Stronger Families Strengthen Communities

Sep 7, 2018

Strong and stable families help children to grow and mature into happy and productive adults. For this reason, I am proud to recognize a family each year which through foster care or adoption provides the safety and stability our children deserve. The Angels in Adoption award is intended to highlight the extraordinary sacrifices of these unsung heroes, but there is much we can do to help struggling families care for their children before reaching the point of foster care.

President Trump recently signed into law one such initiative first introduced in 2016 in the Human Resources Subcommittee, which I chair. The Family First Prevention Services Act contained a number of reforms aimed at improving our child welfare system to keep children with their families whenever possible. It does this by allowing states the flexibility they need to not only support foster caretakers after children have left their homes, but also to help families at risk of becoming unsafe for children before they enter the foster care system.

One of the gravest threats to family stability is substance abuse, with opioids driving this crisis across the country in recent years. To help address this problem, families will now have access to mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment for up to twelve months, as well as support for relatives to assist with taking care of their children. Additionally, the new law updates and reauthorizes several state-level programs including the Regional Partnership Grant Program to provide funding for states to help at-risk families.

A number of additional bills were included to reduce the burden on Americans who choose to foster children in their time of need. One such bill, the Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act, waives many of the bureaucratic requirements on foster homes for relatives of children who are willing to host them. Another, the Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act, allows states to extend foster care and educational support programs to young people who would have previously aged out.

The Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act provides funding for states to update their interstate adoption system, which in many cases are still using paper forms, to electronic means. These three initiatives will go a long way toward connecting those who are willing and able to provide foster care and educational services with children in need. One particular priority of mine was to ensure the law recognizes the value of organizations such as Boys Town, located just outside of Omaha, and enables them to continue serving our young people. Boys Town utilizes a unique model which has allowed them to provide invaluable care for over 100 years and I am happy to report this legislative package contained language enabling them to continue receiving federal funding.

Americans who provide foster care will always deserve a special place in our hearts because they sacrifice so much to care for our children. At the same time, I’m excited by the possibility of better helping struggling families to keep children in their homes where they belong and I’m proud to have supported these initiatives to hopefully do just that.