Each year, the month of May is recognized as National Foster Care Month. I thank my colleagues for once again unanimously passing a resolution to recognize and bring awareness to the experiences of youth and families in the foster care system.
This month, organizations in Iowa and around the country have been working to support youth in foster care, and the foster parents who open their homes to kids in need.
In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, there were over 426,000 kids in foster care in the United States. In Iowa alone, there were almost 6,000.
As stated in our resolution, Congress must continue to work towards real solutions for these children, who face trauma, abuse and neglect.
In recent years, lots of changes have been made to the way that child welfare works. Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act in 2018. The goal was to provide more services to families before removing children from the home was needed.
This bill also seeks to help kids who age out of foster care have access to more support and successfully transition to adulthood and independence.
I was glad to support this legislation and I hope that as it is implemented, we see positive outcomes for kids and families.
All children, no matter their circumstances, deserve a permanent, loving home, and consistent, caring adults in their lives.
Research has shown that the presence of just one caring adult who is available for advice, support and guidance can make a meaningful difference for children in foster care.
For some kids, this may be a foster parent who maintains a relationship with a child even after the temporary placement is over.
For other kids, this may be an aunt or uncle, a family member who is willing to shoulder the responsibility of providing a loving home.
Others may benefit from a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or guardian ad-litum. These are volunteers assigned to be a child’s advocate.
For a system designed to protect children, often the child welfare system does not give much opportunity for a child’s voice to be heard.
CASAs are often the only adults in a court proceeding who are exclusively advocating for what the youth in foster care wants.
I’m happy that this year for the first time, May 18th was National CASA/GAL Volunteers Day, to honor the service of these volunteers.
I salute all those who work tirelessly to support kids in foster care, in Iowa and nationwide.
When I founded the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth in 2009, the special focus was to hear directly from youth themselves.
Older youth in foster care, and adults who experienced foster care as a child can speak to what worked for them, and what didn’t. They should always have a seat at the table.
Over and over again, I have heard the same thing from kids in foster care: They want a mom and dad. They want a family, and a place to call home.
For some kids, this goal can be met by their families getting help with mental illnesses, substance abuse or housing.
For others, the dream of a family can be found through foster care and eventual adoption.
For others, kinship care provides an opportunity for stability and permanency.
There is no one-size fits all approach, no silver bullet than can help all kids. But there is one common outcome that can be strived for.
We should be wary of attempts to undo progress that has been made in speeding up adoptions and providing permanency for children.
The goal should always be to protect kids from neglect and abuse, and improve their wellbeing.
Moving forward, Congress must continue to work to find better solutions and secure better outcomes for youth in foster care.
Once again, I thank my colleagues for passing this resolution.