On Friday, Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner sent a letter to child welfare leaders addressing the availability of federal funding and other resources to assist with the purchase of cell phones and plans to facilitate and maintain contact and the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) as an allowable cost.

The letter focuses on the Title IV-B and Title IV-E programs, specifically including the Chafee program under Title IV-E that supports services to youth aging out of foster care. Several hundred tribes operate the Title IV-B programs, both subpart 1 and 2, and over a 100 tribes operate the Title IV-E program either through a direct plan with the federal government or through an agreement with a state.

It states, “The purchase and operation of cell phones for children and youth in foster care, their parents, or foster parents is an allowable cost under Title IV-B and/or the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (Chafee) as long as the costs are necessary to fulfill one or more program purposes in §422 (relating to the state plan for child welfare services under Title IV-B, subpart 1), §432 (relating to the state plan for child welfare service under title IV-B, subpart 2) and/or §477 (relating to Chafee program purposes) of the Act.”

“The purchase of a cell phone for a parent or foster parent can meet a Title IV-B program purpose if it is determined that it will facilitate needed communications for case management purposes between such an individual and the agency caseworker, or allow a parent to participate in a remotely-located court hearing or visitation with the child. Additionally, the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (Public Law (P.L.) 116-136) authorized additional funding under Title IV-B, subpart 1 ‘to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally’” where agencies meet specific conditions to claim Federal financial participation for these costs.

The letter also describes circumstances under which the purchase of PPE “used by child welfare caseworkers to minimize exposure to COVID-19 is an allowable case management administrative cost under Title IV-E of the Act (45 CFR §1356.60(c)(2))” and “an allowable expenditure of Title IV-B funds for program purposes such as caseworker visits (§422(b)(17) of the Act and for states, §424(f) of the Act) by both state and Tribal Title IV-B agencies.” Conditions under which the purchase of PPE may be allowable for providers such as foster parents, kinship providers, and staff of child care institutions are also described.

Please review the entirety of the guidance provided here: Children’s Bureau Guidance for Cell Phones and Personal Protective Equipment

For additional Children’s Bureau resources and guidance, please see: Children’s Bureau COVID-19 Resources