U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who regularly worked on bipartisan legislation around federal child welfare policy, was killed along with three other people in a head-on car collision in Indiana.
“We have lost a true champion for children,” said the National Foster Youth Institute, in a tweet posted today. “Congressmember Walorski listened to foster youth voices and created legislation that improved the lives of foster youth across the country.”
A longtime member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over bills related to many of the federal family support programs, Walorski frequently partnered with Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and other committee members on child welfare legislation.
“She was a tough, fearless advocate for her district, and she was a champion of vulnerable children and families as leader of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the committee’s minority leader, in a statement released today.
Walorski was instrumental in shaping and passing what came to be known in child welfare circles as Division X, a section of the coronavirus stimulus package of December 2020 that included several key supports for foster youth as well as state and local child welfare systems. Most notably, the bill provided $400 million for states to help provide financial assistance and college tuition support for current and former foster youth up to age 27 during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Division X also imposed a nationwide moratorium on youth aging out of foster care, permitting them to stay or return to the system after their 21st birthday until October of 2021.
“Because of her contributions, tens of thousands of former foster youth got support in a very dark moment,” said Sixto Cancel, CEO of the nonprofit Think of Us.
Walorski entered politics in 2004, winning a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives, where her assignments included a seat on the Family, Children, & Human Affairs Committee. She first ran for Congress in 2010, losing in the general election to Joe Donnelly. Walorski would go on to win the seat in 2012, and earn reelection four more times.
The congresswoman was killed in a crash that occurred in Elkhart County, Indiana, while riding in an SUV that was hit head-on by a car that crossed the median while traveling in the opposite direction. Her press secretary, Emma Thomson, 28, and District Director Zachery Potts, 27, were also killed in the accident, as was the driver of the other car, 56-year-old Edith Schmucker.