Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Landmark Bill for Grandfamilies Passes Congress

I am thrilled to share with you some exciting news. Yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The bill now goes to the President for his signature. The Act will help thousands of children and youth by promoting permanent families for children in foster care through relative guardianship and adoption and helping with access to other supportive services for grandparent-and other relative-headed families.

The bill is the most significant federal recognition to date of the contribution grandparents and other relatives make in raising our nation’s children. The Senate and House deserve credit for taking this groundbreaking and bi-partisan action: one that dramatically increases the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of children and their families. You can click here for a full summary.

Thank you to everyone for all their hard work in making calls, writing letters, and visiting with their legislators to pass this bill through Congress. Your stories brought this issue to life for your Members of Congress and inspired them to act.

In addition to your hard work, there are a number of legislators who deserve our gratitude. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Timothy Johnson (R-IL) were early and steadfast champions of legislation to support grandfamilies with the first introduction of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act over four years ago, many provisions of which were included in this final bill. Their consistent advocacy combined with the strong leadership of Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee leaders Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL) made this landmark legislation a reality.

This was truly a team effort from everyone and was many years in the making. I can't wait for the President to sign the bill into law and starting the celebrations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Step Up for Kids Day!

Yesterday we celebrated “Step Up for Kids Day” with its sponsor, Every Child Matters, and a number of other national organizations who advocate on behalf of America’s children. The Step Up for Kids campaign was launched at the National Press Club here in Washington, DC. Other Step Up for Kids events took place throughout the country, including in Kentucky and New York where our own Seniors4Kids advocates showed their support for policies that promote the wellbeing of our nation’s children.

There are many grim statistics on the rates of child abuse and neglect, the number of children who have no health insurance, live in poverty, and who don’t have access to quality education and child care programs that are so critical for healthy growth and development. Americans care about these issues, so the purpose of the Step Up for Kids campaign is to mobilize advocates, citizens, mothers, fathers, and grandparents to express their support for policies that recognize early investments in children lead to numerous benefits down the road, including stable families, economic productivity and security, and ongoing physical and emotional health. Next year, a new Administration and new Congress will have a real opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to our nation’s children by building on efforts already underway, such as the Improved Adoption Incentives Act, which will help children join permanent families.

As renowned pediatrician and children’s advocate Dr. T. Berry Brazelton said in his remarks at the National Press Club, we must urge lawmakers to make these early investments in America’s children and their families because “only then will we truly gain control of our nation’s destiny.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Intergenerational Themes Championed at the Senate Finance Committee

Earlier today the Senate Finance Committee passed two historic bills out of committee, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act and the Elder Justice Act. The bills are a testament to the value of intergenerational cooperation and public policy.

Chairman Baucus began the markup by quoting Hubert Humphrey, “The moral test of government is how the government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” By battling elder abuse and finding permanent homes for children, the Senate Finance Committee passed that intergenerational test with flying colors today.

The Improved Adoption Incentives Act contains many of the same provisions of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act, including authorizing subsidized guardianship to enable children in the care of grandparents and other relatives to exit foster care into permanency; establishing Kinship navigator programs to help link relative caregivers both inside and outside of the formal child welfare system to a broad range of services and supports that will help them meet the needs of the children in their care; requiring notice be given to adult relatives of a child if he or she is placed in foster care; and allowing states in a demonstration program the option to set separate licensing standards for relative foster parents and non-relative foster parents.

Chairman Baucus remarked that the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act was the most far-reaching and important piece of child welfare legislation the committee had considered in a decade.

There are still several steps before these important bills become law, but I don’t want to let this day pass without congratulating Senators Clinton, Grassley, Lincoln, Rockefeller and Snowe, and many others for their hard work and leadership to move both pieces of legislation.

Lastly, let me echo Senator Grassley's request that this legislation get passed before the Adoption Incentive Program expires at the end of the month. Our children have waited too long for a permanent home for us to delay any longer.