Opening Floor Statement for H.R. 2487, the Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act
(Remarks as prepared)
I am pleased to support H.R. 2487, the Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act, which would help ensure that all the resources Congress has provided to help older foster youth are used to help them further their education and become independent. My colleague, Karen Bass, has been a leader on this legislation and on foster youth issues for a number of years, and our Committee has worked closely with her to move it forward today.
I want to note that this is one of five bills the House is considering today to help at-risk families and children in foster care. All of these bills passed the House last year as part of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which also provided significant new investment in substance abuse, mental health, and parenting skills services to help kids and families avoid foster care, when possible. We continue to work on a bipartisan basis with our leadership and our colleagues in the Senate to find a way to move forward on broader foster care improvements. But today’s action provides a good opportunity to once again highlight the sharp rise of children in foster care in the U.S.—and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—fueled in part by the opioid crisis. In Massachusetts, between 2011 and 2015, the number of petitions to remove children from their homes grew 38 percent.
Today, Massachusetts is home to nearly ten thousand kids in foster care. Over a thousand of them are considered at risk of reaching adulthood without being adopted or safely reunified with their birth families. That is why it is so important that we do everything we can to help them finish their education and develop mentor relationships with supportive adults.
While I’m pleased that our Committee and the full House are working together to help these young people, we can’t ignore the bigger picture, which is that the President’s attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act will have real, measurable negative effects on these kids.
Republican Medicaid cuts jeopardize health coverage for older foster youth – the same youth we are trying to help with this bill—by cutting essential health benefits and Medicaid. In turn, this endangers access to substance abuse treatment—and, by extension, many of the treatment centers themselves. Republican proposals to end the Social Services Block Grant would reduce states’ abilities to provide substance abuse, mental health care, and supportive services to foster parents.
While these larger issues are deeply troubling, today’s five child welfare bills, including the one before us now, represent an improvement over the status quo, and it is refreshing to note the bipartisan collaboration involved. In addition to Congresswoman Bass’s leadership on this bill to help older foster youth, I’d like to recognize my colleagues Mr. Davis, Ms. Chu, and Ms. Sewell for their work on behalf of foster children, as reflected in these bills that they have co-authored and we are considering today.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill and the other bipartisan child welfare improvements being considered today, and also to work with us to do even more to help foster youth succeed.