Q: How did National Foster Care Month begin?

A: Since 1988, May has been designated as National Foster Care Month.  The purpose of National Foster Care Month is to honor the generous contribution and commitment that foster parents make in providing care to over 500,000 children and teenagers in foster care nationwide.  I've worked in the Senate to strengthen the foster care system, on behalf of the children it serves, with federal grants to train judges, attorneys and legal personnel in child welfare cases, and with federal grants to strengthen and improve collaboration between the courts and child welfare agencies.  I've also worked to strengthen the Social Services Block Grant Program that helps to fund child welfare services.  As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I held the first Senate hearings in a decade on child welfare in order to focus on programs aimed at helping troubled families, caseworker visits for children in foster care, and state and community organizations committed to combating substance abuse.

In addition to working to improve the foster care system, I've worked to break down the barriers to adoption for kids in foster care so that more children have the security of a permanent, loving family and home.  Legislation I developed, in 2008, resulted in enactment of a new law to provide additional federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes.  The legislation made it easier for foster children to be permanently cared for by their own relatives, including grandparents and aunts and uncles, and to stay in their own home communities.  The Grassley provisions in the law also made all children with special needs eligible for federal adoption assistance.  Previously, that assistance had been limited.  The law broke new ground by establishing opportunities to help kids who age out of the foster care system at age 18 by giving states the option to help them pursue vocational training and higher education.  The legislation was supported by the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, the Iowa Citizen Action Network, the Children's Defense Fund, and the National Foster Care Coalition, among hundreds of other organizations.

Q: What is the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth?

A: Last year, Senator Mary Landrieu and I formed a new, bipartisan Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.  Senator Landrieu and I have worked together on a number of child welfare and adoption issues over the years.  The purpose of the Caucus is to focus attention on the multiple needs of youth in care and those who have aged out of care, particularly those who are disconnected from support networks and stable permanent families.  Most of all, the Caucus is a place where these young voices can be heard in order to help facilitate improvements to the child welfare and foster care systems.   The Caucus will host briefings from researchers, think tanks, foster care collations and other associations focused on child welfare with an emphasis on current or former foster youth.  Planning for Caucus events to highlight National Foster Care Month is underway.

April 19, 2010

Judiciary Committee Advances Leahy, Grassley Drug Free Communities Bill

WASHINGTON (Thursday, April 15, 2010) - The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to advance legislation authored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to authorize additional Drug Free Communities (DFC) grants that will assist community coalitions in lowering substance abuse rates in neighborhoods across the country.  Leahy chairs the panel, and Grassley is a senior member of the Committee.

Leahy and Grassley introduced the Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act in February.  The bill will allow current and former DFCs to apply for grants of up to $75,000 per year to implement comprehensive, community-wide strategies to address emerging drug trends or local drug crises.  Community coalitions qualify for supplemental Drug Free Community grants if local data shows evidence of drug use and abuse rates above the national average, or if rates of use and abuse for a specific drug continue over a sustained period of time.  Grant applicants must submit a detailed, comprehensive, multi-sector plan for addressing the emerging local drug issue or crisis within the area served by the applicant.  Applicants are eligible for grants up to $75,000 per year for up to four years.

"I have spoken with a number of Vermonters representing these community partnerships, and I have heard about the innovative frameworks they have implemented to combat drug abuse in their communities, thanks in large part to Drug Free Communities grants," said Leahy.  "This legislation will enable many of those communities to secure additional funding to continue their efforts.  Communities nationwide are facing serious drug issues, and will benefit from these enhancement grants.  I thank Senator Grassley for his partnership on this issue, and I hope the Senate will quickly pass this legislation."

"Grassroots organizations are creating strategies to fight drug abuse in their own communities and succeeding.  Their efforts have made a real difference on the frontlines.  It's clear that Drug Free Communities grantees know how to best meet the challenges faced by a particular community," Grassley said.  "Now, the enhancement grants will add another tool to help these groups identify new and emerging drug abuse issues and work to defeat the threat to their kids and families."

The Judiciary Committee has oversight of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; the DFC federal grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Drug Free Community grants may also be used to obtain specialized training and technical assistance to improve the operation of DFC coalitions.  The program is a matching grant program, and DFC grantees are eligible to receive federal funds up to the amount of funds raised by the organization.  The Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act authorizes funding from 2011 through 2015.  An amendment adopted by the Judiciary Committee Thursday incorporates additional oversight and transparency provisions into the legislation.

Leahy and Grassley have partnered on several legislative and oversight efforts over the years.  Last year they teamed to author the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which was signed into law in May.

# # # # #

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley 

Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Finance 

Using Unemployment Insurance to Help Americans Get Back to Work: Creating Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges 

April 14, 2010

We've lost nearly 8.5 million private sector jobs during the current recession.  Despite a massive $800 billion stimulus bill, a financial bailout, an auto bailout, cash-for-clunkers, and a so-called jobs bill, private sector job creation remains virtually non-existent. While the most recent monthly jobs data suggest a turn-around may be at hand, it's still too early to know for sure whether we are entirely out of the woods. 


The economic outlook remains tenuous, with rising foreclosures and continued weakness in the housing market.  The prospect of higher interest rates weighs heavily on future home values and bank balance sheets.  When jobs are hard to find, unemployed workers seek assistance from the unemployment insurance system. 

Unfortunately, this recession has hit the unemployment system hard.  We've seen a dramatic deterioration in the solvency of the system.  An analysis of state trust fund ratios since 1972 suggest the system is in its worst financial condition in decades.  As of last week, the states had borrowed nearly $40 billion from the federal government to cover their shortfalls. The latest projections suggest federal loans will exceed $90 billion within a few years.  That's almost three times the annual amount of unemployment taxes collected by the states prior to the current recession.

The growing insolvency of the unemployment system represents a major economic and fiscal challenge.  We face the prospect of a dramatic increase in payroll taxes at a time when businesses are still struggling to meet their payroll and retain their workforce. Under current law, repaying federal loans and rebuilding state trust fund balances, before the next inevitable recession, would require an unprecedented and untenable payroll tax increase.

The challenge we face today is how to restore solvency to the unemployment system without undermining private sector job creation.  Today's hearing is the first step in that process.


WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration has awarded five grants totaling nearly $30 million to Iowa communities that are still recovering from severe flooding over the last several years.

The Economic Development Administration serves as a venture capital resource to meet the economic development needs of distressed communities throughout the United States through the promotion of innovation and competitiveness and preparing regions for growth and success in the global economy.

According to the Economic Development Administration, the disaster recovery projects work to minimize economic dislocations resulting from natural and other disasters, improving responsiveness and effectiveness in the recovery process.

The Economic Development Administration has awarded funds as described below.

· Columbus Junction will receive $2,902,500 to help construct a new water treatment facility outside the floodplain.

· Dubuque will receive $1.5 million to help construct a multi-level parking facility.

· Iowa City will receive $22 million to help relocate the north wastewater treatment facility out of the Iowa River floodplain and $3 million to help design and perform engineering work to reconstruct and elevate Dubuque Street and the Park Road Bridge.

· Shenandoah will receive $232,500 to reconstruct storm sewer infrastructure in downtown Shenandoah.