Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

President Signs Buchanan Bill to Help Kids

Feb 9, 2018
Press Release
Improves Foster Care System

4th Buchanan Bill to Become Law This Congress

WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan’s bipartisan bill to help children stay with their families instead of being placed in foster care or group homes was signed into law today by the President.

The legislation, the fourth major Buchanan initiative to become law so far this Congress, was included in the Bipartisan Budget Act.

Buchanan’s Family First Prevention Services Act (HR 253) is aimed at keeping families together so that children are not placed in group homes or the foster care system. More than 500 state and national child welfare organizations support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Child Welfare League of America.

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 17,000 in 2016. Of that number, nearly half were removed from their homes due to drug abuse by a parent.

“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 This bill is a departure from an outdated system that focuses on caring for children only after they enter into foster care, and instead invests in proven prevention services, including substance abuse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.). An identical version of the bill introduced by Buchanan in 2016 passed the House unanimously that year, but stalled in the Senate.

A press release from the House Ways and Means committee on Buchanan’s legislation is attached.

Other Buchanan initiatives signed into law during this session of Congress include:

  • H.R. 112, the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act, which provides immediate aid to help farmers replace trees damaged by citrus greening and Hurricane Irma. The bill was included in Section 13207 of the new tax cut law signed in December.
  • H.R. 2126, the What Works To Move Welfare Recipients into Jobs Act, which creates a national database to help people find jobs, was included in H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 – a government funding bill signed into law by the President in May.
  • H.R. 116, the bipartisan Main Street Fairness Act, which ensures that America’s small businesses are not left behind if corporate taxes are lowered. Although the exact language of Buchanan’s bill was not adopted, the principle of tax cuts for small businesses became part of the tax reform “blueprint” and was incorporated into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by the President last month. The president of the National Federation of Independent Business said Buchanan’s Main Street Fairness Act was “one of the pillars of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”