Senator Charles Grassley
Q. What is National Foster Care month?
A. Since 1988, May has been designated National Foster Care Month to call attention to the issues facing the foster care community, which consists of more than 400,000 children nationwide, more than 6,000 of whom live with one of Iowa's approximately 2,700 foster families. While this community deserves year-round attention, May is an especially important time to recognize the tremendous contributions of foster families across the nation.
As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, I often have the opportunity to hear firsthand from kids growing up in foster care. These children need permanency and a loving family, not to be shuffled around from home to home. They tell me that important improvements have recently been made, but there are still gaps in services that could be solved with a combination of policy changes and citizen involvement.
Q. What have you done to improve the foster care system?
A. I founded the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth in 2009. Before that, in 1997, I helped to draft the bipartisan Adoption and Safe Families Act. Since its enactment, many states have doubled their adoptions from foster care. In 2006, as the Chairman of the Finance Committee, I presided over hearings on child welfare that helped ensure passage of my Child and Family Services Improvement Act later that year.
In 2008, I introduced the bill that became the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. This bipartisan bill was the most significant child welfare bill to be enacted in over a decade. It made it easier for children to stay in their home communities and be adopted by family members. It provided incentives for states to move children from foster care to permanent adoptive homes, and it made all children with special needs eligible for federal adoption assistance. It also established new educational and vocational opportunities for youth during the difficult transition period when they age out of the foster care system at age 18. There are more than 250,000 young people who have aged out of foster care.
Going forward, the federal government must continue to evaluate the policies in place. Whether children are newborns or teenagers, our focus should be on placing foster youth in permanent, loving homes. Foster care should be a layover, not a destination.