Register notice, many States have adopted ASFA's terminology 
and we wish to reflect that terminology and approach in AFCARS.
    We propose to separate the current AFCARS case plan goal of 
guardianship into relative guardianship and non-relative guardianship 
as possible permanency plan options. Currently, in AFCARS, relative 
guardianships are included in the permanency plan option of ``live with 
a relative,'' which does not allow us to distinguish relative 
guardianship plans from a plan for the child to live with a relative 
absent a guardianship arrangement. We are proposing a change to require 
States to

[[Page 2108]]

report when the plan is for the adult relative to become the child's 
legal guardian. This may not always be the intent with the ``live with 
relative'' permanency plan option. We also believe that this 
modification will help us understand the trends related to 
guardianships. Furthermore, distinguishing between relative and non-
relative guardianship arrangements may shed light on how well the 
agency has preserved ties between the child and family members.
    We propose that States indicate the response option of ``non-
relative guardianship'' when the State agency intends to establish a 
legal guardianship with an unrelated individual. This is essentially 
the same as the current definition of guardianship in AFCARS. However, 
this definition no longer includes establishing a legal guardianship 
with an agency as an option. We believe that an agency guardianship is 
more reflective of a legal status in the process of arranging an 
adoption in some States or may be part of an agency's efforts in moving 
towards a planned permanent living arrangement. Therefore, we believe 
that this is no longer necessary.
    Finally, we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency continue 
to report when the child's permanency plan has not been established. 
This currently appears in the AFCARS regulation as ``case plan goal not 
yet established.'' For the reasons described earlier, we believe 
permanency plan is a more appropriate and accurate term. From our 
analysis of the existing data we note that some States indicate that a 
plan has not been established several months into a child's stay in 
care. We are unclear whether this is an inaccurate reflection of 
State's permanency planning practices or States are indeed not 
establishing permanency plans consistent with Federal time frames. 
Nonetheless, for those children for whom a State has not established a 
plan, ``permanency plan not established'' must be indicated.
    Date of permanency plan. In paragraph (f)(2), we propose that the 
State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the month, day and year that each 
permanency plan for the child was established. We propose to collect 
the dates of each permanency plan because over the course of a child's 
stay in out-of-home care States often change a child's permanency plan. 
Thus, we will be able to know all the permanency plans that have been 
established for the child, as proposed in the previous element, and 
when they were established.
    Concurrent planning. In paragraph (f)(3), we propose that the State 
title IV-B/IV-E agency indicate whether the State agency has or has not 
developed a concurrent permanency plan for the child. Only if the State 
or local agency does not engage in concurrent planning would it report 
that this element is not applicable for the child. This is a new 
proposed data element which was requested by some stakeholders. Since 
the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, which 
permits and encourages the use of concurrent planning, we know that 
many States have moved toward identifying an alternate plan for a 
child. Usually, a State will identify an alternative plan that the 
State agency will work towards at the same time as reunification, so 
that permanency can still be achieved timely should efforts toward 
reunification with the parent or legal guardian not be successful. We 
believe that information on concurrent planning will demonstrate the 
extent to which States develop alternative permanency plans for a child 
and use creative thinking to maximize a child's permanency options. If 
the State title IV-B/IV-E agency has not established a concurrent plan, 
we instruct the State agency to leave blank the remaining elements on 
concurrent permanency plans.
    Concurrent permanency plan. We propose in paragraph (f)(3)(i) that 
the State identify the concurrent plan for the child, as applicable. We 
propose that the concurrent plan options include: Live with relatives; 
adoption; independent living; planned permanent living arrangement; 
relative guardianship; and non-relative guardianship. A concurrent plan 
is usually associated with a reunification plan, so we have not 
included reunification in the response options. We considered excluding 
independent living and planned permanent living arrangement from the 
list of concurrent permanency plans because we do not believe that 
these are viable alternatives to reunification from a practice 
perspective. However, we believe that regardless of our concerns about 
State practice in this area, our responsibility here is to collect 
information on all possible alternatives that a State agency may choose 
for a child. This information would allow us to analyze the extent and 
efficacy of a State's use of concurrent planning.
    Date of concurrent plan. In subparagraph (f)(3)(ii), we propose 
that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the month, day and year 
that each concurrent plan, if any, is established. This is a new 
proposed data element that will help us to determine how long and under 
what circumstances an agency may employ concurrent case planning to 
achieve permanency for a child in its care. As with permanency plans, 
States are to provide this information for every concurrent plan 
established for the child.
    Date of periodic review or permanency hearing. In paragraph (f)(4), 
we propose that the State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the date of 
each of the child's periodic reviews or permanency hearings required by 
section 475 of the Act. This element is different than the one in the 
current AFCARS requirements (see appendix A to part 1355, section II, 
I.E), in that we are now seeking this information on every review or 
hearing versus the most recent in the existing AFCARS. We believe that 
this information is important so that we can analyze the timeliness of 
the permanency decisions made for children in foster care.
    Juvenile justice involvement. In paragraph (f)(5), we propose a new 
data element that requires a State to indicate whether a child has been 
involved in the juvenile justice system in the form of an alleged or 
adjudicated delinquency or status offense during each six-month report 
period. For children who remain in out-of-home care from one report 
period to the next, the State is to provide the entire history of 
whether the child was involved with the juvenile justice system. States 
are to report all that apply rather than a single category of juvenile 
justice involvement, as it is possible that a child could have been 
involved in both status and delinquent offenses. If the child has no 
alleged or adjudicated status offenses or delinquencies, then the State 
is to report that the child is not involved with the juvenile justice 
system.
    We propose this new element because we believe, as do many 
stakeholders who provided comments and consultation to us, that it is 
important to understand more about young people in out-of-home care who 
are involved with the juvenile justice system. Currently, in AFCARS, we 
have no way of identifying young people who are involved with the 
juvenile justice system. We have heard through a variety of sources, 
including the CFSRs, that it is important to clarify the 
characteristics of the reporting population so that we can analyze 
potential differences in the experiences of children involved in the 
juvenile justice system versus those who are not.
    Additionally, States indicate that they have experienced a marked 
increase in the number of juvenile justice-involved children in their 
child welfare systems. This new data element will allow us to establish 
those numbers and determine whether or not juvenile justice-involved

[[Page 2109]]

children have different experiences than other children in out-of-home 
care. Analyzing this data also may have implications for the manner in 
which States provide services to juvenile justice-involved children in 
out-of-home care, either individually or as a class. It similarly will 
assist States and the Federal government to understand the experiences 
of children who are dually involved in out-of-home care and juvenile 
justice, which in turn, will help States in their program improvement 
efforts to better serve such children.
    We considered whether to require States to provide more detail 
about a child's juvenile justice involvement, such as whether the youth 
was on probation, through several new elements. However, we settled on 
this one data element which will tell us what we believe is the most 
critical concern, which is whether the youth who is in out-of-home care 
is involved with the juvenile justice system because he/she committed 
or is alleged to have committed a juvenile offense.
    Circumstances at initial permanency plan. In paragraph (f)(6), we 
propose that States collect and report data for the first time about 
the circumstances surrounding the child and his/her family at the time 
of the development of the initial permanency plan, typically within 30 
to 60 days of the child's placement in out-of-home care. States must 
indicate whether the circumstances are apparent, or if the family has 
been assessed to be in need of assistance with regard to the 
circumstances. This information will be collected in addition to the 
listed circumstances at the time of removal and at subsequent points 
discussed later in this proposed rule.
    We propose that States report this information to us because we are 
interested in getting a sharper picture of the circumstances 
surrounding the child while in out-of-home care. Here we are interested 
in all circumstances that surround the child and family while the child 
is in out-of-home care and not just those events that may have 
precipitated the child's placement in out-of-home care. Currently, we 
are collecting this information only at removal, when the agency may 
know the least about the child and family. Knowing the total array of 
circumstances for the child and family at the time the State agency 
develops the initial permanency plan will provide a more complete 
picture of the challenges faced by the system and its clients. We 
propose that States collect and report this information at the time of 
the development of the permanency plan because we believe that is when 
many States have completed a more thorough assessment of the child and 
family. This information will facilitate identification of more complex 
cases that require more resources from the less complex cases. It also 
will permit an assessment of ``cumulative risk'' for children that 
could be related to such phenomena as length of stay and reason for 
discharge.
    Most of the response options for this element are the same as those 
for the element ``child and family circumstances at removal'' described 
in paragraph (d)(5). However, we have added the response option of 
``none of the above'' for a family and child for whom all preexisting 
issues have been resolved and no new issues have arisen. We also have 
deleted the response options for status offenses, delinquency and 
runaway because they are reported in other elements on an ongoing 
basis. States report whether a child has run away continuously through 
the living arrangement elements described in paragraphs (e)(1) and 
(e)(4) and report whether a child is involved with the juvenile justice 
system each report period in the element described in paragraph (f)(5). 
We considered going further and eliminating certain response options 
based on what we believed were unlikely scenarios at the time of the 
development of the permanency plan, but decided against doing so. For 
example, we considered eliminating ``abandoned'' as a response option 
at the time of the development of the initial permanency plan based on 
our original thinking that abandonment is a condition that is 
associated with the time of removal only. However, we now believe that 
we should allow for the possibility that the State agency may not have 
had enough information to support a response of abandonment at the time 
of removal, but did at the later point of developing the permanency 
plan. We welcome comments on this proposal.
    Annual circumstances. In paragraph (f)(7), we propose for the first 
time that the State collect and report information on the circumstances 
of the child and family that coincide with the child's permanency 
hearing, or no more frequently than annually. Like the preceding 
element, we propose this element in an effort to get a more 
comprehensive picture of the child and family. Again, we propose a 
similar set of response options as in the element ``circumstances at 
the initial permanency plan.'' However, we would like to note that 
States must consider these definitions as they relate to children who 
have not been in their own homes for a year or more. For example, a 
year into a child's out-of-home care stay, the child may allege that he 
or she was sexually abused while still residing at the parent's home. 
In this circumstance, the State agency would indicate in the annual 
circumstances element that sexual abuse is a circumstance at this 
annual marker only if it is still relevant to the permanency and/or 
planning for the child, such as when the agency has determined that 
there is an assessed risk of its reoccurrence or the child and parent 
are receiving counseling as a result of the previous sexual abuse. We 
welcome comments on this proposal.
    Annual circumstances date. In paragraph (f)(8), we propose that the 
State indicate the date each year that the State provided the 
information for the preceding element ``annual circumstances.'' This 
information is necessary so that we can ensure that this information is 
being reported in a timely manner.
Section 1355.43(g) General Exit Information
    In paragraph (g), we propose that the State report information that 
describes when and why a child exits the out-of-home care reporting 
population, if applicable.
    Date of exit. In paragraph (g)(1), we propose that the State title 
IV-B/IV-E agency collect and report the month, day and year that the 
child exited the out-of-home care reporting population, if applicable. 
We propose that the State report every exit date from the out-of-home 
care reporting population. An exit occurs when the agency's placement 
and care responsibility for the child has ended, the State agency has 
returned the child home, or the child reaches the age of majority and 
is not receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance payments (see 
1355.41(a)(2)).
    Currently, in AFCARS, we ask States to report the most recent 
``date of discharge'' from foster care only (see appendix A to part 
1355, section II, X.A). Therefore, our proposal is new in that we are 
requesting the date of every exit and clarifying that States must 
report an exit when a child is no longer under the agency's placement 
and care versus being ``discharged.'' States will report a date of exit 
when a child is returned to live with his/her parents even if the State 
agency continues to hold placement and care responsibility of the 
child, as discussed earlier in the out-of-home care reporting 
population section. If the child exited through adoption, the State 
agency must enter the date that the court finalized the adoption as the 
exit date. If the child has not exited, the State agency should leave 
this data element blank.

[[Page 2110]]

    Exit transaction date. In paragraph (g)(2), we propose that the 
State title IV-B/IV-E agency report the date that the State agency 
entered the child's exit date into the information system. This date 
must accompany every exit date for the child. As with the removal 
transaction date, this must be a computer generated, non-modifiable 
date and be entered within 15 days of the child's exit. Currently, in 
AFCARS, we require the State title IV-B/IV-E agency to enter 
transaction dates within 60 days of the event (see appendix A to part 
1355, section II, X.A), but now propose to require the transaction date 
much earlier, primarily to ensure the quality of this data. The child's 
exit date is one of the most critical data elements in AFCARS, since it 
is the end point for several of the CFSR outcome measures. It is also 
critical because the exit date coupled with the removal date assists in 
defining the population of children in foster care in the nation and is 
absolutely critical in order to understand a State's child welfare 
system. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department to ensure the 
number of children in foster care provided to the public and the 
Congress is accurate and verifiable.
    As we noted in the preamble to the ``removal transaction date'' 
element, some commenters to the Federal Register notice suggested that 
entering the transaction date should be secondary to ensuring child 
safety. While we agree that child safety is paramount, we have found 
that States report more accurate, high quality data when the 
transaction date is entered proximate to the event that it describes. 
We understand the competing demands placed on State child welfare 
agencies. However, we have not changed our position that States must 
enter the child's exit date into the system timely, which we are 
proposing to be within 15 days rather than 60 days of the child's exit 
from out-of-home care. As we indicated earlier, information from our 
analysis of the data submitted from the FY 2003 and FY 2004 report 
periods indicates that two-thirds of the cases are entered within 15 
days of the child's exit. Therefore, we do not believe that this 
proposed change will represent a significant departure from State 
practice in most instances.
    Exit reason. In paragraph (g)(3), we propose that States collect 
and report information on the reason for a child's exit from the out-
of-home care reporting population, if applicable, which we currently 
identify as ``reason for discharge'' in AFCARS (see appendix A to part 
1355, section II, X). We are proposing that the exit reason be provided 
for each of the child's exits from the out-of-home care reporting 
population.
    We propose the following exit reasons, which are similar to the 
current response options in AFCARS: Reunify with parents/legal 
guardians; live with other relatives; adoption; emancipation; relative 
guardianship; non-relative guardianship; transfer to another agency; 
death of child; and runaway. Below we discuss each of our proposed exit 
reasons.
    States are to indicate that the child has exited to ``reunify with 
parents/legal guardians'' when the child has returned to a parent or 
legal guardian. This differs from the current AFCARS response option 
which more broadly captures a child's return to the home of his or her 
primary or principal caretaker. We have made an effort throughout this 
proposed regulation to remove the term caretaker, as we believe it is 
too vague. Further, we specify that a State is to include in this exit 
reason a child who is returned home to live with a parent under the 
State agency's continued placement and care responsibility.
    We propose to retain the response option of ``live with other 
relatives;'' however, we have modified the definition. Currently, 
AFCARS instructs States to select this response option when the child 
has exited to live with a relative other than the one from whose home 
he or she was removed. We propose to instruct States instead to select 
this option when the child exits to live with a relative who is not his 
or her parent or legal guardian. Relatives are limited, by definition, 
to persons related by a biological, legal or marital connection. 
Fictive kin are not relatives for AFCARS purposes.
    We propose to modify the current response option of 
``guardianship'' so that States can specifically indicate whether the 
child exited the reporting population to a relative or non-relative 
guardianship arrangement. We believe that this level of specificity 
will allow us to better analyze children's outcomes.
    We propose to modify the exit reason of ``transfer to another 
agency'' to refer to situations in which the responsibility for the 
placement and care of the child was transferred to a different agency 
either within or outside of the State. This is a clarification in that 
we are using the term ``placement and care'' rather than simply 
``care'' as is used currently in AFCARS. States are to report an exit 
when the actual ``placement and care'' for the child has changed. There 
may have been some confusion about when States are to report a 
transfer, since States organize their child welfare agency structures 
differently. States are to report this exit reason when the State title 
IV-B/IV-E agency transfers its placement and care to an agency outside 
of the IV-B/IV-E agency. These transfers often are made to a juvenile 
justice or disability agency, if these agencies are external to the 
title IV-B/IV-E agency. However, if such agencies reside within a 
single title IV-B/IV-E agency, such internal transfers of 
responsibility should not be included in this response option.
    We propose to modify the current AFCARS definition of the response 
option ``runaway'' to specify that the agency's placement and care 
responsibility ended as a result of the child's running away. We want 
to be sure that it is clear that an exit is reported only when the 
agency is no longer responsible for the child. If a child remains under 
the State agency's responsibility for placement and care but the child 
is on runaway status, the State is to continue to report the child to 
AFCARS with a living arrangement of ``runaway.''
    We have included the existing response options of ``exit to 
adoption,'' ``emancipation,'' or ``death of child'' without change.
    Death due to abuse/neglect in care. In paragraph (g)(4), we propose 
that when the State title IV-B/IV-E agency indicates an exit reason of 
``death of child'' that the State also indicate whether the death 
occurred as a result of the provider's abuse or neglect of the child. 
We propose that the State indicate whether the State has concluded that 
the child's death is due to the provider's abuse or neglect of the 
child or that the cause of the child's death has not yet been 
determined if there is an ongoing investigation to determine the 
culpability of the provider in the child's death.
    We propose this element to supplement information we collect in 
CAPTA about child fatalities and child maltreatment. We believe that 
the incidence of such deaths is minimal; children are more likely to 
die in out-of-home care as a result of natural causes or accidents. 
Irrespective of the cause, approximately 560 fatalities occurred in FY 
2004 according to AFCARS data. However, we are interested in attempting 
to pinpoint the actual incidence of maltreatment related fatalities. In 
determining which response options to propose for this element, we 
struggled with striking a balance between getting timely data and data 
that is accurate and fair towards the provider. We acknowledge that 
many State agencies may not have completed

[[Page 2111]]

their investigations into the cause of a child's death where 
maltreatment by a provider is suspected by the end of a report period, 
so that the data we receive may underestimate the actual incidence of 
child fatalities due to a provider's abuse or neglect. We welcome 
comments on this proposal.
    Transfer to another agency. In paragraph (g)(5), we propose that 
when the child's exit reason is ``transfer to another agency,'' that 
the State title IV-B/IV-E agency collect and report, where applicable, 
the type of agency to which the child's placement and care was 
transferred. This is a new proposed data element. We propose to include 
as possible options: a tribe or tribal agency; a juvenile justice 
agency; a mental health agency; another State agency; or a private 
agency. We are requiring the State to report the type of agency to 
which a child is transferred because we agree with stakeholders that 
this will enhance our ability to know more about what happens to 
children who leave the child welfare system. Further, this information 
can be used to meet the requirements of CAPTA for annual State data on 
the number of children transferred from the child welfare system into 
the custody of the juvenile justice system (section 106(d)(14) of 
CAPTA).
    Circumstances at exit from out-of-home care. In paragraph (g)(6), 
we propose for the first time that the State agency report the child 
and family circumstances that exist at the time of the child's exit 
from out-of-home care. We have carried over the same set of response 
options from the other child and family circumstance elements; however, 
we acknowledge here that these may apply to a child or family 
differently than they do at an earlier point in time. Therefore, we 
have instructed States to indicate that a particular circumstance 
exists if the State agency has put in place referrals for services or 
is providing monitoring or after care services with regard to that 
circumstance. We do not believe it is realistic to expect that States 
will have helped children and families to resolve all issues that 
surround a child's placement in out-of-home care, but rather hope that 
this element, in combination with the other circumstances elements, 
will provide us with a better picture of the challenges and needs of 
child welfare clients.
    For example, at the time of removal, the State agency indicates 
that one of the child and family circumstances is the child's behavior 
problem. When the child exits out-of-home care to reunification with 
the family, the child may still have a behavior problem, but throughout 
the child's stay in out-of-home care the State agency provided services 
to help the child and family manage these behaviors and the State 
agency also has arranged after care services to address any ongoing 
behavior problems. In such a situation, the State agency would indicate 
the child's behavior problem as a circumstance at exit. We welcome 
comments on this proposal.
Section 1355.43(h) Exit to Adoption Information
    In paragraph (h), we propose that a State collect and report 
information on the circumstances of a child's exit from the AFCARS 
reporting population to a finalized adoption. This information should 
only be reported if the exit reason reported under paragraph (g)(3) is 
adoption. As indicated earlier, we require that States report much of 
this information in the existing AFCARS, but in a separate adoption 
file.
    Adoptive parent(s) marital status. In paragraph (h)(1), we propose 
that the State provide information on the marital status of the 
adoptive parent(s). This is similar to an existing AFCARS element in 
the adoption file (see appendix B to part 1355, section II, VI.A). This 
information is being collected for the purpose of obtaining basic 
demographic information about the adoptive family consistent with the 
mandate at section 479(c)(3)(A) of the Act. In this element we clarify 
how States should categorize the adoptive parent(s) marital status 
appropriately. There is not a separate category for an adoptive parent 
who is a widow/widower. Such individuals should be reported according 
to their current marital/living situation.
    Adoptive parent(s) relationship to the child. In paragraph (h)(2), 
we propose to expand the current requirement that the State provide 
information on the adoptive parent's relationship to the child (see 
appendix B to part 1355, section II, VI.D) to include more response 
options that describe kin relationships. The proposed element requires 
the State to indicate whether the relative relationship between the 
adoptive parent and child is that of a maternal or paternal 
grandparent, another maternal or paternal relative or a sibling. The 
relative response options are limited to persons related by a 
biological, legal or marital connection and do not include fictive kin. 
States also may select whether the child is unrelated to his or her 
adoptive parent or the adoptive parent was the child's foster parent. 
This element requires the State to select all applicable responses.
    We believe that with the emphasis in ASFA on using relatives as a 
resource for children, it is important to understand the trends 
surrounding relative adoptions. We also believe it is important to know 
the extent to which both maternal and paternal relatives are being 
utilized as adoptive resources.
    Adoptive parents' date of birth elements. In paragraphs (h)(3) and 
(h)(6), we propose that a State report the adoptive parents' date of 
birth. This is similar to an existing data element where a State 
reports the adoptive parents' year of birth (see appendix B to part 
1355, section II, VI.B). We believe that States already collect a full 
date of birth versus a year of birth, thus this change will not present 
an undue burden. This information is being collected for the purpose of 
obtaining basic demographic information about the adoptive family 
consistent with the mandate at section 479(c)(3)(A) of the Act.
    Adoptive parents' race elements. In paragraphs (h)(4)(i)-(vii) and 
(h)(7)(i)-(vii), we propose to continue to collect information on the 
race of the adoptive parents. As discussed in the sections regarding 
the child and foster parent's race, the racial categories in paragraphs 
(h)(4)(i)-(v) and (h)(7)(i)-(v) are consistent with the OMB standards 
for collecting information on race. The State is to allow the adoptive 
parent(s) to determine his or her own race. If the adoptive parent's 
race is unknown, the State is to so indicate, as outlined in 
subparagraphs (h)(4)(vi) and (h)(7)(vi). It is acceptable for the 
adoptive parent to identify with more than one race, but not know one 
of those races. In such cases, the State must indicate the racial 
classifications that apply and also indicate that a race is unknown. We 
anticipate that States will be able to obtain information on the race 
of the adoptive parent(s) in most instances. This differs from an 
inability to provide information on the race of a biological parent who 
abandoned a child currently in out-of-home care. If, however, the 
adoptive parent declines to identify his or her race, the State must 
indicate that this information was declined, as outlined in 
subparagraphs (h)(4)(vii) and (h)(7)(vii).
    Adoptive parents' ethnicity elements. In paragraphs (h)(5) and 
(h)(8), we propose that a State report the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity 
of the adoptive parent. Similar to race, these definitions are 
consistent with the OMB race and ethnicity standards. Also, the State 
may report whether the adoptive parent's ethnicity is unknown or 
whether the adoptive parent has declined to provide this information.
    Interstate or intercountry adoption. In paragraph (h)(9), we 
propose that the

[[Page 2112]]

State identify whether the child has been placed for adoption outside 
of the State or country. This is a new element for the out-of-home care 
data file, although there is a similar element in the existing AFCARS 
adoption file and the proposed adoption assistance and guardianship 
subsidy file (1355.44(c)(7)). We believe that gathering information on 
the location of children in out-of-home care who are placed for 
adoption may allow us to identify trends and/or challenges in 
interjurisdictional adoptions that occur across State lines or in other 
countries.
    Interjurisdictional adoption location. In paragraph (h)(10), we are 
requiring for the first time that the State identify the FIPS code of 
the specific State or country outside of the U.S. in which the child 
was placed for adoption or the State or country into which the child 
was placed. This element in combination with the previous element on 
intercountry and interstate adoption will provide information on the 
extent to which States are maximizing all potential adoptive resources 
for waiting children and will assist the Department in responding to 
questions and concerns regarding interjurisdictional placement issues.
    Adoption placing agency or individual. In paragraph (h)(11), we 
propose that the State provide information on the entity or individuals 
that assist in placing a child for adoption. This data element is 
required in the existing AFCARS adoption file and is proposed for the 
adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy file in this NPRM; 
however, the response options are different in order to be relevant to 
the out-of-home care population. States here can indicate whether the 
placing agency was the State title IV-B/IV-E agency or a private agency 
or tribal agency under contract or agreement with the State.

