Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Introduces Bipartisan Foster Youth Mentoring Act of 2021

May 11, 2021

WASHINGTON— Today, the Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced the Foster Youth Mentoring Act of 2021 to connect young people in foster care, and young people with experience in foster care, with mentors and provide invaluable support to the agencies and organizations that seek to improve outcomes for foster youth through these positive relationships.

“It is critical that we raise awareness about the unique challenges youth in the system face, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Bass. “In all of my years working with children in the child welfare system, meeting thousands of children either in or out of care, the number one thing I hear is that they want a consistent source of advice and support. They want someone that will be there when it matters most and for all the moments in between. Many people think of mentors as something supplementary, but for these kids, sometimes it’s all they have. I’ve introduced this piece of legislation to not only showcase the importance of modernizing the child welfare system but also to raise awareness about this important national issue.”

“A great mentor can help change a young person’s entire life. For foster youth especially, the guidance and support provided by a mentor is invaluable,” said Rep. Langevin. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues to help improve access to quality mentors for our nation’s 400,000 children living in foster care.”

“We must make sure foster youth have the resources they need to successfully transition into adulthood,” said Rep. Mullin. “Mentors provide advice and support and often are the only person foster youth feel they can turn to in times of need. I’m proud to join my colleagues on the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to introduce this legislation that would expand mentoring programs for foster youth and improve outcomes once they leave the system.”

"This pandemic has taken a huge toll on our country, especially on our children and youth in foster care," said Rep. Lawrence. "They deserve to have the support they need to thrive, and that includes having a mentor. Mentors provide a consistent connection, sense of belonging, and a shoulder to lean on when times get tough. I'm grateful to work with my Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth to introduce this much-needed legislation and provide an invaluable resource to our children and youth in foster care."

“Mentoring programs provide young people in foster care with vital relationships, connections, and counseling services needed to navigate life and transition into adulthood,” said Rep. Bacon. “I thank my Foster Youth Caucus colleagues for their partnership, and I look forward to finding bipartisan solutions that continue to help and protect our nation’s foster youth.”

“As our country heals from a difficult year of loss and reckoning, there has never been a more critical time to invest in relationships,” said David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: National. “Mentoring is an evidence-based intervention that provides young people with the support they need to thrive – in their academics, in their professional opportunities, and in their day-to-day navigation. Far too often, young people with experience in foster care lack a consistent stable presence in their journey and the results are predictably challenging. The Foster Youth Mentoring Act aims to change this by providing mentoring programs with the resources to center youth voice and provide high-quality volunteer and peer mentors for youth in care. The bill holds the promise of a meaningful improvement in some of our country’s most vulnerable young people as well as potentially substantial cost savings for the child welfare system, when implemented at scale. MENTOR is thankful to Representative Bass, Representative Bacon, Representative Langevin, Representative Mullin, Representative Lawrence, and the entire Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth for their bipartisan leadership to leverage the proven power of mentoring relationships to provide stability, connection and opportunity into the lives of our country’s youth who need it most.”

The bill would:

  • Authorize funding to provide support to mentoring programs that serve foster youth. Programs would be eligible to receive funds to expand services to more youth in foster care and to improve services for current foster youth in their programs.
  • Ensure that mentoring programs participating in the grant program are currently engaged or developing quality mentoring standards and best practices in screening volunteers, matching mentors, and successful mentoring relationships.
  • Provide intensive training to adult volunteers who serve as mentors to foster youth to assure their competence in child development, family dynamics, the child welfare system, and other relevant systems that affect foster youth.
  • Increase coordination between mentoring programs and statewide child welfare systems

Read the text of the full bill here.