Washington, DC -
02/27/2008 - On Capitol Hill today, the youth and parents most impacted by the nation's foster care system joined child welfare advocates and others at a Congressional hearing to emphasize that now is the time for federal foster care reform. Convened by the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the hearing featured testimony by Hope Cooper of the national Kids Are Waiting campaign, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts. View testimony.
"This evening, after this hearing is over and this room has gone dark and silent, more than half a million American children will go to sleep without their parents at their bedside," said Hope Cooper, Senior Program Officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts. "Foster care can be virtually life saving for some of these children. But far too many do not experience foster care as the temporary solution it is supposed to be; instead, they spend years in foster care waiting to return safely to their families or have new families through adoption or guardianship. Our nation's child welfare system is in urgent need of reform, and proposals before Congress would achieve important changes to outdated federal policies that govern the way millions of vulnerable children and families receive support.";
Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chairman of the Subcommittee, recently introduced the comprehensive Invest in Kids Act. Along with other important legislation before the 110 th Congress, it would correct a number of unintended, but serious inequities in current child welfare policy. Additionally, this legislation would serve to strengthen families and reduce the number of children in foster care, ensure that all children in care receive the services they need, and support relatives who provide permanence for children through guardianship.
In her testimony, Cooper underscored that meaningful, lasting federal foster care reform will focus on:
- Prevention. The federal government should partner with states in supporting programs that strengthen families, keep them safely together and reduce the number of children who enter foster care. In a recent report, Time for Reform: Investing in Prevention, Keeping Children Safe At Home, Kids Are Waiting found that the majority of dedicated federal child welfare funding is reserved for placing and maintaining children in foster care and cannot be used for prevention or reunification services or supports. States need flexible, reliable federal funding to help support a continuum of services to keep children safe, promote their development and well-being and strengthen families.
- Subsidized guardianship. Federal assistance should be available to relatives who create stable, loving families through legal guardianship. This would allow children to exit foster care, and allow relatives to continue receiving financial assistance needed to provide their children with food, clothing and other critical expenses.
- Adoption Assistance. Today, federal adoption assistance is only available for children in foster care who are eligible based on outdated income requirements. Every child in foster care who has a goal of adoption deserves an adoptive family. And each child with special needs awaiting an adoptive family deserves federal support. We must ensure that no child in foster care is denied a family because the necessary financial support is unavailable.
- Eliminating Outdated Eligibility Requirements. All children in foster care need services and supports to ensure that they can leave foster care for permanent, loving families. Yet, each year, fewer children receive federal support, due to an outdated requirement that links their ability to receive this support to a decade old, now defunct program. By eliminating this requirement, the federal government would be a full partner with states to help vulnerable children.
"It has been more than a decade since the passage of the groundbreaking Adoption and Safe Families Act,"; Cooper noted. "We must build on ASFA's successes and honor the long-standing partnership between states and the federal government in ensuring safety, permanency and well-being for our nation's foster children. Kids and families have waited long enough. The time for real, lasting reform is now.";About the Kids Are Waiting Campaign
Kids Are Waiting: Fix Foster Care Now, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national, nonpartisan campaign dedicated to ensuring that all children in foster care have the safe, permanent families they deserve through reform of the federal financing structure that governs our nation's foster care program. For more information visit: www.kidsarewaiting.org