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Bill Would Focus On Prevention of Foster Placement

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Washington--Maintaining that "the system that should deal with families in crisis is itself in crisis," Representative Thomas J. Downey, Democrat of New York, introduced a bill last week that would reorient child-welfare services toward preventing foster-care placements.

The House Ways and Means Committee's Human Resources Subcommittee, which Mr. Downey chairs, was scheduled this week to begin hearings on the "family preservation act of 1991."

The measure, which would boost funding for child-welfare services by $6 billion over the next five years, would convert Title IV-B--the section of the Social Security Act that funds services to prevent foster placement--into a capped entitlement and increase its funding to $1 billion by fiscal 1995.

It would also permit states to direct toward prevention more of the aid provided under Title IV-E, an entitlement used to reimburse states for the cost of placing children in out-of-home care.

The bill would set aside funds under IV-B, equal to $500 million by 1995, for programs "to strengthen and preserve families," especially those affected by substance abuse.

It would also provide a grant to state court systems to improve their handling of child-welfare cases and require states to bolster procedures for placing abandoned children in more timely, permanent placements.

The bill would also target more aid to children with special needs, authorize model efforts to recruit and train social workers, and boost funding for the Social Services Block Grant.

A proposed advisory panel would recommend improvements in implementing the 1980 Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act requirement that states make "reasonable efforts" to preserve families.

Senator Lloyd Bentsen, Democrat of Texas, introduced a similar, though less costly, bill, "the child welfare and preventive services act,'' in January.--dc

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