Bennet, Crapo Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Children In and At-Risk of Foster Care

Bill Gives States Flexibility to Use Federal Funds on Prevention Efforts

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced the All Kids Matter Act to help protect children in and at risk of needing foster care. The bill would allow states to use existing federal child welfare funding for evidence-based prevention efforts to protect kids before they experience an abusive or neglectful situation that may require foster care. It would also increase accountability measures for states to reduce the use of congregated care and group home placements for children.

"We have a responsibility to every single kid in Colorado and throughout the country to do everything we can to ensure they grow up in a supportive and loving environment," Bennet said. "Under the current system, we're tying the hands of child welfare advocates in many states and only allowing them to help after a kid experiences abuse or neglect. This bill gives states more flexibility to prevent and intervene before the worst happens."

"This bill reforms current rigid federal mandates and provides states more flexibility to protect the integrity of families and prioritize the needs of children," said Crapo. "State and local child welfare advocates would finally be able to dedicate resources to prevention programs critical to stopping abuse before it starts, reducing the number of children exposed to unhealthy environments and keeping families together."

Annual state and federal expenditures for foster care total more than $9 billion annually under the Title IV-E program. Unless a state has a waiver from current Title IV-E requirements, federal funding must go directly towards foster care placement and maintenance with funding for each child based on an outdated 1996 income standard. Congregate care and group home placements cost at least three to five times more per child per year on average than keeping a child with their own family or an individual foster family.

In addition to giving states more flexibility to use federal child welfare funds for prevention efforts, the Bennet-Crapo All Kids Matter Act also increases accountability to ensure appropriate measures are taken to reduce the number of kids in congregate care. It requires states to issue regular, publicly available reports on their child welfare system performance.

Over 400,000 children are in our nation's foster care system at any one time. Nearly 50,000 will stay in foster care for at least five or more years and 25,000 will remain there until they reach adulthood. Research by the Casey Family Programs has shown than less than 3% of foster youth graduate college.

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