Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016by Representative Danny K. Davis
Posted on 2016-06-21
DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my
colleague from Texas for yielding.
Child welfare advocates have used the adjectives ``landmark,'' ``historic,'' and ``trailblazing'' to describe this bill. I wholeheartedly agree with them. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this legislation that begins a fundamental shift in Federal child welfare policy to preserving families rather than separating them.
I am deeply grateful to Ranking Member Levin, Chairman Brady, Chairman Buchanan, Ranking Member Wyden, and Chairman Hatch for including many provisions for which I have advocated, provisions that will substantially strengthen families in Chicago, in Illinois, and throughout the Nation. I am equally grateful to Ranking Member Doggett for his tireless efforts to secure additional resources for prevention.
My congressional district has the highest percentage of children living with grandparent caregivers in the Nation, followed closely by two other congressional districts in Illinois. We know that substance abuse and addiction underlie a substantial percentage of child welfare cases and separates families.
When I ask foster youth what policymakers could do to make child welfare better, they almost always say: You could have helped my mom and dad.
That is exactly what we are doing here today. The Family First Prevention Services Act invests in addressing key reasons that families struggle by providing evidence-based mental health, substance abuse, and parenting services to strengthen families so they can avoid the child welfare system. I am especially pleased that the bill includes my work to improve the effectiveness of child abuse and neglect prevention related to substance abuse by modernizing the Regional Partnership Grants.
Coupled with the prevention services, the extension of the Kinship Navigator program, the improved licensing standards to address barriers for relative caregivers, the extension of adoption and legal guardianship incentive payments, the new services for pregnant and parenting foster youth, the investment in electronic systems to improve interstate placement of youth, and the funding to support children in staying with their parents in residential treatment all promise to improve permanency and well-being for youth and kinship caregivers.
I want to thank the chairperson of my Child Welfare Task Force, Dr. Annetta Wilson, for sharing her expertise on how to improve policies to support children and families. I also want to thank Pam Rodriguez and George Williams with TASC in Chicago as well as Nancy Young with Children and Family Futures for sharing their expertise about what policies work to support parents affected by substance abuse so that we can strengthen families.
Finally, this is not a perfect bill, but it is a historic bill and a unique opportunity to strengthen families. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to enact additional supports for kinship caregivers, enhance services for expectant and parenting foster youth, and to protect the Social Security benefits of foster youth.
I attended a high school graduation last Friday, and the young lady who got the biggest applause was one whose mother and grandmothers both had died within the last 3 years. She also has given birth to two children. But she graduated with honors, and it is the assistance and help that we give to these young people who really prove that we can have an effective welfare help system for young people who need the help.