Details aren’t available yet, but a key group of Congress members is crediting a former foster youth with inspiring them to introduce legislation that would fund pilot programs targeted at sibling groups in foster care.
Borrowing an idea from former foster kid and congressional intern Brittney Barros, Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska (R), Karen Bass of California (D), Brenda Lawrence of Michigan (D) and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island (D) introduced the Protecting Sibling Relationships in Foster Care Act earlier this month. All four are co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.
So far, House Resolution 4378 is nothing more than a shell, but according to a news release from Bacon, it will encourage specialized foster care programs designed specifically for large sibling groups, sibling groups with a wide age range and sibling groups with complex needs. If it passes, the resolution would put up $10 million over a five-year period for five competitive grants. Any pilot programs that are deemed successful would then presumably be eligible for expansion.
Barros, a young Michigan woman who lived with the consequences of separation from her own siblings during many years in foster care, has testified to Congress about the damage it causes and what changes might improve outcomes for siblings. As she explained during a 2019 ceremony honoring her work as an advocate, “Sibling bonds are one of a kind and the most influential one you can have. No one should be able to take that away from you.”
Bacon, a foster parent himself with plans to adopt a sibling group, agreed. “Keeping siblings together in the foster care system significantly increases their chance of having positive outcomes,” he said.
For more information about the importance of sibling relationships in foster care, see this report from the federal government’s National Child Welfare Information Gateway.