Congress poised to act on landmark child welfare legislation

Children’s Rights has joined more than 300 child welfare advocacy organizations across the United States in signing a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives urging them to act now to pass what many are calling the most significant child welfare legislation in a decade.

In June, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Fostering Connections to Success Act, sponsored by Reps. Jim McDermott and Jerry Weller of Washington State. On September 10, the Senate Finance Committee passed the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008. This clears the way for the negotiating process to reconcile the House and Senate bills to continue — and, we hope, for the legislation to be passed before the members of Congress adjourn for the November election.

Both bills include several provisions that would help hundreds of thousands of children in foster care by:

  • Extending and increasing incentives for adoption, including incentives for the adoption of children with special needs and older children in foster care.
  • Allowing states to offer for the first time federal assistance for guardianship payments to relatives of children in foster care who wish to care for them outside the child welfare system — an important option for moving children quickly toward placement in a safe, permanent home.
  • Making it easier for immediate relatives to step in and raise children when their parents cannot by requiring notification of relatives when children are removed from their parents and providing grants supporting needed services for childen in care.
  • Easing the transition of older youth out of the foster care system — and increasing their chances at longer-term success — by allowing them to continue to receive federal foster care payments beyond the age of 18.
  • Ensuring the consistency and continuity of education for children in foster care by requiring states to keep children in their schools if it is in their best interests.
  • Allowing tribes the same access to federal foster care and adoption assistance and relative guardianship funding available to the states.

Our colleagues at the Child Welfare League of America have more information about the Senate and House bills in the advocacy section of their website. Give them a look to find out more — or check out our own policy projects section to learn about Children’s Rights’ work on many of these critical issues.