1355.44 Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Subsidy Data File Elements

    We propose to add a section 1355.44 which provides all elements for 
the adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data file. Each 
element is described in detail, and the acceptable response options 
also are defined. (Attachment B contains a quick reference to all the 
adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy date file elements.) The 
State agency must collect and report the information as described in 
these elements for each child in the adoption assistance and 
guardianship subsidy reporting population.
Section 1355.44(a) General Information
    In paragraph (a) we propose to collect general information that 
identifies the State submitting the adoption assistance and 
guardianship subsidy file and the child.
    State. In paragraph (a)(1), we propose that the State responsible 
for reporting the child identify itself using the numeric Federal 
Information Processing Standards (FIPS) code. The definition of this 
element is the same as the one proposed in the out-of-home care data 
file. We need to have this information in the adoption assistance and 
guardianship subsidy data file as well as the out-of-home care data 
file because the State will submit the two files to us separately.
    Report date. In paragraph (a)(2), we propose that a State continue 
to indicate the month and year of the report period. Again, this 
information is the same as the report date required for the out-of-home 
care data file.
    Child record number. In paragraph (a)(3), we propose that the State 
report the child's record number, which is a unique person 
identification number, as an encrypted number. Similar to the 
instructions for the record number element in the out-of-home care 
file, the State must apply and retain the same encryption routine or 
method for the person identification number across all report periods. 
The State's encryption methodology must meet any ACF standards that we 
prescribe through technical bulletins or policy. This will allow the 
Department to track the amount of subsidy changes over time. In 
addition, this information will help predict future changes based upon 
the age distribution of the population and the age distribution of 
those entering each year.
Section 1355.44(b) Child demographics
    In paragraph (b), we propose that States collect and report 
demographic information on the child, including the child's date of 
birth, race and ethnicity.
    Date of birth. We propose in paragraph (b)(1), that the State 
report the child's date of birth. This is basic demographic information 
which is mandated by section 479(c)(3)(A) of the Act. In addition, this 
information is needed to determine at what age children are being 
adopted. Since most children continue to receive a title IV-E adoption 
subsidy until the age of 18, the information will assist States and the 
Federal government in conducting budget projections and program 
planning.
    Race data elements. In paragraphs (b)(2)(i) through (b)(2)(viii), 
we propose that the State report information on the race of the child. 
As discussed in earlier elements related to race, the racial categories 
here are consistent with the OMB standards for collecting information 
on race. The State is to allow the parent(s) or the child, if 
appropriate, to determine the child's race.
    If the child's race is unknown, the State is to so indicate, as 
outlined in subparagraph (b)(2)(vi). It is acceptable for the child to 
be identified with more than one race, but not know one of those races. 
In such cases, the State must indicate the racial classifications that 
apply and also indicate that a race is unknown. If the child has been 
abandoned the State is to indicate that the race cannot be determined 
in subparagraph (b)(2)(vii). Finally, if the parent(s) or the child, if 
appropriate, declines to identify the child's race, the State must 
indicate that this information was declined as outlined in paragraph 
(b)(2)(viii).
    Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. We propose in paragraph (b)(3), that 
the State report the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of the child. Similar 
to race, these definitions are consistent with the OMB race and 
ethnicity standards. Also, the State may report whether the child's 
ethnicity is unknown or whether the parent(s) or child, if appropriate, 
has declined to provide this information.
Section 1355.44(c) Adoption Agreement Information
    In paragraph (c), we propose that the State collect and report 
information on the nature of adoption assistance agreements and 
additional information surrounding those adoption arrangements. We are 
seeking this information for all children who are the subject of an 
adoption assistance agreement, whether final or not and regardless of 
whether the agreement is for an ongoing subsidy, nonrecurring costs, 
services and/or health insurance or Medicaid. For children who are the 
subject of a guardianship agreement rather than an adoption assistance 
agreement, the State is to leave the elements described in this 
paragraph blank.
    Adoption assistance agreement type. In paragraph (c)(1), we propose 
that the State indicate whether the child is in an adoptive placement 
or finalized adoption pursuant to either a title IV-E adoption 
assistance agreement (as set forth in section 473(a)(1)(A) of the Act 
and 45 CFR 1356.40(b)) or a State adoption assistance agreement during 
the current report period. Collecting this

[[Page 2113]]

point-in-time information will provide the Department with current 
information on this rapidly growing population of children. This will 
assist the Department in responding to questions raised by the Congress 
and States on these children. In addition, the information will assist 
the Federal government and States in planning and budgeting for the 
adoption assistance program under section 473 of the Act. Collecting 
data on children for whom there is either a Federal or State agreement 
for adoption assistance is consistent with the mandate in section 
479(c)(3)(D) of the Act to gather information on the nature of adoption 
assistance.
    We want to be clear that we propose States to report information on 
the child for whom the State agency has a signed adoption assistance 
agreement in effect with the adoptive or prospective parents. Also, as 
long as an adoption assistance agreement is in effect between the State 
and the adoptive or prospective parents at the end of subsequent report 
periods, the State is to continue to report information on the child. 
For example, State X has an adoption assistance agreement for a child 
who is residing with his adoptive parents in State X. Two years later 
the family moves to State Y and the adoption assistance agreement 
remains in effect. State X must continue to report information on the 
child. Another example is a child who is the subject of an adoption 
assistance agreement who is in out-of-home care temporarily. Regardless 
of the fact that the child is not currently at home with the adoptive 
parents, the State must continue reporting information on this child as 
long as the agreement remains in effect.
    Adoption subsidy amount. In paragraph (c)(2), we propose that the 
State provide the per diem amount of an adoption subsidy payment, if 
any, made to the adoptive parents on behalf of the child during the 
last month of the report period. This is a revised element. Currently 
we require States to report the monthly subsidy amount at one time 
after the finalization of the adoption. We propose here that States 
report this information each report period beginning when the adoption 
assistance agreement becomes effective and continuing for the duration 
of the agreement. We believe that information will be useful for States 
and the Federal government for budgetary planning and projection 
purposes. Further, this information is consistent with section 
479(c)(3)(D) of the Act, which requires us to collect information on 
the extent of assistance provided by Federal, State and local adoption 
programs.
    We propose that a State report the total amount of the subsidy 
payment made to the adoptive parent(s), rather than the portion that 
the State may seek reimbursement for under title IV-E. Further, in any 
situation where the State has an adoption assistance agreement with 
adoptive parents but is not providing an actual payment in the last 
month of the report period, the State is to indicate that $0 payment 
was made. Such a situation is likely to occur if the adoption 
assistance agreement is for a ``deferred subsidy,'' which States may 
enter into with prospective parents of a child who may be at risk for 
developing a health condition (e.g., a child born to a substance-
addicted mother) at a later point, but is not exhibiting current signs 
that warrant a financial payment in addition to the provision of 
Medicaid. By collecting information on those agreements where a payment 
is not made, we can determine the extent to which States are providing 
ancillary services to adopted children.
    Nonrecurring adoption expenses elements. In paragraph (c)(3), we 
propose that States report whether the State paid nonrecurring adoption 
expenses to the adoptive parent(s) under the title IV-E program. 
Nonrecurring adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary adoption 
fees, court costs, attorney fees and other expenses which are directly 
related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs (section 
473(a)(6) of the Act and 45 CFR 1356.41). States are to report if the 
State paid nonrecurring expenses during any point in the current report 
period.
    In paragraph (c)(4), we propose that States report the amount of 
the nonrecurring costs paid to the adoptive parent. This includes 
payments the State agency makes directly to other service providers 
rather than to the adoptive parent. The State is to report an amount 
only if it responded that the adoptive parent received reimbursement 
for nonrecurring costs during the current report period in the previous 
element. If the State indicated that the adoptive parent did not 
receive any nonrecurring costs, then the State must leave this element 
blank.
    We seek information on nonrecurring cost reimbursements consistent 
with the requirement in section 479(c)(3)(D) of the Act to collect 
information on the extent of adoption assistance. We have chosen to 
solicit information on the payment or reimbursement of nonrecurring 
adoption expenses under the Federal adoption assistance program only, 
as we are not aware of separate State-only funded programs which offer 
this benefit to adoptive families. We also ask that the State report 
the total amount of the reimbursement during the report period. Unlike 
adoption subsidy payments which are ongoing and may fluctuate over 
time, reimbursements for nonrecurring costs are more likely to be made 
in a lump-sum or over a finite period of time. Thus, we need to gather 
the total cost of the reimbursements over an extended time rather than 
in a single month.
    Adoption finalization data elements. In paragraph (c)(5), we 
propose that the State report whether the child who is the subject of 
an adoption assistance agreement has had his or her adoption finalized. 
In paragraph (c)(6), we request the date that the child's adoption was 
finalized, if applicable. We are requesting this information to track 
the number of children who are receiving adoption assistance and for 
whom adoption has been achieved. This information also will allow us to 
analyze the extent to which States are putting adoption supports in 
place prior to the child's finalized adoption.
    Interstate and intercountry adoption. In paragraph (c)(7), we 
propose that the State identify whether the child has been placed out 
of State or within State, or was the subject of an incoming or outgoing 
intercountry adoption. Outgoing intercountry adoptions are those that 
involve a child who is immigrating to another country for the purposes 
of adoption.
    This is an expansion of the existing AFCARS requirement for the 
State to indicate whether a child was placed across State lines or was 
the subject of an incoming intercountry adoption. We wanted to include 
State reporting of outgoing intercountry adoptions for the first time 
because we have learned that they do occur and are sometimes subsidized 
by the State agency. Further, we expect that more outgoing intercountry 
adoptions may occur after the Hague Convention protections are in full 
force and effect for children for whom an outgoing adoption may be in 
their best interests.
    Interjurisdictional adoption location. In paragraph (c)(8), we 
require for the first time that the State identify the FIPS code of the 
State from which or into which the child was placed for adoption, or 
the country from which or into which the child was placed. This element 
in combination with the previous element on intercountry and interstate 
adoption will provide information on the extent to which States are 
maximizing all potential adoptive resources for waiting children and 
will assist the Department in responding to questions and concerns 
regarding interjurisdictional placement issues.

[[Page 2114]]

    Adoption placing agency or individual. In paragraph (c)(9), we 
propose that the State provide information on the entity or individuals 
that placed the child for adoption. This data element is required in 
the existing AFCARS; however, we have expanded the response options to 
be more specific.
    We have added a new response option of ``State agency'' which is 
the title IV-B/IV-E agency that has placement and care responsibility 
of the child in out-of-home care and is reporting the child to AFCARS. 
This response option is more specific than the existing option of 
``public agency,'' which could be any public agency in the State. It is 
important for us to be specific here primarily because of the Adoption 
Incentives Program. We must calculate whether States are eligible for 
financial incentives for completed adoptions based on whether the child 
was a foster care child and in the placement and care responsibility of 
the State agency. Similarly, we have added two response options of 
``private agency under a contract or agreement'' and ``Tribal agency 
with agreement'' so that States can indicate when children are in 
foster care under the State title IV-B/IV-E agency's placement and care 
responsibility (or shared responsibility) and still receive credit for 
such a child's adoption for the Adoption Incentives Program. Under the 
existing AFCARS, States have been confused as to whether these 
adoptions should be reported as placed by the public agency or the 
private agency.
    The categories ``Tribal agency,'' ``private agency,'' ``birth 
parent'' and ``independent person'' have been retained from the 
existing AFCARS with minor modifications to their definitions. The 
reporting of these adoptions is being retained because it will permit 
continuity and consistency of our estimates of the total number of 
adoptions.
    One piece of information that we are no longer requiring States to 
report separately is the adopted child's special needs status. In the 
current AFCARS we require States to report whether a State has 
determined that the child has special needs, and the primary factor 
(the child's race, age, membership in a sibling group or medical 
condition or disability) in this determination. We have found that this 
information does not lend itself to meaningful analysis nor does it 
represent the Federal definition of special needs, which is comprised 
of three criteria only one of which relates to the child's condition 
which makes the child difficult to place. We believe that with the 
changes we propose to strengthen collection of health conditions and 
identify sibling groups along with data on age and race, we will have 
sufficient information to analyze the characteristics of the children 
in the adoption assistance reporting population.
    Agreement termination date. In paragraph (c)(10), we propose that 
States report the date that an adoption assistance agreement was 
terminated or expired during the report period. This information will 
allow us to calculate more accurately the extent of adoption assistance 
by allowing us to generate the total number of children served under 
subsidy agreements for the report period. Typically, Federal adoption 
assistance continues until the child is age 18, or age 21, if the State 
determines the child has a mental or physical disability that warrants 
the continuation of assistance. However, the State may terminate 
Federal adoption assistance under two additional circumstances: Where 
the adoptive parents are no longer legally responsible for the child, 
or are no longer providing any support to the child. Further, States 
may terminate State subsidies or assistance according to State law or 
policies. We are interested, therefore, in receiving data that will 
assist us in analyzing when agreements end.
Section 1355.44(d) Subsidized Guardianship Information
    In paragraph (d), we propose that a State provide information on 
children who are the subject of a subsidized guardianship agreement 
with the State title IV-B/IV-E agency. Although we are not mandated to 
collect this information under section 479 of the Act, we are requiring 
information on this growing population of children to try and 
understand the number and types of children for whom subsidized 
guardianship is the permanent plan. Further, we believe that we have a 
general responsibility to ensure the well-being of children who are 
served by State child welfare systems and would be remiss if we did not 
collect basic information.
    Subsidized guardianship agreement type. In paragraph (d)(1), we 
propose that the State identify whether the guardianship subsidy is 
being supported with any title IV-E funds, or if the State is using 
State-only funds for the subsidy payment. Only those States that have 
an approved demonstration waiver from ACF to operate a subsidized 
guardianship program may indicate that the guardianship subsidy 
includes title IV-E funds.
    Subsidized guardianship-amount. In paragraph (d)(2), we propose 
that the State indicate the per diem dollar amount of the guardianship 
subsidy as of the last month of the reporting period.
    Agreement termination date. In paragraph (d)(3), we propose the 
State indicate the date that the guardianship subsidy agreement expired 
or was terminated. This information will allow us to generate the total 
number of children served under guardianship subsidy agreements for the 
report period.

1355.45 Compliance

    In section 1355.45 we propose the types of assessments we will 
conduct to determine the accuracy of a State's data, the compliance 
standards, and the manner in which States initially determined to be 
out of compliance can correct their data. This section also specifies 
how we propose to implement the statutory mandates of Public Law 108-
145.
    Public Law 108-145 added section 474(f) to the Social Security Act, 
which requires that the Department withhold certain funds from a State 
that has ``failed to submit to the Secretary data, as required by 
regulation, for the data collection system implemented under section 
479.'' Although we recognize that the provisions related to AFCARS in 
section 479 were designed to bolster our authority to take financial 
penalties for noncompliance with AFCARS requirements, we did not 
believe that the statute on its face was clear enough to implement 
penalties immediately after its enactment. In ACYF-CB-IM-04-04, issued 
on February 17, 2004, we notified State agencies that we would not 
implement the penalty structure in the statute until we published final 
regulations. Further, because we were in the midst of developing these 
proposed rules that would change significantly the information that 
States submit to AFCARS, we did not believe it prudent to implement a 
new penalty structure for the existing requirements in regulation.
Section 1355.45(a) Files Subject to Compliance
    In paragraph (a) we propose that ACF determine whether a State's 
out-of-home care data file is in compliance with certain file and data 
quality standards (described further below in paragraphs (c) and (d)). 
The law requires that we assure that the data submitted to us is 
reliable and consistent and authorizes us to utilize appropriate 
requirements and incentives to ensure that the system functions 
reliably (sections 479(c)(2) and (4) of the Act, respectively). We have 
chosen to fulfill these

[[Page 2115]]

requirements by establishing specific standards for compliance, 
consistent with our current requirements (see appendix E to part 1355). 
We do not believe there is a need to change this general approach.
    We are not proposing to establish compliance standards for the 
adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy file. The primary reason 
is because we are not statutorily mandated to request information on 
guardianship agreements. As such, we will not apply a penalty here. We 
do have authority to seek information on governmental assistance for 
adoption, and our most pressing information needs can be met through 
the out-of-home care data file. Moreover, the statute outlines a very 
specific financial penalty for noncompliance with AFCARS regulations, 
such that the same financial penalty is mandated regardless of whether 
we define noncompliance as errors within both files or just one.
    Although we have not proposed compliance standards and penalties 
for the adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy file, this 
information is still important to ACF and the States and we will take 
other steps to ensure that States submit quality data. In particular, 
we may target technical assistance efforts to this information and/or 
develop a data quality utility for the adoption assistance and 
guardianship subsidy file that will allow a State agency to evaluate 
the quality of that file before submitting it to ACF.
Section 1355.45(b) Errors
    In paragraph (b) we have outlined the types of data errors and how 
we will assess a State's out-of-home care data file to identify those 
errors.
    Missing data. In paragraph (b)(1), we define missing data as 
instances when the element is blank or missing when a response is 
required. The data element descriptions in 45 CFR 1355.43 list the 
circumstances in which a blank or missing response may be acceptable. 
For example, the elements regarding second foster parent information 
should be left blank if the State agency previously indicated that the 
first foster parent is single. In such cases, the blank response is not 
missing data.
    We want to note that we propose a more specific definition of the 
term missing data than is used in the existing AFCARS. AFCARS currently 
uses the term ``missing data'' to refer to both blank responses and 
invalid responses (discussed below). We chose not to use a similar 
definition here to avoid the common confusion that only blank data is 
problematic.
    Finally, we want to underscore that States are not permitted to 
mask the fact that they have not obtained information by mapping it to 
a valid, but untrue, response option. This practice is not permitted as 
specified in 45 CFR 1355.42(d), as it provides a misleading and 
inaccurate account of the characteristics and experiences of the 
reporting population.
    Invalid data. In paragraph (b)(2), we define invalid data as any 
instance in which the response the State provides does not match one of 
the valid responses or exceeds the possible range of responses. These 
types of errors are not new. In the existing AFCARS, invalid data is 
known as ``out-of-range'' data. For example, if the response options 
for an element are ``yes,'' ``no'' and ``abandoned,'' a State's 
response of ``unknown'' is invalid data for that element. In our 
experience, invalid data errors are easily remedied by State agencies.
    Internally inconsistent data. In paragraph (b)(3), we define 
internally inconsistent data as those elements that fail an internal 
consistency check that is designed to validate the logical 
relationships between two or more elements within a record. For 
example, a response of ``permanency plan not established'' for the 
element ``permanency plan'' described in 45 CFR 1355.43(f)(1) and a 
date provided for the element ``date of permanency plan'' described in 
45 CFR 1355.43(f)(2) are internally inconsistent data. We will not 
attempt to determine which of the elements is/are ``likely'' to be at 
fault, but will identify all elements assessed by the specified 
internal consistency in error.
    These types of errors are not new and there are internal 
consistency validations in the existing AFCARS. However, we have found 
that the existing internal consistency checks, while providing an 
important first step to quality data, were not extensive enough. 
Unfortunately, there were a number of occasions where a State's data 
passed all the existing internal consistency checks, but ACF and the 
State discovered that the data provided an inaccurate and unreliable 
picture of children in out-of-home care in the State's placement and 
care responsibility upon further analysis. Based on our experience in 
reviews and technical assistance, we believe that more internal 
consistency checks, along with other assessments that will uncover 
errors, will provide us with more reliable and consistent data that we 
can publicize and use for our program activities with a higher degree 
of confidence. We have chosen not to promulgate the internal 
consistency checks through notice and comment rulemaking so as to 
provide maximum flexibility to change them as needed. We will, however, 
notify States officially of the internal consistency checks.
    Cross-file error. In paragraph (b)(4), we propose a new type of 
data error known as cross-file errors. To determine whether cross-file 
errors occur we propose to conduct a check to evaluate the data file 
for illogical and/or improbable patterns of recurrent response options 
across all records, or applicable records. For example, if all children 
have the same date of birth in the out-of-home care file, this is 
clearly an error.
    Cross-file checks are not a part of the existing AFCARS compliance 
assessments, but are a part of the Data Quality Utility. We propose to 
evaluate a State's data file for these types of errors to address some 
common problems identified in AFCARS assessment reviews. Often these 
problems are a result of underlying issues in the programming of the 
State's information system as opposed to data entry errors. We believe 
that adding cross-file checks will assist States and ACF in improving 
the quality of AFCARS data. As with the internal consistency checks, we 
will share with States the specific cross-file checks.
    Tardy transactions. In paragraph (b)(5), we define tardy 
transactions as a State agency's failure to record removal and exit 
dates within 15 days of those events occurring. Assessing a State's 
data file for tardy transactions is consistent with the existing AFCARS 
requirements. We continue to believe that ensuring a State's timely 
entry of removal and exit dates is a critical element of quality data. 
There is, perhaps, nothing more basic than knowing which children are 
in out-of-home care at a given moment.
Section 1355.45(c) File Standards
    In paragraph (c), we propose a set of file submission standards for 
ACF to determine that a State's AFCARS is in compliance. These are 
minimal standards for timeliness, formatting and quality information 
that the State must achieve in order for us to process the State's data 
appropriately.
    Timely submission. In paragraph (c)(1), we propose that the State 
agency submit an out-of-home care data file according to the reporting 
periods and timeline (i.e., within 15 days of the end of each six-month 
reporting period) as described in 45 CFR 1355.42(a). This proposal is 
consistent with the existing AFCARS requirements.

