CRAMER: Foster Care Bills Improve Policies, Practices to Help Vulnerable Children
WASHINGTON D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer supported five bills passed by the House of Representatives today addressing issues related to the foster care system.
Cramer is a member of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, consisting of more than 150 members of the House of Representatives who work to develop policy recommendations for improving child welfare outcomes.
In the United States, approximately 400,000 children are in the foster care system, providing a temporary living arrangement for children who cannot remain safely in their own homes. When it is not possible for these children to be reunited with their families, the child welfare system works to find permanent homes for them through adoption or legal guardianship. Cramer and his wife, Kris, are adoptive parents to their young son, Abel.
“Thousands of vulnerable children have a chance for a better life through foster care and adoption,” said Cramer. “We must do all we can to streamline the process and reduce red tape and bureaucratic hassles to help place them with loving families and ensure they grow up with the same access to opportunities as other children. While there is much more to do, these bills passed today address some of the greatest concerns.”
Bills passed today include:
H.R. 2847, the Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act, supports the transition to adulthood by updating the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. It allows states the option of continuing to assist older former foster youth up to age 23, including providing education and training vouchers.
H.R. 2866, the Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act, reviews and improves licensing standards for placement in a relative foster family home. It requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify reputable model standards for licensing foster family homes no later than Oct. 1, 2018. No later than April 1, 2019, each state is required to submit information to HHS on whether its own licensing standards are fully consistent with the model standards identified by HHS.
H.R. 2742, the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act, amends Title IV of the Social Security Act to require states to adopt an electronic system to help expedite the placement of children in foster care or guardianship, or for adoption, across state lines, and provides funding to aid states in developing such a system. Most states currently use paper systems for the interstate foster care placement process, requiring state caseworkers to print and mail hundreds of pages of paperwork to place a foster child in a home across state lines, including with a grandparent or other relative. This outdated process can take an average of more than five months to complete. In November 2013, the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE) cloud-based electronic system pilot project was launched. It has reduced wait times by an average of 30 percent. This bill requires all states to join the NEICE system by 2027 and authorizes $5 million in funding to help states transition to or expand their use of the NEICE system for interstate foster care placement.
H.R. 2834, the Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act, helps to keep families together by strengthening the regional partnership grant program. It provides funding for evidence-based services to prevent child abuse and neglect related to substance abuse. This bill updates the program to specifically address the opioid and heroin epidemic and leverages what’s been learned to ensure that new foster care prevention funding provided under the bill is used effectively.
An estimated 6 million or 9 percent of children in America live with at least one parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs. Research indicates children of substance-abusing parents are more likely to experience abuse, physical, sexual, or emotional, or neglect than children in non-substance abusing households.
H.R. 2857, the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act, permits federal foster care payments, for up to 12 months, for a child in foster care who is placed with a parent in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility. Under the legislation, states and tribes would have the authority to grant federal foster care support payments to children while placed with a parent in a residential, family-based treatment facility.
Children of parents who abuse substances often remain in the child welfare system longer and experience poorer out-comes. Added to this, scarce resources and lack of coordination among various service systems often make it difficult to address the multiple needs of these children and families. This bill helps remove some of the barriers to establishing a family-focused approach to treatment.