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Groundbreaking legislation, marking the most sweeping congressional reform of the U.S. foster care system in more than a decade, has passed the House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (H.R. 6893) is designed to help thousands of children in foster care by promoting permanent families for them through relative guardianship and adoption.
Among its many provisions is the establishment of "Family Connection Grants," which will help families facilitate the adoption of foster children with blood relatives such as grandparents or aunts and uncles.
The new legislation also doubles the amount of money states would receive for promoting and completing certain adoptions. For instance, any state that increases the number of adoptions of special-needs children to a record high level would eceive $4,000 per adoption, up from $2,000 currently. The same process would occur for states boosting the number of adoptions of children above the age of nine.
Under the new law, for the first time, tribal governments will be able to receive foster care funds directly from the government, thus ensuring that more American Indian and Alaskan Native children can remain in their own communities.
The legislation also allows states to continue providing support up to the age of 21 for young people in foster care who are pursuing education, training or work. It also improves oversight of the educational progress and health care needs of children in foster care.
"Congress should be commended for coming together to pass this important bipartisan legislation, which will positively impact the lives and futures of the more than half a million children and youth currently in foster care," said Rebecca Rimel, president and chief executive officer of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
"We also want to recognize the tremendous work of the members of The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, the Kids are Waiting campaign, and the many others who have helped to make this national effort a success."
The Pew Commission, a national, nonpartisan panel established by The Pew Charitable Trusts, undertook a year-long comprehensive assessment of the nation's foster care system and developed practical child-centered solutions to improve outcomes for foster care.
"The need for all children to have safe, permanent families to love, nurture, protect, and guide them was a steady compass throughout our commission's deliberations," said the Honorable Maura Corrigan, Michigan State Supreme Court Justice and a Member of the Pew Commission. "State courts see tens of thousands of foster care cases a year. This legislation provides important new policy that will help judges and other professionals ensure that more abused and neglected children can leave foster care to join safe, loving homes."
Douglas Johnson, spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee, applauds the new bill and believes it will encourage many to make the decision for life rather than abortion.
The bill is good, he said, because it "makes adoption a more viable option and certainly will result in some children being given the gift of life who otherwise would meet their end through abortion."