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Abstract

It is the year of grandfamilies in our nation’s capital. Not since the mid-1990s has there been so much activity among federal lawmakers and policymakers to try to help all grandfamilies, both those within and outside the foster care system. In August 2015, a major piece of legislation was introduced in Congress, which would make holistic reforms to our nation’s child welfare financing system. For the first time, child welfare funds could be used to provide supportive services to parents and grandfamilies outside the system, so children do not have to enter it. For those children who are removed from their parents, a piece of draft legislation strengthens existing provisions requiring the identification and notification of relatives. This draft legislation would further help to ensure that relatives can become licensed foster parents – as one of the many options available to them—and have access to the services and supports that accompany that designation. For the first time in over 20 years, there will also be significant changes to which data on children in relative and non-relative foster care is collected. All of this activity builds on the momentum of recent federal laws that made significant reforms supporting grandfamilies. After many years of working to raise awareness, 2015 seems to have turned the federal tide towards supporting the heroic grandparents and other relatives who come forward to raise some of our nation’s most vulnerable children.