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
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.
“One of our most urgent priorities should be disrupting the child welfare to trafficking pipeline and finding better and more effective ways to meet the critical needs of this vulnerable population,” Rep. Bass, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, said. “For far too long victims of human trafficking were left in the shadows. I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation and help bring an end to this insidious practice.”
“Adoption impacts millions of Americans every year,” Rep. Bass said. “Each November, we must take the time to further understand adoption and reassert our promise to continue to work to find solutions that help children find forever families. I’m especially encouraged by the growing inclusion of foster care and adoption in the definition of a modern family. Thanks to movies like Instant Family, which features a couple who stumbles into the world of foster care, the stigmas of modern day adoption are quickly vanishing.
“With the rise of substance abuse highlighted by the opioid epidemic, more and more kinship caregivers are stepping up to raise children in need of temporary care or permanent homes,” said Rep. Bass. “This is happening in every state and every county in the United States. While we work to address this immediate epidemic, our child welfare systems are being overwhelmed. Kinship caregivers need support and this bill will help provide the assistance necessary to creating a stable home and environment for the child.
“I’m sure the parents in Congress all would agree that health care for our children is not optional,” said Rep. Bass. “The congressional record is clear that Medicaid was supposed to cover all young adults who were in foster care at age 18, even if they move to a different state. But unfortunately, the language in the bill itself, wasn’t as clear. I hope the President signs this piece of legislation to clarify the original intent.”
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this bill and the foster youth who will benefit from its passage.
One of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance until they turn 26.
It’s only fair that young adults who age out of foster care should keep their coverage until they turn 26, too.
“The Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border is deeply concerning and it goes against our nation’s values and long history as a land of immigrants,” the lawmakers wrote. “As we learn more about the devastating effects of President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, we are seeing more and more images of some of the children that are being detained. Based on these images, many have raised concerns about the status of young girls who have been separated at the border. The American people have a right to know what is being done to ensure th