Foster Parent Resource Center

Legislation

Young woman sitting First Home Care offers the Legislative Update section of our website as an information gathering and dissemination section for therapeutic foster parents, case managers, supervisors, administrators and children and adolescents interested in federal, state and local legislation and policies effecting young people in foster care. We will endeavor not to endorse specific legislation but want each of you to have the ability to understand and advocate for the best possible support for children in care. Over 600,000 children and adolescents are in foster care today, and while many go on to successful lives, others struggle to become independent and self-sufficient. The issues facing both foster children and children at-risk are significant. Here are some numbers outlined by the Child Welfare League of America in the report "America's Children At-a-Glance":

  • 133,000 children are awaiting adoption
  • 50 percent of these children are children of color
  • 8,500,000 children lack medical insurance
  • Approximately 2 million children witness domestic violence each year
  • Over 8 million children live with parents who abuse alcohol or other drugs
  • 4 million youth suffer from a major mental illness.
  • 40 percent of young women will be pregnant prior to the age of 20
  • Over 1 million parents are incarcerated effecting 2.3 million children
  • Over 1 million children are homeless each year
  • 12 percent of homeless children end up in foster care

These numbers are important for all of us to know and understand. Equally important is the knowledge that this can change. First Home Care staff, foster parents and children have seen children, many from difficult circumstances, thrive and succeed with help and support. There are several common themes for young people who succeed:

  • Caring adults who establish lasting relationships
  • Connection to family and community
  • The opportunity to learn independent living skills
  • The young person's desire to succeed
  • Services that include the young person
  • Services that teach concrete skills
  • Schools that support success
  • Positive alternatives to negative influences
  • A healthy dose of recreation and social activities

While we know that these things work the numbers in the first section continue to rise. Legislation at the federal, state and local levels determine the types of supports and funding available for children. The Legislative Update will offer the latest news in "what is happening" around information impacting children and families.

We initiate the Legislative Update with two important pieces of legislation. The first piece of legislation is the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. This legislation established our national goals for children in foster care regarding safety, permanency and well-being. The key elements of the law include:

  • The safety of children is the paramount concern that must guide all child welfare services.
  • Foster care is a temporary setting and not a place for children to grow up.
  • Permanency planning efforts for children should begin as soon as a child enters foster care and should be expedited by the provision of services to families.
  • The child welfare system must focus on results and accountability.
  • Innovative approaches are needed to achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being.

The second piece of legislation is the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. This law created the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, named in honor of the late Senator John Chafee, who was a strong advocate for children in foster care. The purpose of the law was to build better opportunities for young people "aging" out of the foster care system by providing additional supports for these children. Key elements of the law include:

  • All children should receive independent living activities regardless of permanency plan.
  • States are encouraged to extend Medicaid benefits form ages 18 to 21 for children who are in foster care on their 18th birthday.
  • Asset limit for Title 4-E eligibility changed from $1,000 to $10,000.
  • Title 4-E funds must be used to provide training for adults to address independent living issues facing foster children
  • States must measure the success of programs providing independent living training to foster children.

Both of these laws are available permanently in Legislative Update. Please feel free to contact us if you hear of legislative initiatives that effect children and families.

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