Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., on Wednesday said government essentially becomes "the parents" when it puts children in foster care, and then "washes our hands of them" once they turn 18.
"Any time a foster youth falls through the cracks, then the government is really responsible because when we remove children from their parents, we — meaning the government — then we become the parents, we are responsible for them," Bass said on the House floor. "So we're working on legislation to improve that."
Bass had three current and former foster care youth with her for Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day.
"They are here today on the Hill shadowing members of Congress to one, share their stories, their challenges, their successes, and to help us understand how to improve the child welfare system," Bass said.
She told stories of one boy who was separated from his siblings and another who was removed from her drug-addicted parents. The girl's parents later died, and the girl believes that while she was taken care of, her parents' addictions were made worse by being separated from her.
Bass also addressed the issue of sex trafficking in connection to foster care.
"We passed several bills related to sex trafficking, but one of the many things that members of Congress have grown to be aware of over the last few years is that a large percentage of underage girls and some boys who get caught up in sex trafficking are actually foster youth that have fallen through the cracks," she said.