Magazine article Policy & Practice

Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth

Article excerpt

The 112th Congress has been successful for child welfare and for those children, youth, and families it serves. In addition to passing the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovations Act (P.L. 112-34), a bill that included provisions to enhance and improve child welfare, child welfare celebrated another success: creation of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. In 2011, Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Marino (R-PA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) founded the bipartisan caucus. The co-chairs created the caucus to protect and promote the welfare of all children in out-of-home placement (foster care) and those that have transitioned from foster care to adulthood. The caucus provides a forum for congressional representatives to discuss the challenges facing all foster youth and develop policy recommendations for improving child welfare outcomes. The co-chairs will focus their work in five key areas: safety; permanency; well-being; educational opportunities; and youth, family, and community engagement.

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In 2012, the caucus launched a National Listening and Learning Tour. Caucus members traveled to cities across the country to gain a better understanding of the current state of affairs in foster care. The first stop on the tour was Los Angeles. "I was honored to host Members from the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in Los Angeles for our inaugural Listening Tour," Representative Bass said. "Members of the Caucus not only gained direct knowledge about foster care in California, but they also furthered their understanding of policies that are still needed to produce a substantial impact on foster care nationwide."

Los Angeles site visits by the caucus included the Department of Children and Family Services, SHIELDS for Families, and the L.A. Children's Court. Caucus members also hosted a community town hall, where they learned about unique prevention and family unification techniques that have made a tremendous difference in safely reducing the number of children in the Los Angeles foster care system.

The second stop on the tour was Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) invited members of the caucus to Florida to learn first-hand how the state's system might provide ideas for potential positive federal policy modifications to improve outcomes for children in the system. In 2001, Florida redesigned its child welfare system to a community-based care model. This new system meant that foster care and other related services are provided by locally based private agencies. …

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