Adoption, Foster Care and Welfare
Senator Chuck Grassley encourages his staff to bring him ideas and inspiration. Years ago, a legislative assistant told him about her positive experience with adoption and her interest in developing child welfare policy initiatives with him. He participated in a foster care "maze" in the U.S. Capitol with the late Dave Thomas, owner of Wendy's restaurants and champion for adoption.
Senator Grassley quickly understood the tremendous struggles that foster youth endure and the need to shape helpful public policy.
He worked to advance the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Since its enactment, adoptions increased to 54,000 per year, and many states have doubled their adoptions from foster care.
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 included funding he championed for grants to train judges, attorneys and legal personnel in child welfare cases, as well as grants to strengthen and improve collaboration between the courts and child welfare agencies.
In 2006, the Senate Finance Committee held the first hearings on child welfare in more than a decade. The hearings led to passage of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006, which Senator Grassley developed as Finance Committee Chairman and shepherded through Congress. The legislation improved programs aimed at helping troubled families, provided grants for states and community organizations to combat methamphetamine addiction and other substance abuse, and increased case worker visits for children in foster care.
Senator Grassley was a leader in the bipartisan effort to pass the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008. This new law represented the most significant and far-reaching improvements to child welfare in more than a decade. It provided additional federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes. It included Senator Grassley's legislation to make 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 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 extend their care and helping them pursue education or vocational training.
In 2011, Senator Grassley worked to reauthorize grants that support families who struggle with substance abuse and that improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children who are not in their homes or are likely to be removed from their homes because of substance abuse by their parents. Senator Grassley has long said that foster youth yearn for permanency, and these grants help to keep families together, when possible, so that children are not subjected to the many difficulties that they face in the foster care system.
In May 2014, Senator Grassley and Senator Mary Landrieu introduced a resolution recognizing May as National Foster Care Month. National Foster Care Month is recognized as “an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges of children in the foster care system, and encouraging Congress to implement policy to improve the lives of children in the foster care system.” The full text of the resolution can be found here.
Senator Grassley has focused on many issues that affect foster youth, including educational stability, substance abuse, and the over-prescription of psychotropic drugs. He also has worked on several adoption-related policies, including the adoption tax credit, kinship, and adoption awareness resolutions.
Senate Caucus on Foster Youth
In 2009, Senator Grassley and Senator Landrieu launched the bipartisan Senate Caucus on Foster Youth as a call to action for lawmakers in Congress. The caucus serves as a clearinghouse for research on child welfare issues, bringing people together to identify and solve problems facing foster youth. The caucus has a special focus on older youth who need continued support as they age out of the system. The caucus is working to raise awareness and keep the national spotlight on the challenges confronting foster youth.
The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth holds a number of panels, roundtable discussions and events to bring awareness to issues facing foster youth and help improve the outcomes for all children in the system. In 2014, the caucus has focused on child welfare financing reform and hosted a number of educational briefings and roundtables.
In June 2014, the caucus held a roundtable discussion on financial literacy for foster youth. The event featured foster youth who shared their experiences as well as child welfare advocates and leaders from the financial services industry. The event focused on the challenges of identity theft of foster youth, ways to support them in making sound financial decisions, and the importance of sharing credit reports with those that enter foster care.
Information about upcoming events can be found on Senator Grassley’s event calendar.
During the summer of 2014, Senator Grassley hosted an intern from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s Foster Youth Intern Program. The caucus benefits greatly from input and insight from foster youth as they are the experts on the foster care system. The experiences of foster youth provide real world stories of the challenges they face and how policies affect them.
Members of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth
Co-Chairs: Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Members: James Risch (R-ID), Al Franken (D-MN), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Gary C. Peters (D-MI), David Vitter (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Angus King (D-ME) and Kirsten Sinema (D-Az.)