The House Ways and Means Committee leadership has introduced a bill that could open the way for another effort to reauthorize the adoption incentives and alter federal support for youth in foster care.
The “Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act,” dropped in the hopper on Valentine’s Day, would match up with Senate-proposed child welfare reforms that were originally included in that chamber’s version.
Like the Senate, the House would mostly eliminate federal reimbursement for a long-term foster care option called Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA). That option, which has fallen out of favor even with the congressmen that created it, would only be allowed for teens above the age of 15.
The bill also includes a requirement that states establish an authority that sets parenting standards for foster homes and group homes, in an effort to promote normalcy in the lives of children removed from their homes.
One significant difference between the House and Senate here is that the House instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to report an estimate of trafficked children beginning in 2016. The Senate version calls for HHS to begin collecting state data on failed adoptions.
Adoption incentives are given to states based on the number of foster youth who are adopted in a year. Both chambers of Congress moved adoption incentive reauthorization bills in 2013. The House unanimously passed its version. The Senate Finance Committee approved its bill, but no floor vote was held.
The bills were reintroduced this year in separate pieces in order to simplify the negotiation process. One snag has emerged with the Family Connections grants, a small but popular section of the reauthorization that supported various efforts to improve a system’s ability to find relative caregivers for children that were already in foster care or would otherwise be headed there.
The House had proposed to pay for the $15 million in Family Connections grants using a cut to unemployment spending, but that cut was used in the broader 2014 spending deal passed in December. The Senate bill pays for the grants with a reallocation from the Social Services Block Grant, which people close to the process on Capitol Hill say has been politically unappetizing with both parties.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint