The Grant Advisors work hard to keep track of the federal budget and the 26 grant making agencies which distribute billions of grants each year in annual competitions. The Grant Advisors have been watching as House Republican leaders sponsor a new bill that would address the needs of older foster care youth and increase protections against sex trafficking of foster youth.
Although a version of the bill passed the House in May, this new measure, HR 4980, authored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), resolves differences in a number of previous bills in the House and Senate and is fully paid for. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) collaborated with members of the House Ways and Means Committee on this measure.
Addressing a previous point of contention, the bill would require states to provide youth aging out of the foster care system with essential documents, including a birth certificate, Social Security card, health records and accompanying insurance information, as well as a driver’s license or recognized state ID. Currently, many youth leaving foster care receive little support or guidance towards employment or further education.
Ensuring that they have essential documents will at least help youth aging out of foster care pursue a successful adult life. Other provisions promoting empowerment and independence include funding to enable foster care youth to participate in extracurricular activities with their peers and feel a sense of normalcy. While the system currently emphasizes the needs of younger children, this allocation would open opportunities for the growing number of older youth in the system to move towards responsible independence. It would also increase adoption incentives for states, especially for older youth.
HR 4980 also calls for improvements in tracking, screening and reporting of foster youth that have gone missing and might have been the victims of sexual trafficking. The bill outlines the creation of a National Advisory Committee to provide research and recommendations for best practices to prevent sexual trafficking among foster youth. Normalcy funding outlined in the bill could help decrease the risk of trafficking, as youth have reported leaving their foster placement out of boredom. The inclusion of youth in casework planning beginning at age 14 can also help lower the risk by making them feel involved, empowered, and independent while still within the system.
Look for this to be fast-tracked when Congress returns from break. Lawmakers worked hard to get something that can get approved, even by a dysfunctional Congress. As the bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and is fully paid for with savings of $1 million over five years, advocates hope to see the bill on President Obama’s desk.