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Work & Welfare Subcommittee Chairman LaHood Opening Statement: Hearing on Modernizing Child Welfare to Protect Vulnerable Children

September 28, 2023

As prepared for delivery.


“I want to thank everyone for joining us for today’s hearing on Modernizing Child Welfare to Protect Vulnerable Children.

“My name is Darin LaHood and I represent Illinois’ 16th District, covering much of the central and northwestern parts of the state.

“This hearing begins our Committee’s important work this Congress on evaluating challenges faced by America’s most vulnerable children within our nation’s child welfare system.

“As Chairman of the Work and Welfare Subcommittee, I have tremendous respect for the longstanding, bipartisan work that has been done by this Subcommittee to reform and fortify the safety net for children who have experienced the trauma and hardships of abuse and neglect.

“In 2018, this Subcommittee paved the way for a significant bipartisan victory with the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act. That legislation transformed Congress’s approach to child welfare by moving away from the historical practice of providing funding solely after a child entered foster care — and directing resources toward evidence-based prevention services to keep families together.

“In 2020, under the exemplary leadership of Ranking Member Davis and former Ranking Member Jackie Walorski, this Subcommittee worked to provide critical resources and much-needed support to foster youth during the pandemic.

“Child welfare policy has seen significant changes in recent years, but with nearly 400,000 children in foster care, more needs to be done.

“The purpose of this hearing is to review a program within our Subcommittee’s jurisdiction called ‘Title IV-B.’

“Title IV-B is a less than endearing name, but the program needs to be reauthorized. As you will hear from our witnesses today, this program plays a pivotal role in family preservation and providing flexible funding to states and tribes to promote the safety, permanence, and well-being of children in foster care.

“The program was first created in 1935 with the original passage of the Social Security Act and expanded in 1993 to include a new subpart called Promoting Safe and Stable Families. Title IV-B as a whole has not had any significant reform since 2008.

“I strongly believe it is our responsibility to ensure government programs are meeting today’s needs and that we are maximizing the impact of taxpayer dollars.

“Too often, Congress creates a program but then fails to circle back and ask: What has come of our investment? How can this funding complement other federal programs that serve similar populations?

“This perpetuates a social safety net that is siloed and disconnected.

“We have a unique opportunity to modernize and reimagine the function and structure of the Title IV-B program building on the success of Family First, while maintaining the flexibility that states rely on.

“Earlier this month, I sat down with Commissioner Rebecca Jones Gaston of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. Our conversation was very productive and revealed a number of areas where Title IV-B could be improved.

“In addition, stakeholders from both sides of the aisle have highlighted persistent challenges Title IV-B could be reformed to address, including some that our witnesses will speak to today.

“These include:

  • Improving outcomes for the 19,000 youth aging out of foster care each year;
  • Supporting the grandparents and family members caring for the 2.5 million children who might otherwise enter foster care;
  • Strengthening the capacity of family courts and ensuring legal representation and transparency for parents;
  • Fulfilling the promise of family resource centers to provide upstream interventions that catch families before they fall; and
  • Addressing the nationwide shortage of caseworkers.

“Families form the bedrock of a strong society, and it is crucial to have a child welfare system in place that supports children in moments of crisis and keeps families intact whenever possible.

“I look forward to the insights our witnesses will provide today as they shed light on various components and programs funded through Title IV-B.

“Together we can find lasting bipartisan solutions to address the challenges facing vulnerable children and families.

“Thank you to our guests for being here today and I look forward to your testimony.”