Federal Policy Opportunities
Child maltreatment bills in the Senate
By Angelique Day, PhD
My name is Angelique Day, and I am your member-at large and am currently serving as a congressional fellow in the office of Rep. Danny K Davis (IL-7). I want to use my time on the hill to ensure that our membership understands the various federal policy opportunities that exist in Congress to improve child and family well-being for children and families who are exposed to America's child welfare system.
The following bills related to child maltreatment have passed the House and are sitting in the Senate for consideration:
- H.R. 2742: Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act (Walorski/Davis). H.R. 2742 would authorize funding and encourage states to join an electronic data exchange to speed up adoptions and foster care placements that cross state lines. Last Congress, it passed the House on a voice vote as H.R. 4472 and also as Section 122 of H.R. 5456.
- H.R. 2857: Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act (Noem/Chu). H.R. 2857 would allow states to place children in special family-based residential substance abuse treatment programs with their parents, rather than in foster care and still receive federal matching for the child's maintenance cost. Family-based treatment has been demonstrated to have higher success rates, lower relapse rates and be less traumatic for children. Last Congress, it passed the House on a voice vote as Section 112 of H.R. 5456.
- H.R. 2834: Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act (Davis/Noem). H.R. 2834 would improve the current law Regional Partnership Grants (RPG), which support collaborative community solutions to parental substance abuse that leads to neglect or abuse. The policy updates build on what we learned from the first round of RPG grants. Last Congress, it passed the House on a voice vote as section 123 of H.R. 5456.
- H.R. 2866: Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act (Smucker/Sewell). H.R. 2866 would encourage states to adopt model foster care licensing regulations that ensure that qualified family members have the opportunity to become foster parents for their relatives, when necessary and to remove barriers to relatives becoming foster parents while maintaining strong rules to keep children safe. Last Congress, it passed the House on a voice vote as section 131 of H.R. 5456.
- H.R. 2847: Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act (Faso/Bass). H.R. 2847 would allow state Chafee Independence Act programs to serve a wider range of youth (from age 14 to age 23, rather than age 16 to age 21) and would allow youth to use Chafee education vouchers until age 23, rather than cutting them off at age 21. It would also allow HHS to redistribute unused education vouchers and unspent Chafee grant funds, rather than expire or revert to the Treasury if states don't use them. It passed the House on a voice vote as Section 303 of H.R. 5456 in the last Congress.
All of these bills were originally introduced in the 114th Congress under the Families First Act. Due to the cost of the Families First bill, the bill didn't pass the Senate. The bills identified here are a subset of bills from the Families First Act that have been deemed by the Congressional Budget Office as cost neutral and that if passed, would significantly improve the Nation's child welfare system. Please contact your senators and urge them to take these bills up in the Finance Committee and to support their passage.
In addition to these bills, there are several other bills that have been introduced in the 115th Congress that we believe are important to members of Div. 37 Section on Child Maltreatment:
- HR 1757: Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act of 2017 (Davis/Bustos/Kelly). HR 1757 would address the psychological, developmental, social and emotional needs of children, youth and families who have experienced trauma through the following efforts:
- Identify Best Practices. Creates a federal task force comprised of HHS, ED, DOJ and relevant tribal agencies to coordinate efforts and establish best practices for identifying and supporting children that have experienced trauma.
- Disseminate Best Practices. Provides more teachers, doctors, social service providers and first responders with the tools to help children who have experienced trauma by creating an eligible use of funding for several federal grant programs to be used for this training.
- Train Key Stakeholders. Creates law enforcement and Native American coordinating centers that will share information, improve awareness and enhance training on trauma's impact.
- Test New Models. Increases funding for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative to evaluate new strategies for improving trauma-informed prevention and care.
- Improve Understanding of Trauma. Requires the CDC to improve data collection on trauma prevalence and directs CDC and GAO to conduct studies to identify barriers to coordination.
