Our Friday recap of highlighted legislation on our Facebook page:
H.R. 2012/S. 420: Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011
Bill description: To support the establishment or expansion and operation of programs using a network of public and private community entities to provide mentoring for children in foster care.
Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in the House Education and the Workforce committee.
This act has been introduced since the 107th Congress (2001-2003) but has never gotten out of committee. Currently both versions have 2 cosponsors each, in addition to their sponsors, Sen. Mary Landrieu [D-LA] and Rep. Karen Bass [D-CA33]. The premise of this bill is that connecting youth in foster care with supportive adults will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for youth in care, as well as provide for cost-savings by reducing the likelihood of such "social ills" as incarceration and unplanned teen pregnancies. If enacted, this bill would authorize $15 million for states to establish or expand mentoring programs for children and youth in foster care; mentors would be required to serve on a long-term, consistent basis, and they would have to have completed at least one year of study that would lead to at least a 4-year college degree. This bill would also provide $4 million for the development of a PR campaign to recruit mentors nationwide. Finally, it would provide federal student loan forgiveness (up to $10,000, or $2,000 for every 200 hours they serve) for mentors.Press Release: Landrieu Introduces Foster Care Mentoring Act
H.R. 1681: Every Child Deserves a Family Act
Bill description: To prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved.
Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in the House Committee on Ways and Means.
This bill currently has 58 cosponsors, including Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, in addition to its sponsor, Rep. Fortney Stark [D-CA13]. It's been introduced each year since 2009. This bill was developed as a response to the shortage of individuals willing to adopt from the foster care system or foster children in the child welfare system. The purpose of the bill is to decrease the length of time children remain in foster care and to promote the best interests of children. By making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of adoptive or foster parents, those LGBTQ individuals currently prohibited from adopting or fostering children would be able to, thereby decreasing the number of 'waiting children' in the foster care system. This bill would also result in cost-savings by the state. This bill also addresses the discrimination reported by LGBTQ youth in foster care by making it illegal to discriminate against these youth in care. Finally, it allows for same-sex couples to jointly adopt, a practice that is not allowed in all states.Press Release: Stark Reintroduces Every Child Deserves a Family Act
H.R. 1464/S. 416: North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011
Bill description: To develop a strategy for assisting stateless children from North Korea, and for other purposes.
Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
H.R. 1464 has 19 cosponsors in addition to its sponsor, Rep. Edward Royce [R-CA40]. Sen. Richard Burr [R-NC] is the sponsor of the Senate version, with 1 cosponsor. The idea behind this bill is to help stateless children from North Korea who are currently separated from their families and/or living in other countries in close proximity to North Korea. In addition to assisting with family reunification efforts, this bill would require the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to develop a strategy to help couples from the United States adopt these children, thereby providing for the health and welfare of these children while helping childless couples expand their families. This bill also recognizes the importance of ensuring the legality of international adoptions, and requires the Secretaries to come up with alternative means of proving the adoptability of these children if written documentation cannot be located.Press Release: Burr Introduces North Korean Refugee Adoption Act
S. 596: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2011
Bill description: A bill to establish a grant program to benefit victims of sex trafficking, and for other purposes.
Bill status: Waiting for a hearing in Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
This bill was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] and has 10 cosponsors, one of whom is MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It was also introduced last year and actually passed both the Senate and the House, but the differences between the two versions were never resolved and it was not enacted. If enacted, this bill will contribute to the field of child welfare in that youths charged with prostitution will instead be viewed as sexually exploited youths, and will instead be placed in the child protection system (rather than prosecuted for a crime). It will also allow these youths to get the services they need to recover and heal, and create a block grant program to combat sex trafficking. Finally, the act will provide protective orders for these victims and child witnesses from harassment or intimidation.Press Release: Wyden, Cornyn Introduce Bill to Combat Sex Trafficking of Minors