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
Please join us for a Congressional hearing-style briefing presented by the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force to explore how the opioid crisis increases children placed in foster care featuring Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw.
The current health insurance system is one of the many disproportionate challenges that our nation’s foster youth face. With the Affordable Care Act, foster youth who are in care by their 18th birthday and previously enrolled in Medicaid are able to receive healthcare until the age of 26, much like their peers who can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until that age.
This legislation requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) to increase awareness of the National Helpline by conducting a national campaign to inform the public on how to get in contact with the National Helpline and the information it provides. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7 treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
“The opioid crisis is devastating families and our already over-burdened child welfare system,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “We have learned so much from the crack cocaine epidemic and how it affected those in the child welfare system.
“Grandparents and other relatives all over our nation step forward every day to provide a home and care for children when their biological parents are unable to do so,” Rep. Bass said. “These family members play a vital role in our child welfare system and often care for these children without the same resources as foster parents. This sometimes lifesaving support deserves to be honored and recognized. I’m proud to support this effort lead by the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth as we continue to fight for meaningful recognition and reform for this important issue.”
“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. “That’s why I’ve added a provision to this important piece of legislation that focuses on the special housing needs of young girls in the foster care system. One of the major reasons girls cannot escape the cycle of sex trafficking is because they do not have housing to escape to.
“It is critical that we raise awareness about the unique challenges young people in the system face,” Bass said. “In all of my years working in child welfare, meeting thousands of children either in or out of care, we’ve heard their voices clearly: They want a consistent source of advice and support--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’m proud of the coalition that came together in support of these incredibly important bills,” Rep. Bass said after the five bills passed. “Every year, 23,000 young people age out of foster care in need of various support to transition into adulthood--including housing, healthcare, education, financial literacy, and job training. Today, our chamber stepped up and said ‘we hear you and we’ll be there for you.’ It’s a tangible example of this chamber making an impact and a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives.