Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Co-Chairs Endorse Bipartisan Child Welfare Package

Jun 15, 2017

WASHINGTON— Today, the Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth endorsed five bipartisan bills that were previously provisions of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the 114th Congress. This package includes five separate bills designed to improve critical components of care within the child welfare system, particularly aimed at increasing the age of eligibility for education and vocational services for older foster youth, removing barriers for kinship care placements, modernizing case management systems, and enhancing access to family-based substance abuse treatment. Congress has a responsibility to ensure that every single child within the foster care system receives the quality care and support they need to achieve their full potential.

“The expectation that our current child welfare system sets is that once a child in the foster care system turns 18, they are fully capable of being independent without any aid. They can house themselves, feed themselves, and their own bills. We know that that’s simply not true,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said. “That’s why these bills are so important; not just because of the functionality, but because it sends a message to the over 400,000 foster youth in the country that we hear them and that we’re here for them. The system does not have to work against them, that’s why our caucus is supporting this package and the bipartisan coalition of Members that have put these bills forward.”

“As Members of Congress, we are responsible for shaping policy that affects the lives of thousands in the foster care system,” Congressman Tom Marino (R-Penn.) said. “Our duty is to protect them and ensure they have the tools needed to succeed as they enter adulthood.  This package of bills shows those currently in the foster care system that we are listening to their needs.  We will do all we can to provide them the tools to become functional members of society and I am proud to stand with the co-chairs of the Foster Youth Caucus in support of these pieces of legislation.”

“From supporting foster youth who have aged out of the system to modernizing case management systems, this legislative package will help us fulfill our obligation to care for foster youth,” said Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI). “The foster youth we heard from during our shadow day last month reinforced what we know to be true: our child welfare system needs reform. These bills will improve outdated policies that prevent youth from receiving the support they both need and deserve."

“Foster youth remain at a greater risk for neglect and abuse in the United States, even in 2017. This sad reality is perpetuated by financial barriers, poor case management, age restrictions and substance abuse,” said Congressman Diane Black (R-Tenn.). “Ensuring that our youth have a safe, nurturing forever home to thrive and grow should be our top priority. This is a bipartisan responsibility – we are all coming together today to ensure the welfare of our children. These bills offer hope for alleviating some of the most prevalent issues families face with foster care and provide a strong voice of advocacy for lives dependent on this system.”

“The goal of the Family First legislation – of which these bills are components – was to respond to the devastating data pertaining to the outcomes for foster youth who age out of care, often without any permanent connection and without the life skills and support system necessary to thrive as independent adults,” said Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona). “Additionally, we want to strive to make our federal child welfare funding is flexible enough that we are never incentivizing the placement of children into foster care who could safely receive care in their homes or with safe, loving relatives. This bipartisan package of child welfare legislation takes important steps towards improving our child welfare system to better protect children and families, and I am happy to support its passage.”

“With over 400,000 children in America’s foster care system, we have a duty as Members of Congress to ensure that our system is working in their best interest. We recognize that there are areas for improvement and today’s package of bills is a crucial step in this process,” Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) said. “I remain committed to ensuring that every child in America has their voice heard and their concerns met. As a member of the Foster Youth Caucus, I am passionate about supporting our youth and am proud to stand with the rest of the caucus to support these critical pieces of legislation to improve our foster care system and support our nation’s children.”

At the end of May, the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth hosted more than 100 foster youth from over 36 states including Alaska and Hawaii to shadow their Members of Congress. The program is designed to raise awareness about child welfare and to have Members of Congress discuss the child welfare system with people that grew up in it.

The 5 bills were discharged from the Ways and Means Committee on June 15, 2017 and now wait to be scheduled for a final vote on passage.

Bill Summaries:

H.R. 2847, Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act

For a copy of the bill text please click here

Sponsors: Rep. John Faso (R-NY), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Summary: The bill would expand the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee) which provides assistance to youth who have aged out of foster care in the following ways:

  • Increases the age of eligibility for Chafee by two years, from age 21 to age 23. Currently, Chafee applies to youth who have aged out of foster care and are 21 years old or younger.
  • Allows youth to use educational and training vouchers until the age of 26, expanding the age for eligibility by three years from the age of 23.  
  • Allows the redistribution of Chafee grants that have not been used by states to be redistributed to States who have applied for additional funds rather than returning Chafee funding back to the U.S. Treasury. 

 

H.R. 2866, Improving Relative Foster Parent Licensing Requirements

For a copy of the bill text please click here

Sponsors: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and Terri Sewell (D-AL)

Summary: The bill would make it easier for relatives to become foster parents by removing barriers in foster care licensing, particularly related to housing standards.  H.R. 2866 would encourage states to update licensing standards in order to increase the number of eligible relative foster parents.  

 

H.R. 2742, Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act

For a copy of the bill text please click here

Sponsors: Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and  Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN)

Summary: The bill would both decrease costs associated with child welfare case management and decrease delays in foster care placement.  The bill would do the following: 

  • Authorize federal appropriations funding to help assist states to modernize their child welfare case management systems and encourage states to transition from paper to electronic processing systems that are compatible across states lines.
  • Enable states to utilize the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE) a cloud-based electronic system for exchanging data and documents need to place children across state lines as outlined by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).  This platform allows cases to be easily transferred electronically between states.  
  • The following states have joined NEICE (AK, CA, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, VA, NE, NV, SC, WI, RI)  
  • The following states plan to join NEICE  (CO, CT, IA, KS, OH, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NM, NY, SD, TN,  UT, WY) 

 

H.R. 2834, Regional Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act

For a copy of the bill text please click here

Sponsors: Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)

Summary: The bill would apply to both intrastate and interstate agreements under the Regional Partnership Grants (RPG) program, which assists children who are in or at risk of being placed in the child welfare system because of their parents’ substance abuse. RPG funding helps to support family treatment drug courts, family-centered treatment, and other evidence-based substance abuse-related programs. This bill does not increase funding for RPGs.

 

H.R. 2857, Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act

For a copy of the bill text please click here

Sponsors: Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)

Summary: The bill allows states to use Title IV-E reimbursements for qualified children who are placed with a parent in family-based residential drug treatment programs for up to 12 months.  Both children and parents benefit when families remain intact while parents participate in family-based residential substance abuse treatment programs.