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Vermont Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services v. United States Department of Health and Human Services

decided: August 12, 1986.

STATE OF VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL AND REHABILITATION SERVICES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AND OTIS BOWEN, M.D., SECRETARY*FN*, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, HIS AGENTS AND ASSIGNS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont Billings, .) reversing a decision of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Grant Appeals Board holding the state of Vermont ineligible for previously distributed federal foster care funds. Reversed.

Author: Miner

Before KAUFMAN, TIMBERS and MINER, Circuit Judges.

MINER, Circuit Judge:

The Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Billings, J.) reversing a decision of the Department of Health and Human Services Grant Appeals Board ("GAB") which held the state of Vermont ineligible for certain previously distributed federal foster care funds. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Federal Statutory Scheme

The instant appeal arises out of conflicting state and federal approaches to the problem of foster care. In response to demonstrated inadequacies in our nation's system of foster care, see generally 125 Cong. Rec. S29938 (daily ed. Oct. 29, 1979) (remarks of Sen. Cranston), Congress enacted Pub. L. No. 96-272, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (the "Act"), signed into law by President Center on June 17, 1980. The Act amended Title IV of the Social Security Act and sought to provide the states with fiscal incentives to encourage a more active and systematic monitoring of children in the foster care system. In particular, the Act amended the Title IV-B program, 42 U.S.C. §§ 620-628, which provides funds to the states for the improvement of child welfare services, and created the Title IV-E program, 42 U.S.C. §§ 670-676, which provides reimbursement to the states for foster care maintenance and adoption assistance payments made by the states on behalf of eligible children.

In amending Title IV-B, Congress authorized annual appropriations of $266 million "for the purpose of . . . establishing, extending, and strengthening child welfare services. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 620(a). Of this $266 million, each state would receive a proportionate share of the initial $141 million appropriation. For a state to receive its share of any funds appropriate in excess of $141 million, the Act provides that the state must certify inter alia, that it:

(2) has implemented and is operating to the satisfaction of the Secretary--

(B) a case review system (as defined in section 675(5) of ?this title) for each child receiving foster care under the supervision of the State. . . .

42 U.S.C. § 627(a). Section 675(5) of the Act defines "case review system" as procedure for assuring that

(B) the status of each child is reviewed periodically but no less frequently than once every six months by either court or by administrative review (as defined in paragraph (6) in order to determine the continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the placement, the extent of compliance with the case plan, and the extent of progress which has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care, and to project a likely date by which the child may be returned to the home or place for adoption or legal guardianship, and

(C) with respect to each such child, procedural safeguards will be applied, among other things, to assure each child in foster care under the supervision of the State of a dispositional hearing to be held, in a family or juvenile court or another court (including a tribal court) of competent jurisdiction, or by an administrative body appointment or approved by the court, no later than eighteen months after the original placement (and periodically thereafter during the continuation of foster care), which hearing shall determine the future status of the child (including, but not limited to, whether the child should be returned to the parent, should be continued in foster care for a specific period, should be placed for adoption, or should (because of the child's special needs or circumstances) be continued in foster care on a permanent or long-term basis); and procedural safeguards ...


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