Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Introduces Bill to Help Children & Fix Foster Care

Jan 6, 2017
Press Release
More than 250,000 Kids Nationwide Could Benefit; 16,000 in Florida

“Breaking Up Families Should be a Last Resort”

WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today announced that he has introduced legislation to help children stay at home with their families instead of being placed in group homes or foster care. 

The bipartisan Family First Prevention Services Act will address serious issues with the current foster care system. An identical version of the bill introduced by Buchanan last year passed the House unanimously in June 2016, but the Senate failed to act.

Experts have cautioned that children raised in foster care face increased risks of substance abuse, homelessness and teen pregnancy. Every year, more than 250,000 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 was almost 16,000 in 2014.

“This 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

“We know that strong families make for strong communities,” Buchanan said. “This bill is so important given that we’re in the middle of an opioid and heroin crisis, which creates many, many vulnerable children. This bill is a departure from an outdated system that focuses on caring for children only after they enter into foster care, and instead invests in proven prevention services, including substance abuse treatment, that will keep families together. This legislation offers the types of support that parents need to provide the safe and stable home every child deserves.”

The bill is co-sponsored by the former ranking Democrat on Ways and Means, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.).

Over 500 state and national child welfare organizations supported the bill in 2016, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Child Welfare League of America and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

For draft bill text, click here.