Federal Policy Opportunities

Child welfare bills in the House and Senate

An update from Member-at-Large Angelique Day on federal bills related to child welfare.

By Angelique Day, PhD, and Jessie Friedman

Angelique DayJessie FriedmanMy name is Angelique Day, and I am your member-at-large. I previously wrote in my capacity as a congressional fellow with Congressman Danny Davis’ office, where I was supporting the office’s child welfare initiatives. My year on the Hill has ended and I am now serving as an assistant professor at the University of Washington-Seattle, School of Social Work, where I am continuing to support Congressman Davis’ efforts in my new role. This article was written in partnership with Jessie Friedman, Master’s student at the University of Washington-Seattle, School of Social Work.

We would like to first note that funding for two major child-serving programs, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV), have lapsed under the current Congress. Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on CHIP, which insures 9 million middle- and low-income children. Though the House passed their own reauthorization of the measure earlier this month (H.R. 3921:Helping Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable Act of 2017, “Healthy Kids Act”), the proposal would be paid for through controversial Medicare cuts that are unlikely to pass in the Senate. The Senate version of the CHIP bill calls for a clean reauthorization of the program (S. 1827: The Keep Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure “KIDS” Act of 2017). We are encouraging members of the APA to contact their members of Congress and ask them to support the Senate version of this critical piece of legislation. 

A similar reauthorization of MIECHV, which provides pre- and post-natal home visiting for at-risk parents, has passed in the House (H.R.2824 - Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act) but is equally controversial and has not received Senate action due to the tie bar with the Social Security Act, which if passed would eliminate social security payments to hundreds of vulnerable older adults. MIECHV served 160,000 families in 2016.

We encourage you to reach out to your members in the House and Senate to voice support for reauthorization bills that will not be offset by harmful Medicare or social security cuts.

Between health care, budget and tax reform fights, child welfare improvements have not received as much attention as we would like.  The most pressing child-welfare-specific proposal under consideration now is the Foster EITC Act of 2017, HR 2681. The Senate companion bill is S. 2327, introduced by Senator Bob Casey, D-PA. 

  • The House Foster EITC Act of 2017 would lower the age of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) eligibility to age 21 and expand eligibility to 18 for youth who were in foster care on or after their 14th birthday. The Senate bill would offer the same provisions, but would also increase the credit for taxpayers with no qualifying children. Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced support for lowering the age of EITC eligibility. The act has already received support from the Child Welfare League of America, Foster Care Alumni Association of America, First Focus, The Juvenile Law Center, Youth Villages, and several other child welfare providers and advocacy organizations.

In addition to the measure above, there are several other bills that have been introduced in the 115th Congress that we believe are important to members of Div. 37’s Section on Child Maltreatment.

  • S. 1795 (Murray/Portman) /HR 3740 (Clark/Young) Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act: This bipartisan bill clarifies the eligibility guidelines for determinations of homeless students who qualify for independent status, prioritizes foster and homeless youth for work study awards, forbids the inclusion of education training vouchers and independent living stipends in student cost of attendance formulas, and requires that foster and homeless students not pay more the in-state tuition and fees.
  • HR 3742: Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 (Davis, Krishnamoorth, Scott, Davis): This bill was introduced in September to kick off the new school year. The bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to states to improve higher education opportunities to homeless and foster youth. Under the measure, funding can be provided for programs that seek to recruit foster and homeless youth to pursue higher education and provide supportive services for students who are enrolled. A companion bill, S. 1792, has been offered in the Senate by Senator Al Franken, D-MN.

We would love to see these education bills taken up and move through congress as a package.  Please reach out to your elected officials in the House and Senate and encourage them to sign on to these important pieces of legislation that are designed to improve the education well-being of these two very vulnerable populations.

  • S. 1964 Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act of 2017 (Hatch/Wyden) is a bipartisan effort introduced on Oct. 16, 2017, in the Senate.  The bill was developed in reaction to the findings of special investigation report conducted by Senate Finance Committee.  Specific bill features are a de-link of Title IV-E kinship/subsidized guardianship from the AFDC eligibility, create a different and more flexible kinship care licensing standard for kinship placements, extend access to Title IV-E training funds by de-linking eligibility to the AFDC eligibility standard, create new enforceable penalty provisions for the Program Improvement Plans (PIP) that result from not meeting the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) and create and mandate a minimum casework caseload/workload standard for child welfare workers. Please contact your members of the senate and encourage them to sign on in support of this piece of legislation
  • S. 705 Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017 (Hatch/Franken) is bipartisan effort to permanently amend the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a national criminal history background check system and criminal history review program for organizations that serve children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.  This program was originally authorized as a pilot program by the Adam Walsh Act. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conducted the background checks. During the course of that pilot program, 77,000 youth volunteers were the subject of background checks. The background checks revealed that 6 percent of those applicant volunteers had a criminal history for violations such as child sexual abuse, child cruelty, murder, and serious drug offenses. The bill was introduced in late March, taken up in committee in September, and passed the senate on Oct. 17, 2017.  It is now in the house for consideration. The House companion bill is H.R. 695, introduced by Adam Schiff, D-CA.  Please reach out to your members of congress in the House and the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and encourage them to support the passage of this key piece of legislation. Members of the Ways and Means Committee are listed online.