President Signs Bill To Help Children And Youth In Foster Care
Oct 10, 2008
It s not often that we get to report success on legislation that impacts the nation s most vulnerable children, yet in September Congress passed and in October the President signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. In the words of Senator Grassley (R-IA), This package is the most far-reaching child welfare reform measure to be enacted in a decade. Now, foster children and families will have access to a better foster care and adoption system. It is, as Representative Weller (R-IL) summarized, good for children, good for families, good for communities and good for taxpayers.
This new law will help hundreds of thousands of children and youth in foster care by promoting permanent families for them through relative guardianship and adoption. The Act allows more children with special needs to receive federally supported adoption assistance and, for the first time, give states the option to offer assistance to children who leave foster care to live with relatives who are legal guardians. In addition to enhancing the options for exiting foster care, the Act makes a number of important improvements to foster care:
- It gives states the option to extend federal foster care support for youth up to age 21, so they don t have to move out on their own on their 18th birthdays.
- The Act offers many American Indian children important federal protections and support for the first time.
- The new law requires reasonable efforts be made to place siblings together and to maintain visitation and connections when placement together is not possible.
- The Act strengthens educational stability and access to health care for children in foster care.
As Representative McDermott (D-WA) noted: This landmark . . . legislation is bi-partisan and bi-cameral and a testament to our ability to work together for the common good. The Act is an important first step toward reforming the child welfare system. CLASP agrees with Senator Baucus (D-MT) that we must next turn our attention to child welfare finance reform and finish the job. We look forward to working with state and federal partners to reform the child welfare system by investing adequate resources and providing critical leadership to develop the capacity to provide services that not only intervene after abuse and neglect have occurred but prevent maltreatment from occurring in the first place.