Bipartisan Support for Child Protection Improvements Act Passes in the Senate

On October 16, 2017, the Child Protection Improvements Act (S. 705) was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Al Franken (D-MN) and was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent.

This bill amends the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a national criminal history background check system and criminal history review program for organizations that serve children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

This program was originally authorized as a pilot program by the Adam Walsh Act. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conducted the background checks. During the course of that pilot program, 77,000 youth volunteers were the subject of background checks.

The background checks revealed that 6 percent of those applicant volunteers had a criminal history for violations such as child sexual abuse, child cruelty, murder, and serious drug offenses. This program needs permanency, and the Child Protection Improvements Act will give it permanency.

Specifically, CPIA amends the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to do the following:

Ensure organizations that serve children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities have access to FBI fingerprint background checks.

Helps ensure the cost of background checks are reasonable.

Identifies criteria offenses that will result in a determination that a volunteer may not be suitable to serve a vulnerable population.

No companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives, but bipartisan support is anticipated in that chamber as well. 

Family First Prevention Services Act of 2017 Revisited

Since the introduction of the Family First Prevention Services Act (H.R. 253) in January 2017, there has been no further developments in committee or on the floor of the House or Senate.  The legislation that was originally introduced was never endorsed by the Senate. 

On October 16, 2017 S. 1964 was also introduced on the floor by Senate Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). There is no text available yet nor is the bill is available, but it is described as “a bill to encourage kinship guardianship placements and support payment equity for such placements, to improve oversight of State child welfare programs funded under the Social Security Act, and to strengthen national data on child fatalities from child maltreatment.”  The bill was read twice on the Senate floor and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further action.  

Further updates on the legislation will be provided.     
               
CHILD PROTECTION AND FAMILY SUPPORT ACT

The bipartisan Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act would require states to maintain a public website of all private foster care companies and report to the Department of Health and Human Services performance measures for each foster care provider when it comes to preventing child deaths and abuse. The bill establishes a new penalty process for states that are out of compliance with federal child welfare standards and reinvests penalty dollars into the areas most in need of improvement. It would also require states to set limits on the number of caseloads caseworkers are handling, encourage more relatives to take in foster children, and make it easier to get more caseworkers trained and into the field.  

Some other interesting highlights:

Eliminates an outdated funding formula so that states may receive federal support on behalf of all children in eligible kinship guardianship placements, not just those removed from very poor families.

Provides new flexibility so that relative guardians do not need to go through the same licensing process as non-relative foster families. Improves caseworker training, support, and workload standards.

Simplifies the process for states to claim federal support for new caseworker training costs and expands the types of caseworker training that are eligible for federal support. 

Requires states to create guidelines for the maximum size of child welfare caseloads and caseworker to supervisor ratios. Increases understanding of child fatalities to improve prevention.

Requires each state to conduct an annual review of all child maltreatment fatalities and develop related recommendations so that child outcomes and fatalities can be better monitored, studied, and prevented.

Links to the bill and summaries: 

US: Hatch, Wyden Respond to Significant Need to Improve Government Oversight Following Foster Care Investigation (Press release)

U.S. Senate Committee on Finance - October 17, 2017

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today released a bipartisan report detailing their two-year investigation into foster care privatization and the increasing practice of states tasking private entities (for-profit and non-profit) with protecting our nation's most vulnerable children. As a result of the investigation's findings, Hatch and Wyden also introduced legislation, the Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act of 2017 (S. 1964), to address issues raised by the report.

Also: Report: An Examination of Foster Care in the United States and the Use of Privatization: https://www.finance.senate.gov/download/an-examination-of-foster-care-in-the-united-states-and-the-use-of-privatization

Also: Wyden And Hatch Push Bill To Make Foster Care System More Accountable: http://kuow.org/post/wyden-and-hatch-push-bill-make-foster-care-system-more-accountable

Also: Wyden Introduces Bipartisan Child Welfare Act to Improve Government Oversight of Foster Care: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/press-releases/wyden-introduces-bipartisan-child-welfare-act-to-improve-government-oversight-of-foster-care

Also: Franken bill on child protection passes Senate; http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/4345266-franken-bill-child-protection-passes-senate
http://www.publicnow.com/view/7FC0D0A032EF34815AAC9334B342FCD165EDD194?2017-10-17-15:30:22+01:00-xxx4227