Background on passage of the Fostering Connections Act. Child welfare legislation has a long history of bipartisan support in Congress. The legislative history of the Fostering Connections Act is clear example of the deep interest and bipartisan support in Congress for addressing the needs of children in foster care. During the 110th Congress, many senators and representatives lent their support to a bipartisan legislative proposals which were ultimately combined into a final bill that passed by unanimous consent in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In addition, over 500 children's organizations were actively involved in promoting final passage, as evidenced by the diverse signatories of organization to a letter to Congressional leaders urging passage of Fostering Connections.
The tireless efforts of congressional committee leaders was particiular critical to the enactment of the Fostsering Connections Act. Despite the hectic final days of the 110th Congressional year, these legislative champions put aside partisan agendas and worked together to achieve reforms. These congressional members include include House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support Chairman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), former Ranking Member Jerry Weller (R-Ill, retired), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Finance Health Subcommittee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), With support from their colleagues, these lawmakers worked diligently to successfully steer the bill through to enactment.
Congressional hearings. In September 2009, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support Chairman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) held a hearing to examine the implementation of Fostering Connections. Two state officials and several other experts involved in implementation efforts discussed both progress and challenges. There was a recognition that the recession has hindered states from focusing fully on implementing the new opportunities offered by the new law. In addition, hearing witnesses pointed to several aspects of the law that pose significant challenges due the necessity of coordinating with other agencies, such as new requirements for state child welfare agencies to coordinate with local education agencies and state Medicaid to better coordinate education and health services. Some hearing witnesses also expressed interest in receiving further clarity through federal guidance on issues such "due diligence" related to notification of relatives. Additional Congressional hearings on Fostering Connections are expected.
Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the lead sponsors of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, announced on December 17, 2009, the formation of a Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. This announcement was made at a 10-year anniversary event of the Chafee Foster Care Independent Living Program. The event was organized by FosterClub, Casey Family Programs and other co-hosts. Senator Grassley will chair the new caucus along with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Congressional caucuses are formed to highlight the importance of an issue and to convene members of Congress who share a particular interest in a given topic. The new caucus will create a forum for Senators and their staff to learn about the unique needs of children in foster care and to discuss policy solutions.