Rep. McDermott’s Foster Care Legislation Signed Into Law
October 08, 2008
The President signed Rep. Jim McDermott’s Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, H.R. 6893, into law late yesterday. The legislation marks the most significant reform of America’s child welfare system in more than a decade.
“We are going to be able to take better care of America’s most vulnerable children because of the major reforms contained in this legislation,” Rep. McDermott said. “And, we are clearly telling these children that they are not alone in America, and they can grow up in a loving, caring home with a chance at the American Dream.”
Across America, there are nearly 500,000 children in foster care on any given day, with approximately 130,000 waiting to be adopted.
McDermott, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, acknowledged the bipartisan work in both the House and Senate that led to final passage of the legislation.
“H.R. 6893 is a major accomplishment that will make a positive difference in the lives of countless children, and I want to acknowledge the leadership of the Ranking Republican on my subcommittee, Rep. Jerry Weller, as well as the leadership and strong support from Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus and Ranking Member Charles Grassley,” McDermott said.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act provides major reforms in the nation’s child welfare system. Key provisions in the legislation include:
Connecting and Supporting Relative Caregivers
- Provides federal reimbursement to States choosing to provide assistance to grandparents and other relatives who become legal guardians of children for whom they have cared as foster parents.
- Provides $15 million per year for Family Connection Grants to promote kinship navigator programs and other initiatives designed to connect and help relative caregivers.
- Requires relatives to be notified within 30 days of a child’s removal from their home.
- Codifies existing licensing standards for relatives becoming foster parents and requires a report on impact and next steps.
- Allows the child welfare system to utilize the Parent Locator Service.
Improving Outcomes for Children in Foster Care
- At State option, allows federal foster care assistance to continue up to the age of 21 for youth engaged in school, work, or other constructive activities.
- Requires transitional plans for youth aging out of foster care.
- Expands enhanced federal funding for training to cover private child welfare workers and court personnel.
- Requires plan for the educational stability of every foster child and assurance of their school attendance.
- Requires improved oversight of the health care needs of every foster child, covering their assessment, treatment, medical records, and medication.
- Requires reasonable efforts to place siblings together when removed from their homes, or if not possible, to allow ongoing interaction.
Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Access
- Provides direct federal foster care and adoption assistance to tribal governments for children in their care.
- Provides $3 million per year to provide technical and start-up assistance to tribal foster care programs.
- Improvement of Incentives for Adoption
- Extends, expands and improves the Adoption Incentives Program, which provides financial bonuses to States increasing the number of children adopted out of foster care.
- Provides federal adoption assistance to all special needs children (phased in on the basis of age and time in care), rather than only those children whose birth parents were eligible for welfare under the rules in place in 1996.
- Requires prospective adoptive parents of foster children to be informed of their potential eligibility for a current-law tax credit.
- Permits the Department of the Treasury to improve its management of the government’s short-term operating cash.
- Clarifies the uniform definition of a child for tax purposes, including ensuring the child is younger than the claimant.
- Ensures that nothing in the act alters any current prohibitions on payments to individuals who are unlawfully in the U.S.