President Obama signed into law The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183) that will:
- Encourage states to combat sex trafficking among youth in foster care, promote normalcy for foster youth;
- Help move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives; and
- Increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent resides outside of the U.S.
The legislation is fully paid for, and is expected to reduce the deficit by $19 million over the next 10 years.
The work of social workers may be impacted by some provisions including (but not limited to) the requirement to identify and report foster youth at risk of sex trafficking; states’ development of a reasonable and sensible parenting standard so that foster parents can make decisions for youth to help them participate in enriching, extracurricular and social activities; and to increase the speed in which permanency for foster youth is achieved.
The following are some the key provisions of The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act:
Title I: Protecting Youth at Risk of Sex Trafficking
- Requires state child welfare agencies to identify, document, and determine appropriate services for children in foster care or who are otherwise involved in the child welfare system who are victims of child sex trafficking or at risk of becoming victims.
- Requires state child welfare agencies to promote “normalcy” for youth in foster care, allowing them to more easily participate in age appropriate social, scholastic and enrichment activities. An additional $3 million (beginning in FY 2020) will be made available each year under the Title IV-E Independent Living program, whose purposes are expanded to include supporting participation in age-appropriate activities for youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18.
- Eliminates Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for children under the age of 16 and adds additional case plan and case review requirements for older youth with a permanency goal of APPLA. (For children in foster care under the responsibility of an Indian tribe, these changes do not apply until three years after the enactment of this Act.)
- Allows youth in foster care who are age 14 and older to help develop their own case plan – and any revision to the plan – and are able to select up to two individuals who are not a foster parent or caseworker to be a part of their case planning team.
- Requires that children exiting foster care because they have turned 18 (or under 21 if state extends foster care) and who have been in care for six months or longer receive an official or certified copy of their birth certificate, a social security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license or identification card (if the child is eligible to receive such documents).
Title II: Improving Adoption Incentives and Extending Family Connection Grants
- Improves the adoption incentives program and extends it for three years. It also extends the Family Connection Grant Program for one year.
- Encourages the placement of children in foster care with siblings. Adds clarifying language that all parents of siblings to the child (where the parent has legal custody of the sibling) also be identified and notified within 30 days after the removal of a child from the custody of the parent(s). This includes individuals who would have been considered siblings if not for the termination or other disruption of parental rights.
Title III: Improving International Child Support Recovery
- Requires states to make necessary changes to implement the Hague Convention in enforcing international child support cases, increasing the amount of child support collected for families.
- Requires data standardization within the child support enforcement program, improving administration. This would streamline the child support programs with federal programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child welfare, unemployment Insurance and food assistance programs such as SNAP.
- Requires all states to implement electronic processing of income withholding, as most states already do; this will improve the collection of child support and save taxpayers $48 million over 10 years.
- Creates a National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of the child support enforcement program.
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