Franken, Franks Both Worked on Child Welfare Issues

The recent spate of resignations on Capitol Hill includes some members who have been active on child welfare and family services issues.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who resigned late last week over inappropriate conversations on the subject of surrogacy with staffers, was front and center on the issue of adoption. He was a co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Kan.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Franks was also a member of the advisory board for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a nonprofit that operates the well-known Foster Youth Internship Program each summer.

Franks was inducted into the “Adoption Hall of Fame” this year by the National Council For Adoption. Induction is a “recognition of outstanding commitment, service and sacrifice for the cause of adoption by an individual or organization,” according to the council.

One piece of legislation Franks will be missed on is the Adoptee Citizenship Act, which was created to fix a loophole that left an estimated 30,000 adoptees without American citizenship when the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was not made retroactive. These adoptees, now adults are vulnerable for deportation, despite being adopted by American couples and raised in this country since early childhood. The Adoptee Citizenship Act would have fixed the loophole. Franks was the lead Republican on the bill when it was introduced in 2016, alongside Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

The bill has not yet been introduced in the 115th Congress, and when it does, it will need a new lead Republican if it has any chance of moving. Among the GOP members who joined as co-sponsors last time around: Reps. Barbara Comstock (Va.), Christopher Smith (N.J.) and Mimi Walters (Calif.).

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who resigned after multiple women accused him of groping and inappropriate contact, was an active and visible member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Franken’s most significant contribution to youth services was The Fostering Success in Education Act, which was imported into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2015.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which was passed in 2008, included a requirement (with the usual heaping of caveats and loopholes) that child welfare agencies allow foster youth to continue on at their school of origin. If they were moved to another town or another school district, Fostering Connections said the agency must transport them back to the school they attended when they were removed.

The flaw in that policy is that school districts transport kids, not child welfare agencies, and the legislation had no way of compelling those school districts to help. So Franken used ESSA to place a reciprocal demand on the schools, requiring them to forge an agreement with the child welfare agency to pay for transportation.

This effort also has a clear flaw in that it doesn’t technically assign responsibility to child welfare or education if the two sides cannot agree on a plan. But it at least yokes the two entities together.

A year into the ESSA transportation requirements, there are murky results on compliance. In an article last summer, The Imprint examined compliance in 17 states. We identified seven states that had declared compliance, three that had declared they were not yet compliant, and another seven where compliance was “unclear.”

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