[[Page 2116]]

    Proper format. In paragraph (c)(2), we propose that a State send us 
its data file in a format that meets our specifications. At this time 
we cannot outline the exact transmission method and/or formatting 
requirements for AFCARS data as explained in the discussion on 45 CFR 
1355.42(e). However, in our experience, improperly formatted files have 
contributed to inefficiencies in our ability to process States' data.
    In addition, we propose that the State submit 100 percent error-
free data for the basic demographic elements described in 45 CFR 
1355.43(a)(1) through (a)(5), 1355.43(b)(1) and (b)(2) for every child 
in the reporting population. These elements describe the State, Report 
date, Local agency, Child record number, Family record number, Child's 
date of birth and Child's gender. The errors that may be applicable to 
these elements are missing data, invalid data and internally 
inconsistent data.
    We are requiring that States have no errors at all for these seven 
elements because they contain information that is readily available to 
the State and is essential to our ability to analyze the data and 
determine whether the State is in compliance with the remaining data 
standards. For example, the child's date of birth is information that 
all States collect on children in out-of-home care and would typically 
have in their information system. Without the child's date of birth we 
cannot run some other internal consistency or cross-file checks. 
Moreover, we cannot, for example, look at the age stratification of 
children in out-of-home care or determine the mean age of children 
adopted from out-of-home care. Based on our experience with the 
existing AFCARS, we have found that problems in these elements are 
often the result of minor errors that can be rectified easily. We 
therefore believe that a 100 percent compliance standard for these 
basic and critical elements is appropriate.
    Acceptable cross-file. In paragraph (c)(3), we propose that a 
State's data file must be free of any cross-file errors to be in 
compliance with the AFCARS requirements. As stated earlier, we believe 
that cross-file errors indicate a systemic problem with the State 
agency's reported data. Thus we cannot be confident that the 
information is reflective of the State's out-of-home care population. 
Therefore, we believe it appropriate not to tolerate such errors in the 
State's out-of-home care data file.
Section 1355.45(d) Data Quality Standards
    In paragraph (d), we propose a set of data quality standards for 
the State to be in compliance with AFCARS requirements. These standards 
focus on the quality of the data that a State provides to us. The data 
quality standards relate to missing data, invalid data, internally 
inconsistent data and tardy transactions. No more than 10 percent of 
data in a State's out-of-home care data file may have each of these 
data errors to remain in compliance with the AFCARS. The numerical 
standard of 10 percent is consistent with the existing AFCARS 
standards.
    We considered decreasing the `acceptable' amount of errors 
permitted in the AFCARS data file, for example, to no more than five 
percent of each data error in order to ensure that we receive better 
quality data. As noted earlier, a number of public reports and 
stakeholders have criticized the quality of AFCARS data. Although 
States and ACF have made great strides in improving the quality of the 
data over the past few years, we believe there is room for 
significantly more progress. Decreasing the acceptable threshold for 
compliance would be one avenue to compel State agencies to continue to 
work on their data. On the other hand, by increasing the number and 
breadth of the internal consistency checks and adding cross-file checks 
to the range of assessments that we perform on State's data, we already 
are setting a higher bar for compliance. Further, we acknowledge that 
by adding elements and requiring that the State agency report 
historical information for certain elements, we are asking States to 
report more information that will be subject to the compliance 
assessments, thereby increasing the likelihood of errors. We believe, 
therefore, that the most appropriate balance is to leave the numeric 
standard at 10 percent.
Section 1355.45(e) Compliance Determination and Corrected Data
    In paragraph (e), we propose our methodology for determining 
compliance and a State's opportunity to submit corrected data where ACF 
has initially determined that the State's original submission does not 
meet the AFCARS standards.
    In paragraph (e)(1), we propose that we first determine whether the 
State agency's out-of-home care data file meets the file standards 
(i.e., timely submission, proper format, and acceptable cross-file). If 
the State agency's data file does not meet all the file standards, ACF 
will so notify the State. As stated earlier in the description of the 
errors, we believe that if a State's data file cannot meet the file 
standards the information contained therein is dubious. In particular, 
if the State does not meet the proper format standard we cannot process 
the State's data file and determine if the file meets the other 
standards.
    In paragraph (e)(2), we propose to determine whether the State's 
out-of-home care data file meets the data quality standards, if the 
file standards already have been satisfied. We will calculate the error 
rates for each error type (i.e., missing data, invalid data, 
inconsistent data and tardy transactions) to determine if any one of 
them exceeds 10 percent. If an error rate exceeds 10 percent ACF will 
so notify the State.
    In paragraph (e)(3), we propose to notify a State that does not 
meet either the file or data quality standards within 30 days of the 
report deadline (i.e., by May 15 and November 14). We are required to 
notify States within this timeframe in accordance with section 
474(f)(1) of the Act. We have not, however, regulated the format of 
this notification, as we would like to explore the possibility of 
notifying a State automatically upon receipt (or non-receipt) of a 
State's data file. We anticipate detailing the data quality errors in 
the notification to aid the State in correcting its data file.
    In paragraph (e)(4), we propose procedures for a State agency to 
submit a corrected data file to ACF if the State's data file initially 
does not meet the file and data quality standards. If the State agency 
does not meet the file standards or the data quality standards (with 
the exception of the standard for tardy transactions, which is 
discussed below) a State agency will have until the deadline for 
submitting data for the subsequent report period to make changes to the 
data and submit the corrected data file to ACF. This timeframe for the 
State to submit corrected data is mandated by section 474(f)(1) of the 
Act. However, if a State does not meet the data quality standard 
related to tardy transactions, the State may not `correct' these dates. 
This is because according to the removal transaction date and exit 
transaction date elements, these dates must be computer-generated to 
reflect the data entry date and cannot be modified. Because the State 
is not permitted to change an entered transaction date, but the law 
requires that a State have another opportunity to submit data that 
meets the standards, ACF will look towards the State's next regularly 
submitted out-of-home care data file to determine whether the State has 
achieved compliance.
    For example, a State agency submits an out-of-home care data file 
for the report period ending March 31 on April 17 (due on April 15). 
ACF assesses the

[[Page 2117]]

file and notifies the State agency that the out-of-home care data has 
not met the timely submission standard or the data quality standards 
for missing data and tardy transactions. The State agency must correct 
the data in this file so that missing data comprises no more than 10 
percent of the applicable records and submit this corrected data file 
on time--by October 15. In addition, the State agency's out-of-home 
care data file for the report period ending September 30, also 
submitted on October 15, must have met the data quality standard 
related to tardy transactions. If all of these conditions are met, and 
the corrected data file contains no new errors in excess of the 
standards, ACF can then determine the State's corrected data in 
compliance with the AFCARS standards.
    The State agency need not develop an actual corrective action plan 
that outlines how the State plans to comply with the data standards, as 
is required in other program improvement efforts in child welfare 
(i.e., Child and Family Service Reviews and Title IV-E Eligibility 
Reviews). We believe that an actual plan is not necessary in this case, 
as we anticipate that the Federal system will identify the errors that 
caused the State's data to be in noncompliance. Furthermore, because 
the period in which a State may submit data is relatively short, we 
believe that engaging in a process to develop an action plan and seek 
ACF approval will only reduce the amount of time the State has to make 
actual improvements that may bring the State into compliance with the 
standards.
Section 1355.45(f) Noncompliance
    In paragraph (f), we propose to determine that a State has not 
complied with the AFCARS requirements if the State either does not 
submit an out-of-home care data file or does not submit corrected data 
that meets the file and data quality standards. This final 
determination of noncompliance means that ACF will withhold financial 
penalties as outlined in 45 CFR 1355.46.
    Finally, we would like to emphasize that a determination of 
compliance with AFCARS standards in this NPRM is separate and apart 
from the CFSRs as implemented in 45 CFR 1355.31 through 1355.37. This 
is consistent with the law at section 474(f)(2) of the Act. This means 
that a State's substantial compliance with titles IV-B and IV-E as 
determined by a CFSR, including the State's rating on the systemic 
factor related to statewide information systems, has no bearing on 
whether ACF determines the State in compliance with the AFCARS 
standards, and vice versa. Further, a State agency that enters into a 
program improvement plan consistent with the requirements of 45 CFR 
1355.35 to make improvements to a State's data and/or reporting of such 
data to AFCARS does not factor into ACF's determination of compliance 
with the AFCARS standards.
Section 1355.45(g) Other Assessments
    In paragraph (g), we propose that ACF may use other monitoring 
tools that are not explicitly mentioned in regulation to determine 
whether the State meets all AFCARS requirements. For example, we may 
wish to continue to conduct onsite reviews in some format to ensure 
proper data mapping or provide other technical assistance to ensure 
valid and quality data. We currently use this approach in AFCARS by 
conducting onsite assessment reviews of a State's process to submit 
AFCARS data, including validating that the information in case files is 
accurately portrayed in the AFCARS submission. Through these assessment 
reviews we have found that States may be in compliance with the AFCARS 
data standards, but not in compliance with all the AFCARS requirements. 
For example, through the aforementioned error checks, which we expect 
to be conducted automatically upon receipt of the data, we cannot 
determine whether the State is submitting the entire or the correct 
reporting population. But through the assessment reviews, we have been 
able to provide States with technical assistance on how to meet all 
aspects of the AFCARS requirements. We have often heard from States 
that the onsite activities are beneficial and provide the State with 
valuable technical assistance. Therefore, we want to reserve our 
ability to develop and conduct these and other monitoring activities 
for AFCARS.

1355.46 Penalties

    In section 1355.46 we propose how ACF will assess and take 
penalties for a State's noncompliance with the AFCARS requirements. The 
penalty structure we propose is consistent with section 474(f) of the 
Act. Some commenters to the Federal Register notice suggested that we 
use incentives in lieu of penalties to encourage data quality 
improvement. Subsequent to the closing of the Federal Register comment 
period, the President signed into law the Adoption Promotion Act of 
2003, which requires that the Department take specific fiscal penalties 
for a State agency's lack of compliance with AFCARS standards. There is 
no provision in this law for incentives.
Section 1355.46(a) Federal Funds Subject to a Penalty
    In paragraph (a), we propose that the pool of funds that are 
subject to a penalty for noncompliance are the State agency's claims 
for title IV-E foster care administrative costs for the quarter in 
which the original out-of-home care data file is due (as opposed to the 
corrected data file). Such administrative costs are inclusive of claims 
for training and SACWIS. We believe that this provision is consistent 
with the statutory language in section 474(f)(2) of the Act. The law 
requires that the pool of funds subject to the penalty is ``the amount 
expended by the State for administration of foster care activities 
under the State plan approved under this part,'' meaning all title IV-E 
foster care administrative costs. Further, the law specifies that the 
pool be comprised of a State's claims in the quarter that coincides 
with the report period deadline (i.e., the first or third quarter of a 
fiscal year).
Section 1355.46(b) Penalty Amounts
    In paragraph (b), we propose specific penalty amounts for 
noncompliance.
    In paragraph (b)(1), we propose to assess a penalty in the amount 
of a sixth of a percent of the pool of Federal funds subject to a 
penalty once ACF determines the State agency out of compliance with the 
AFCARS requirements according to 45 CFR 1355.45(f). Using fiscal year 
2004 claims data, we estimate that penalties will range from $601 to 
$349,020 for a State's noncompliance with the standards in a single 
report period. In paragraph (b)(2), we propose to assess a penalty in 
the amount of a fourth of a percent of the pool of funds subject to a 
penalty, should the State's noncompliance continue in subsequent six-
month periods. Using FY 2004 data, we estimate that the penalty for 
subsequent noncompliance will range from $902 to $523,530 per report 
period.
    These provisions are consistent with section 474(f)(2)(A) and (B) 
of the Act. The law specifies the amount of each penalty for 
noncompliance and requires that penalties continue until the State 
agency is able to meet the standards. Although the calculated penalty 
amounts are smaller than those in the existing regulation, a penalty 
that continues until a State's data file complies with the AFCARS 
standards provides an incentive for State agencies to correct their 
data in a timely manner. For example, a State that does not comply with 
the AFCARS requirement after the first period of corrective action may 
receive a penalty of $30,205. If the

[[Page 2118]]

State is still unable to meet the data standards in the next six month 
period the State will be penalized $45,308 and will continue to receive 
that penalty amount for each six-month period the State remains out of 
compliance.
Section 1355.46(c) Penalty Reduction From Grant
    In paragraph (c), we propose to take an assessed penalty by 
reducing the State's title IV-E foster care grant following ACF's 
determination of noncompliance.
Section 1355.46(d) Interest
    In paragraph (d), we propose that a State be liable for applicable 
interest on the amount of funds we penalize, in accordance with the 
regulations at 45 CFR 30.13. This proposal to collect interest is 
consistent with Department-wide regulations and policy on collecting 
debts owed to the Federal government.
Section 1355.46(e) Appeals
    In paragraph (e), we propose to provide the State with an 
opportunity to appeal a final determination that the State is out of 
compliance inclusive of accompanying financial penalties to the DHHS 
Departmental Appeals Board (DAB). Since the law does not require any 
unique appeal rights or time frames regarding AFCARS requirements, all 
appeals must follow the DAB regulations in 45 CFR Part 16.

Appendices

    We propose to remove all of the appendices because they contain 
provisions and charts that are being substantively altered or made 
obsolete by the provisions of this NPRM. Appendix A contains the data 
element definitions and instructions for the existing foster care file. 
We propose instead the foster care file at proposed section 1355.43. 
Appendix B contains the adoption data element definitions and 
instructions for the existing adoption file. We propose instead that 
the adoption data element file be deleted and information pertaining to 
adoption be incorporated into the foster care file. The adoption 
assistance and guardianship subsidy file is proposed at section 
1355.44. Appendix C contains existing technical file submission 
details. We explained in the discussion of section 1355.42(e) that we 
propose not to regulate file submission provisions. Appendix D contains 
the existing foster care and adoption file layout and summary file 
details. We explained in the discussion on section 1355.42(a) that we 
are eliminating the summary files and explained in section 1355.42(e) 
that we are not regulating file layout. Appendix E contains the 
existing data standards. We propose instead data standards in section 
1355.45. Finally, appendix F contains a chart of allotments upon which 
the existing penalties are based. We propose instead the penalty 
calculations consistent with section 474(f) of the Act at section 
1355.46.

                                Attachment A.--Proposed Out-of-Home Care Elements
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Category                      Element           Response options            Section citation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
General information...............  State................  FIPS Code...........  1355.43(a)(1).
                                    Report date..........  Date................  1355.43(a)(2).
                                    Local agency.........  FIPS code...........  1355.43(a)(3).
                                    Child record number..  Number..............  1355.43(a)(4).
                                    Family record number.  Number..............  1355.43(a)(5).
Child information.................  Child's date of birth  Date................  1355.43(b)(1).
                                    Child's gender.......  Male................  1355.43(b)(2).
                                                           Female..............
                                    Race--American Indian  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(i)\1\.
                                     or Alaska Native.     No..................
                                    Race--Asian..........  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(ii).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Black or         Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(iii).
                                     African American.     No..................
                                    Race--Native Hawaiian  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(iv).
                                     or other Pacific      No..................
                                     Islander.
                                    Race--White..........  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(v).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Unknown........  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(vi).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Abandoned......  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(vii).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Declined.......  Yes.................  1355.43(b)(3)(viii).
                                                           No..................
                                    Child's Hispanic or    Yes.................  1355.43(b)(4).
                                     Latino ethnicity.     No..................
                                                           Unknown.............
                                                           Abandoned...........
                                                           Declined............
                                    Child's language.....  Verbal..............  1355.43(b)(5).
                                                           Pre-verbal..........
                                                           Non-verbal..........
                                    Language used........  [select all that      1355.43(b)(5)(i).
                                                            apply].
                                                           English.............
                                                           Spanish.............
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           -------- (specific
                                                            other language)..

[[Page 2119]]

 
                                    Language preference..  English.............  1355.43(b)(5)(ii).
                                                           Spanish.............
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           -------- (specific
                                                            other language)..
                                    Heath, behavioral or   Child has a           1355.43(b)(6).
                                     mental health          diagnosed condition.
                                     conditions.           No exam or
                                                            assessment
                                                            conducted..
                                                           Exam or assessment
                                                            conducted and
                                                            indicate no
                                                            condition..
                                                           Exam or assessment
                                                            conducted but
                                                            results not
                                                            received..
                                    Mental retardation...  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(i).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Visually impaired....  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(ii).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Hearing impaired.....  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(iii).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Physically disabled..  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(iv).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Anxiety disorder.....  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(v).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Childhood disorders..  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(vi).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Learning disability..  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(vii).
                                                           Does not apply......
                                    Substance use related  Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(viii).
                                     disorder.             Does not apply......
                                    Developmental          Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(ix).
                                     disability.           Does not apply......
                                    Other mental/          Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(x).
                                     emotional disorder.   Does not apply......
                                    Other diagnosed        Applies.............  1355.43(b)(6)(xi).
                                     condition.            Does not apply......
                                    Current immunizations  Current.............  1355.43(b)(7).
                                                           Not current.........
                                                           Not yet determined..
                                    Educational            Repeated grade......  1355.43(b)(8)(i).
                                     performance--Repeate  No repeated grades..
                                     d grades.             Not school age......
                                    Educational            Number..............  1355.43(b)(8)(ii).
                                     performance--Number
                                     of repeated grades.
                                    Special education....  Special education...  1355.43(b)(9).
                                                           No special
                                                            education..
                                                           Not yet determined..
                                    Prior adoption.......  Prior adoption......  1355.43(b)(10).
                                                           No prior adoption
                                                            abandoned..
                                    Prior adoption date..  Date................  1355.43(b)(10)(i).
                                    Prior adoption type..  Foster care adoption  1355.43(b)(10)(ii).
                                                            within State.
                                                           Foster care adoption
                                                            in another State..
                                                           Intercountry
                                                            adoption..
                                                           Other private or
                                                            independent
                                                            adoption..
                                    Prior adoption         FIPS code...........  1355.43(b)(10)(iii).
                                     location.
                                    Number of siblings     Number..............  1355.43(b)(11).
                                     living with the
                                     child at removal.
                                    Minor parent.........  Number..............  1355.43(b)(12).
                                    Child financial and    [select all that      1355.43(b)(13).
                                     medical assistance.    apply].
                                                           SSI or other Social
                                                            Security Act
                                                            benefits..
                                                           Title XIX Medicaid..
                                                           Title XXI SCHIP.....
                                                           State adoption
                                                            assistance..
                                                           State foster care
                                                            payment..
                                                           Child support.......
                                                           Other source of
                                                            financial support..
                                                           No support/
                                                            assistance
                                                            received..
                                    Title IV-E foster      Yes.................  1355.43(b)(14).
                                     care during report    No..................
                                     period.

[[Page 2120]]

 
Parent or legal guardian            Year of birth of       Year................  1355.43(c)(1).
 information.                        first parent or       Abandoned...........
                                     legal guardian.
                                    Year of birth of       Year................  1355.43(c)(2).
                                     second parent or      Abandoned...........
                                     legal guardian.
                                    Mother married at      Married.............  1355.43(c)(3).
                                     time of the child's   Unmarried...........
                                     birth.                Abandoned...........
                                                           Unknown.............
                                    Termination of         Date................  1355.43(c)(4).
                                     parental rights
                                     petition--first
                                     parent.
                                    Termination of         Date................  1355.43(c)(5).
                                     parental rights--
                                     second parent.
                                    Termination of         Date................  1355.43(c)(6).
                                     parental rights
                                     petition--second
                                     parent.
                                    Termination of         Date................  1355.43(c)(7).
                                     parental rights--
                                     second parent.
Removal information...............  Date of child's        Date(s).............  1355.43(d)(1).
                                     removal.
                                    Removal transaction    Date(s).............  1355.43(d)(2).
                                     date.
                                    Environment at         Household...........  1355.43(d)(3).
                                     removal.              Other environment or
                                                            facility..
                                                           Abandoned...........
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(i).
                                     at removal--
                                     Biological parent.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(ii).
                                     at removal--Adoptive
                                     parent.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(iii).
                                     at removal--
                                     Stepparent.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(iv).
                                     at removal--Legal
                                     guardian.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(v).
                                     at removal--Maternal
                                     grandparent.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(vi).
                                     at removal--Paternal
                                     grandparent.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(vii).
                                     at removal--Other
                                     maternal relative.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(viii).
                                     at removal--Other
                                     paternal relative.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(ix).
                                     at removal--Adult
                                     sibling.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(x).
                                     at removal--Parent's
                                     or caretaker's
                                     paramour.
                                    Household composition  Number..............  1355.43(d)(4)(xi).
                                     at removal--Other
                                     non-relative
                                     caretaker.
                                    Biological parents'    Married and living    1355.43(d)(5).
                                     marital status.        together.
                                                           Married and living
                                                            separately..
                                                           Unmarried and living
                                                            together..
                                                           Unmarried and living
                                                            separately..
                                    Manner of removal....  Court ordered         1355.43(d)(6).
                                                            removal.
                                                           Voluntary placement
                                                            agreement..
                                                           Not yet determined..
                                    Child and family       [select all that
                                     circumstances at       apply].
                                     removal.              Child status
                                                            offender..
                                                           Child delinquency...
                                                           Runaway.............
                                                           Physical abuse......
                                                           Sexual abuse........
                                                           Psychological or
                                                            emotional abuse.
                                                           Neglect.............
                                                           Medical neglect.....
                                                           Domestic violence...
                                                           Abandonment.........
                                                           Failure to provide
                                                            supervision.
                                                           Failure to return...
                                                           Caretaker's alcohol
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Caretaker's drug
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Child alcohol use...
                                                           Child drug use......
                                                           Prenatal alcohol
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Prenatal drug
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Diagnosed condition.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            mental health
                                                            services.

[[Page 2121]]

 
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            medical services.
                                                           Child behavior
                                                            problem.
                                                           Death of caretaker..
                                                           Incarceration of
                                                            caretaker.
                                                           Caretaker's
                                                            inability to cope.
                                                           Caretaker's limited
                                                            mental capacity.
                                                           Inadequate housing..
                                                           Disrupted
                                                            intercountry
                                                            adoption.
                                                           Voluntary             1355.43(d)(7).
                                                            relinquishment.
Living arrangement and provider     Date of living         Date................  1355.43(e)(1).
 information.                        arrangement.
                                    Foster family home...  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(2).
                                                           No..................
                                    Foster family home     Licensed home.......  1355.43(e)(3).
                                     type.                 Therapeutic foster
                                                            family home..
                                                           Shelter care foster
                                                            family home..
                                                           Relative foster
                                                            family home..
                                                           Pre-adoptive home...
                                    Other living           Group home-family     1355.43(e)(4).
                                     arrangement type.      operated.
                                                           Group home-staff
                                                            operated..
                                                           Group home-shelter
                                                            care..
                                                           Residential
                                                            treatment center..
                                                           Child care
                                                            institution..
                                                           Child care
                                                            institution--shelte
                                                            r care..
                                                           Supervised
                                                            independent living..
                                                           Juvenile justice
                                                            facility..
                                                           Medical or
                                                            rehabilitative
                                                            facility..
                                                           Psychiatric
                                                            facility..
                                                           Runaway.............
                                    Private agency living  Private agency        1355.43(e)(5).
                                     arrangement.           involvement.
                                                           No private agency
                                                            involvement..
                                                           Runaway.............
                                    Location of living     Out-of-State........  1355.43(e)(6).
                                     arrangement.          In-state............
                                                           Out-of-country......
                                                           Runaway.............
                                    State or country       FIPS code...........  1355.43(e)(7).
                                     where child is
                                     living.
                                    Number of siblings     Number..............  1355.43(e)(8).
                                     placed together.
                                    Number of children     Number..............  1355.43(e)(9).
                                     living with the
                                     minor parent.
                                    Foster parent's        Married couple......  1355.43(e)(10).
                                     marital status.       Unmarried couple....
                                                           Separated...........
                                                           Single female.......
                                                           Single male.........
                                    Foster parent(s)       Paternal
                                     relationship to the    grandparent(s).
                                     child.                Maternal
                                                            grandparent(s)..
                                                           Other paternal
                                                            relative(s).
                                                           Other maternal
                                                            relative(s).
                                                           Sibling(s)..........
                                                           Non-relative(s).....  1355.43(e)(11).
                                    Year of birth for      Year................  1355.43(e)(12).
                                     first foster parent.
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(i).
                                     parent--American      No..................
                                     Indian or Alaska
                                     Native.
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(ii).
                                     parent--Asian.        No..................
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(iii).
                                     parent--Black or      No..................
                                     African American.
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(iv).
                                     parent--Native        No..................
                                     Hawaiian or other
                                     Pacific Islander.
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(v).
                                     parent--White.        No..................
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(vi).
                                     parent--Unknown.      No..................
                                    Race of first foster   Yes.................  1355.43(e)(13)(vii).
                                     parent--Declined.     No..................
                                    Hispanic or Latino     Yes.................  1355.43(e)(14).
                                     ethnicity of first    No..................
                                     foster parent.        Unknown.............
                                                           Declined............
                                    Languages used by      [select all that
                                     first foster parent.   apply].

[[Page 2122]]

 
                                                           English.............
                                                           Spanish.............
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           --------(specific     1355.43(e)(15)(i).
                                                            other language).
                                    Language preference    English.............
                                     for first foster
                                     parent.
                                                           Spanish.............
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           -------- (specific    1355.43(e)(15)(ii).
                                                            other language).
                                    Year of birth for      Year................  1355.43(e)(16).
                                     second foster parent.
                                    Race of second foster  Applies.............  1355.43(e)(17)(i).
                                     parent--American      Does not apply......
                                     Indian or Alaska
                                     Native.
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(ii).
                                     parent--Asian.        No..................
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(iii).
                                     parent--Black or      No..................
                                     African American.
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(iv).
                                     parent--Native        No..................
                                     Hawaiian or other
                                     Pacific Islander.
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(v).
                                     parent--White.        No..................
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(vi).
                                     parent--Unknown.      No..................
                                    Race of second foster  Yes.................  1355.43(e)(17)(vii).
                                     parent--Declined.     No..................
                                    Hispanic or Latino     Yes.................  1355.43(e)(18).
                                     ethnicity of second   No..................
                                     foster parent.        Unknown.............
                                                           Declined............
                                    Languages used by      [select all that      1355.43(e)(19)(i).
                                     second foster parent.  apply].
                                                           English.............
                                                           Spanish.............
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           -------- (specific
                                                            other language)..
                                    Language preference    English.
                                     for second foster     Spanish.............
                                     parent.
                                                           Chinese.............
                                                           French..............
                                                           German..............
                                                           Tagalog.............
                                                           Sign Language.......
                                                           -------- (specific    1355.43(e)(19)(ii).
                                                            other language).
                                    Sources of Federal     [select all that
                                     assistance in living   apply].
                                     arrangement.          Title IV-E foster
                                                            care..
                                                           Title IV-E adoption
                                                            subsidy.
                                                           Title IV-A TANF.....
                                                           Title IV-B..........
                                                           Title XX SSBG.......  1355.43(e)(20).
                                                           Other federal
                                                            source..
                                                           No federal source...
                                    Amount of payment....  Dollar amount.......  1355.43(e)(21).
Permanency plan information and     Permanency plan......  Reunify with parents  1355.43(f)(1).
 ongoing circumstances.                                     or legal guardians.
                                                           Live with other
                                                            relatives..
                                                           Adoption............
                                                           Planned permanent
                                                            living arrangement..
                                                           Independent living..
                                                           Relative
                                                            guardianship..
                                                           Non-relative
                                                            guardianship..
                                                           Permanency plan not
                                                            established..

[[Page 2123]]

 
                                    Date of permanency     Date................  1355.43(f)(2).
                                     plan.
                                    Concurrent planning..  Concurrent plan.....  1355.43(f)(3).
                                                           No concurrent plan..
                                                           Not applicable......
                                    Concurrent permanency  Live with other       1355.43(f)(3)(i).
                                     plan.                  relatives.
                                                           Adoption............
                                                           Planned permanent
                                                            living arrangement..
                                                           Independent living..
                                                           Relative
                                                            guardianship..
                                                           Non-relative
                                                            guardianship..
                                    Date of concurrent     Date................  1355.43(f)(3)(ii).
                                     plan.
                                    Date of periodic       Date................  1355.43(f)(4).
                                     review or permanency
                                     hearing.
                                    Juvenile justice       Not involved........  1355.43(f)(5).
                                     involvement.          Alleged status
                                                            offender..
                                                           Status offender.....
                                                           Alleged juvenile
                                                            delinquent..
                                                           Adjudicated
                                                            delinquent..
                                    Circumstances at       [select all that
                                     initial permanency     apply].
                                     plan.                 Physical abuse......
                                                           Sexual abuse........
                                                           Psychological or
                                                            emotional abuse.
                                                           Neglect.............
                                                           Medical neglect.....
                                                           Domestic violence...
                                                           Abandonment.........
                                                           Failure to provide
                                                            supervision.
                                                           Failure to return...
                                                           Caretaker's alcohol
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Caretaker's drug
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Child alcohol use...
                                                           Child drug use......
                                                           Prenatal alcohol
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Prenatal drug
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Diagnosed condition.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            mental health
                                                            services.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            medical services.
                                                           Child behavior
                                                            problem.
                                                           Death of caretaker..
                                                           Incarceration of
                                                            caretaker.
                                                           Caretaker's
                                                            inability to cope.
                                                           Caretaker's limited
                                                            mental capacity.
                                                           Inadequate housing..
                                                           Disrupted
                                                            intercountry
                                                            adoption.
                                                           Voluntary
                                                            relinquishment.
                                                           None of the above...  1355.43(f)(6).
                                    Annual circumstances.  [select all that
                                                            apply].
                                                           Physical abuse......
                                                           Sexual abuse........
                                                           Psychological or
                                                            emotional abuse.
                                                           Neglect.............
                                                           Medical neglect.....
                                                           Domestic violence...
                                                           Abandonment.........
                                                           Failure to provide
                                                            supervision.
                                                           Failure to return...
                                                           Caretaker's alcohol
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Caretaker's drug
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Child alcohol use...
                                                           Child drug use......
                                                           Prenatal alcohol
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Prenatal drug
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Diagnosed condition.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            mental health
                                                            services.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            medical services.
                                                           Child behavior
                                                            problem.
                                                           Death of caretaker..

[[Page 2124]]

 
                                                           Incarceration of
                                                            caretaker.
                                                           Caretaker's
                                                            inability to cope.
                                                           Caretaker's limited
                                                            mental capacity.
                                                           Inadequate housing..
                                                           Disrupted
                                                            intercountry
                                                            adoption.
                                                           Voluntary
                                                            relinquishment.
                                                           None of the above...  1355.43(f)(7).
                                    Annual circumstances   Date................  1355.43(f)(8).
                                     date.
General exit information..........  Date of exit.........  Date................  1355.43(g)(1).
                                    Exit transaction date  Date................  1355.43(g)(2).
                                    Exit reason..........  Reunify with parents/
                                                            legal guardian.
                                                           Live with other
                                                            relatives.
                                                           Adoption............
                                                           Emancipation........
                                                           Relative
                                                            guardianship.
                                                           Non-relative
                                                            guardianship.
                                                           Transfer to another
                                                            agency.
                                                           Runaway.............
                                                           Death of child......  1355.43(g)(3).
                                    Death due to abuse/    Provider responsible  1355.43(g)(4).
                                     neglect in care.      Provider not
                                                            responsible..
                                                           Not yet determined..
                                    Transfer to another    Transfer to another
                                     agency.                agency.
                                                           Tribe or tribal
                                                            agency.
                                                           Juvenile justice
                                                            agency.
                                                           Mental health agency
                                                           Other State agency..
                                                           Private agency......  1355.43(g)(5).
                                    Circumstances at exit  [select all that
                                     from foster care.      apply].
                                                           Physical abuse......
                                                           Sexual abuse........
                                                           Psychological or
                                                            emotional abuse.
                                                           Neglect.............
                                                           Medical neglect.....
                                                           Domestic violence...
                                                           Abandonment.........
                                                           Failure to provide
                                                            supervision.
                                                           Failure to return...
                                                           Caretaker's alcohol
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Caretaker's drug
                                                            abuse.
                                                           Child alcohol use...
                                                           Child drug use......
                                                           Prenatal alcohol
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Prenatal drug
                                                            exposure.
                                                           Diagnosed condition.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            mental health
                                                            services.
                                                           Inadequate access to
                                                            medical services.
                                                           Child behavior
                                                            problem.
                                                           Death of caretaker..
                                                           Incarceration of
                                                            caretaker.
                                                           Caretaker's
                                                            inability to cope.
                                                           Caretaker's limited
                                                            mental capacity.
                                                           Inadequate housing..
                                                           Disrupted
                                                            intercountry
                                                            adoption.
                                                           Voluntary
                                                            relinquishment.
                                                           None of the above...  1355.43(g)(6).
Exit to adoption information......  Adoptive parent(s)     Married couple......  1355.43(h)(1).
                                     marital status.       Unmarried couple....
                                                           Single female.......
                                                           Single male.........
                                    Adoptive parent(s)     Paternal              1355.43(h)(2).
                                     relationship to the    grandparent(s).
                                     child.                Maternal
                                                            grandparent(s)..
                                                           Other paternal
                                                            relative(s)..
                                                           Other maternal
                                                            relative(s)..
                                                           Sibling(s)..........
                                                           Non-relative(s).....
                                                           Foster parent(s)....
                                    Date of birth of       Date................  1355.43(h)(3).
                                     first adoptive
                                     parent.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(i).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     American Indian or
                                     Alaska Native.

[[Page 2125]]

 
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(ii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Asian.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(iii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Black or African
                                     American.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(iv).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Native Hawaiian or
                                     other Pacific
                                     Islander.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(v).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     White.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(vi).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Unknown.
                                    Race of first          Yes.................  1355.43(h)(4)(vii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Declined.
                                    First adoptive         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(5).
                                     parent's Hispanic or  No..................
                                     Latino ethnicity.     Unknown.............
                                                           Declined............
                                    Date of birth of       Date................  1355.43(h)(6).
                                     second adoptive
                                     parent.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(i).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     American Indian or
                                     Alaska Native.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(ii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Asian.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(iii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Black or African
                                     American.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(iv).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Native Hawaiian or
                                     other Pacific
                                     Islander.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(v).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     White.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(vi).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Unknown.
                                    Race of second         Yes.................  1355.43(h)(7)(vii).
                                     adoptive parent--     No..................
                                     Declined.
                                    Second Adoptive        Yes.................  1355.43(h)(8).
                                     parent's Hispanic or  No..................
                                     Latino ethnicity.     Unknown.............
                                                           Declined............
                                    Interstate or          Interstate adoption.  1355.43(h)(9).
                                     intercountry          Intercountry
                                     adoption.              adoption..
                                                           Intrastate adoption.
                                    Interjurisdictional    FIPS code...........  1355.43(h)(10).
                                     adoption location.
                                    Adoption placing       State agency........  1355.43(h)(11).
                                     agency or individual. Private agency under
                                                            a contract/
                                                            agreement..
                                                           Tribal agency with
                                                            agreement..
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Some citations are not sequential in this table because the table does not include paragraphs which contain
  instructions rather than data element definitions. For example section 1355.43(b) contains instructions on the
  data elements related to a child's race in section 1355.43(b)(i) through (b)(viii).


             Attachment B.--Proposed Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Subsidy Data File Elements
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Category                      Element           Response options            Section citation
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
General Information...............  State................  FIPS Code...........  1355.44(a)(1).
                                    Report date..........  Date................  1355.44(a)(2).
                                    Child record number..  Number..............  1355.44(a)(3).
Child Demographics................  Date of birth........  Date................  1355.44(b)(1).
                                    Race--American Indian  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(i).
                                     or Alaska Native.     No..................
                                    Race--Asian..........  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(ii).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Black or         Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(iii).
                                     African American.     No..................
                                    Race--Native Hawaiian  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(iv).
                                     or other Pacific      No..................
                                     Islander.
                                    Race--White..........  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(v).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Unknown........  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(vi).
                                                           No..................
                                    Race--Abandoned......  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(vii).
                                                           No..................

[[Page 2126]]

 
                                    Race--Declined.......  Yes.................  1355.44(b)(2)(viii).
                                                           No..................
                                    Hispanic or Latino     Yes.................  1355.44(b)(3).
                                     ethnicity.            No..................
                                                           Unknown.............
                                                           Abandoned...........
                                                           Declined............
Adoption assistance agreement       Adoption assistance    Title IV-E agreement  1355.44(c)(1).
 information.                        agreement type.       State agreement.....
                                    Adoption subsidy       Dollar amount.......  1355.44(c)(2).
                                     amount.
                                    Nonrecurring adoption  Expenses paid.......  1355.44(c)(3).
                                     expenses.             No expenses paid....
                                    Nonrecurring adoption  Dollar amount.......  1355.44(c)(4).
                                     expenses amount.
                                    Final adoption.......  Adoption final......  1355.44(c)(5).
                                                           Adoption not final..
                                    Adoption finalization  Date................  1355.44(c)(6).
                                     date.
                                    Interstate and         Interstate adoption.  1355.44(c)(7).
                                     intercountry          Intrastate adoption.
                                     adoption.             Intercountry
                                                            adoption--incoming..
                                                           Intercountry
                                                            adoption--outgoing..
                                    Interjurisdictional    FIPS code...........  1355.44(c)(8).
                                     adoption location.
                                    Adoption placing       State agency........  1355.44(c)(9).
                                     agency or individual. Private agency under
                                                            a contract/
                                                            agreement..
                                                           Tribal agency with
                                                            agreement..
                                                           Tribal agency.......
                                                           Private agency......
                                                           Birth parent........
                                                           Independent person..
                                    Agreement termination  Date................  1355.44(c)(10).
                                     date.
Subsidized guardianship             Subsidized             Title IV-E            1355.44(d)(1).
 information.                        guardianship           guardianship.
                                     agreement type.       State guardianship..
                                    Subsidized             Dollar amount.......  1355.44(d)(2).
                                     guardianship amount.
                                    Agreement termination  Date................  1355.44(d)(3).
                                     date.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

V. Impact Analysis

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires that regulations be drafted to 
ensure that they are consistent with the priorities and principles set 
forth in the Executive Order. The Department has determined that this 
proposed rule is consistent with these priorities and principles. In 
particular, we have determined that a regulation is the best and most 
cost-effective way to implement the statutory mandate for a data 
collection system regarding children in foster care and those that are 
adopted and support other statutory obligations to provide oversight of 
State-operated child welfare programs. Moreover, we have consulted with 
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and determined that these 
rules meet the criteria for a significant regulatory action under 
Executive Order 12866. Thus, they were subject to OMB review.
    We have determined that the costs to the States as a result of this 
rule will not be significant. At least half of the costs that States 
incur as a result of the revisions to AFCARS will be eligible for 
Federal financial participation. Depending on the cost category and 
each State's approved plans for title IV-E and cost allocation, States 
may claim allowable costs as Statewide Automated Child Welfare 
Information System costs at the 50% rate, administrative costs for the 
proper and efficient administration of the State plan at the 50% rate, 
or training of State-agency staff at the 75% rate. We estimate that 
States costs will be approximately $36 million annually for AFCARS for 
the first five years of implementation, half of which ($18 million) we 
estimate will be reimbursed by the Federal government as allowable 
costs under title IV-E. Additional costs to the Federal government to 
design a system to collect the new AFCARS data are expected to be 
minimal.
Alternatives Considered
    We considered whether alternative approaches could meet ACF and 
State needs but determined that they could not. First, we considered 
whether other existing data sets could yield similar information. We 
determined that AFCARS is the only comprehensive case-level data set on 
the incidence and experiences of children who are in foster care and/or 
achieve adoption with the involvement of the State child welfare 
agency. Further, we are required by section 479 of the Act to establish 
and maintain such a data system, so other data sources could not meet 
our statutory mandate. We also considered whether we should permit 
States to sample and report information on a representative population 
of children. We determined that there are several significant problems 
with using a sampling approach for collecting data on foster care and 
adoption. First, sampling would severely limit the use of AFCARS data. 
For example, ACF would be unable to collect reliable sample data for 
the title IV-E foster care eligibility reviews and the Child and Family 
Services Reviews or respond to other initiatives such as the Annual 
Outcomes Report to Congress and Adoption Incentives using sampling 
data. Second, when using a sample, small population subgroups (e.g. 
children who spend very long periods in foster care or children who get 
adopted or run away) would occur so rarely in the data such that 
analysis on these subgroups would not be meaningful.

