Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grandparents WIN in Child Dependency Enactment

On October 7, 2008, President Bush signed into law the new federal "Fostering Connections to Success and Improved Adoptions Act of 2008" (formerly H.R. 6893), as Public Law No. 110-351.

A Breaking News bulletin posted by Generations United announced "a historic day for grandfamilies" because "[t]he bill is a significant recognition of the contribution grandparents and other relatives make in raising the nation’s children."

GovTrack posted links to the many supportive floor speeches made in the House (09/17/08) and in the Senate (09/22/08).

The Congressional Research Service had summarized H.R. 6893 upon its introduction on September 15, 2008. Technically, the Act amends the Social Security Act with new provisions, as follows:

  • Amends Part E (Federal Payments for Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) of title IV of the Social Security Act (SSA) to give state plans the option of providing for the state to enter into agreements to provide kinship guardianship assistance payments to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of children for whom they have: (1) cared as foster parents; and (2) committed to care on a permanent basis.
  • Amends SSA title IV part B (Child and Family Services) to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make matching grants to state, local, or tribal child welfare agencies and experienced private nonprofit organizations to help children in, or at risk of entering, foster care to reconnect with family members.
The Pew Charitable Trusts, through its national, non-partisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, had researched appropriate changes in foster care funding, participation, and procedures, delivering a report in 2004, then advocating thereafter with its website, newsletters, and briefings. See: "Foster Care Reforms Advance in Congress, Courts and States" (04/06/06).

In "New Law is Designed to Improve Lives, Outcomes of Nation's Foster Children and Youth" (10/08/08), PCT,
celebrated the derivative bill's enactment as "the most significant reform of the nation's foster care system in more than a decade."

These are
the new Act's important provisions, according to that Press Release:
  • Incentives to increase adoptions of children from foster care, especially older youth and those with special needs.
  • Phased elimination of an outdated eligibility requirement for adoption assistance that will increase the number of special needs children who can be adopted with federal support.
  • Federal resources to assist children who leave foster care for legal guardianships with family members.
  • Direct federal foster care funding for tribal governments, so that more American Indian and Alaskan Native children can receive the supports and services they need while remaining in their own communities.
  • Allowance of states to provide foster care supports and services to young people up to age 21.
  • Improved oversight of educational progress and health care needs of children while in foster care.
  • Mandated "reasonable efforts" to place siblings together when they enter the foster care system.
During consideration, Rep. Gerald Weller noted that H.R. 6893 favors involvement by grandparents in the lives of foster children:
The bill also promotes stronger family ties in caring for children removed from their own parents due to abuse and neglect, and expects States to do more to locate adult relatives like grandparents or aunts and uncles who can step in to care for such children. * * *
Rep. Fortney Stark followed up those remarks with his own, emphasizing the role of grandparents with children who become subject to foster care proceedings:
Madam Speaker, I point out that this subcommittee stands as proxy parents for half a million children in this country who spend time in foster care each year.

So I would like to thank Grandpa McDermott and Grandpa Weller on behalf of these 500,000 children whose lives are being improved, and Grandma Tauscher, for helping see that these children's lives are improved. * * *

[This bill] allows relatives, grandparents, to participate in supporting the foster children and allows them in many cases to live in loving homes rather than group homes and less permanent settings. * * *

Morris Brasovankin, bless his departed soul, would be so pleased.

He lost his court battle -- and custody of his grandson, Steven -- in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but he may have inspired others to win a legislative war in Washington, D.C.

"All kids deserve families
so they can believe in themselves and grow up to be somebody."

-- Former foster youth,

in his testimony to the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care