WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved critical legislation that will afford foster children more permanency in their lives, by enhancing states’ capacity to secure safe, stable and permanent homes for all foster children, and renewing and increasing the effectiveness of the federal Adoption Incentive Program.

Specifically, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (H.R. 6893) provides, for the first time, federal assistance to grandparents and relatives who become legal guardians of children for whom they have cared for as foster parents. The measure also provides critical support to American Indian children in foster care, by allowing tribes the same direct access to federal foster care, adoption assistance, and relative guardianship funding that states have. In addition, the legislation increases opportunities for success for older youth in foster care as they transition into adult life; by continuing federal foster care payments up to the age of 21, and requiring a transitional plan for every youth aging out of care.

“This legislation is the most comprehensive reform of the foster care system in over a decade, and will allow thousands of children in foster care to obtain permanent homes,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a bipartisan Children’s advocacy organization. “More than 500,000 children are currently in our foster care system, which is significantly overwhelmed and under-resourced. This legislation will alleviate some of the burdens of the system, by ensuring that children do not linger in ‘foster care drift,’ moving from one temporary home to another. Instead, this legislation will ensure that more children are cared for in safe and permanent homes by a relative, improve outcomes for children aging out of foster care by increasing supports for youth as they transition to adulthood and independence, and extending foster care and adoption assistance for American Indian children, something that has been noticeably absent from the federal foster care system.”

In addition to the aforementioned provisions, the legislation includes measures to:

  • Increase incentives for adoption of children in the foster care system, particularly for those with special needs and older youth;
  • Improve educational opportunities for children and youth in foster care, which will also increase their opportunities for later success;
  • Require improved oversight of the health care needs of every foster child, covering their assessment, treatment, medical records, and medication;
  • Require reasonable efforts to place siblings together when removed from their homes, or if not possible, to allow ongoing interaction.

The bill now moves to the Senate for passage, and then to the president for signature.