October 07,2010

Grassley, Landrieu Release "Call to Action" Offering Options to Build on Successful Foster Care Policies

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, today released a “Call to Action” set of policy options to build on successful policy improving the lives of youth in foster care.

The Call to Action release occurs on the second anniversary of the enactment of the bipartisan Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008, the most significant child welfare bill to be enacted in more than a decade. 

“One of the goals of the Caucus on Foster Youth is to hear directly from the youth in foster care about the policies that affect them,” Grassley said.  “They’re telling us that some key improvements have been very helpful, but there are still gaps in services and persistent problems that a combination of policy changes and citizen involvement can ease.  The Call to Action kicks off the next step in the discussion of how to improve the quality of life for foster youth.”

“We see the Call to Action as a way to help lawmakers implement polices to improve our broken foster care system,” Landrieu said. “With more than 25,000 young adults aging out of care each year, we cannot fail these youth. Yet, we cannot expect them to succeed when less than half of aged-out youth graduate from high school and so few are provided sufficient support. As Members of Congress we rely on these youths to tell us what issues are important to them.  Their input is critical to translate those issues and concerns into meaningful legislation. They need to know that we are dedicated to looking out for their best interests and working to help connect them with loving, caring families.”

The Call to Action addresses issues associated with group homes, congregate care, an over-reliance on psychotropic medications, sibling connection, youth engagement, mentoring, pregnant and parenting teens, family preservation activities and child welfare financing. 

The document builds on improvements in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provided additional federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes, expanded adoption assistance to all special needs foster youth, allowed states to extend care to youth up to age 21, allowed for federal reimbursement for kinship care, and made health and education improvements for youth in foster care.  Grassley helped lead the effort to enact the legislation.

In 2009, building on the success of the 2008 act, Grassley, along with Landrieu, established the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  The caucus has sponsored a series of working sessions with the goal of assembling options for the next steps in child welfare reform. To an unprecedented degree, the caucus has engaged current and former foster youth in these working sessions. 

Last Friday, Grassley and Landrieu appeared on an episode of the national “Dr. Phil” show that highlighted the forthcoming Call to Action and encouraged viewers to learn more about the issues facing youth in care and youth transitioning out of care and possibly volunteer as youth advocates.