Levin Floor Statement on Bipartisan Child Welfare Legislation

Jun 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today delivered the following remarks on the House Floor in support of H.R. 5456, – the Family First Prevention Services Act – a bill that would keep more children safely at home and out of foster care:

(Remarks as delivered)

“Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today – the Family First Prevention Services Act – has a very simple goal: improve the lives of our most vulnerable children. We worked across the aisle on this legislation because we recognize the importance of ensuring that kids grow up in safe, loving, and stable homes.

“Our foster care system provides an essential safe haven for abused and neglected children. However, when it comes to our system today, it’s clear that federal funding has been stacked against prevention efforts. That means our federal dollars aren’t being used to effectively help families and prevent child abuse and neglect in homes.

“In fact, less than 10 percent of dedicated child welfare funding goes toward prevention. This bill is intended to make sure families received the help they needed before a child goes into foster care, not after as our current system largely functions. The bill would provide substance abuse treatment for parents, support efforts to improve parenting skills, and expand access to mental health care.

“The Children’s Defense Fund, which tirelessly advocates for our most vulnerable children, offered its full support for this bill, writing that ‘It takes historic and long overdue steps to direct federal child welfare dollars to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families.’

“Simply put, this bill would help keep kids throughout our country safe and in their homes, instead of placing them into a foster care system that we should only use when clearly necessary.

“It would be preferable if the bill’s key provisions on prevention started sooner to help States facing immediate crises. Furthermore, this legislation certainly does not address every problem facing our child welfare system, including the need to recruit more foster family homes.  

“But this bill is an important step forward in strengthening our nation’s child welfare system in the long-term. In fact, we’ve seen more than 50 organizations dedicated to advocating for vulnerable children come out in support of this legislation, including as mentioned the Children’s Defense Fund, American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevent Child Abuse America, the American Psychological Association, Voice for Adoption, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children. The bill has also been endorsed by the national association representing state child welfare agency directors.

“This legislation represents an effort to find important common ground in the House, and also in the Senate with the leadership of Senators Hatch and Wyden. We have more work to do to ensure our children have the opportunities and support they need to thrive – but this bill would take a very important step on that path.”