On September 17, 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 6893, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893), by voice vote. This legislation targets specific deficiencies in the child welfare system and addresses some of the most important needs affecting foster children in America today, including extending federal foster care payments up to 21 years old, providing federal support for relatives caring for foster children, increasing access to foster care and adoption services to Native American tribes, and improving the oversight of the health and education needs of children in foster care. Major provisions of the bill include:
1. Helping Relatives Care For Foster Children – Continues federal assistance (at state option) to relatives assuming legal guardianship of eligible children for whom they have cared for as foster parents. Authorizes Family Connection Grants to increase involvement of relatives as caregivers and help them navigate public programs. Requires notification of close relatives when children are placed in foster care.
2. Extending Assistance to Foster Youth Up to the Age of 21 – Extends federal foster care payments up to the age of 19, 20 or 21 (at state option) for children living in supervised settings. Require youth receiving such assistance to be in school, work, or related activity. Extends adoption assistance and guardianship payments up to age 19, 20, or 21 (at state option) for children adopted or entering guardianship after attaining the age of 16.
3. Expanding Training Funds – Expands coverage of federal funds for the training of child welfare workers to include private agencies approved by the state.
4. Improving Oversight of Health Care – Includes overseeing plans for the health care needs of foster children, accounting for the assessment and treatment of health conditions and ensuring the continuity of care, medical records, and prescription drugs.
5. Promoting Educational Stability – Requires plan for ensuring the educational stability of children in foster care and mandate assurance of school attendance.
6. Increasing Aid for Tribal Foster Care – Provides direct federal foster care and adoption funding to tribal governments for children in their care.
7. Encouraging Sibling Placement – Requires reasonable efforts to place siblings together when removed from their homes.
8. Extending and Improving Adoption Incentives – Improves the Adoption Incentives Program for children adopted out of foster care, including increased bonuses for special needs and older child adoptions.
The Senate is expected to vote on this bill soon. Please contact your Senator and urge them to pass this important legislation that will improve the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable children.
Thanks for your advocacy.
Nancy McFall Jean, MSW