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U.S. Reps. Karen Bass, Tom Marino & Members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Hold Inaugural Listening and Learning Tour
LOS ANGELES, CA – In an effort to address many of the ongoing issues foster youth face, the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth launched a national listening tour in Los Angeles this week. Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Tom Marino (R-Penn.) joined other Members of the Caucus on Friday, Feb. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012, in several events to gain a better understanding of the current state of foster care throughout the nation, and identify potential federal policy modifications to improve the outcomes for children in the system. This year, Caucus members will travel to four cities to for similar listening tour stops.
“I was honored to host Members from the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in Los Angeles for our inaugural Listening Tour,” said Rep. Bass. “As the former Speaker of California, I know first-hand the obstacles, concerns and triumphs the California child welfare system has encountered over the last few years so I greatly appreciate the time my colleagues took to join us in LA. Both Republican and Democratic Members of the Caucus not only gained direct knowledge about foster care in California, but they also furthered their understanding of policies that are still needed to produce a substantial impact on foster care nationwide.”
Los Angeles County, with a population of 10.5 million, operates one of the nation's largest child welfare systems. In 2006, Los Angeles received a federal waiver allowing the county to have increased flexibility in how it funds its child welfare program, which resulted in the number of children in foster care decreasing from approximately 30,000 to 15,000 youth over the course of 12 years. Through site visits to the Department of Children and Family Services, SHIELDS for Families, the L.A. Children's Court, as well as a community town hall, Members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth received an in-depth perspective of the unique prevention and family unification techniques that have made a tremendous difference in safely reducing the number of children in the Los Angeles foster care system.
“Having been a prosecutor for most of my legal career, I have seen the devastating effects an unstable family life can have on children during their formative years,” Marino said. “It is so important that we take a lead in promoting an awareness of the foster care system throughout the county and in encouraging those who can make a difference to do so.”
Currently there are more that 424,000 youth in the nation's foster care system and approximately 29,500 children age-out or exit the system each year without ever finding a permanent family. Youth who transition out of the foster care system without the security of a long-term living situation are often at a higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration and homelessness.
Other co-chairs from the Caucus also made the following statements:
“As a foster mother of 23 children, I know challenges can exist in the foster care system,” said U.S. Rep.Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). I look forward to hearing about the Congressional Foster Youth Caucus’ Inaugural Listening Tour from my Chief of Staff who is attending in my stead. I am confident that this important tour will only help my colleagues and I within this bipartisan caucus as we promote the welfare of every foster care child in our country.”
“Foster children need the same things to succeed that all children need – a safe home, a caring family, a good education and access to health care. In 2008, I authored the bipartisan Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions law, which was designed to support new approaches to meet the needs of foster children as they navigate their way to adulthood," said Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). "The Foster Care Caucus' tour is especially important because it will help us better understand innovative programs that are successfully working to support children and their families in the current economic climate. As policymakers, we need to know what is and isn’t working so we can better help states and localities provide the right services to this vulnerable population."
In addition to Reps. Bass and Marino, U.S. Reps. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) attended various events throughout the weekend.
“Foster parents play a critical role in the lives of some the most vulnerable youth in California and across the country,” said Congresswoman Richardson. “They help hold our nation’s social fabric together by ensuring that thousands of young people in this country stay on track towards successful futures,” said Congresswoman Richardson.
“I was glad to participate in the listening tour today with my colleagues,” said Sanchez. “Sadly it is the children with the least resources that suffer the most in trying economic times. Foster care is woefully underfunded and we must step up and protect the programs that provide for children with great needs, giving them the support system they need to succeed.”
About the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth:
Founded in 2011, the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth was created by co-chairs Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to protect and promote the welfare of all children in foster care and those who have “aged out” of the system. The Caucus will provide a forum for Members to discuss the challenges facing all foster youth and develop policy recommendations for improving child welfare outcomes in five focus areas: Safety; Permanency; Well Being; Educational Opportunities; and Youth, Family, and Community Engagement.