It’s rare to find an issue that draws unanimous bipartisan support among members of the U.S. Congress in the news today. Fortunately, when it comes to some children’s issues, politicians from both sides of the aisle often come to an agreement on the importance of investing in tomorrow’s generations. Last week, the Senate sent The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (HR 4980) to President Obama’s desk for final approval.
For many children in care and their families, HR 4980 is another forward step in promoting permanency and normalcy. The bill reauthorizes and enhances federal incentives for states that demonstrate improved rates of adoptions and guardianships, in addition to incentivizing more timely adoptions. A notable change to this incentive structure is the inclusion of guardianship placements as a permanency option. Other provisions of the bill also make key changes to standards for federal funds to be more responsive to the needs of kinship families, a group that has historically been overlooked in the child welfare system.
As we know in Nebraska, with the passage of legislation supporting permanent guardianships and kinship families, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to children and families in the child welfare system. Nevertheless, the research on healthy child development and well-being is clear: children thrive in stable households with strong relationships to caring adults. In the case of older youth, kinship families, or children from Native communities, a complicated family or cultural dynamic may leave family members hesitant to pursue formal adoption. HR 4980 marks another promising shift in the national landscape of permanency-focused child welfare policy that is inclusive of the needs of different types of families, with the goal of ensuring that all children in care have the chance to be happy and healthy adults.