I rise today in support of H.R. 2883, the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, a bill that continues a tradition of bipartisanship in crafting child welfare legislation.
The bill we are considering today reauthorizes two important child welfare programs, incorporating a series of improvements developed during hearings held by the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources over the past few months.
In addition to continuing and making improvements to two major child welfare programs, this bill also renews authority for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve child welfare waivers during the next three years.
Past waivers have allowed States to test new and better ways of helping children at risk of abuse and neglect.
Earlier this year, the House unanimously passed legislation renewing this authority, but the Senate has not followed suit.
This bill, which our colleagues in the Senate also support and which was favorably reported by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, will allow innovation to continue, and may yield information to improve child welfare programs in the future.
This bill will also establish a process to create needed data standards in child welfare programs. This language is a first step toward improving collaboration between social service programs.
We have often heard in hearings that States—and programs within States—have difficulty coordinating services because of difficulty sharing data, and that this lack of coordination increases costs and decreases effectiveness.
This bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with States to establish national data standards so that all State child welfare systems are speaking the same language.
To show the wide support for this bill, Mr./Madame Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert letters of support into the record from the following organizations:
- The National Conference of State Legislatures,
- The American Public Human Services Association,
- The Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators,
- The American Institute of CPAs,
- The American Humane Association,
- The North American Council on Adoptable Children,
- Voice for Adoption,
- The Association on American Indian Affairs,
- The National Indian Child Welfare Association,
- Youth Villages,
- First Focus campaign for children,
- Zero to Three (The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families),
- The National Foster Care Coalition,
- The Child Welfare League of America,
- The Children’s Defense Fund,
- The Center for the Study of Social Policy, and
- Public Children Services Association of Ohio.
I thank the Ranking Member on the Human Resources Subcommittee, Mr. Doggett of Texas, for working with me on this legislation, and for his efforts to improve how we serve children and families across the country.
Finally, I want to note that this legislation does not add to the deficit, since it simply extends current funding levels of the programs that are extended.