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It’s just common sense: An adult's past criminal history or history of child maltreatment is not to be balanced against the safety of a child. This is...

Child Maltreatment History Should Be a Bar to Being a Foster Parent

April 23, 2017

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Bills to Help Prevent Foster Care, Help Foster Youth with College Introduced this Week

Bills were introduced this week on Capitol Hill that would help build the evidence base of family drug treatment programs, and prioritize federal education assistance for foster and homeless youth.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the Building Capacity for Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act (S. 2923) that would set aside $20 million over the next four years to evaluate different models of residential drug treatment programs that allow children to live with their parents.

“Allowing children to stay with their biological parents should always be the first option unless there are circumstances that prevent it, such as safety concerns,” Grassley said, in a statement this week announcing the legislation.

Any evaluation funded by these dollars would have to be aimed at establishing if the model meets the threshold of evidence established this year in the Family First Prevention Services Act. The law, which was signed in February and mostly takes effect in October 2019, permits federal reimbursement for up to 12 months of substance abuse, mental health or parenting services for some parents accused of maltreatment.

But the federal dollars will only flow to program models deemed to be “promising,” “supported” or “well-supported.” The Department of Health and Human Services is tasked in the law with establishing a clearinghouse of programs that fit the bill.

Also this week, Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) introduced the Foster Youth Success in College Act (H.R. 5915), which gives foster youth and homeless students preferred access to two federal programs designed to help disadvantaged youth progress through school and into college.

The first is Talent Search, which provides academic, financial and career counseling to high schoolers. The other program is Upward Bound, which also provides counseling but can also include subject-specific tutoring, mentor matching and work-study opportunities.

Talent Search and Upward Bound are two of the Education Department’s eight TRIO programs, named when there were only three of them.

“We have a moral imperative to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Mitchell, in a statement announcing the bill. “The numbers clearly show that these students, who overwhelmingly want to obtain an education, are not receiving the support they need to achieve their goal.”

The drug treatment bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The education bill goes to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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