Senator Wyden Introduces Bill Promoting Accountability and Excellence in Child Welfare

August 3, 2011

Bill paves way for cost-saving collaboration and better lives for vulnerable children and families

Washington, D.C. – The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and First Focus applaud Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden for his vision and commitment to improving the lives of those in the child welfare system.

“As a country, we cannot afford to let children fall through the cracks of the many systems that exist to serve them,” said Wyden. “By targeting our resources, improving collaboration, spurring innovation, and—above all—holding ourselves accountable, we can systemically serve the best interest of at-risk children, their families and communities, and the nation as a whole.”

The Promoting Accountability and Excellence in Child Welfare Act has the potential to save the federal government money (with current spending on foster care amounting to roughly 10 times more than that on prevention), establish concrete performance measures that emphasize significant results and encourage interagency and public/private collaboration - all to improve the well-being of children and youth. In addition, the bill provides strategies that maximize existing federal funding.

“It’s our nation’s responsibility to protect the best interest of our most vulnerable children. However, in today’s policymaking climate, solutions for addressing the challenges facing children in foster care are often missing from the conversations on Capitol Hill,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan advocacy group. “We applaud Senator Wyden for spearheading this much needed legislation that will promote the well-being of children and families in the child welfare system and spur broader reform of the current federal financing structure.”

The bill would help states continue their efforts to prevent youth from entering foster care and lessen a child’s time in the system, while also encouraging strengthened support services to children and youth so they do not fall behind their peers. The bill provides states with the flexibility to determine the specific methods through which improved outcomes for children and youth will be achieved, based on best practices and in collaboration with foster parents, biological parents, kinship caregivers and youth. These interventions not only protect a child, but they help contribute to their current and future well-being.

“The proposed legislation, among other things, would encourage and support states’ most innovative efforts to ensure that children in the child welfare system are healthy, successful in school and that their social and emotional health are attended to,” said Frank Farrow, director of CSSP. “It recognizes that child welfare agencies alone cannot provide everything a child and family need in order to thrive and creates incentives for partnerships between child welfare agencies and schools, housing and employment services and health and mental health agencies. And, it establishes strong performance measures so that successful innovations can serve as scalable models into the future.”