WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, has several priorities included in the bipartisan, bicameral foster care bill introduced last week, including fighting the opioid addiction crisis and easing the placement of children across state lines.  The Family First Prevention Services Act is the Senate companion to legislation reported by the House Ways and Means Committee on June 15, 2016.

“This bill moves the ball in the right direction for years to come,” Grassley said.  “The focus on prevention, kinship care, and supporting those with substance abuse challenges will help keep families together when possible.  The bill provides states the flexibility to use locally developed solutions in addition to encouraging the use of programs that have worked elsewhere.  This bill helps pave the way to help parents who suffer from mental or substance abuse and helps reduce the trauma borne by young people who are taken out of the home because of those challenges.   Foster youth have said they want help for their parents, and this bill delivers.”

Grassley is an original co-sponsor of the comprehensive bill, which has been referred to the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over child welfare policy.  It includes an emphasis on preventive services, which Grassley has advocated to keep children with their parents, reduce trauma, and strengthen families.

The bill includes Grassley’s legislation to expand the Chafee Independence program to allow states to cover kids in foster care up to the age of 23.  “Aging out of foster care is a difficult transition that can lead to homelessness and other problems,” Grassley said.  “Supporting young people as they leave foster care will lead to more successful results for more than 23,000 young people each year.”

The comprehensive measure includes the reauthorization of grants started and extended by Grassley to help children who are in foster care or at risk of such placement because of parental abuse of methamphetamine or another substance.  The measure ensures that opioid abuse is also a key focus of the grants given to child welfare agencies to promote services to children and families under the measure.

Also included is Grassley’s bill, the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act,  that helps states with the technology needed to exchange data to be able to help place children with families over state lines.  

The comprehensive legislation requires the Department of Health and Human Services to put forth model standards that states must consider to license foster parents, including grandparents.  The foster youth caucus held a briefing on such licensing standards.  “Too often, the rules are cumbersome and antiquated,” Grassley said.  “These provisions break down the barriers and provide common sense standards that will better support relatives, especially when they’re willing and able to care for youth who may enter foster care.”

Additional information on the Family First Prevention Services Act can be found here.
Text of the bill can be found here.
The Family First Prevention Services Act has garnered strong, bipartisan support from a variety of groups.  For a full list of supporters click here.