New Law is Designed to Improve Lives, Outcomes of Nation's Foster Children and Youth
On Tuesday, October 7, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law the "Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act." This landmark, bipartisan legislation passed by unanimous consent in the House on September 17, thanks to the leadership of Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL) and in the Senate on September 22, due to the efforts of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). The new law represents the most significant reform of the nation's foster care system in more than a decade. As a result of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, more children who have experienced abuse or neglect will be able to leave foster care for good to join safe, permanent families.
The new law includes several key recommendations offered by the national, nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. The Commission undertook an assessment of the nation's foster care system beginning in 2003, and developed practical solutions to improve both the U.S. foster care system and the lives and outcomes of the children and youth in its care. The Commission, established by The Pew Charitable Trusts, consisted of policymakers, judges, child welfare administrators, advocates, academics, foster and adoptive parents and a former foster youth.
"On behalf of the Pew Commission, I commend the President and members of Congress for working to improve the future for foster children by crafting and passing this critically important law," said Bill Frenzel, former Chairman of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care and currently a Guest Scholar at The Brookings Institution. "One former foster youth told our commission, 'All kids deserve families so they can believe in themselves and grow up to be somebody.' The Fostering Connections to Success and Improved Adoptions Act will make it possible for more children in foster care to have such a family, and to benefit from the love, support and guidance they provide."
The "Fostering Connections to Success and Improved Adoptions" Act includes the following provisions:
- Incentives to increase adoptions of children from foster care, especially older youth and those with special needs.
- Phased elimination of an outdated eligibility requirement for adoption assistance that will increase the number of special needs children who can be adopted with federal support.
- Federal resources to assist children who leave foster care for legal guardianships with family members.
- Direct federal foster care funding for tribal governments, so that more American Indian and Alaskan Native children can receive the supports and services they need while remaining in their own communities.
- Allowing states to provide foster care supports and services to young people up to age 21.
- Improved oversight of educational progress and health care needs of children while in foster care.
- Mandating that "reasonable efforts" be made to place siblings together when they enter the foster care system.