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House Approves Foster Care Measure

On June 24, the House approved, by voice vote, the Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307).

Sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), the measure would assist children in foster care in developing or maintaining connections to family, community, health care, and school. The bill also would require the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute family connection grants and increase payments for the Adoption Incentive Program.

The bill would authorize $50 million annually for FY2009-2013 for the Department of Health and Human Services to make matching family connection grants to state, local, or tribal child welfare agencies, and private nonprofit organizations that work with foster children or children in kinship care arrangements. Grants would be used for helping children who are in, or at risk of entering, foster care reconnect with family members.

In addition, the Fostering Connections to Success Act would extend the Adoption Incentive Program from FY2008-2013. Under the Adoption Incentive Program, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services would provide additional payments of $2,000 to $4,000 for each successful adoption that occurs over the baseline number set for each state.

H.R. 6307 also would require states to inform any individual who is, or is considering, adopting a child in foster care of his or her potential eligibility for a federal tax credit.

The measure includes efforts to maintain and ensure educational stability for children in foster care. The placement of a child in foster care would take into account the “appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of placement…If remaining in such a school is not in the best interests of the child, assurances would be made by the state agency and the local educational agencies to provide immediate and appropriate enrollment in a new school, with all of the educational records of the child provided to the school.

Moreover, the legislation would require states, state agencies, pediatricians, and other health care experts, and experts in, and beneficiaries of, child welfare agencies, to plan for the ongoing oversight and coordination of health care services for any child in a foster care placement. This would include “a coordinated strategy to identify and respond to the health care needs of children in foster care placements, including mental health and dental needs.”

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