Walorski, Ways and Means subcommittee members unveil bill to support foster youth

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) on Aug. 7 introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide temporary, targeted support to protect the nation’s vulnerable foster youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America’s most vulnerable children and families face unique challenges even in normal times, but the coronavirus crisis presents even more obstacles to overcome,” said Rep. Walorski, ranking member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee. “We need to take action now to help them through the pandemic so they can build a stronger, more stable future.”

Rep. Walorski cosponsored the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, H.R. 7947, with bill sponsor Danny Davis (D-IL), chairman of the House Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee. The bill would provide additional temporary supports and flexibilities for older foster youth, grandparents and other kinship families, home visiting for pregnant and parenting families, and other child welfare services through the end of fiscal year 2021, according to the text of the H.R. 7947. 

If enacted, H.R. 7947 would provide $350 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood; would provide $50 million for the Educational and Training Vouchers Program; and would increase the maximum award amount to $12,000 per youth, according to a fact sheet provided by Rep. Walorski’s office. 

H.R. 7947 also would prevent children from aging out of foster care and being at risk of homelessness during the pandemic by prohibiting states from requiring a child to leave foster care solely due to their age during the pandemic, and by requiring states to permit youth to voluntarily re-enter foster care, according to the fact sheet.

Additionally, H.R. 7947 would provide $75 million and waive state matches for additional funds to support family preservation, family reunification, adoption, and other supportive services; expand funding for the Court Improvement Program; and provide an additional $10 million for courts handling child welfare cases and temporary flexibilities to conduct virtual hearings, among other provisions.

“COVID-19 has presented us with unforeseen challenges – especially for older kids transitioning out of foster care – and I’m proud that once again our committee is coming together with this bill to provide immediate relief and certainty to the thousands of young people in our foster care system,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), ranking member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.