[[Page 2127]]

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

    The Secretary certifies under 5 U.S.C. 605(b), as enacted by the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (Pub. L. 96-354), that this rule will not 
result in a significant impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. This proposed rule does not affect small entities because it 
is applicable only to State agencies that administer title IV-B and IV-
E of the Act.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (Pub. L. 104-4) requires agencies 
to prepare an assessment of anticipated costs and benefits before 
proposing any rule that may result in an annual expenditure by State, 
local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private 
sector, of $100,000,000 or more (adjusted annually for inflation). This 
proposed rule does not impose any mandates on State, local or tribal 
governments, or the private sector that will result in an annual 
expenditure of $100,000,000 or more.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (Pub. L. 104-13), all Departments 
are required to submit to OMB for review and approval any reporting or 
record-keeping requirements inherent in a proposed or final rule. This 
NPRM contains information collection requirements in sections 1355.43, 
the foster care data file and 1355.44, the adoption assistance and 
guardianship subsidy data file, that the Department has submitted to 
OMB for its review. In addition, the NPRM proposes to validate whether 
the State complies with the AFCARS out-of-home care standards 
established in section 1355.45 by checking for errors in logic that 
mean that the data could not be accurate. However, these error checks 
are not information collection requirements themselves as they do not 
require the State to produce, maintain or submit information to ACF, 
and so are not a part of the burden calculations. Rather, the error 
checks will be performed by ACF on each State's out-of-home care data 
file to validate that the State is providing the data as specified in 
the data file requirements in section 1355.43. The error checks are not 
appended to this regulation as they are rather technical aspects of 
data reporting that cannot be completed until ACF issues a final rule 
that contains the required data elements.
    Collection of information for AFCARS is currently authorized under 
OMB number 0980-0267. However, this NPRM significantly changes the 
collection requirements. We estimate that burden hours will increase to 
673,234 as a result of the provisions in this NPRM. The respondents to 
the information collection in this proposed rule are State agencies.
    The Department requires this collection of information to address 
the data collection requirements of section 479 of the Act. 
Specifically, the law requires the Department to develop a data 
collection system that can provide comprehensive national information 
on the demographic characteristics of adopted and foster children and 
their parents; the status of the foster care population; the number and 
characteristics of children placed in or removed from foster care; 
children adopted or with respect to whom adoptions have been 
terminated, and children placed in foster care outside the State which 
has placement and care responsibility; and the extent and nature of 
assistance provided by government adoption and foster care programs and 
the characteristics of the children to whom such assistance is 
provided.
    Further, this information is critical to our efforts to: assess a 
State's compliance with titles IV-B and IV-E of the Act and the CFSRs 
(45 CFR 1355.31 through 1355.37), conduct title IV-E eligibility 
reviews (45 CFR 1356.71), implement the Adoption Incentive Payments 
program at section 473A of the Act and for other program purposes 
previously outlined.
    The following are estimates:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                Number of
               Collection                     Number of       responses per    Average burden     Total burden
                                             respondents       respondent       per response          hours
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1355.43 Foster care data file...........                52                 2              5556           577,776
1355.44 Adoption assistance and                         52                 2               918            95,458
 guardianship subsidy data file.........
                                         -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total...............................  ................  ................  ................          673,234
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Average burden hours per respondent are rounded.

    We arrive at these estimates after taking into consideration the 
existing foster care, adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy 
populations; factoring in the increase of burden in accordance with 
this proposed rule and efficiencies in reporting; and the amount of 
caseworker and information system staff time to collect and report the 
information. PRA rules require that we estimate the total burden 
created by this NPRM regardless of what information is already 
available to States. Thus, these burden hours are substantially higher 
than currently authorized by OMB, and may be an overestimate since we 
are unable to account for information that States currently collect for 
their own purposes, but we propose to collect for the first time under 
this NPRM. Below we describe in detail how we arrived at the estimated 
burden.
Foster Care Data File Burden
    1. Our first step was to estimate the foster care reporting 
population at the approximate time of implementation. We used 
information from FY 2003 AFCARS data and applied the following 
assumptions:
     We assume that the proportion of children in SACWIS States 
versus non-SACWIS States will remain constant.
     Children newly entering foster care annually. We assume 
that the national number of children who enter foster care each year 
will rise by five percent due to our new reporting population (e.g., 
inclusive of some children in the State's placement and care 
responsibility who are in living arrangements outside of the scope of 
our program rules for foster care). Although we do not know exactly how 
many children will be a part of the new reporting population who are 
not currently reported as in foster care under the existing AFCARS, we 
believe this new reporting population will account for a minor increase 
in the number of children in foster care.
     Children served annually. We assume that the number of 
children served annually in foster care will rise by five percent due 
to our new reporting population.
     Children exiting foster care. We assume that the number of 
children who exit foster care annually will remain about the same as it 
is currently, in part because we have made a change in the way States 
report exits from foster care

[[Page 2128]]

(i.e., by no longer requiring the State to report certain children who 
are returned home without a court discharge of the State agency's 
placement and care responsibility as still in foster care), and we 
believe that any increase in foster care exits that may have occurred 
due to the change in the foster care reporting population will be 
offset by the changes to how States report exits.
    As a result we estimate 503,848 children served in SACWIS States 
and 75,288 in non-SACWIS States; 264,971 children with new entries into 
foster care in SACWIS States, and 46,760 in non-SACWIS States; and 
278,068 children who exit foster care, approximately 49,000 of whom 
would exit to adoption.
    2. Our second step was to estimate the number of recordkeeping 
hours that State workers will spend on meeting AFCARS requirements. We 
used information from our existing AFCARS collection approved by OMB as 
a foundation and applied the following assumptions:
     Recordkeeping will require more time in a non-SACWIS State 
than it does for a SACWIS State.
     Entering information into an information system for a 
child newly entering foster care will take approximately an hour for 
SACWIS States and 1.5 hours for non-SACWIS States.
     Updating the foster care record on average will take 20 
minutes for SACWIS States and 30 minutes for non-SACWIS States.
     Workers will take approximately .1 hour to enter exit data 
for non-adoption cases and an additional 30 minutes for adoption cases.
    We multiplied the time spent on the various recordkeeping 
activities as outlined in this step by the foster care caseload numbers 
described above in step 1, and arrived at a total of 576,216 
recordkeeping hours for all children in the foster care population 
annually.
    3. Our third step was to estimate the time spent on actually 
reporting the information (e.g., submitting the foster care file). We 
used the following assumptions to develop the reporting hours estimate:
     We anticipate that States will be using a new technology 
such as XML to transmit the data and States will need time to become 
familiar with and efficient in reporting their data in the first years 
of implementing the new procedures. This will increase the amount of 
time spent reporting.
     The proposed foster care data file is comprised of many 
elements of the existing foster care and adoption files. Therefore, our 
estimate should be higher than the sum of the existing reporting burden 
hours of eight hours for the foster care file and four hours for the 
adoption file.
    We estimate that the proposed foster care file will increase the 
reporting burden by approximately 25 percent or by 3 hours, for a total 
of 15 hours. We then multiplied 52 State agencies and two report 
periods with the 15 reporting burden hours, which results in an annual 
reporting burden of 1,560 hours.
    4. Finally, we calculated the total burden hours for the foster 
care file as 577,776 hours by combining the recordkeeping (576,216) and 
reporting burden (1,560). Dividing this national and annual figure by 
the 52 State agencies and two semi-annual report periods, we arrive at 
approximately 5,556 burden hours per respondent each report period.
Adoption Assistance and Guardianship Subsidy File
    1. We first estimated the annual burden associated with the 
adoption assistance elements.
     In the Department's FY 2006 budget, we estimated that an 
average monthly total of 369,000 children will be served in that year 
by the title IV-E adoption assistance program. Approximately 80% of all 
children receiving adoption assistance are served by the title IV-E 
program, so we estimate that in FY 2006 approximately 461,250 children 
will be the subject of an adoption assistance agreement.
     We expect adoption workers to spend .2 hours annually 
recording data in accordance with this NPRM on each child under an 
adoption assistance agreement. Most information in the adoption file is 
demographic and static and does not need to be updated. Further, most 
agreements are updated or changed on an annual or biennial basis, 
unless the family circumstances change, requiring small amounts of 
record-keeping.
     We calculate recordkeeping for adoption assistance 
information to take approximately 92,250 hours (.2 hours x 461,250 
children).
    2. We then estimated the annual burden associated with the 
guardianship subsidy elements.
     We estimate that the guardianship reporting population is 
comprised of approximately 30,000 children based on information 
obtained from a number of sources describing States subsidized 
guardianship programs.
     Like the adoption data, this information is static and 
will change infrequently, so we estimate worker time of approximately 
.1 hours annually on record keeping.
     We calculate recordkeeping for the guardianship subsidy 
information to take approximately 3,000 burden hours (.1 hours x 30,000 
children).
    3. In addition, we estimate that burden associated with actually 
reporting the adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy file to ACF 
will take each State 2 hours each report period. We then multiplied 52 
State agencies and two report periods with the 2 reporting burden 
hours, which results in an annual reporting burden of 208 hours.
    4. Finally, we calculated the total burden hours for the adoption 
assistance and guardianship subsidy file as 95,458 hours by combining 
the recordkeeping (92,250 + 3,000) and reporting burden (208). Dividing 
this national total by the 52 State agencies and two report periods we 
arrive at approximately 918 burden hours per respondent per report 
period.
    The Administration for Children and Families will consider comments 
by the public on this proposed collection of information in the 
following areas:
    1. Evaluating whether the proposed collection is necessary for the 
proper performance of the functions of ACF, including whether the 
information will have practical utility;
    2. Evaluating the accuracy of ACF's estimate of the proposed 
collection of information, including the validity of the methodology 
and assumptions used;
    3. Enhancing the quality, usefulness, and clarity of the 
information to be collected; and
    4. Minimizing the burden of the collection of information on those 
who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, 
electronic, mechanical, or other technology, e.g., permitting 
electronic submission of responses.
    OMB is required to make a decision concerning the collection of 
information contained in these proposed regulations between 30 and 60 
days after publication of this document in the Federal Register. 
Therefore, a comment is best assured of having its full effect if OMB 
receives it within 30 days of publication. This does not affect the 
deadline for the public to comment to the Department on the proposed 
regulations. Written comments to OMB for the proposed information 
collection should be sent directly to the following: Office of 
Management and Budget, either by fax to 202-395-6974 or by e-mail to 
[email protected]. Please mark faxes and e-mails to the 
attention of the desk officer for ACF.

[[Page 2129]]

Congressional Review

    This regulation is not a major rule as defined in 5 U.S.C. Chapter 
8.

Assessment of Federal Regulations on Policies and Families

    Section 654 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations 
Act of 1999 requires Federal agencies to determine whether a proposed 
policy or regulation may affect family well-being. If the agency's 
determination is affirmative, then the agency must prepare an impact 
assessment addressing criteria specified in the law. These proposed 
regulations will have an impact on family well-being as defined in the 
legislation by collecting information on children who are in foster 
care, are subject to an adoption assistance agreement or are the 
beneficiaries of guardianship subsidies. We expect that States will be 
able to use this data to analyze factors that may affect the safety of 
children, permanency for children, and children's well-being. This 
information could lead to improvements in practice and policy to better 
serve children who are in foster care.

Executive Order 13132

    Executive Order 13132 on Federalism requires that Federal agencies 
consult with State and local government officials in the development of 
regulatory policies with Federalism implications. Consistent with 
Executive Order 13132, we specifically solicit comment from State and 
local government officials on this proposed rule.

List of Subjects in 45 CFR Part 1355

    Adoption and foster care, Child welfare, Grant programs--social 
programs.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 93.658, 
Foster Care Maintenance; 93.659, Adoption Assistance; 93.645, Child 
Welfare Services--State Grants).

    Dated: June 1, 2007.
Daniel C. Schneider,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.
    Approved: September 13, 2007.
Michael O. Leavitt,
Secretary.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on December 18, 2007.

    For the reasons set forth in the preamble we propose to amend 45 
CFR part 1355 as follows:

PART 1355--GENERAL

    1. The authority citation for part 1355 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 45 U.S.C. 620 et seq., 42 U.S.C. 670 et seq., 42 
U.S.C. 1302.

    2. Revise Sec.  1355.40 to read as follows:


Sec.  1355.40  Scope of the adoption and foster care analysis and 
reporting system.

    (a) This section applies to a State agency that administers titles 
IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act.
    (b) A State agency described in paragraph (a) of this section must 
collect information on the characteristics and experiences of children 
in the reporting populations described in Sec.  1355.41 of this part. 
The State agency must submit the information collected to ACF on a 
semi-annual basis in an out-of-home care data file and adoption 
assistance and guardianship subsidy data file as required in section 
CFR 1355.42 of this part, pertaining to information described in 
Sec. Sec.  1355.43 and 1355.44 of this part.
    (c) As used for AFCARS, the term ``out-of-home care'' means any 
child under the title IV-B/IV-E State agency's responsibility for 
placement and care who is away from his/her parents or legal guardians 
for 24 hours or more regardless of the child's living arrangement, and 
who has not yet reached the State's age of majority.
    3. Add Sec. Sec.  1355.41 through 1355.46 to read as follows:


Sec.  1355.41  Reporting populations.

    (a) Out-of-home care reporting population.
    (1) In general, the State agency must report any child who is in 
out-of-home care consistent with 1355.40(c). The reporting population 
also includes a child in the following situations:
    (i) A child under the placement and care responsibility of another 
public agency with which the title IV-B/IV-E State agency has an 
agreement pursuant to section 472(a)(2) of the Social Security Act and 
on whose behalf the State agency makes title IV-E foster care 
maintenance payments.
    (ii) A youth for whom the State agency makes a title IV-E foster 
care maintenance payment even if the youth has reached the State's age 
of majority.
    (iii) A child in out-of-home care who is placed in a non-
traditional foster care setting such as in a detention facility, 
hospital, or jail.
    (iv) A child who is in out-of-home care but is not in a physical 
living arrangement because the child is missing or has run away; 
attending a camp, vacationing; or visiting with parents, relatives, 
caretakers or other persons.
    (2) A child remains in the out-of-home care reporting population 
until the State agency's placement and care responsibility ends, the 
child returns to his or her parent(s) or legal guardian(s), or the 
child reaches the State's age of majority and is not receiving title 
IV-E foster care maintenance payments. For AFCARS purposes, the period 
between a child's entry into and exit from out-of-home care reporting 
population is an out-of-home care episode.
    (b) Adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy reporting 
population. The State agency must report all children who are:
    (1) In an adoptive or pre-adoptive placement pursuant to a title 
IV-E adoption assistance agreement or a State adoption assistance 
agreement with the State agency that is or was in effect at some point 
during the current report period; or
    (2) Receiving or had received a subsidy pursuant to a guardianship 
agreement with the State agency at some point during the current report 
period.


Sec.  1355.42  Data reporting requirements.

    (a) Report periods and deadlines. There are two six-month report 
periods based on the Federal fiscal year; October 1 to March 31 and 
April 1 to September 30. In general, the State agency must submit the 
out-of-home care and adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data 
files to ACF within 15 days of the end of the report period (i.e., by 
April 15 and October 15). If the reporting deadline falls on a weekend, 
the State has until the following Monday to submit the file.
    (b) Out-of-home care data file. A State agency must report the 
information required in 45 CFR 1355.43 of this part pertaining to every 
child in the out-of-home care reporting population, in accordance with 
the following:
    (1) The State agency must report the most recent information for 
the applicable elements in 45 CFR 1355.43(a), (b) and (c) of this part.
    (2) Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3), the State agency must 
report the most recent information and all historical information for 
the applicable elements described in 45 CFR 1355.43(d), (e), (f), (g), 
and (h) of this part. This means that the State must report the 
information for the specified elements, about the child's entire 
experience in out-of-home care including the information about all of 
the child's out-of-home care episodes, unless paragraph (b)(3) applies 
for an out-of-home care episode.

[[Page 2130]]

    (3) For a child who had an out-of-home care episode(s) as defined 
in 45 CFR 1355.41(a) of this part prior to the effective date of this 
final rule, the State agency must report the information for the 
elements described in 45 CFR 1355.43(d)(1), (g)(1), and (g)(3) of this 
part for the out-of-home care episode(s) that occurred prior to the 
effective date of the final rule.
    (c) Adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data file. A State 
agency must report the most recent information for the applicable 
elements in 45 CFR 1355.44 of this part that pertains to every child in 
the adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy reporting population 
during the report period.
    (d) Reporting missing information. If the State agency fails to 
collect the information for an element, the State agency must report 
the element as blank or otherwise missing. The State agency is not 
permitted to default or map information that was not collected and is 
missing to a valid response option.
    (e) Electronic submission. The State agency must submit the 
required data files electronically according to ACF's specifications.
    (f) Record retention. The State agency must retain all records 
necessary to comply with the data requirements in 1355.42 through 
1355.44 of this part. Record retention rules in 45 CFR 92.42(b) and (c) 
are not applicable to AFCARS data requirements.


Sec.  1355.43  Out-of-home care data file elements.

    (a) General information--(1) State. Indicate the first two digits 
of the State's Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code for 
the State submitting the report to ACF.
    (2) Report date. The report date corresponds with the end of the 
current report period. Indicate the last month and the year of the 
report period.
    (3) Local agency. The local agency must be the county or a county 
equivalent unit that has primary responsibility for the child. Indicate 
the 5-digit Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) code for the 
local agency.
    (4) Child record number. Indicate the child's record number. This 
is an encrypted, unique person identification number that is the same 
for the child, no matter where the child lives while in the placement 
and care responsibility of the State agency in out-of-home care and 
across all report periods and episodes. If the child was previously 
adopted in the State, however, the State agency may provide a new 
record number for the child for a subsequent out-of-home care episode. 
The State agency must apply and retain the same encryption routine or 
method for the person identification number across all report periods. 
The record number must be encrypted in accordance with ACF standards.
    (5) Family record number. Indicate the family record number. This 
is an encrypted, unique family identification number which associates 
the child with the rest of the child's family. The family 
identification number must remain the same for the child's family, no 
matter where the child or family lives while the child is in the 
placement and care responsibility of the State agency. If the child's 
family remains the same, the family number must remain the same across 
all report periods and episodes. If the child's family changes due to 
adoption, the State agency must report a new family record number for 
the adoptive family. The State agency must apply and retain the same 
encryption routine or method for the family identification number 
across all report periods. The family record number must be encrypted 
in accordance with ACF standards.
    (b) Child information--(1) Child's date of birth. Indicate the 
month, day and year of the child's birth. If the actual date of birth 
is unknown because the child has been abandoned, provide an estimated 
date of birth. Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with 
others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.'' 
A date of birth that results in a child age of 22 years or more is an 
invalid response.
    (2) Child's gender. Indicate whether the child is ``male'' or 
``female,'' as appropriate.
    (3) Child's race. In general, a child's race is determined by the 
child or the child's parent(s). Indicate whether each race category 
listed in the elements described in paragraphs (b)(3)(i) through 
(b)(3)(viii) of this section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.''
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native child has origins in any of the original peoples of North 
or South America (including Central America), and maintains tribal 
affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian child has origins in any of the original 
peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent 
including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, 
Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
child has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander child has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A white child has origins in any of the original 
peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
    (vi) Race--unknown. The child or parent does not know the race, or 
at least one race of the child.
    (vii) Race--abandoned. The child's race is unknown because the 
child has been abandoned. Abandoned means that the child was left alone 
or with others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown 
and cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe 
haven.''
    (viii) Race--declined. The child or parent has declined to identify 
a race.
    (4) Child's Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. In general, a child's 
ethnicity is determined by the child or the child's parent(s). A child 
is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the child is a person of Cuban, 
Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish 
culture or origin, regardless of race. Indicate whether this category 
applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' If the parent/child does not know 
whether the child is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, indicate 
``unknown.'' If the child is abandoned indicate ``abandoned.'' 
Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with others and the 
parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and cannot be 
ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.'' If the 
child or parent refuses to identify the child's ethnicity, indicate 
``declined.''
    (5) Child's language. Indicate whether the child is verbal, pre-
verbal or non-verbal. ``Verbal'' means that the child uses a language. 
This includes a child who uses sign language, even if he/she does not 
speak. ``Pre-verbal'' means the child is not old enough to use 
language. ``Non-verbal'' means the child is of an appropriate age to 
use language but appears unable or incapable of using language. If the 
State agency indicates that the child is ``verbal,'' the State agency 
must complete the element Language used described in paragraph 
(b)(5)(i) of this section; otherwise leave that element blank.
    (i) Languages used. For a child who is deemed verbal in the element 
Child's language described in paragraph (b)(5), indicate all languages 
used by the child; otherwise leave this element blank. Select all of 
the following that apply,

