Today, FosterClub issued a press release regarding the blockage of Family First earlier this week by a handful of Senators who responded to big-money congregate care outfits. We urge FosterClub advocates to take action.
Time is of the essence, as Congress adjourns next week. At this vital juncture, we encourage you to weigh in NOW with your members of Congress in support the passage of this bill!
It will take 20 minutes of your time and four steps:
Step 1: Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask them to connect you directly with your Senator (link is external) or House Representative (link is external) (they can only connect you to one office at a time).
Step 2: When you get the Congressional Member's front desk tell them your affiliation with foster care (for example, "I am a 24-year old who was in foster care" or "I am a foster parent") and where you are from.
Step 3: Ask them to: please urge Senator/Representative ________ to do everything possible to support the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act ((HR 5456, S 3065) in this legislative session. This bill is a critical step in providing children and families with vital substance prevention and treatment services they need.
Step 4: Thank them for sharing your request with your Congress Member. Then call the switchboard again to share the same message with your other Senator and representative from your District until you have contacted all three Congressional Members.
Don't know who your representative and senators are? Find them here:
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail) if you have any questions or need the contact information for your Members of Congress.
For Immediate Release: December 1, 2016
Contact: email@example.com, 202-681-5420
FosterClub Urges Congress to Pass Family First Before Adjourning for Holidays
Every year, thousands of children and young people spend their holidays in foster care, away from loved ones. This year, there is an unprecedented opportunity to do something to change this; the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (Family First) a comprehensive, bipartisan effort to improve how the child welfare system serves children and families.
This week, FosterClub was disappointed to learn efforts to pass Family First fell apart after a handful of Senators unexpectedly objected to its inclusion in the "21st Century Cures Act," apparently spurred by lobbying from big-money congregate care operations who elevated concerns that Family First could negatively impact their business.
"In America, we have long recognized bringing children from foreign-country orphanages into our own homes as a noble effort. We know the harmful effects of orphanages and all children deserve to grow up in families. America's children deserve the same love and support," says Celeste Bodner, Executive Director of FosterClub. "Congregate care is not a place for a child to spend their entire childhood. Short therapeutic and service-oriented treatment in congregate care is sometimes necessary, but congregate care is not necessary for all children. Family First values families for children and carves out treatment placements when necessary."
After months and months of carefully constructed compromises and progress toward passage for improvements that have been years in the making, FosterClub is troubled that lawmakers may end the year without acting on Family First. FosterClub is urging Congress to find a way to pass Family First--before leaving town for the holidays.
Simply, FosterClub urges passage of Family First this year to accomplish these broadly-supported provisions:
PREVENTION: Our country is facing an opioid and addiction crisis. 38% of children enter foster care due to drug and alcohol abuse problems (AFCARS, 2015).* Federal support for prevention services would allow children and youth to stay with their families while a parent receives treatment services.
CONGREGATE CARE & TREATMENT: Some children need elevated interventions that are best delivered in a congregate care setting. In these settings, children deserve top-notch medical, mental health and behavioral services that Family First prescribes. For children who do not need these services, placement in congregate care creates a barrier to bonding with family, whether birth, relative, adoptive, or other lifelong arrangement preferred by a youth. Family First will also improve oversight of psychotropic medications, an issue we must address now since federal GAO findings reveal a need for policy improvements in this areas as youth in foster care are taking these medications at alarming rates with little oversight.
SERVICES FOR OLDER YOUTH: Family First modernizes the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. It would allow youth to access education and training vouchers to the age of 26 and for up to five years, improves access to services for pregnant and parenting youth, ensures youth receive personal documentation so they can access services once they age out of foster care, and helps youth start preparing for adult life earlier.
"I spent 9 years in foster care in Los Angeles County. I do believe in keeping family together first, then if not [an option], search other options close to a family situation," said Jesse Gabriel De Luna of Pomona, an advocate and alumni of California's foster care system. "I see first hand the destruction it puts on youth by placing them in foster care and even more devastating in group homes. Let's keep families together safely."
The best gift Congress can give to children and youth in foster care--pass Family First before departing Washington D.C. for the holidays.