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Proposed Rule

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System

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AGENCY:

Children's Bureau (CB); Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF); Administration for Children and Families (ACF); Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

ACTION:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; delay of compliance and effective dates.

SUMMARY:

The Children's Bureau proposes to delay the compliance and effective dates in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) 2016 final rule for title IV-E agencies to comply with agency rules for an additional two fiscal years. We propose to delay the compliance and effective dates at the same time we seek public comment through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, on suggestions to streamline the AFCARS data elements and remove any undue burden related to reporting AFCARS.

DATES:

In order to be considered, we must receive written comments on this NPRM on or before April 16, 2018.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by [docket number and/or RIN number], by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Email: CBComments@acf.hhs.gov. Include [docket number and/or RIN number] in subject line of the message.Start Printed Page 11451
  • Mail: Written comments may be submitted to Kathleen McHugh, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Director, Policy Division, 330 C Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. Please be aware that mail sent in response to this NPRM may take an additional 3 to 4 days to process due to security screening of mail.

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number or Regulatory Information Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. All comments received will be posted without change to https://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Kathleen McHugh, Division of Policy, Children's Bureau at (202) 401-5789.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

In the AFCARS final rule issued on December 14, 2016 (81 FR 90524), ACF provided an implementation timeframe of two fiscal years for title IV-E agencies to comply with 45 CFR 1355.41 through 1355.47 (81 FR 90529). On February 24, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda. In response to the President's direction that federal agencies establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force to review existing regulations and make recommendations regarding their repeal, replacement, or modification, the HHS Task Force identified the AFCARS regulation as one where there may be areas for reducing reporting burden.

Therefore, we are engaging in two regulatory actions to adhere to our obligations under the EO. Through this NPRM, ACF proposes to revise § 1355.40 to provide an additional two fiscal years to comply with §§ 1355.41 through 1355.47. ACF also proposes to delay the effective dates of instructions 3 and 5 in the rule published December 14, 2016 (81 FR 90524), from October 1, 2019, to October 1, 2021. If this rule is finalized, the implementation timeframe would be delayed for title IV-E agencies to make revisions to their systems to comply with §§ 1355.41 through 1355.47. This NPRM is open for a 30-day comment period. Per Executive Order 12866, the typical comment period is 60 days. However, the reasons for the shorter comment period for this NPRM is that any delay in issuing a final rulemaking might lead to title IV-E agencies diverting resources to unnecessary changes to their systems to comply with the December 2016 AFCARS final rule. Furthermore, this rule does not establish additional regulatory obligations or impose any additional burden on regulated entities. ACF believes that a 30-day comment period on this non-substantive rulemaking is a sufficient amount of time for the public to comment and ACF does not believe that a 30-day comment period will hamper public comment. ACF is publishing an ANPRM elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register to seek suggestions on streamlining the data elements and potentially reducing burden to title IV-E agencies to report AFCARS data.

Section-by-Section Discussion

Section 1355.40 Foster Care and Adoption Data Collection

We propose to revise the compliance date in the regulation to provide an additional two fiscal years to comply with §§ 1355.41 through 1355.47. State and tribal title IV-E agencies must continue to report AFCARS data in the same manner they do currently, per § 1355.40 and appendices A through E of part 1355 until September 30, 2021. We propose that as of October 1, 2021, state and tribal title IV-E agencies must comply with §§ 1355.41 through 1355.47.

In assessing the AFCARS regulation in response to E.O. 13777, we identified the following issues:

  • In the December 2016 final rule, there are 272 individual data points, of which 153 data points are new items added to AFCARS. Of the 153 data points, 65 are new items related to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
  • State commenters expressed concerns with data points that could not be easily reported to AFCARS because they are qualitative data points of which nuances about the circumstances of the child cannot be reported to AFCARS a quantitative data system, they are of a sensitive nature, or could not be aggregated easily at the national level for national statistics. These points included child, adoptive parent, guardian, and foster parent sexual orientation, health assessments, educational information, adoption and guardianship subsidy amounts, and information on legal guardians.
  • The scope and complexity of data elements related to ICWA was also a concern. We note that most of the ICWA-related data elements in the December 2016 AFCARS final rule are not tied to statutory reporting requirements in title IV-E or IV-B. Rather, they were finalized to be consistent with the Department of Interior's (DOI) final rule on ICWA (published on June 14, 2016, 81 FR 38778) which is directed to state courts. Furthermore, the majority of the ICWA-related data elements related to activities undertaken by the court are not routinely collected in child welfare electronic databases. The court findings and other activity taking place before the court represent a shift away from a child welfare agency reporting on its own activity to reporting on the activity of an independent third party. This raises questions of efficiency, reliability and consistency, which section 479(c)(1) and 479(c)(2) of the Social Security Act require for the AFCARS data collection.
  • We also anticipate states having many questions about how to report the ICWA-related data elements. HHS has no expertise in ICWA compliance, statute, and regulations and is not the cognizant authority over it, yet the December 2016 final rule places HHS in the position of interpreting various ICWA requirements when providing technical assistance to state title IV-E agencies on how to report on those data elements. How states report the data ultimately impacts practice, potentially introducing inconsistency with DOJ and DOI's interpretation of ICWA.
  • Costs for system changes, training to consistently collect and report ICWA-related data and time to gather/enter data (sometimes manually) into the case management system.

The Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that added the ICWA compliance data elements to the AFCARS was only open for comment for 30 days. This was an insufficient amount of time for states to fairly analyze unfamiliar data elements, accurately calculate burden associated with these elements, and move any comments through their chain of command for submission to HHS for consideration. The ANPRM, on the other hand, will be open for comment for 90 days. It asks title IV-E agencies and the public to comment on the data elements of the December 2016 final rule.

Therefore, in order to get additional feedback on these and other issues we are issuing a proposed rule to delay implementation of the December 2016 AFCARS final rule. As States must go to the expense to revise their data collection systems in response to the December 2016 final rule, we do not want states to incur these costs unnecessarily as we further assess burden under the rule. This is an opportunity for commenters to provide HHS with specific feedback on the data elements and how HHS can revise AFCARS to balance updating requirements, the need for better data, and the burden on title IV-E agencies. Through the aforementioned ANPRM Start Printed Page 11452commenters will have the opportunity to tie ICWA related data elements to HHS functions/provisions thus adequately justifying their inclusion in the AFCARS collection.

Regulatory Impact Analysis

Executive Orders 12866, 13563, and 13771

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. ACF consulted with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and determined that this rule does meet the criteria for a significant regulatory action under E.O. 12866. Thus, it was subject to OMB review. ACF determined that the costs to title IV-E agencies as a result of this rule will not be significant as defined in Executive Order 12866 (have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities). Because the rule is not economically significant as defined in E.O. 12866, no cost-benefit analysis needs to be included in this NPRM. This proposed rule, if finalized as proposed, would be considered an E.O. 13771 deregulatory action.

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

The Secretary certifies, under 5 U.S.C. 605(b), as enacted by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (Pub. L. 96-354), that this proposed rule will not result in a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. This proposed rule does not affect small entities because it is applicable only to state and tribal title IV-E agencies.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (Pub. L. 104-4) requires agencies to prepare an assessment of anticipated costs and benefits before proposing any rule that may result in an annual expenditure by state, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more (adjusted annually for inflation). That threshold level is currently approximately $146 million. This proposed rule does not impose any mandates on state, local, or tribal governments, or the private sector that will result in an annual expenditure of $146 million or more.

Congressional Review

This regulation is not a major rule as defined in 5 U.S.C. 8.

Assessment of Federal Regulations and Policies on Families

Section 654 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-58) requires federal agencies to determine whether a policy or regulation may affect family well-being. If the agency's determination is affirmative, then the agency must prepare an impact assessment addressing seven criteria specified in the law. This proposed rule will not have an impact on family well-being as defined in the law.

Paperwork Reduction Act

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 35, as amended) (PRA), all Departments are required to submit to OMB for review and approval any reporting or recordkeeping requirements inherent in a proposed or final rule. PRA rules require that ACF estimate the total burden created by this proposed rule regardless of what information is available. ACF provides burden and cost estimates using the best available information. Information collection for AFCARS is currently authorized under OMB number 0970-0422. This notice of proposed rulemaking does not make changes to the AFCARS requirements for title IV-E agencies; it delays the effective date and provides title IV-E agencies with additional time to comply with sections 1355.41 through 1355.47. Thus, the annual burden hours for recordkeeping and reporting does not change from those currently authorized under OMB number 0970-0422. Therefore, we are not seeking comments on any information collection requirements through this NPRM.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 45 CFR Part 1355

  • Adoption and foster care
  • Child welfare
  • Computer technology
  • Grant programs—social programs
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
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(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 93.658, Foster Care Maintenance; 93.659, Adoption Assistance; 93.645, Child Welfare Services—State Grants).

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Dated: February 27, 2018.

Steven Wagner,

Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.

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Approved: March 8, 2018.

Alex M. Azar II,

Secretary.

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, we propose to amend 45 CFR part 1355 as follows:

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PART 1355—GENERAL

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1. The authority citation for part 1355 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 42 U.S.C. 620 et seq., 42 U.S.C. 670 et seq., 42 U.S.C. 1302.

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2. Amend § 1355.40 by revising paragraph (a) to read as follows:

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1355.40 Foster care and adoption data collection.

(a) Scope. State and tribal title IV-E agencies must follow the requirements of this section and appendices A through E of this part until September 30, 2021. As of October 1, 2021, state and tribal title IV-E agencies must comply with §§ 1355.41 through 1355.47.

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[FR Doc. 2018-05038 Filed 3-13-18; 8:45 am]

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