State law requires that preferential consideration for placement be given to an approved
relative caregiver when a child is removed from the physical custody of a parent. It is
estimated that 36 percent of all foster children in the state are in the care of a relative.
An approved relative caregiver in California must meet health and safety standards that
mirror those for a licensed foster parent, such as undergoing criminal background and
child abuse index checks.
Although placement with a relative is the preferred placement, the funding associated
with that placement depends on whether the child is eligible to receive federal
AFDC-FC. While an approved relative may receive AFDC-FC payments on behalf of a
federally eligible foster child, an approved relative caring for a non-federally eligible
foster child is ineligible for AFDC-FC. For a non-federally eligible child in foster care, an
approved relative may apply to receive California Work Opportunity and Responsibility
to Kids (CalWORKs) benefits on behalf of the child. Unlike AFDC-FC, typical
CalWORKs grants are not a per-child payment, but are based on the size of the family
as a whole, and are less than the AFDC-FC rate.
To address this disparity, California has enacted the ARC Program. This program
provides funding to enable participating counties to make payments equal to the basic
foster care rate to approved relative caregivers with whom a non-federally eligible foster
child is placed. Such a child must reside in California and be under the jurisdiction of
the California juvenile court.
The ARC Responsibilities
The ARC Program is a county optional program that operates on a calendar-year basis.
A county that elects to participate in the ARC Program must agree to pay all approved
relative caregivers with whom an eligible child is placed a per-child, per-month rate
equal to the basic rate paid to foster care providers pursuant to W&IC section 11461(g).
This rate is intended to pay for the care and supervision of the eligible child. The county
agrees to make these payments for the duration of the county’s participation in the ARC
Program, including during required notice periods if a county is no longer going to
participate in the program.
A county that elects to participate in the ARC Program is required to notify the California
Department of Social Services (CDSS) in writing of its decision on or before
October 1, 2014, unless CDSS determines that good cause exists to extend the
deadline pursuant to W&IC section 11461.3(c)(1). County participation for the
upcoming calendar year would be effective January 1, 2015.
For this initial year of the ARC Program, CDSS has determined that good cause exists
for extending the October 1, 2014, deadline for counties to elect to participate in the
program. The new deadline(s)—for calendar-year 2015 only—is the first day of any
month starting December 1, 2014 until March 1, 2015, with participation in the county to
commence at the start of the month following notification. For example, if a county
notifies CDSS on January 1, 2015, that it wishes to participate in the ARC Program,
county participation would commence on February 1, 2015.
CalWORKs and Implementation of the ARC Program
The ARC payment will include a portion of CalWORKs funds unless the child does not
qualify for CalWORKs. Although CalWORKs is one of the funding sources for the ARC
Program, eligibility for the CalWORKs Program is not a requirement for receipt of the
ARC payment. An otherwise eligible child who does not meet the CalWORKs income
and property requirements specified on the ARC Program application can still
participate in the ARC Program. However, each ARC-eligible child must be assessed
for CalWORKs eligibility in order to determine if CalWORKs funds can be utilized in the
child’s ARC payment.
Tribes and the ARC Program
Although SB 855 is silent on whether tribes are opt-in entities, any Indian child who
meets all of the ARC requirements is eligible for ARC payments in the same way as any
other child. Moreover, tribes—whether Title IV-E tribes or not—will have an interest in
assuring that any of their children covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) are
provided any potential benefits from the ARC Program if the county responsible for the
child’s case has chosen to opt-in and the child is otherwise ARC eligible. Counties that
have ICWA-covered children should therefore reach out to and collaborate with tribes to
inform them of the new program and how it might benefit their children.
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