Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and James Lankford (R-OK) and U.S. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Steve Russell (R-OK) today introduced the “National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act,” legislation that builds on successes in states like California to improve the matching of children and families in foster care and adoptions in the United States, including the advancement of home study standards. This bill would create a national standard and database to achieve greater uniformity and transparency to ensure that the needs of children are put first no matter where they live.
“Thousands of children enter New York’s child welfare system and wait to be placed with a foster or for adoptive family every year, but our outdated child welfare system can’t keep up with the need and ends up preventing many children from finding loving and stable families to welcome them in,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act would update our child welfare system, so that these children can be better matched to families who will meet their needs, take care of them, and protect them. Boys and girls who live in the child welfare system are some of the most vulnerable among us, and Congress has a responsibility to help them grow up and reach their potential just like any other child has the opportunity to do. I am proud to work with Senator Lankford and Representatives Huffman, Russell, and Bass on this bipartisan bill, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in trying to pass it as quickly as possible.”
“Foster children go through a lot of instability, disappointment and even trauma, so we must step up and better care for the thousands of kids in our foster system,” said Senator James Lankford. “I’m glad to work with these foster advocates, and join this bill to help encourage successful standards, and provide greater uniformity and transparency in the foster care system. To address many of the poor outcomes associated with the foster care experience, and to prevent the ‘age out’ crisis, we must work together to provide permanency and families for these children. Government leaders must be committed to making sure that all foster children have a stable environment to grow and thrive.”
“Our nation’s children deserve a lot better than the countless, heart-wrenching stories I’ve heard of these children being bounced from family to family, without ever having the chance to settle down with one caring family who can truly provide for all of their needs,” said Rep. Huffman. “Even just one child falling through the cracks of our adoption system is inexcusable and we must do a better job to match these children with families who are prepared to take care of them. With more than 110,000 children currently waiting in foster care limbo, there is an immediate and urgent need to create a database with uniform reports and ratings so that social workers across states and jurisdictions can better match and prioritize children’s needs. The ‘National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act’ is a vital step forward in ensuring that all prospective adoptive families are properly vetted and measure up to high and thorough standards.”
“We need more programs that help reduce the number of children waiting for foster care or adoptive placement and this comprehensive, evidence-based home study assessment standard is a step in that direction,” said Rep. Bass. “This bill will help the more than 14,000 Californian children waiting to be adopted by allowing social workers to best assist the child welfare system. The goal is to find quality, loving homes that create good outcomes for our nation’s foster youth and allow them to have stability in a safe and supportive environment. I am proud to co-sponsor this fine piece of legislation.”
“Consortium for Children and the SAFE Home Study Program strongly supports the creation of National Home Study standards and a home study database,” said Kate Cleary, Executive Director of Consortium for Children, which is based in San Rafael, California. “The current lack of national standards in the evaluation of families who want to foster or adopt is placing traumatized children in further jeopardy. While millions of dollars have been and continue to be spent on the recruitment of adoptive families, thousands of families who have been approved for adoption by public agencies still await placement. Rather than recruit new families who will require training and a home study, an effort should be made to place children who desperately need adoptive parents now with families who are already approved and awaiting placement. A home study database could speed permanence for those children. For the above reasons we strongly support the National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study Act. We are enormously grateful to sponsors, Representatives Jaren Huffman, Steve Russell, Karen Bass, and Senators Gillibrand and Lankford for their leadership on this important issue and one that is so essential to protecting children.
Specifically the bill amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), directing that Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a voluntary national home study standard and database within the Adoption Opportunities Program, including:
- The development of an evidence-based National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study assessment standard and demonstration program.
- The development and deployment of a National Home Study Database to allow foster care and adoption agencies across the nation to access through a secure system information about prospective families, providing a more efficient matching of foster and adoptive children to prospective families.
- The independent evaluation of the National Adoption and Foster Care Home Study methodology and National Home Study Database deployment
In New York, over 8,000 children entered foster care in 2015. At the end of the year, there were over 17,000 children in New York’s child welfare system, including over 1,000 children waiting to be adopted. That same year, 111,820 children waited to be adopted nationally. In California alone, there were 6,079 adoptions in fiscal year 2015, however there remained 14,180 children waiting to be adopted.
The legislation is supported by: Consortium for Children, National Council for Adoption, Helpusadopt.org, The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., You Gotta Believe–Adopting Older Kids And Youth, Foundation for Sustainable Families, Adoption Rhode Island, Bethany Christian Services, Adoption Advocacy Center Fund, and Treehouse Foundation.