- Expand Treatment Capacity. Pilots a Medicaid demonstration program to test expanded coverage of child trauma services and expands mental health care in schools.
- Support Workforce Development . Expands loan repayment programs for clinicians who serve in high-need communities; develops training guidelines for non-clinical providers in trauma care; and improves graduate school and pre-service training for teachers and clinicians.
- Foster Community Coordination . Creates a grant program to bring together stakeholders to identify needs, collect data and target efforts. Additionally, builds on the Performance Partnership Pilot to pool federal grants from multiple agencies and focus the funding on increasing trauma services for children and families.
Sens. Heitkamp (SD) and Durbin (IL) have introduced a similar bill in the Senate. The American Psychological Association has officially signed on as a supporting entity of this bill. Please reach out to your members of Congress and the Senate and ask them to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.
- HB 2236: Foster and Homeless Youth Food Security Act of 2017 (Davis/Moore/ Langevin , & Rush). This bill would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to provide certain alternative eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits applicable to foster care youth and homeless youth, who are enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education. We don't have a Senate lead on this one yet. Please contact your senator and ask him/her to introduce this bill in the Senate. If your elected official is on the Agriculture Committee, please encourage them to co-sponsor this bill and include this bill in the farm bill reauthorization process. The Agricultural Committee website can help you learn if your elected official is a member of this committee.
- HR 2512: Foster Youth and Driving Act (Davis/Dingell/Moore). This bill would amend title IV of the Social Security Act to expand foster parent training and provide new appropriations to support the obtainment of a driver's license. Sen. Stabenow's Office (MI) has agreed to introduce this bill in the Senate. We don't have a timeframe on that introduction yet. Please contact your member of Congress and ask him/her to co-sponsor the bill and to include this bill in the Chaffee reauthorization process. Chaffee will be reauthorized through the Committee on Ways and Means. Is my elected official on the Ways and Means Committee? Find out through the Ways and Means Committee website.
- HR 2681: Foster EITC bill: (Davis). This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the age range at which the earned income tax credit is allowed to former foster children and other individuals without qualifying children. Current law requires beneficiaries to be age 25 and older, unless they have minor dependents. Sen. Bob Casey (PA) will be introducing this bill on the Senate side. There is tension in the tax subcommittee of Ways and Means and a desire by Republicans to eliminate the EITC to pay for other tax reform policies earmarked for wealthier Americans. We really need our members to advocate hard to first preventing the elimination of the EITC and then to ask your elected officials to co-sponsor this bill to target enhance support for our foster care population specifically.
- HR 2682: Supporting Foster Youth in Successful Parenting Act of 2017 (Davis). This bill provides new grants to support the development of foster youth specific sex education curriculum to prevent teen pregnancy and provides supports for those who are pregnant and parenting. Specifically, it would prevent the state from removing infants from their teen moms and placing them in foster care or would encourage foster care placements to keep moms and babies together by increasing the infant supplement to match what foster parents receive for caring for their teen moms. Babies are expensive, and the infant supplement is not enough to purchase diapers and formula currently.
Sen. Portman (OH) has been targeted to introduce this bill in the Senate. For my Ohio colleagues who are division members, we would love Div. 31 members to help put pressure on that office to take it up. If you're not from Ohio, please still contact your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation. Due to the lobbying around defunding Planned Parenthood, this bill has become more contentious that we hoped it would. We will need lots of calls to Republican offices to have any chance of getting this bill taken up in committee. This bill has been referred to Ways and Means and the Education and Workforce Committee. Is my elected representative on the Education and Workforce Committee? Find out on the Education and Workforce Committee website.
- HR 247: Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2017 (Black/Davis/Franks & Bass). This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for a refundable adoption tax credit. This bill has been introduced in the Ways and Means Committee. It has also been introduced in the Sens. Casey (PA) , Blunt (MS) , Gillibrand (NY), Inhofe (OK), Markey (MA) , Rounds (SD) and Klobuchar (MN). Please contact your elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor the bill and to take it up in committee.