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On July 27, more than a dozen young people who had been in foster care earlier in their childhood came together on Capitol Hill to educate legislators on how to reform the nation’s child welfare system.
Former foster youth get the opportunity to intern in Congressional offices through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) summer program. Throughout the summer, these young adults research foster youth policy issues and compile their findings into an annual report. Their report was released at the briefing last Wednesday, where the interns gave presentations on their various experiences and their policy recommendations.
Presentations ranged from the technical to the heartfelt — including advocacy for funding and critiques of procedure, as well as memories of separation from siblings and stories of mentoring, and eventually adopting, foster youth. Only 3 percent of former foster youth complete college, but these foster youth interns have overcome the odds against them, and are using their experiences to help the 423,000 foster youth in care today.
As the fiscal year comes to an end on September 30, a number of programs must be reauthorized. One that is very important to child welfare is the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF).
PSSF is Title IV-B part 2 of the Social Security Act. Its authorization, along with Child Welfare Services (Title IV-B part 1), needs extension by the end of the fiscal year. Currently, PSSF provides more than $360 million in funds four main areas: adoption services, reunification services, family preservation and family support. It also funds some important court-child welfare coordination and substance abuse treatment programs, detailed in American Humane Association’s legislative agenda.
Some critical questions to consider in this issue:
In June, American Humane Association testified before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources with a series of recommendations on how to strengthen PSSF. The Senate has not yet held hearings on the program but has had internal staff discussions. So far, discussions of PSSF have not included the issues that normally divide Congress.
Once decisions are made on the debt ceiling — no matter the outcome — there will be a long list of issues (including PSSF, described above) left to address — most of which have deadlines. Here are some of the most critical items:
On July 27, John Mattingly stepped down from his position as Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). The biggest city in the nation has significantly reduced its foster care population over the past decade, but it continues to face challenges. Mayor Mike Bloomberg gave Mattingly high praise and took the time to announce his replacement: Judge Ronald E. Richter, who brings 20 years of child services experience as Deputy Commissioner for ACS under Mattingly. Richter also worked in City Hall alongside Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and oversaw a program to better coordinate human service agencies. Bloomberg appointed Richter to the bench in 2009 when he had an opportunity to adjudicate cases dealing with child abuse, neglect and custodial cases.
Insider on the Hill will go on hiatus after this week’s edition.
Mary Kay Phelps
Chief Philanthropy and Marketing Officer