[[Page 2131]]

and/or indicate which language the child uses if not specified: 
``English,'' ``Spanish,'' ``Chinese,'' ``French,'' ``German,'' 
``Tagalog,'' or ``Sign Language.''
    (ii) Language preference. For a child who uses two or more 
languages as indicated in the element Languages used described in 
paragraphs (b)(5)(i)), indicate the language with which the child has 
the greatest facility, or languages, if the child has a similar 
facility with two or more languages. If the child is not verbal or uses 
one language only, leave this element blank.
    (6) Health, behavioral or mental health conditions. Indicate 
whether the child has been diagnosed by a qualified professional, as 
defined by the State agency, as having a health, behavioral or mental 
health condition listed below, prior to or during the child's current 
out-of-home care episode. Indicate ``child has a diagnosed condition'' 
if a qualified professional has made such a diagnosis and indicate 
which of the following conditions listed in the elements described in 
paragraphs (b)(6)(i) through (b)(6)(xi) of this section apply or do not 
apply; otherwise leave those elements blank. Indicate ``no exam or 
assessment conducted'' if a qualified professional has not conducted a 
medical exam or assessment of the child. Indicate ``exam or assessment 
conducted and indicate no condition'' if a qualified professional has 
conducted a medical exam or assessment and has concluded that the child 
does not have one of the conditions listed below. Indicate ``exam or 
assessment conducted but results not received'' if a qualified 
professional has conducted a medical exam or assessment but the agency 
has not yet received the results of such an exam or assessment.
    (i) Mental retardation. The child has significantly sub-average 
general cognitive and motor functioning existing concurrently with 
deficits in adaptive behavior manifested during the developmental 
period that adversely affect a child's/youth's socialization and 
learning.
    (ii) Visually impaired. The child has a visual impairment that may 
significantly affect educational performance or development.
    (iii) Hearing impaired. The child has a hearing impairment, whether 
permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects educational 
performance.
    (iv) Physically disabled. The child has a physical condition that 
adversely affects the child's day-to-day motor functioning, including, 
but not limited to, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, 
muscular dystrophy, orthopedic impairments, and other physical 
disabilities.
    (v) Anxiety disorder. The child has one or more of the following 
over a long period of time and to a marked degree: Acute stress 
disorder, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-
compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, 
separation anxiety, social or specific phobia.
    (vi) Childhood disorders. The child has one or more of the 
following disorders over a long period of time and to a marked degree: 
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder or 
oppositional disorder.
    (vii) Learning disability. The child has an achievement level on 
individually administered, standardized tests in reading, mathematics, 
or written expression that is substantially below that expected for 
age, schooling, and level of intelligence.
    (viii) Substance use related disorder. The child has a dependency 
on alcohol or other drugs (legal or non-legal).
    (ix) Developmental disability. The child has been diagnosed with a 
developmental disability as defined in the Developmental Disabilities 
Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-402), Section 
102(8). This means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that 
is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of 
mental and physical impairments that manifests before the age of 22, is 
likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional 
limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life 
activity: Self-care; receptive and expressive language; learning; 
mobility; self-direction; capacity for independent living; economic 
self-sufficiency; and reflects the individual's need for a combination 
and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, 
individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of 
lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and 
coordinated. If a child is given the diagnosis of ``developmental 
disability,'' do not indicate the individual conditions that form the 
basis of this diagnosis separately.
    (x) Other mental/emotional disorder. The child has one or more of 
the following conditions over a long period of time and to a marked 
degree: Mood disorders, personality disorders or psychotic disorders.
    (xi) Other diagnosed condition. The child has a condition other 
than those described above that requires special medical care. This 
includes, but is not limited to, conditions such as a chronic illness, 
children diagnosed as HIV positive or children with AIDS.
    (7) Current immunizations. Indicate whether the child's 
immunizations are current and up-to-date as of the end of the report 
period. Indicate ``current'' if the child's immunizations are current 
and up-to-date, ``not current'' if the child's immunizations are not 
up-to-date, or ``not yet determined'' if the child's immunization 
records have not yet been obtained.
    (8) Educational performance. Indicate in the elements described in 
paragraphs (b)(8)(i) and (ii) of this section whether the child has 
repeated any grade(s) in school, and if so how many.
    (i) Repeated grades. Indicate ``repeated grade'' if the child has 
ever repeated any grade in school; ``no repeated grades'' if the child 
has never repeated any grades, or ``not school age'' if the child is 
not yet school age. If the State agency responds that the child has 
repeated grades, then the State agency must complete the element Number 
of repeated grades described in paragraph (b)(8)(ii) of this section.
    (ii) Number of repeated grades. If the child has repeated a grade 
as indicated in the element Repeated grades described in paragraph 
(b)(8)((i) of this section, indicate the number of grades repeated. If 
a child has repeated a particular grade multiple times, each time must 
be counted separately.
    (9) Special education. Indicate whether the child has received 
special education instruction during the report period. The term 
``special education,'' as defined in 20 U.S.C. 1401(29), means 
specifically designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the 
unique needs of a child with a disability. Indicate ``special 
education,'' if the child received special education, ``no special 
education,'' if the child did not receive special education or is not 
school age, or ``not yet determined'' if the State agency has not 
established whether the child is receiving special education.
    (10) Prior adoption. Indicate whether the child has experienced a 
prior finalized adoption before the current out-of-home care episode, 
including any public, private or independent adoption in the United 
States or in another country. Indicate ``prior adoption'' if the child 
has ever been legally adopted before, ``no prior adoption'' if the 
child has never been legally adopted, or ``abandoned'' if the 
information is unknown because the child has been abandoned. Abandoned 
means that the child was left alone or with others and the parent or 
legal guardian's identity is unknown and cannot be ascertained. This 
includes a child left at a ``safe

[[Page 2132]]

haven.'' If the child has experienced a prior adoption, the State 
agency must complete the data elements Prior adoption date and Prior 
adoption type described in paragraphs (b)(10)(i) and (ii) of this 
section; otherwise leave those elements blank.
    (i) Prior adoption date. Indicate the month and year that the prior 
adoption was finalized if the State agency indicated that the child was 
adopted previously in the element Prior adoption described in paragraph 
(b)(10) of this section. In the case of a prior intercountry adoption 
where the adoptive parents readopted the child in the United States, 
the State agency must provide the date of the adoption (either the 
original adoption in the home country or the readoption in the United 
States) that is considered final in accordance with the laws of the 
State. If the child was not previously adopted, leave this element 
blank.
    (ii) Prior adoption type. Indicate the type of adoption if the 
State agency indicated that the child was adopted previously in the 
element Prior adoption described in paragraph (b)(10) of this section. 
Indicate ``foster care adoption within State'' if the child was in 
foster care in the reporting State at the time the prior adoption was 
legalized. Indicate ``foster care adoption in another State'' if the 
child was in foster care in another State at the time the prior 
adoption was legalized. Indicate ``intercountry adoption'' if the 
child's prior adoption occurred in another country or the child was 
brought into the United States for the purposes of finalizing the prior 
adoption. Indicate ``other private or independent adoption'' if the 
child's prior adoption was neither a foster care nor an intercountry 
adoption as defined above. If the child was not previously adopted, 
leave this element blank.
    (iii) Prior adoption location. Indicate the FIPS code for the 
location, either State or country, in which the child was previously 
adopted if the State agency indicated that the prior adoption occurred 
outside of the reporting State in the element Prior adoption type 
described in paragraph (b)(10)(ii) of this section; otherwise leave 
blank.
    (11) Number of siblings living with the child at removal. Indicate 
the total number of siblings (biological, legal or by marriage) living 
with the child at the time of removal. Do not include the child who is 
the subject of this record or adult siblings. Indicate ``0'' if the 
child did not have any siblings living with him/her at the time of the 
child's removal.
    (12) Minor parent. Indicate the number of children of the young 
person reported to AFCARS. A young person has a child or children if 
the young person has given birth herself, or fathered any child or 
children who were born. This refers to biological parenthood. If the 
young person does not have a child, indicate ``0.'' If the State agency 
indicates that the young person has at least one child the State agency 
must complete the element Number of children living with the minor 
parent described in 45 CFR 1355.43(e)(9) of this part.
    (13) Child financial and medical assistance. Indicate all that 
apply at any point during the six-month report period. Indicate ``SSI 
or other Social Security benefits'' if the child is receiving support 
under title XVI of the Social Security Act. Indicate ``title XIX 
Medicaid'' if the child is eligible for and may be receiving assistance 
under the State's title XIX program for medical assistance, including 
any benefits through title XIX waivers or demonstration programs. 
Indicate ``title XXI SCHIP'' if the child is eligible for and receiving 
assistance under a State's Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) 
under title XXI of the Social Security Act, including any benefits 
under title XXI waivers or demonstration programs. Indicate ``State 
adoption assistance'' if the child is receiving a State adoption 
subsidy or other adoption assistance. Indicate ``State foster care 
payment'' if the child is receiving a foster care payment that is 
solely State-funded. Indicate ``child support'' if child support funds 
are being paid to the State agency on behalf of the child by assignment 
from the receiving parent. Indicate ``other source of financial 
support'' if the child is receiving financial support from another 
source not previously listed. Indicate ``no support/assistance 
received'' if none of these apply.
    (14) Title IV-E foster care during report period. Indicate whether 
a title IV-E foster care maintenance payment was paid on behalf of the 
child at any point during the report period with a ``yes'' or ``no'' as 
appropriate. Indicate ``yes'' if the child has met all eligibility 
requirements of section 472(a) of the Social Security Act and the State 
agency has claimed, or intends to claim Federal reimbursement for 
foster care maintenance payments made on the child's behalf during the 
report period.
    (c) Parent or legal guardian information--(1) Year of birth of 
first parent or legal guardian. If applicable, indicate the year of 
birth of the first parent (biological/legal/adoptive) or legal guardian 
to the child. A parent or legal guardian younger than 10 years old is 
not a valid response. If the child was abandoned indicate 
``abandoned.'' Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with 
others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.''
    (2) Year of birth of second parent or legal guardian. If 
applicable, indicate the year of birth of the second parent 
(biological/legal/adoptive) or legal guardian to the child. A parent or 
legal guardian younger than 10 years old is not a valid response. If 
the child was abandoned, indicate ``abandoned.'' Abandoned means that 
the child was left alone or with others and the parent or legal 
guardian's identity is unknown and cannot be ascertained. This includes 
a child left at a ``safe haven.''
    (3) Mother married at time of the child's birth. Indicate whether 
the child's biological mother was a married person at the time the 
child was born. Include common law marriage if legal in the State. 
Indicate ``married'' if the child's mother was married, ``unmarried'' 
if the child's mother was unmarried, ``abandoned'' if the child was 
abandoned, or ``unknown,'' if the child was adopted prior to the 
current out-of-home care episode and the State agency does not have 
this information. Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with 
others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.''
    (4) Termination of parental rights petition--first parent. Indicate 
the month, day and year that a petition to terminate the first 
biological, legal, and/or putative parent's rights was filed in court, 
if applicable.
    (5) Termination of parental rights--first parent. Enter the month, 
day and year that the court terminated the parental rights of the first 
biological, legal, and/or putative parent, if applicable. If the first 
parent is known to be deceased, enter the date of death.
    (6) Termination of parental rights petition--second parent. 
Indicate the month, day and year that a petition to terminate the 
second biological, legal and/or putative parent's rights was filed in 
court, if applicable.
    (7) Termination of parental rights--second parent. Enter the month, 
day and year that the court terminated the parental rights of the 
second biological, legal, and/or putative parent, if applicable. If the 
second parent is known to be deceased, enter the date of death.
    (d) Removal information--(1) Date of child's removal. Indicate the 
date(s) that the child was removed from his or her parents/legal 
guardians and placed in the placement and care responsibility of

[[Page 2133]]

the State agency for each removal. Indicate the month, day and year of 
each removal.
    (2) Removal transaction date. Indicate the removal transaction 
date(s) associated with each date of child's removal. The removal 
transaction date is a computer-generated, non-modifiable date that 
indicates the date the State agency entered the date of the child's 
removal from his/her parent/legal guardian. The State agency must enter 
the removal transaction date into the information system no later than 
15 days after the date of the child's removal from his/her parent/legal 
guardian. Indicate the month, day and year of each transaction date.
    (3) Environment at removal. Indicate the child's general 
environment at the time of each removal. Indicate ``household'' if the 
child was removed from the household of a parent, legal guardian or 
other caretaker. Indicate ``other environment or facility,'' if the 
child was not living with a parent, legal guardian or other caretaker 
at removal, such as if the child has run away or was in a facility or 
institution. Indicate ``abandoned'' if the child was abandoned at the 
time of removal. Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with 
others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.''
    (4) Household composition at removal. Indicate with whom the child 
was living as described in paragraphs (d)(4)(i) through (xi) of this 
section by indicating how many of such persons were in the household, 
if the State indicated that the child was removed from a household in 
the element described in paragraph (d)(3) of this section.
    (i) Biological parent. Indicate the number of biological parents 
with whom the child was living.
    (ii) Adoptive parent. Indicate the number of adoptive parents with 
whom the child was living.
    (iii) Stepparent. Indicate the number of stepparents with whom the 
child was living.
    (iv) Legal guardian. Indicate the number of legal guardians with 
whom the child was living. Include in this count any legal guardian 
regardless of any other relationship between the child and the 
guardian.
    (v) Maternal grandparent. Indicate the number of maternal 
grandparents (by biological, legal or marital connection) with whom the 
child was living.
    (vi) Paternal grandparent. Indicate the number of paternal 
grandparents (by biological, legal or marital connection) with whom the 
child was living.
    (vii) Other maternal relative. Indicate the number of other 
maternal relatives (by biological, legal or marital connection), with 
whom the child was living, such as an aunt, uncle or cousin.
    (viii) Other paternal relative. Indicate the number of other 
paternal relatives (by biological, legal or marital connection) with 
whom the child was living, such as an aunt, uncle or cousin.
    (ix) Adult sibling. Indicate the number of adult brothers or 
sisters with whom the child was living.
    (x) Parent's or caretaker's paramour. Indicate the number of 
paramours (i.e., a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner) of the child's 
parent or legal guardian with whom the child was living.
    (xi) Other non-relative caretaker. Indicate the number of non-
related caretakers with whom the child was living at the time of 
removal. For the purpose of this description, a caretaker is someone 
who has assumed (wholly or shared) responsibility for the day-to-day 
care of the child.
    (5) Biological parents' marital status. If the child was living 
with at least one biological parent as indicated in the element 
described in paragraph (d)(4)(i) of this section, indicate the 
relationship between the child's biological parents at the time of 
removal. Indicate ``married and living together'' if the child's 
biological parents were united in matrimony according to the laws of 
the State and living together at the time of the child's removal. 
Indicate ``married and living separately'' if the child's biological 
parents were united in matrimony according to the laws of the State and 
were not living together at the time of the child's removal. Indicate 
``unmarried and living together'' if the child's biological parents 
were not united in matrimony according to the laws of the State but 
were living together at the time of the child's removal. Indicate 
``unmarried and living separately'' if the child's biological parents 
were not united in matrimony according to the laws of the State and 
were not living together at the time of the child's removal. Indicate 
``deceased parent'' if one of the child's biological parents was 
deceased at the time of the child's removal.
    (6) Manner of removal. Indicate the State's authority for removing 
the child from his/her home for each removal. ``Court ordered removal'' 
means that the court has issued an order that is the basis for the 
child's removal. ``Voluntary Placement Agreement'' means that an 
official voluntary placement agreement has been executed between the 
parent or guardian and the State agency. The placement remains 
voluntary even if a subsequent court order is issued to continue the 
child in out-of-home care. ``Not yet determined'' means that a 
voluntary placement agreement has not been signed or a court order has 
not been issued, such as in the case of an administrative or police 
hold. When either a voluntary placement agreement is signed or a court 
order issued, the record must be updated to reflect the manner of 
removal at that time.
    (7) Child and family circumstances at removal. For each out-of-home 
care episode in the current report period, indicate all child and 
family circumstances that were applicable at the time of removal. 
``Child status offender'' means the child is alleged or found to be a 
status offender. A status offense is specific to juveniles, such as 
running away, truancy or underage alcohol violations. ``Child 
delinquency'' means that the child is alleged or found to be 
adjudicated delinquent. ``Runaway'' means the child had run away from 
home at the time the State title IV-B/IV-E agency received placement 
and care responsibility for the child. ``Physical abuse'' is alleged or 
substantiated physical abuse, injury or maltreatment of the child by a 
person responsible for the child's welfare. ``Sexual abuse'' is alleged 
or substantiated sexual abuse or exploitation of the child by a person 
who is responsible for the child's welfare. ``Psychological or 
emotional abuse'' is alleged or substantiated psychological or 
emotional abuse, including verbal abuse, of the child by a person who 
is responsible for the child's welfare. ``Neglect'' is alleged or 
substantiated negligent treatment or maltreatment including failure to 
provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or care by a person who is 
responsible for the child's welfare. ``Medical neglect'' is alleged or 
substantiated medical neglect caused by failure to provide for the 
appropriate health care of the child by a person who is responsible for 
the child's welfare, although the person was financially able to do so, 
or was offered financial or other means to do so. ``Domestic violence'' 
is alleged or substantiated physical or emotional abuse between one 
adult member of the child's home and a partner. This does not include 
alleged or substantiated maltreatment of the child who is the subject 
of the report. ``Abandonment'' means that the child was left alone or 
with others and the parent or legal guardian's identity is unknown and 
cannot be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe haven.'' 
This category does not apply when the identity of the parent is known. 
``Failure to provide

[[Page 2134]]

supervision'' means the parent, legal guardian or caretaker failed/
fails to provide adequate care and/or age appropriate supervision for 
the child on a recurring or long term basis. ``Failure to return'' 
means the parent, legal guardian or caretaker did not return/has not 
returned for the child or made his/her whereabouts known. ``Caretaker's 
alcohol abuse'' refers to a parent, legal guardian, or other caretaker 
responsible for the child who uses alcohol compulsively. ``Caretaker's 
drug abuse'' refers to a parent, legal guardian or other caretaker who 
uses drugs compulsively. ``Child alcohol use'' means the child uses 
alcohol compulsively. ``Child drug use'' means the child uses drugs 
compulsively. ``Prenatal alcohol exposure'' means the child has been 
identified as prenatally exposed to alcohol, resulting in fetal alcohol 
spectrum disorders such as fetal alcohol exposure, fetal alcohol effect 
or fetal alcohol syndrome. ``Prenatal drug exposure'' means the child 
has been identified as prenatally exposed to drugs. ``Diagnosed 
condition'' means the child has a clinical diagnosis by a qualified 
professional of a health, behavioral or mental health condition, such 
as one or more of the following: mental retardation, emotional 
disturbance, specific learning disability, hearing, speech or sight 
impairment, physical disability, or other clinically diagnosed 
condition. ``Inadequate access to mental health services'' refers to a 
circumstance where the child's family has inadequate resources to 
access necessary mental health services outside of his/her out-of-home 
care placement. ``Inadequate access to medical services'' means the 
child's family has inadequate resources to access necessary medical 
services outside of his/her out-of-home care placement. ``Child 
behavior problem'' means the child's behavior in his/her school and/or 
community adversely affects his/her socialization, learning, growth 
and/or moral development. This includes all child behavior problems, 
except adjudicated and non-adjudicated status or delinquency offenses. 
``Death of caretaker'' refers to existing family stress or an inability 
to care for the child due to the death of a parent, or legal guardian, 
or other caretaker. ``Incarceration of caretaker'' means the child's 
parent, legal guardian or caretaker is temporarily or permanently 
placed in jail or prison which adversely affects his/her ability to 
care for the child. ``Caretaker's inability to cope'' means a physical 
or emotional illness or disabling condition of the child's parent, 
legal guardian, or caretaker adversely affect his/her ability to care 
for the child. ``Caretaker's limited mental capacity'' means the 
child's parent, legal guardian or caretaker has limitations in his/her 
ability to function in areas of daily life, such as communication or 
self-care which adversely affects his/her ability to care for the 
child. It also may be characterized by a significantly below-average 
score on a test of mental ability or intelligence. ``Inadequate 
housing'' indicates that the family's housing is substandard, 
overcrowded, unsafe or otherwise inadequate which results in it being 
inappropriate for the parents and child to reside together. This 
circumstance also includes homelessness. ``Disrupted intercountry 
adoption'' means the child's intercountry adoption has disrupted. 
Specifically, the child is involved in a disrupted intercountry 
adoption if immediately prior to entering out-of-home care the child 
was brought to the United States and placed in a preadoptive home, but 
the adoption has not been finalized. ``Voluntary relinquishment'' 
indicates that the child's parent has voluntarily relinquished the 
child by assigning the physical and legal custody of the child to the 
agency, in writing, for the purpose of having the child adopted.
    (e) Living arrangement and provider information--(1) Date of living 
arrangement. Enter the month, day and year of each of the child's 
living arrangements for each out-of-home care episode. Include the date 
of any runaway episode. In the case of a child who enters the reporting 
population in the midst of an out-of-home living arrangement, indicate 
the date the child enters the reporting population rather than the date 
the child was originally placed in the living arrangement.
    (2) Foster family home. Indicate whether each of the child's living 
arrangements is a foster family home, with a ``yes'' or ``no'' as 
appropriate. If the child has run away from his/her living arrangement, 
indicate ``no.'' If the child is in a foster family home, the State 
agency must complete the element Foster family home type in paragraph 
(e)(3) of this section; otherwise the State agency is to respond to the 
element Other living arrangement type in paragraph (e)(4) of this 
section.
    (3) Foster family home type. If the child is living in a foster 
family home according to the element Foster family home described in 
paragraph (e)(2) of this section, indicate all of the following that 
apply; otherwise leave blank. Indicate ``licensed home'' if the child's 
living arrangement is licensed or approved by the State agency 
responsible for licensing, by other agencies under contract with the 
title IV-B/IV-E agency, or by Indian Tribal licensing/approval 
authorities for foster family homes located on or near a reservation. 
Indicate ``therapeutic foster family home'' if the home provides 
specialized care and services. Indicate ``shelter care foster family 
home'' if the home has been designated by the State agency or licensing 
entity as a shelter care home, which is designed to provide short-term 
or transitional care. Indicate ``relative foster family home'' if the 
foster parents are related to the child by biological, legal or marital 
connection and live in the home as their primary residence. Indicate 
``pre-adoptive home'' if the home is one in which the family and the 
agency have agreed on a plan to adopt the child. The family may or may 
not be receiving a foster care maintenance payment or an adoption 
subsidy on behalf of the child.
    (4) Other living arrangement type. If the child is living in an 
arrangement other than a foster family home according to the response 
in the element Foster family home in paragraph (e)(2) of this section, 
indicate the type of setting; otherwise leave this element blank. 
Indicate ``group home-family operated'' if the child is in a group home 
that provides 24-hour care in a private family home in which the family 
members are the primary caregivers. Indicate ``group home-staff 
operated'' if the child is in a group home that provides 24-hour care 
for children in which the care-giving is provided by shift or rotating 
staff. Indicate ``group home-shelter care'' if the child is in a group 
home that provides 24-hour care and is designated by the State agency 
or licensing entity to provide shelter care which is short-term or 
transitional in nature. Indicate ``residential treatment center'' if 
the child is in a facility that has the purpose of treating children 
with mental health or behavioral conditions. Indicate ``child care 
institution'' if the child is in a private child care institution, or a 
public child care institution which accommodates no more than 25 
children, and is licensed by the State in which it is situated or has 
been approved by the agency of such State or tribal licensing authority 
(with respect to child care institutions on or near Indian 
Reservations) responsible for licensing or approval of institutions of 
this type as meeting the standards established for such licensing. Do 
not consider detention facilities, forestry camps, training schools, or 
any other facility operated primarily for the detention of children who 
are determined to be delinquent as a child

