For Immediate Release
September 23, 2008
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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) commended Congress for giving final approval last evening to a bill that will provide help to hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children and youth in foster care. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893) will help find permanent families for many of these children through adoption or relative guardianship and ensure that more siblings can stay together while in foster care, with relatives or in adoptive families.
“There is nothing more important to children than family,” said CDF President Marian Wright Edelman. “CDF applauds Congress for reaching across party lines and stepping forward to improve the lives of our nation’s children and offering these most vulnerable children meaningful family connections. Compared to those who have not been in foster care, these youth are more likely to become homeless, unemployed or to be incarcerated, and more likely to have physical, developmental and mental health challenges. This bill offers them new hope. These improvements are a vivid example of how by working together we can improve all of our lives by putting children first.”
Under the current system, youth in foster care are often forced out of care at age 18 and have few resources to help them transition to adulthood. This bill will help older youth remain in foster care longer to increase their opportunities for continued education, employment or other activities helpful to their futures. The legislation—considered the most significant reforms for children in foster care in more than a decade—includes provisions to help youth in foster care by:
- Promoting permanent families for children with relativesby alerting relatives of children about to enter foster care so they can intervene beforehand, helping children already in care leave to live permanently with relatives when they cannot return home or be adopted, and supporting Kinship Navigator programs to link children living with relatives with the supports they need.
- Keeping siblings togetherby encouraging their placement together in foster care, relatives’ homes, or adoptive families or ensuring they stay connected.
- Increasing adoptionsof older youth and children with disabilities or other special needs.
- Helping older youth in foster careincrease their opportunities for success.
- Promoting educational stability and improved health outcomesby helping children in foster care stay in school and minimizing moves from school to school, and better coordinating their health care.
- Increasing services and protections for American Indian childrenby offering Indian tribes direct access to federal support for foster care and adoption assistance.
- Expanding federal support for training of private agency and court staff as well as attorneys and others representing children who have been abused and neglected.
Key to gaining support for the bill’s passage were testimonials from youth who had spent time in foster care, grandparents and other relatives raising children, and adoptive parents. More than 500,000 children in America are in foster care at any given time; about one-fourth of them are being cared for by relatives. Each year, more than 127,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted. More than 26,000 older youth leave foster care—most at 18—without being returned home or adopted.
For more specifics on the legislation, visit www.childrensdefense.org/policy/welfare/.
For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund, visit www.childrensdefense.org.