Foster Care Reforms Advance in Congress, Courts and States

Foster Care Reforms Advance in Congress, Courts and States

On Capitol Hill today, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care gave a status report on the progress made to date in implementing its foster care reform recommendations. Less than two years after the release of the nonpartisan Pew Commission's report, Congress, state Supreme Courts and state human service agencies across the nation are implementing significant portions of the Commission's recommendations.

"The Pew Commission applauds Congressional action to improve court oversight of foster care, and is grateful to the members responsible for this progress, especially the leadership provided by Representatives Wally Herger (R-CA) and Bill Thomas (R-CA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)," said Pew Commission Chairman and former Congressman Bill Frenzel (R-MN).

Looking to the future, Commission Vice Chairman and former Congressman Bill Gray (D-PA) expressed the hope that momentum would continue to build around foster care reform, particularly with respect to the Pew Commission's child welfare financing reforms. 

"The Pew Commission's financing recommendations would correct the shortcomings of the current, failed financing system," Gray stated. "Our proposals would give states the tools, incentives, and reliable resources to move children more quickly out of foster care and into safe, permanent homes, through reunification, adoption, or guardianship. They are a roadmap that both Republicans and Democrats can follow to ensure that children in foster care realize their birthright of a loving, permanent family."

Key steps taken to date to implement the Pew Commission's recommendations include the following. More detail is provided in the one-page fact sheet:

  • At the federal level, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 included major new provisions and $100 million in new funding to improve the juvenile and family courts based on the Pew Commission's recommendations.    
  • Across the nation, State Supreme Courts and child welfare agencies have worked together to craft comprehensive action plans to speed the movement of children out of foster care and into safe, permanent families.    
  • More than one-third of states have formed or are currently creating their own high-level commissions to promote collaboration between child welfare agencies and courts to serve children in foster care better – as recommended by the Pew Commission.    
  • Chief Justices across the country have answered the Commission's challenge to serve as champions for the children in their courts, bringing much needed, high-level attention and assistance to statewide efforts to strengthen the dependency courts.

On the federal level, Frenzel noted that both Republicans and Democrats previously introduced legislation to enact the Commission's court recommendations, including Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The Pew Commission crafted recommendations focusing on two critical areas: reforming federal child welfare financing and strengthening court oversight of children in foster care. Many of its court recommendations are being implemented across the nation. Yet reform of the foster care system must also include a new approach to foster care financing. Current federal funding mechanisms for child welfare encourage an over-reliance on foster care at the expense of other services to keep families safely together and to move children swiftly and safely from foster care to safe, permanent families.

The Commission's recommendations require stronger accountability for how public dollars are used to protect and support children who have suffered abuse and neglect. They give states a flexible, reliable source of federal funding as well as new options and incentives to seek safety and permanence for children in foster care.

About The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care

The nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care was launched on May 7, 2003. The Commission is supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, with additional support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Commission includes some of the nation's leading child welfare experts, and was charged with developing practical, evidence-based recommendations related to federal financing and court oversight of child welfare to improve outcomes for children in foster care, particularly to expedite the movement of children from foster care to safe, permanent families and to prevent unnecessary placements in foster care.

For additional information about the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, or to obtain a copy of the Commission's report, please visit the Commission Web site.

View the list of attendees.