Buchanan Bill to Keep Families Together Passes Key House Panel
Bill Endorsed by Children’s Defense Fund and Child Welfare League
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan’s bill to help children stay at home with their families instead of being placed in group homes was approved Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Family First Prevention Services Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Buchanan earlier this week, passed the committee unanimously. Experts have cautioned that children raised in foster care face increased risks of substance abuse, homelessness and teen pregnancy. Every year, an estimated 265,000 children – from infants to age 18 – are removed from their homes by state child welfare officials and placed in either foster care or group homes. In Florida that figure is an estimated 16,000.
“My bill makes sure that children are protected and families are not split up unnecessarily,” Buchanan said. “Our current system creates a perverse incentive to place children in foster care. Breaking up families should be a last resort.”
The bill will:
- Fund a program to address child abuse and child neglect due to substance abuse.
- Reduce wait times for children in fragile transition periods by helping states update antiquated child placement systems.
- Offer help to grandparents who are asked to care for their grandchildren.
- Provide parent training and family therapy to keep kids at home and out of the child welfare system.
The bill is co-sponsored by Ways and Means’ ranking Democrat, Sander Levin (D-Mich.), and Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Mike Kelly (R-Penn.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), John Larson (D-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).
U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
The bill is also supported by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, who said, “The Family First Prevention Services Act will help more children grow up in a safe home, surrounded by a stable family. I applaud Chairman Buchanan and Senators Hatch and Wyden for introducing this important legislation. I look forward to advancing this legislation so we can strengthen America's families and deliver positive outcomes for children.”
A number of child welfare groups have supported the bill because it:
- “Not only recognizes the unique needs of children and families in adversity, but also makes great strides to meet them in a way that pediatricians can stand behind: through evidence-based, prevention-focused approaches.” – American Academy of Pediatrics.
- “Takes historic and long overdue steps to direct federal child welfare dollars to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families […] takes important steps to ensure children who need foster care will be placed in the least-restrictive most family-like setting appropriate to their needs, and gives special attention to children whose emotional or other special needs require residential treatment.” – Children’s Defense Fund.
- “Promotes a number of policy priorities our state and local members have identified as key to improving child and family well-being … We appreciate your bipartisan, bicameral effort to address child welfare reform, and specifically, the longstanding policy priority to expand Title IV-E for prevention so that children and parents/caregivers have access to services and interventions that maintain family stability.” – American Public Human Services Association and National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.
- “Expand[s] the availability of such services and reflects the reality that many families, including adoptive families, need targeted, effective services to meet their children’s needs and prevent foster care entry.” – North American Council on Adoptable Children.
- “Offers the important possibility of allowing funds to provide vital mental health, substance use and in-home services that could help children stay with their own families.” – Child Welfare League of America.
- “Offer[s] relatives the support they need to keep children out of foster care and help them thrive.” – Generations United.