[[Page 2135]]

care institution. Indicate ``child care institution-shelter care'' if 
the child is in a child care institution as defined above and the 
institution is designated by the State agency or licensing entity to 
provide shelter care which is short-term or transitional in nature. 
Indicate ``supervised independent living'' if the child is in an 
alternative transitional living arrangement where the child is under 
the placement and care responsibility of the agency but without 24-hour 
adult supervision, is receiving financial support from the child 
welfare agency, and is in a setting which provides the opportunity for 
increased responsibility for self care. Indicate ``juvenile justice 
facility'' if the child is in a secure facility or institution in which 
alleged or adjudicated juvenile delinquents are housed while under the 
State agency's placement and care. Indicate ``medical or rehabilitative 
facility'' if the child is in a facility where an individual receives 
medical or physical health care, such as a hospital. Indicate 
``psychiatric facility'' if the child is in a facility where an 
individual receives emotional or psychological health care, such as a 
psychiatric hospital or residential treatment center. Indicate 
``runaway'' if the child has left, without authorization, the home or 
facility in which the child was placed.
    (5) Private agency living arrangement. Indicate the type of 
contractual relationship with a private agency for each of the child's 
living arrangements. Indicate ``private agency involvement'' if the 
child is placed in a living arrangement that is either licensed, 
managed or run by a private agency that is under contract with the 
State agency. Indicate ``no private agency involvement'' if the child's 
living arrangement is not licensed, managed or run by a private agency. 
Indicate ``runaway'' if the child has run away from his/her living 
arrangement.
    (6) Location of living arrangement. Indicate the general location 
of each of the child's living arrangement. Indicate ``out-of-State'' if 
the child's living arrangement is located in another U.S. State or 
Territory outside of the reporting State. Indicate ``in-State'' if the 
child's living arrangement is located in the reporting State. Indicate 
``out-of-country'' if the child's living arrangement is outside of the 
United States. Indicate ``runaway'' if the child has run away from his 
living arrangement.
    (7) State or country where child is living. Indicate the FIPS code 
for the State or country where the child is placed for each living 
arrangement, if the State agency indicated the arrangement was either 
out-of-State or outside of the United States according to the element 
Location of living arrangement described in paragraph (e)(6) of this 
section; otherwise leave blank.
    (8) Number of siblings placed together. Indicate the total number 
of siblings who are also in the State's out-of-home care placed with 
the child in the same living arrangement on the last day of each of the 
child's living arrangement(s). A sibling to the child is his/her 
brother or sister by biological, legal or marital connection who also 
is a minor. Report this information whether the child's living 
arrangement is in or out-of-State. Do not include the child who is the 
subject of this record in this number. Indicate ``0'' if the child does 
not have any siblings in out-of-home care.
    (9) Number of children living with the minor parent. Indicate the 
number of the young person's children living with him or her in the 
same living arrangement if the State agency indicated that the young 
person has children in the element Minor parent described in paragraph 
(b)(12) of this section. Do not include any child(ren) of the young 
person who themselves are in out-of-home care. If the young person does 
not have any children leave this element blank.
    (10) Foster parent's marital status. For each foster family home 
living arrangement in which the child is placed, indicate the marital 
status of the child's foster parent(s). Indicate ``married couple'' if 
the foster parents are considered united in matrimony according to the 
laws of the State. Include common law marriage, where provided by State 
law. Indicate ``unmarried couple'' if the foster parents are living 
together as a couple, but are not united in matrimony according to the 
laws of the State. Indicate ``separated'' if the parent is legally 
separated or is living apart from a spouse. Indicate ``single female'' 
if the foster parent is a female who is not married and is not living 
with another individual as part of a couple. Indicate ``single male'' 
if the foster parent is a male who is not married and is not living 
with another individual as part of a couple. If the foster parents' 
marital status is either ``married couple'' or ``unmarried couple'' the 
State agency must complete the second foster parent data elements 
described in paragraphs (e)(16) through (e)(20) of this section; 
otherwise leave those elements blank.
    (11) Foster parent(s) relationship to the child. For each foster 
family home living arrangement in which the child is placed, indicate 
the relationship of the foster parent(s) to the child. Indicate 
``paternal grandparent(s)'' if the foster parent(s) is the child's 
paternal grandparent (by biological, legal or marital connection). 
Indicate ``maternal grandparent(s)'' if the foster parent(s) is the 
child's maternal grandparent (by biological, legal or marital 
connection). Indicate ``other paternal relative(s)'' if the foster 
parent(s) is the child's paternal relative (by biological, legal or 
marital connection) other than a grandparent, such as an aunt, uncle or 
cousin. Indicate ``other maternal relative(s)'' if the foster parent(s) 
is the child's maternal relative (by biological, legal or marital 
connection) other than a grandparent, such as an aunt, uncle or cousin. 
Indicate ``sibling(s)'' if the foster parent(s) is a brother or sister 
of the child, either biologically, legally or by marriage. Indicate 
``non-relative(s)'' if the foster parent(s) is not related to the child 
(through a biological, legal or marital connection).
    (12) Year of birth for first foster parent. Indicate the year of 
birth for the first foster parent for each foster family home living 
arrangement in which the child is placed.
    (13) Race of first foster parent. Indicate the race of the first 
foster parent for each foster family home living arrangement in which 
the child is placed. In general, an individual's race is determined by 
the individual. Indicate whether each race category listed in the 
elements described in paragraphs (e)(13)(i) through (e)(3)(vii) of this 
section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.''
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native individual has origins in any of the original peoples of 
North or South America (including Central America), and maintains 
tribal affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian 
subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, 
Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and 
Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
individual has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A White individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

[[Page 2136]]

    (vi) Race--unknown. The foster parent does not know his/her race, 
or at least one race.
    (vii) Race--declined. The first foster parent has declined to 
identify a race.
    (14) Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of first foster parent. Indicate 
the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of the first foster parent for each 
foster family home living arrangement in which the child is placed. In 
general, an individual's ethnicity is determined by the individual. An 
individual is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the individual is a 
person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or 
other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. Indicate whether 
this category applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' If the first foster 
parent does not know his/her ethnicity indicate ``unknown.'' If the 
individual refuses to identify his or her ethnicity, indicate 
``declined.''
    (15) First foster parent's language. In paragraphs (e)(15) (i) and 
(ii) of this section, if applicable, indicate the languages used and 
language preference for the first foster parent.
    (i) Language of first foster parent. Indicate all languages used by 
the foster parent. Select all of the following that apply, and/or 
indicate which language the foster parent uses if not specified: 
``English,'' ``Spanish,'' ``Chinese,'' ``French,'' ``German,'' 
``Tagalog,'' or ``Sign Language.''
    (ii) Language preference for first foster parent. For a foster 
parent who uses two or more languages as indicated in the element 
Languages used by first foster parent described in paragraph (e)(15)(i) 
of this section, indicate the language with which the foster parent has 
the greatest facility, or languages if the foster parent has a similar 
facility with two or more languages.
    (16) Year of birth for second foster parent. Indicate the birth 
year of the second foster parent for each foster family home living 
arrangement in which the child is placed, if applicable. A foster 
parent must be at least 18 years old. Leave this element blank if there 
is no second foster parent according to Foster parent marital status 
described in paragraph (e)(10) of this section.
    (17) Race of second foster parent. Indicate the race of the second 
foster parent for each foster family home living arrangement in which 
the child is placed, if applicable. In general, an individual's race is 
determined by the individual. Indicate whether each race category 
listed in the elements described in paragraphs (e)(17)(i) through 
(e)(17)(vii) of this section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' Leave 
this element blank if there is no second foster parent according to 
Foster parent marital status described in paragraph (e)(10) of this 
section.
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native individual has origins in any of the original peoples of 
North or South America (including Central America), and maintains 
tribal affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian 
subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, 
Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and 
Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
individual has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A White individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
    (vi) Race--unknown. The foster parent does not know his/her race, 
or at least one race.
    (vii) Race--declined. The second foster parent has declined to 
identify a race.
    (18) Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of second foster parent. Indicate 
the Hispanic or Latino ethnicity of the second foster parent for each 
foster family home living arrangement in which the child is placed, if 
applicable. In general, an individual's ethnicity is determined by the 
individual. An individual is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the 
individual is a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or 
Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of 
race. Indicate whether this category applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' 
If the second foster parent does not know his/her ethnicity, indicate 
``unknown.'' If the individual refuses to identify his or her 
ethnicity, indicate ``declined.'' Leave this element blank if there is 
no second foster parent according to Foster parent marital status 
described in paragraph (e)(10) of this section.
    (19) Second foster parent's language. In paragraphs (e)(19)(i) and 
(e)(19)(ii) of this section, if applicable, indicate the languages used 
and language preference for the second foster parent.
    (i) Language of second foster parent. If applicable, indicate all 
languages used by the foster parent. Select all of the following that 
apply, and/or indicate which language the foster parent uses if not 
specified: ``English,'' ``Spanish,'' ``Chinese,'' ``French,'' 
``German,'' ``Tagalog,'' or ``Sign Language.'' Leave this element blank 
if there is no second foster parent according to Foster parent marital 
status described in paragraph (e)(10) of this section.
    (ii) Language preference for second foster parent. For a foster 
parent who uses two or more languages as indicated in the element 
Languages used by second foster parent described in paragraph 
(e)(19)(i) of this section, indicate the language with which the foster 
parent has the greatest facility, or languages, if the foster parent 
has a similar facility with two or more languages.
    (20) Sources of Federal assistance in living arrangement. Indicate 
all that apply on the last day of the child's placement in each living 
arrangement or the last day of the report period if the child's living 
arrangement is ongoing. Indicate ``title IV-E foster care'' if the 
child is determined eligible for title IV-E foster care maintenance 
payments. Indicate ``title IV-E adoption subsidy'' if the child is 
determined eligible for a title IV-E adoption assistance subsidy. 
Indicate ``Title IV-A TANF'' if the child is living with relatives who 
are receiving a TANF cash assistance payment on behalf of the child. 
Indicate ``title IV-B'' if the child's living arrangement is supported 
by funds under title IV-B of the Social Security Act. Indicate ``SSBG'' 
if the child's living arrangement is supported by funds under title XX 
of the Social Security Act. Indicate ``other federal source'' if the 
child's living arrangement is supported through other Federal funds not 
indicated above. If there was no Federal funding source to support the 
child's living arrangement on the last day of placement or last day of 
the report period, indicate ``no Federal source.''
    (21) Amount of payment. Indicate the total (State and Federal 
share) per diem amount of the foster care maintenance payment or 
adoption assistance subsidy paid to the foster or adoptive parents on 
behalf of the title IV-E eligible child on the last day of each living 
arrangement or the last day of the report period, if so indicated in 
paragraph (e)(20) of this section. If no payment was made, indicate 
zero.
    (f) Permanency plan information and ongoing circumstances--(1) 
Permanency plan. Indicate each permanency plan established for the 
child. Indicate ``reunify with parent(s) or legal guardian(s)'' if the 
plan is to keep the child in out-of-home care for a limited time to 
enable the State agency

[[Page 2137]]

to work with the child's parent or legal guardian to establish a stable 
family environment. Indicate ``live with other relatives'' if the plan 
is for the child to live permanently with a relative or relatives 
(through a biological, legal or marital connection) who are not the 
child's parents or legal guardians. Indicate ``adoption'' if the goal 
is to facilitate the child's adoption by relatives, foster parents or 
other unrelated individuals. Indicate ``planned permanent living 
arrangement'' if the plan is to maintain the child in a long-term 
living arrangement because there is a specific reason, factor, or 
condition why it is not appropriate or possible to return the child 
home, live with relatives, obtain legal guardianship or place the child 
for adoption. Indicate ``independent living'' if the plan is for the 
child to live independently because of a specific reason, factor or 
condition, it is not appropriate or possible to return the child home, 
have the child live permanently with a relative, have the child be 
adopted, or placed under a guardianship arrangement and the child is 
receiving or eligible to receive independent living services. Indicate 
``relative guardianship'' if the plan is to establish a new legal 
guardianship with a relative (through a biological, legal or marital 
connection). Indicate ``non-relative guardianship'' if the plan is to 
establish a new legal guardianship with an unrelated individual. 
Indicate ``permanency plan not established'' if a permanency plan has 
not yet been established.
    (2) Date of permanency plan. Indicate the month, day and year that 
each permanency plan was established during each out-of-home care 
episode.
    (3) Concurrent planning. Indicate whether the State agency has 
identified a concurrent plan for the child. Indicate ``concurrent 
plan,'' if there is a concurrent plan for the child, ``no concurrent 
plan'' if the State agency uses concurrent planning but does not have a 
concurrent plan for the child, or ``not applicable'' if the State (or 
local) agency does not engage in concurrent planning. If the State 
agency indicates that the child has a concurrent plan, the State agency 
must complete the elements Concurrent permanency plan and Date of 
concurrent plan described in paragraphs (f)(3)(i) and (f)(3)(ii) of 
this section; otherwise leave these elements blank.
    (i) Concurrent permanency plan. If the child has a concurrent 
permanency plan as indicated in the element Concurrent planning 
described in paragraph (f)(3) of this section, indicate the type. 
Indicate ``live with other relatives'' if the plan is for the child to 
live permanently with a relative or relatives (through a biological, 
legal or marital connection) who are not the child's parents or legal 
guardians. Indicate ``adoption'' if the goal is to facilitate the 
child's adoption by relatives, foster parents or other unrelated 
individuals. Indicate ``planned permanent living arrangement'' if the 
plan is to maintain the child in a long-term living arrangement because 
there is a specific reason, factor, or condition why it is not 
appropriate or possible to return the child home, live with relatives, 
obtain legal guardianship or place the child for adoption. Indicate 
``independent living'' if the plan is for the child to live 
independently because of a specific reason, factor or condition, it is 
not appropriate or possible to return the child home, have a child live 
permanently with a relative, have the child be adopted, or placed under 
a guardianship arrangement; and the child is receiving or eligible to 
receive independent living services. Indicate ``relative guardianship'' 
if the plan is to establish a new legal guardianship with a relative 
(through a biological, legal or marital connection). Indicate ``non-
relative guardianship'' if the plan is to establish a new legal 
guardianship with an unrelated individual.
    (ii) Date of concurrent plan. Indicate the month, day and year that 
each concurrent plan was established if the State agency indicated that 
the child has a concurrent plan in the element Concurrent planning 
described in paragraph (f)(3) of this section.
    (4) Date of periodic review or hearing. Enter the date of each 
periodic review that meets the requirements of section 475(5)(B) of the 
Social Security Act and permanency hearing that meets the requirements 
of section 475(5)(C) of the Social Security Act.
    (5) Juvenile justice involvement. Indicate whether the child was 
involved with the juvenile justice system at any time during each 
report period. If the child was not involved with the juvenile justice 
system during a report period indicate ``not involved.'' If the child 
was involved with the juvenile justice system, indicate the type of 
involvement. Indicate ``alleged status offender'' if a petition has 
been filed that alleges that the child has committed a status offense. 
A status offense is specific to juveniles, such as running away, 
truancy or underage alcohol violations. Indicate ``status offender'' if 
the child has been found to be a status offender by a juvenile judge or 
court. Indicate ``alleged juvenile delinquent'' if a petition has been 
filed that alleges that the child has committed a delinquent act. 
Indicate ``adjudicated delinquent'' if the child has been adjudicated 
delinquent by a juvenile judge or court.
    (6) Circumstances at initial permanency plan. For each out-of-home 
care episode, indicate all child and family circumstances that are 
applicable at the time that the State agency develops the initial 
permanency plan for the child, if applicable. The response options have 
the same definitions as indicated in paragraph (d)(7) of this section; 
however, the State agency must also indicate that a circumstance is 
applicable if the State agency has assessed that the child or family is 
in need of services with regard to these issues: ``Physical abuse,'' 
``Sexual abuse,'' ``Psychological or emotional abuse,'' ``Neglect,'' 
``Medical neglect,'' ``Domestic violence,'' ``Abandonment,'' ``Failure 
to provide supervision,'' ``Failure to return,'' ``Caretaker's alcohol 
abuse,'' ``Caretaker's drug abuse,'' ``Child alcohol use,'' ``Child 
drug use,'' ``Prenatal alcohol exposure,'' ``Prenatal drug exposure,'' 
``Diagnosed condition,'' ``Inadequate access to mental health 
services,'' ``Inadequate access to medical services,'' ``Child behavior 
problem,'' ``Death of caretaker,'' ``Incarceration of caretaker,'' 
``Caretaker's inability to cope,'' ``Caretaker's limited mental 
capacity,'' ``Inadequate housing,'' ``Disrupted intercountry 
adoption,'' ``Voluntary relinquishment,'' or, ``None of the above'' if 
none of the above response options is applicable for the child and/or 
family.
    (7) Annual circumstances. For each out-of-home care episode, 
indicate all child and family circumstances that apply or are 
unresolved at the permanency hearing, if applicable. If the State 
conducts permanency hearings more frequently than annually, indicate 
the circumstances applicable once the child has been in foster care 12 
months, and every 12 months thereafter. The response options have the 
same definitions as indicated in paragraph (d)(7) of this section; 
however, the State agency must also indicate that a circumstance is 
applicable if the State agency has assessed that the child or family is 
in need of services with regard to these issues: ``Physical abuse,'' 
``Sexual abuse,'' ``Psychological or emotional abuse,'' ``Neglect,'' 
``Medical neglect,'' ``Domestic violence,'' ``Abandonment,'' ``Failure 
to provide supervision,'' ``Failure to return,'' ``Caretaker's alcohol 
abuse,'' ``Caretaker's drug abuse,'' ``Child alcohol use,'' ``Child 
drug use,'' ``Prenatal alcohol exposure,'' ``Prenatal drug exposure,'' 
``Diagnosed condition,'' ``Inadequate access to mental health

[[Page 2138]]

services,'' ``Inadequate access to medical services,'' ``Child behavior 
problem,'' ``Death of caretaker,'' ``Incarceration of caretaker,'' 
``Caretaker's inability to cope,'' ``Caretaker's limited mental 
capacity,'' ``Inadequate housing,'' ``Disrupted intercountry 
adoption,'' ``Voluntary relinquishment,'' or, ``None of the above'' if 
none of the above response options are applicable for the child and/or 
family.
    (8) Annual circumstances date. Indicate the date(s) that the State 
agency indicated in the element Annual circumstances described in 
paragraph (f)(7) of this section.
    (g) General exit information. Provide exit information for each 
out-of-home care episode. An exit occurs when the agency's placement 
and care responsibility of the child ends, the child is returned to 
his/her parents or legal guardians, or the child reaches the State's 
age of majority and is not receiving title IV-E foster care maintenance 
payments.
    (1) Date of exit. Indicate the month, day and year of each of the 
child's exits out-of-home care. For a child who exits out-of-home care 
due to an adoption, enter the date the court finalized the adoption. If 
the child has not exited out-of-home care leave this element blank. If 
this element is applicable, the State agency must complete the elements 
Exit transaction date, Exit reason and Circumstances at exit from out-
of-home care in paragraphs (g)(2), (g)(3) and (g)(6) of this section; 
otherwise leave those elements blank.
    (2) Exit transaction date. The State agency must report the 
transaction date for each of the child's exits from out-of-home care. 
The transaction date is a computer-generated, non-modifiable date that 
indicates accurately the month, day and year in which State agency 
entered the date of the child's exit into the information system and 
must be entered no later than 15 days after the child's exit.
    (3) Exit reason. Indicate the reason for each of the child's exits 
from out-of-home care. Indicate ``reunify with parents/legal guardian'' 
if the child was returned to his/her parent(s) or legal guardian. This 
includes a child returned to the parent under the agency's placement 
and care responsibility. Indicate ``live with other relatives'' if the 
child exited to live with a relative (related by a biological, legal or 
marital connection), other than his/her parent or legal guardian. 
Indicate ``adoption'' if the child was legally adopted. Indicate 
``emancipation'' if the child exited care because he/she reached the 
age of majority according to State law by virtue of age, marriage, etc. 
Indicate ``relative guardianship'' if the child exited care due to a 
relative (related by a biological, legal or marital connection) 
obtaining legal guardianship of the child. Indicate ``non-relative 
guardianship'' if the child exited care due to a non-relative obtaining 
legal guardianship of the child. Indicate ``transfer to another 
agency'' if the responsibility for the child's placement and care was 
transferred to a different agency, either within or outside of the 
State. Indicate ``runaway'' if the child ran away and the State 
agency's responsibility for placement and care ended by State law, 
policy or court order. Indicate ``death of child'' if the child died 
while in out-of-home care. If the State agency indicates that the child 
exited due to the child's death, the State agency must complete the 
element Death due to abuse/neglect in care described in paragraph 
(g)(4) of this section. If the State agency indicates that the child 
exited due to a transfer to another agency the State agency must 
complete the element Transfer to another agency described in paragraph 
(g)(5) of this section.
    (4) Death due to abuse/neglect in care. If the State indicated the 
child died in out-of-home care in the element Exit reason described in 
paragraph (g)(3) of this section, indicate whether the child died due 
to abuse or neglect by the provider. Indicate ``provider responsible'' 
if the State has concluded that the child's death is due to a 
provider's abuse or neglect. Indicate ``provider not responsible'' if 
the State has concluded that the child's death was not due to a 
provider's abuse or neglect.'' Indicate ``not yet determined'' if the 
State is involved in an ongoing investigation to determine the 
culpability of a provider in the child's death.
    (5) Transfer to another agency. If the State agency indicated that 
the child was transferred to another agency in the element Exit reason 
described in paragraph (g)(3) of this section, indicate the type of 
agency that received placement and care responsibility from the 
following options: ``Tribe or tribal agency,'' ``juvenile justice 
agency,'' ``mental health agency,'' ``other State agency,'' or 
``private agency.''
    (6) Circumstances at exit from foster care. For each out-of-home 
care episode, indicate all child and family circumstances that apply or 
are unresolved at the time of the child's exit from out-of-home care. 
The State agency must also indicate that a circumstance is applicable 
if the State agency has put in place referrals for services or is 
providing monitoring or after care services with regard to any of the 
following issues. The response options have the same definitions as 
indicated in paragraph (d)(7) of this section. ``Physical abuse,'' 
``Sexual abuse,'' ``Psychological or emotional abuse,'' ``Neglect,'' 
``Medical neglect,'' ``Domestic violence,'' ``Abandonment,'' ``Failure 
to provide supervision,'' ``Failure to return,'' ``Caretaker's alcohol 
abuse,'' ``Caretaker's drug abuse,'' ``Child alcohol use,'' ``Child 
drug use,'' ``Prenatal alcohol exposure,'' ``Prenatal drug exposure,'' 
``Diagnosed condition,'' ``Inadequate access to mental health 
services,'' ``Inadequate access to medical services,'' ``Child behavior 
problem,'' ``Death of caretaker,'' ``Incarceration of caretaker,'' 
``Caretaker's inability to cope,'' ``Caretaker's limited mental 
capacity,'' ``Inadequate housing,'' ``Disrupted intercountry 
adoption,'' ``Voluntary relinquishment,'' or, ``None of the above'' if 
none of the above response options is applicable for the child and/or 
family.
    (h) Exit to adoption information. Report information in paragraphs 
(h)(1) through (h)(11) of this section only if the State agency 
indicated that the child exited to adoption in the element Exit reason 
described in paragraph (g)(3) of this section.
    (1) Adoptive parent(s) marital status. Indicate the marital status 
of the adoptive parent(s). Indicate ``married couple'' if the adoptive 
parents are considered united in matrimony according to the laws of the 
State. Include common law marriage, where provided by State law. 
Indicate ``unmarried couple'' if the adoptive parents are living 
together as a couple, but are not united in matrimony according to the 
laws of the State. Indicate ``single female'' if the adoptive parent is 
a female who is not married and is not living with another individual 
as part of a couple. Indicate ``single male'' if the adoptive parent is 
a male who is not married and is not living with another individual as 
part of a couple. If the response is ``married'' or ``unmarried 
couple'' the State agency must also complete the data elements for the 
second adoptive parent in paragraphs (h)(6) through (h)(8) of this 
section.
    (2) Adoptive parent(s) relationship to the child. Indicate the type 
of relationship, kinship or otherwise, between the child and his 
adoptive parent or parents. Select all that apply. ``Paternal 
grandparent(s)'' means the adoptive parent(s) is the child's paternal 
grandparent(s) (by a biological, legal or marital connection). 
``Maternal grandparents'' means the adoptive parent(s) is the child's 
maternal grandparent(s) (by a biological, legal or marital connection). 
``Other paternal

