Senators Push to Keep Kids Out of Foster Care

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Sen. Ron Wyden

Sen. Ron Wyden

Sen. Ron Wyden

WASHINGTON — When states spend federal child welfare money, the funding rules mean most of the money goes to foster care services.

But many government officials and children’s advocates say the money could be better spent on services that help a family stay together without the need for a foster placement.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation Wednesday that would give states flexibility in how they use child welfare funding.

The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act would change how states can use money provided under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. States would be able to pay for services such as family skills training or counseling, or concrete goods and services such as a washer or dryer that could help a child stay at home, return home or live with relatives.

More than 400,000 children were in foster care in the United States, according to 2013 data from the Children’s Bureau of the federal Health and Human Services Department.

Wyden said the bill is not a condemnation of foster care, which serves many children well.

“What this is all about is creating as many good choices as we possibly can for youngsters to grow up in a safe, healthy environment. That means keeping families together,” he said.

MaryLee Allen, policy director at the Children’s Defense Fund, said advocates have been pushing for years for changes to child welfare funding that would prioritize keeping families together.

“It’s a long-overdue step in making investments in services that can help children stay at home,” she said.

[Related: Youth Today's complete coverage on foster care]

Allen said the bill’s attention to the needs of a child and family before, during or after a foster care placement is important.

“It really looks at the system the whole way through,” she said.

The bill also would increase funding for community-based prevention and intervention services by $470 million per year through the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. The bill would provide $1 billion in mandatory funding through the program.

John Sciamanna, a government affairs specialist for the Child Welfare League of America, said the increased funding is significant.

“We think that’s a critical component. A lot of proposals have talked about shuffling existing money,” he said.

Wyden’s bill was introduced with the support of seven co-sponsors from the committee, all Democrats.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on Tuesday, though, that he hopes the committee will consider the bill and any amendments to it in the fall.

Hatch wants to curb the use of foster care group homes. Policies that keep more families together would help do so, he said.

“It is not sound public policy to work to reduce the reliance on group homes without addressing the need to support a family placement for children and youth currently in or at risk of entering one of these facilities,” he said.

More than 60 organizations have said they support Wyden’s bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators, according to committee staff.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the House soon.

More stories related to this one:

Making Health Care Access Easier for Young People Leaving Foster Care

California Photographers Focus on Life After Foster Care in New Book

The One Question Foster Care Workers Need to Ask Themselves

Legislation Would Keep Foster Kids From Having to Change Schools

Young Mothers in Foster Care: Resilience in Action

  • wwdovew

    This sounds like a great bill, but it is only the start…..hopefully there could be more major changes. So many families have suffered at the hands of CPS in this nation. So many children will never be the same because they endured the legal snatching from their biological family all in the name of serving “the best interest of the child”. Till it happens to your family, you will never (can never) understand the devastation that takes place in the child’s and parents lives. It is all for the money from the federal funding in Social Security Title IV. Ask our family, the child was removed because of being offered a cookie one day to finish lunch quickly. The state CPS said in Michigan you cannot bribe a child so we are taking the child. Our legislators in Congress who change the system, also need to address the tens of thousands of families who lost their children and how to help those families and children.

  • upagainstthewall

    I have serious doubts that there is a fix to a system that has proven to cause more harm to the children than good. 68% are sexually assaulted. Many are left homeless after they age out. The others turn to drugs and fall into addictions. It is stated that only 3% of foster children will attend college. There are many more that will instead become incarcerated. Who is profiting off of the destruction of families?
    I would be more inclined to be hopeful if this bill included counseling for families that are struggling in the aftermath of the destruction caused by this horrific agency that truly does not give a damn about the safety or well being of the children in our great state. The state of Corruption… aka… Oregon.

  • Suzette

    We want our family together again. I went to court and gal attorney said my grandson is better off with foster family cause he was a foster child. Listen up corruption to tear families apart not to fix them. I’ve worked in a hospital for the last 17 yrs. I’ve got a clean record and a home. Social service WA its me to have my grandchild. Courts say differ cause he was a foster child. Judge says in court awe I really dont think you want him. Yes this is happening everywhere. The other grandparent I know is a school bus driver. They are refusing hers also. If she had any record she couldn’t drive a school bus full of young kids. One grandmother divorced her husband after 30 something years cause of an alcohol problem where he got caught as a kid. But didn’t do it anymore cause he knew it was stupid. Bam lost her grandkids cause the divorce wasn’t. Fast enough. Wow. Then you tell me awe these kids dont need their families tear them apart. May God have mercy. Corruption in the courts. Its sealed court rooms and the public can’t view the madness. Set our families free in the name of Jesus. ??

  • annjohns

    a washer and dryer?

    • MsCee

      Absolutely, Annjohns! You might be appalled to know that many children have been snatched up because they were wearing dirty clothes. And if that is the only “legitimate” cause CPS has for removing those children, then a washer and dryer in the home might help those parents eliminate that one particular “violation” that makes them a target of this greedy system! Keep digging around the Internet. You’ll read a whooooole lotta horror stories about people having their children taken for the least little thing.

  • Suzette

    Give us our families back and let them go free from the foster care system. My home and background is clean. But foster parents are still able to keep my grandson cause the courts won’t let me have him. Yes this senator is correct. I say fine the people that are keeping families apart when there is good families to take in these kids. Then you will see a change in the system when you are taking money from them instead of giving them money when the sell the children.

  • Diane Morton

    There needs to be more legislation to help grandparents. They give all kinds of benefits to foster caregivers, but as a grandparent with custody of my 5 year old grandson, i cant get any help.