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Rep. Bass Introduces 21st Century Children and Families Act to Improve Stability for Kids in Foster Care

November 4, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), co-Chair and founder of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, introduced legislation to update decades-old child welfare law so that more children can exit foster care to safe, stable, and permanent family.

“It’s time to update old child welfare laws,” said Rep. Bass. “I’ve spoken with former foster youth, social workers, and child welfare professionals over the years and the consensus is that more needs to be done to improve foster kids’ options for stability in their lives. Premature modification of parental rights too often leaves children in foster care with no legal family. The changes that I’m proposing today focus the foster care system on the child and the idea that children should be at the center of our efforts.”

For every child adopted from foster care, two children are left in foster care awaiting a family and over twenty thousand youth age out of foster care every year. In part, so many youths are aging out of foster care and children are in foster care with no legal family because of the very laws that helped increase adoption. For example, currently states are required to terminate a parent’s rights when their child has been in foster care for 15 out of 22 months. This results in thousands more children without legal family than are adopted each year.

Change is needed. The 21st Century Children and Families Act would preserve the aspects of child welfare laws that have proven effective, while updating child welfare policy so more children can safely and expeditiously leave foster care for safe, stable, and permanent family. The bill would reduce the number of children in foster care without legal family and increase permanency options so fewer youth age out of foster care by:

  • Extending the timeline for modification of parental rights from 15 out of 22 months, to 24 months when the child is not in the care of a relative.
  • Exempting parents from the timeline when:
    • The parent is actively engaged in services, or
    • The modification of parental rights is based principally on parental incarceration or detention of the parent by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Requiring states to report on disproportionality and disparities in access to services in their child welfare system.
  • Requiring states to demonstrate that they provided the family services, support, and the time needed to address the reasons for the child’s placement in foster care, and link modification of parental rights to the child’s best interests.

Read the section by section here and the full bill text here.