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House Committee Approves Promoting Safe Families Bill

Legislation (H.R. 2873) that would reauthorize for four years the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program was approved, by voice vote, by the House Ways and Means Committee on October 31. The program was designed to assist states in providing services for abused and neglected children and their families. The legislation was approved by the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources on September 25 (see The Source, 9/26/01, p. 3).

Under the committee-passed bill, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program would be authorized at the current level of $305 million annually in mandatory spending for FY2002 through FY2006. An additional $200 million per year would be authorized in discretionary funding. The bill also would expand the program to include an initiative to strengthen parental relationships and promote healthy marriages and an infant safe haven program. Based on legislation (H.R. 2018) introduced by Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA), the safe haven measure would provide services to encourage mothers who do not want to keep their babies to leave them at a safe place such as a hospital.

H.R. 2873 would create a new matching grant initiative to support mentoring programs for the children of prisoners. The program would be authorized at $67 million in FY2002 through FY2006.

Additionally, the bill would authorize a new education and training voucher program for youths aging out of foster care. This initiative would be authorized at $60 million annually for FY2002 through FY2006.

Most of the Members of the committee praised the bill. “I am pleased that we are authorizing two programs that couldn’t be more important,” said Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT). “This voucher program” and the “mentoring program” are “extremely important,” she continued, adding that “at this time, this is the right bill to get us moving forward.”

Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), however, criticized the bill. He pointed out that the Bush Administration’s FY2002 budget “included a $1 billion mandatory funding increase over five years” for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. “Now we are being told that we cannot afford such funding,” he said. “How is it that the House Committee can move forward on an enormous $150 billion tax bill with no offsets last week, but today, we cannot afford to protect and help neglected children?” he asked.

The committee rejected, 14-20, an amendment by Rep. Cardin that would have provided mandatory increases for the program totaling $1.3 billion over the next five years.

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