Foster Care & Adoption
Former foster youth stand with Congressmember Bass and members of Congress on the first Foster Youth Shadow Day.
Sadly, the number of children who exit the foster care system without finding a permanent family has increased over the years by nearly 29,500. The experiences of youth transitioning out of the foster care system place them 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.
Key Foster Care Adoption Initiatives & Accomplishments
The Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth launched protect and promote the welfare of all children in foster care. As founder and co-chair, I work with my colleagues to advocate for and develop transformative legislation overhauling the nation's foster care system as well as serve as a key advocacy arm within government for the needs of foster children all across the country. We've gotten off to a very strong start, organizing meetings and briefings all across the country to bring Democrats and Republicans together around common-sense reforms.
An important step in building momentum for transformative legislation is advocacy that educates policymakers on the needs of foster youth. In May, we organized the first-ever "Foster Youth Shadow Day,· a bipartisan effort to
allow foster youth to speak directly with policymakers. The day was a great success and helped foster youth understand the inner workings of Congress and share their stories with policymakers.
The first step toward transformative legislation is to learn what's working with our current foster care system and what should be changed. Working with allies
and members of Congress, we traveled around the nation gathering input firsthand from foster care youth and advocates. Through this work we were able to develop proposals that move us closer to our goal of transformative change within our nation's foster care system.
Thanks to the concerted effort of youth, advocates, and service providers across the nation, the Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) was signed into law by President Obama! USA makes a common sense, no-cost legislative fix that will have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of foster children across the country. In addition, it is a great example of bipartisan, bicameral cooperation spearheaded by the Foster Youth Caucus in both the House and the Senate.
Before the law was passed, policy unintentionally hinders the educational success, students in foster care by preventing social workers from accessing school records. Child welfare agencies and social workers are then limited in their ability to ensure that the youth are enrolled in school in a timely fashion. Only 49% of foster youth in California finish high school. Those who drop out become more susceptible to incarceration, homelessness, prostitution and a host of other problems. Now that USA is law, it helps to rectify this situation by granting child welfare agencies direct access to school records for youth in care.
Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act
Congressmember Karen Bass re-introduced the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act this year. This piece of legislation is particularly timely given recent reports that foster youth have been recruited to join sex trafficking rings spreading across the Los Angeles community. County Probation Department data shows a majority of minor human trafficking survivors had some previous involvement with the Department of Children and Family Services. If enacted, this legislation woud improve the child welfare response to trafficking by strengthening the child welfare system's abiity to identify, document and provide services to trafficking survivors and children at risk of exploitation. This is just one of many reasons why we will continue working for transformational change within the nation's foster care system.
Human Trafficking Prevention
Congressmember Bass believes we must do all we can to combat human trafficking, both internationlly and domestically. In the 112th Congress, she introduced bipartisan Eliminate and Stop Abuse, Frequent Exploitation, and Trafficking in the Internet (E-SAFETI) Taskforce Act. The bill aims to prevent human trafficking facilitated through websites, an unfortunate trend that law enfomement has indicated is on the rise.
- Visit the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth's website.
- Find resources for California foster youth.
- Read Michelle Guymon's testimony on the connection between foster youth and human trafficking.
More on Foster Care & Adoption
Family First Transition Act
The bill drew on the Family First Transition and Support Act of 2019, which was introduced by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in May.
“Each year our participants have a real hand in making change – from CHAFEE grant extensions, to the passage of the Family First Act just last year, this group’s voices have changed our child welfare system forever,” said Rep. Bass. “The reality is this: when the government removes children from their parents, the government becomes that child’s parent. Too often, the government forgets this commitment and life goes on for those not in the child welfare system. But for those in it, they come to feel trapped and forgotten.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended Medicaid coverage to age 26 for all foster youth who were in foster care on their 18th birthday and were already enrolled in Medicaid. This provision of the law was intended to create parity between these individuals and young adults who can stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26. When the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations, states could choose to cover youth who aged out of foster care elsewhere, but were not required to do so.
“It is critical that we raise awareness about the unique challenges youth in the system face,” Rep. Bass said. “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.
Across the nation, child welfare agencies are in crisis due to a lack of resources and high numbers of children entering the foster care system, many of whom are in need of behavioral and mental health services largely attributable to traumatic childhood experiences. For decades, most federal child welfare funding became available to states only after children were removed from their families.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
I introduced H.R. 507, the “Put Trafficking Victims First Act,” with my colleague the gentlelady from Missouri, Ms. Wagner.