LifeZette | June 21, 2017

Every child deserves a loving family. In families people find support, purpose, and identity. The family is at once the best means to becoming a responsible and happy person and the only means by which a community can sustain itself because families teach children how to be good citizens and neighbors.

For children without families, the future becomes much more trying. Those in the foster system face much stiffer challenges than their peers, experiencing higher rates of teen pregnancy and homelessness and lower graduation rates. So when it comes to public policy, we should strive to ensure every child has the love and support of a family to help these kids become good and successful adults.

The House is considering five bills this week to do just that by helping families stay together and making needed improvements to our foster care system.

To help families with parents receiving treatment for addiction, the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act allows foster care payments for a child who is placed with a parent in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility.

In addition, the House will amend the Partnership Grant program to assist children at risk of being placed in the child welfare system because of a parent’s substance abuse. This program creates and expands family treatment drug courts, family-centered treatment and recovery services, and other evidence-based substance abuse-related programs that focus on parental recovery and child safety and well-being.

Yet if children can’t remain with their parents, we should at least help them to stay with other relatives who want to take them in. Our Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act makes it easier for relatives to become foster parents by removing barriers in foster care licensing, particularly related to housing rules.

For young adults that have aged out of foster care, we must also make sure they have the support they need. Unfortunately, in 2015 alone more than 20,000 young adults aged out of the foster care system without any family to help them navigate the world. Instead of leaving these young adults out in the cold when they age out of the foster care system, our Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act will increase the age a young adult can receive assistance as they transition to adulthood.

Finally, foster children face more than enough challenges in life that we shouldn’t add paperwork burdens on top of them. The Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act will allow a child’s records to move easily across state lines if they move so that bureaucracy won’t impede their chance at a better life.

The fact is, no children should be forced to make it on their own. Our hope in this House and through these bills is that every child will have a loving family to help them as they grow and will always get the help they need.