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