Last week Congress passed The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) just before leaving Washington for the campaign season. This bi-partisan bill is a substantial victory for children in foster care, kinship care, and those waiting to be adopted.
The primary purpose of The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is to:
- ensure that children in state’s care or supervision at risk of sex trafficking are identified, protected, and linked to services;
- support normalcy and successful transitions to adulthood for children in foster care; and
- support and improve permanency outcomes.
The children in state custody or under the supervision of the state are vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes without appropriate support and opportunities afforded to them and their families.
One of the ways this bill ensures that children in foster care find the permanent homes they deserve was through the reauthorization of the adoption incentive program and the expansion that includes incentives for guardianship. That means grandparents and other relatives may have more opportunities to seek out and gain legal guardianship of the children they are raising.
The legislation also enacts new oversight for youth in foster care to ensure appropriate permanency plans and increased supports as they transition to adulthood. These provisions include involving children over the age of 14 in their case plan development, encouraging placements with siblings, requiring that youth who leave the foster care system are provided with essential documents, including their birth certificate, a social security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a driver’s license.
The bill provides one more year of funding for the federal Family Connection Grants that support Kinship Navigators, Intensive Family Finding, Family Group Decision Making, and residential family substance abuse treatment.
The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is a step in a very positive direction for ensuing that our most vulnerable children, those in the child welfare system, have improved outcomes and opportunities to succeed.