[[Page 2139]]

relative(s)'' means the adoptive parent(s) is the child's paternal 
relative (by a biological, legal or marital connection) other than a 
grandparent, such as an aunt, uncle or cousin. ``Other maternal 
relative(s)'' means the adoptive parent(s) is the child's maternal 
relative (by a biological, legal or marital connection) other than a 
grandparent, such as an aunt, uncle or cousin. ``Sibling(s)'' means an 
adoptive parent is a brother or sister of the child, either 
biologically, legally or by marriage. ``Non-relative(s)'' means the 
adoptive parent(s) is not related to the child through a biological, 
legal or marital connection. ``Foster parent(s)'' means the adoptive 
parent(s) was the child's foster parent(s).
    (3) Date of birth of first adoptive parent. Indicate the month, day 
and year of the first adoptive parent's date of birth.
    (4) First adoptive parent's race. In general, an individual's race 
is determined by the individual. Indicate whether each race category 
listed in the elements described in paragraphs (h)(4)(i) through 
(h)(4)(vii) of this section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.''
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native individual has origins in any of the original peoples of 
North or South America (including Central America), and maintains 
tribal affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian 
subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, 
Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and 
Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
individual has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A White individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
    (vi) Race--unknown. The adoptive parent does not know his/her race, 
or at least one race.
    (vii) Race--declined. The first adoptive parent has declined to 
identify a race.
    (5) First adoptive parent's Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. In 
general, an individual's ethnicity is determined by the individual. An 
individual is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the individual is a 
person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or 
other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. Indicate whether 
this category applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' If the first adoptive 
parent does not know his/her ethnicity, indicate ``unknown.'' If the 
individual refuses to identify his or her ethnicity, indicate 
``declined.''
    (6) Date of birth of second adoptive parent. Indicate the month, 
day and year of the second adoptive parent's date of birth. Leave this 
element blank if there is no second adoptive parent according to the 
element Adoptive parent(s) marital status described in paragraph (h)(1) 
of this section.
    (7) Second adoptive parent's race. In general, an individual's race 
is determined by the individual. Indicate whether each race category 
listed in the elements described in paragraphs (h)(7)(i) through (vii) 
of this section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' Leave this element 
blank if there is no second adoptive parent according to the element 
Adoptive parent(s) marital status described in paragraph (h)(1) of this 
section.
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native individual has origins in any of the original peoples of 
North or South America (including Central America), and maintains 
tribal affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian 
subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, 
Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and 
Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
individual has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A White individual has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
    (vi) Race--unknown. The second adoptive parent does not know his/
her race, or at least one race.
    (vii) Race--declined. The second adoptive parent has declined to 
identify a race.
    (8) Second adoptive parent's Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. In 
general, an individual's ethnicity is determined by the individual. An 
individual is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the individual is a 
person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or 
other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. Indicate whether 
this category applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' If the second adoptive 
parent does not know his/her ethnicity, indicate ``unknown.'' If the 
individual refuses to identify his or her ethnicity, indicate 
``declined.'' Leave this element blank if there is no second adoptive 
parent according to the element Adoptive parent(s) marital status 
described in paragraph (h)(1).
    (9) Interstate or intercountry adoption. Indicate whether the child 
was placed across State lines or into another country for the adoption. 
Indicate ``interstate adoption'' if the adoptive parent(s) live in 
another State other than the one placing the child. Indicate 
``intercountry adoption'' if the adoptive parent(s) live outside of the 
United States of America. Indicate ``intrastate adoption'' if the child 
was placed within the reporting State.
    (10) Interjurisdictional adoption location. Indicate the FIPS code 
for the State or country in which the child was placed for adoption if 
the State agency indicated that the child was placed across State lines 
or outside the country in the element Interstate or intercountry 
adoption described in paragraph (h)(9) of this section.
    (11) Adoption placing agency or individual. Indicate the agency or 
individual that placed the child for adoption. Indicate ``State 
agency'' if the reporting State agency had responsibility for placement 
and care of the child while in out-of-home care. Indicate ``private 
agency under a contract/agreement'' if the reporting State had 
responsibility for the child's placement and care and contracted with a 
private agency for the child's placement for adoption. Indicate 
``Tribal agency with agreement'' if the reporting State had placement 
and care of the child and an interagency agreement or contract with an 
Indian Tribe for placement of the child for adoption.


Sec.  1355.44  Adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy data file 
elements.

    A State agency must collect and report the following information 
for each child in the adoption assistance and guardianship subsidy 
reporting population, if applicable based on 45 CFR 1355.42(c) of this 
part.
    (a) General information--(1) State. State means the State 
responsible for reporting the child. Indicate the first two digits of 
the State's Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS)

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code for the State submitting the report to ACF.
    (2) Report date. The report date corresponds to the end of the 
current report period. Indicate the last month and the year of the 
report period.
    (3) Child record number. The record number is the encrypted, unique 
person identification number. The person identification number must 
remain the same for the child, no matter where the child lives and 
across all report periods. The State agency must apply and retain the 
same encryption routine or method for the person identification number 
across all report periods. The record number must be encrypted in 
accordance with ACF standards. Indicate the record number for the 
child.
    (b) Child Demographics.--(1) Date of birth. Indicate the month, day 
and year of the child's birth.
    (2) Child's race. In general, a child's race is determined by the 
child or the child's parent(s). Indicate whether each race category 
listed in the elements described in paragraphs (b)(2)(i) through 
(b)(2)(viii) of this section applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.''
    (i) Race--American Indian or Alaska Native. An American Indian or 
Alaska Native child has origins in any of the original peoples of North 
or South America (including Central America), and maintains tribal 
affiliation or community attachment.
    (ii) Race--Asian. An Asian child has origins in any of the original 
peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent 
including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, 
Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
    (iii) Race--Black or African American. A Black or African American 
child has origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
    (iv) Race--Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. A Native 
Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander child has origins in any of the 
original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    (v) Race--White. A White child has origins in any of the original 
peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
    (vi) Race--Unknown. The child or parent does not know the race, or 
at least one race of the child.
    (vii) Race--Abandoned. The child's race is unknown because the 
child has been abandoned. Abandoned means that the child was left alone 
or with others and the previous/original parent or legal guardian's 
identity was unknown and could not be ascertained. This includes a 
child left at a ``safe haven.''
    (viii) Race--Declined. The child or parent has declined to identify 
a race.
    (3) Hispanic or Latino Ethnicity. In general, a child's ethnicity 
is determined by the child or the child's parent(s). A child is of 
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity if the child is a person of Cuban, 
Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish 
culture or origin, regardless of race. Indicate whether this category 
applies with a ``yes'' or ``no.'' If the parent/child does not know 
whether the child is of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, indicate 
``unknown.'' If the child was abandoned indicate ``abandoned.'' 
Abandoned means that the child was left alone or with others and the 
previous/original parent or legal guardian's identity was unknown and 
could not be ascertained. This includes a child left at a ``safe 
haven.'' If the child or parent refuses to identify the child's 
ethnicity, indicate ``declined.''
    (c) Adoption assistance agreement information--(1) Adoption 
assistance agreement type. Indicate whether the child is or was in an 
adoptive placement or finalized adoption with a title IV-E adoption 
assistance agreement or a State adoption assistance agreement in effect 
during the report period. ``Title IV-E agreement'' means an agreement 
with adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents for adoption 
assistance pursuant to section 473 of the Social Security Act. ``State 
agreement'' means an agreement with adoptive parent(s) or prospective 
adoptive parent(s) for adoption assistance as defined by the State, 
other than a title IV-E agreement. Indicate ``title IV-E agreement'' or 
``State agreement'' as appropriate.
    (2) Adoption subsidy amount. Indicate the per diem dollar amount of 
the financial subsidy paid to the adoptive or prospective adoptive 
parent(s) on behalf of the child during the last month of the current 
report period, if any. The State agency must indicate ``0'' if a 
financial subsidy was not paid during the last month of the report 
period.
    (3) Nonrecurring adoption expenses. Indicate whether payments were 
made to the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent(s) or such parents 
were reimbursed for nonrecurring adoption expenses during the current 
report period, if the State agency reported that the child has a title 
IV-E adoption assistance agreement in the element Adoption assistance 
agreement type described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section. 
Nonrecurring adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary adoption 
fees, court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses which are directly 
related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs. Indicate 
``expenses paid'' or ``no expenses paid'' as appropriate.
    (4) Nonrecurring adoption expenses amount. Indicate the total 
dollar amount of the payment made to or on behalf of the adoptive or 
prospective adoptive parent(s) for the nonrecurring adoption expenses 
during the report period if the State agency reported that these 
expenses were paid in the element Nonrecurring adoption expenses 
described in paragraph (c)(3) of this section; otherwise leave this 
element blank.
    (5) Final adoption. Indicate whether the child has a finalized 
adoption, with ``adoption final'' or ``adoption not final'' as 
appropriate.
    (6) Adoption finalization date. Indicate the month, day and year 
that the child's adoption was finalized if the State agency indicated 
there is a final adoption in the element Final adoption in paragraph 
(c)(5) of this section; otherwise leave this element blank.
    (7) Interstate and intercountry adoption. Indicate whether the 
child was placed across State lines or was involved in an intercountry 
adoption. Indicate ``interstate adoption'' if the adoptive parent(s) 
live in another State other than the reporting State. Indicate 
``intrastate adoption'' if the child is placed within the State that 
entered the adoption assistance agreement. Indicate ``intercountry 
adoption--incoming'' if the State agency has entered into an adoption 
assistance agreement on behalf of a child who immediately prior to 
adoptive placement was brought into the country for the purpose of 
achieving an adoption within the United States. Indicate ``intercountry 
adoption--outgoing'' if the State agency has entered into an adoption 
assistance agreement on behalf of a child who is emigrating to another 
country for the purposes of adoption.
    (8) Interjurisdictional adoption location. Indicate the FIPS code 
for the location, either State or country, in which the child was 
placed into or placed from, if the State agency indicated that the 
child's adoption was an interstate, or an incoming or outgoing 
intercountry adoption in the element Interstate and intercountry 
adoption described in paragraph (c)(7) of this section; otherwise leave 
blank.
    (9) Adoption placing agency or individual. Indicate the agency or 
individual that placed the child for adoption. Indicate ``State 
agency'' if the reporting State agency had responsibility for placement 
and care of the child while away from his or her parents or legal 
guardians. Indicate ``private agency under a contract/

[[Page 2141]]

agreement'' if the reporting State title IV-B/IV-E agency had 
responsibility for the child's placement and care and contracted with a 
private agency for the child's placement for adoption. Indicate 
``Tribal agency with agreement'' if the reporting State title IV-B/IV-E 
agency had placement and care of the child and entered into an 
interagency agreement or contract with an Indian Tribe for placement of 
the child for adoption. Indicate ``Tribal agency'' if a tribe or unit 
within a tribe had sole responsibility for the child's placement and 
care and placed the child for adoption. Indicate ``private agency'' if 
a private agency had legal custody of the child or on behalf of a 
parent placed the child for adoption. Indicate ``birth parent'' if the 
birth parent placed the child for adoption without the assistance of a 
third party. Indicate ``independent person'' if a person other than the 
parent, such as a doctor, lawyer or other intermediary, facilitated the 
child's adoption.
    (10) Agreement termination date. If the State agency terminated the 
adoption assistance agreement or the agreement expired during the 
report period, indicate the month, day and year that the agreement was 
terminated or expired; otherwise leave this element blank.
    (d) Subsidized guardianship information. The State agency must 
report information for the elements described in paragraphs (d)(1) 
through (d)(3) of this section for all children who are in a 
guardianship placement with a subsidized guardianship agreement during 
the report period; otherwise leave these elements blank.
    (1) Subsidized guardianship agreement type. Indicate whether the 
child is under a title IV-E or State guardianship placement, with 
ongoing monthly payments during the current report period. ``Title IV-E 
guardianship'' means that the State agency is paying a subsidy to the 
child's guardian that includes title IV-E funds pursuant to an HHS-
approved demonstration waiver. ``State guardianship'' means that the 
State agency is paying a subsidy to the child's guardian that does not 
include any title IV-E funds. Indicate ``title IV-E guardianship'' or 
``State guardianship'' as appropriate.
    (2) Subsidized guardianship amount. Indicate the per diem dollar 
amount of the subsidy paid to the guardian on behalf of the child for 
the last month of the current report period. Indicate ``0'' if a 
financial subsidy was not paid during the last month of the report 
period.
    (3) Agreement termination date. If the State agency terminated the 
guardianship agreement or the agreement expired during the report 
period, indicate the month, day and year the agreement was terminated 
or expired.


Sec.  1355.45  Compliance.

    (a) Files subject to compliance. ACF will evaluate the out-of-home 
care data file that a State agency submits to determine whether the 
data complies with the requirements of 45 CFR 1355.42 of this part and 
the file submission and data quality standards described in paragraphs 
(c) and (d) of this section.
    (b) Errors. ACF will assess a State's out-of-home care file for 
errors as described in paragraphs (b)(1) through (b)(5) of this section 
to determine if the State agency meets the file and data standards 
outlined in paragraph (c) of this section. ACF will develop and issue 
error specifications.
    (1) Missing data. Missing data refers to instances in which an 
element has a blank or otherwise missing response, when such a response 
is not a valid option as described in 45 CFR 1355.43 of this part.
    (2) Invalid data. Invalid data refers to instances in which an 
element contains a value that is outside the parameters of acceptable 
responses or exceeds, either positively or negatively, the acceptable 
range of response options as described in 45 CFR 1355.43 of this part.
    (3) Internally inconsistent data. Internally inconsistent data 
refers to instances in which an element fails an internal consistency 
check designed to validate the logical relationship between elements 
within each record. This assessment will identify all elements involved 
in a particular check as in error.
    (4) Cross-file errors. A cross-file error occurs when a cross-file 
check determines that a response option for an element recurs across 
the records in the out-of-home care data file beyond a specified 
acceptable threshold.
    (5) Tardy transactions. Tardy transactions are instances in which 
the removal transaction date or exit transaction date described in 45 
CFR 1355.43(d)(2) and (g)(2) of this part respectively, are entered 
into the State agency's information system more than 15 days after the 
event.
    (c) File standards. To be in compliance with the AFCARS 
requirements the State agency must submit a data file in accordance 
with the file standards described in paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(3) 
of this section.
    (1) Timely submission. ACF must receive the out-of-home care data 
file on or before the reporting deadline described in 45 CFR 1355.42(a) 
of this part.
    (2) Proper format. The out-of-home care data file must meet the 
technical standards issued by ACF for file construction and 
transmission. In addition, every record within the data file must have 
the elements described in 45 CFR 1355.43(a)(1) through (a)(5), 
1355.43(b)(1) and 1355.43(b)(2) of this part be 100 percent free of 
missing data, invalid data and internally inconsistent data. ACF will 
not process a State agency's out-of-home care data file that does not 
meet the proper format standard.
    (3) Acceptable cross-file. The out-of-home care data file must be 
free of any cross-file errors.
    (d) Data quality standards. To be in compliance with the AFCARS 
requirements the State agency must also submit a data file that for 
applicable records, have no more than 10 percent of data missing, 10 
percent of data invalid, 10 percent of data internally inconsistent; 
or, 10 percent as tardy transactions.
    (e) Compliance determination and corrected data. (1) ACF will first 
determine whether the State agency's out-of-home care data file meets 
the file standards in paragraph (c) of this section. If the State 
agency's data file does not meet the file standards, ACF will so notify 
the State.
    (2) If the State agency meets the file standards, ACF will then 
determine whether the State agency's data file meets the data quality 
standards in paragraph (d) of this section. We will divide the total 
number of applicable records in error (numerator) by the total number 
of applicable records (denominator) for an element, to determine 
whether the State agency has met the applicable data quality standards. 
If the resultant error rate exceeds 10 percent, ACF will so notify the 
State.
    (3) ACF will notify a State agency that fails to submit a data file 
that meets the standards in paragraph (c) or (d) of this section, 
within 30 days of the report deadline.
    (4) In general, a State agency that has not met either the file 
standards or data quality standards must submit a corrected data file 
no later than when data is due for the subsequent six month reporting 
period (i.e., by April 15 and October 15), as applicable. ACF will 
determine that the corrected data file is in compliance if it meets the 
file and data standards in paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section. 
Exception. If ACF

[[Page 2142]]

determines initially that the State agency's data file has not met the 
data quality standard related to tardy transactions, ACF will determine 
compliance with regard to the transactions dates only in the out-of-
home care data file submitted for the subsequent report period.
    (f) Noncompliance. If the State agency does not submit a corrected 
data file, or submits a corrected data file that fails to meet the 
compliance standards in paragraphs (c) and (d) of this section, ACF 
will notify the State agency of such and apply penalties as indicated 
in Sec.  1355.46 of this part.
    (g) Other assessments. ACF may use other monitoring tools or 
assessment procedures to determine whether the State agency is meeting 
all of the requirements of 45 CFR1355.41 through 1355.44 of this part.


Sec.  1355.46  Penalties.

    (a) Federal funds subject to a penalty. The funds that are subject 
to a penalty are the State agency's claims for title IV-E foster care 
administration (including SACWIS) and training for the quarter in which 
the State agency is required to submit the out-of-home care data file. 
For out-of-home care data files due on April 15, ACF will assess the 
penalty based on the State agency's claims for the third quarter of the 
Federal fiscal year. For out-of-home care data files due on October 15, 
ACF will assess the penalty based on the State agency's claims for the 
first quarter of the Federal fiscal year.
    (b) Penalty amounts. ACF will assess penalties in the following 
amounts:
    (1) First six month period. ACF will assess a penalty in the amount 
of one sixth of one percent (\1/6\ of 1%) of the funds described in 
paragraph (a) of this section for the first six month period in which 
the State agency's submitted corrected data file does not comply with 
45 CFR 1355.45 of this part.
    (2) Subsequent six month periods. ACF will assess a penalty in the 
amount of one fourth of one percent (\1/4\ of 1%) of the funds 
described in paragraph (a) of this section for each subsequent six 
month period in which the State agency continues to be out of 
compliance.
    (c) Penalty reduction from grant. ACF will offset the State 
agency's title IV-E foster care grant award in the amount of the 
penalty from the State agency's claims following the State agency 
notification of ACF's final determination of noncompliance.
    (d) Interest. The State agency will be liable for interest on the 
amount of funds penalized by the Department, in accordance with the 
provisions of 45 CFR 30.13.
    (e) Appeals. The State agency may appeal to the HHS Departmental 
Appeals Board, pursuant to 45 CFR part 16, ACF's final determination of 
noncompliance.
    4. Remove the appendices to 1355.

Appendix A to Part 1355 [Removed]

Appendix B to Part 1355 [Removed]

Appendix C to Part 1355 [Removed]

Appendix D to Part 1355 [Removed]

Appendix E to Part 1355 [Removed]

Appendix F to Part 1355 [Removed]

 [FR Doc. E7-24860 Filed 1-10-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4184-01-P