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Chairman Smith, Representative Moore Introduce Bill to Prevent Separation of Parents and Children Due to Poverty

June 25, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fewer families suffering from poverty would be unnecessarily separated under legislation introduced by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) that seeks to prevent child removal from homes solely due to poverty. The Preventing Child Welfare Entry Caused by Poverty Act (H.R. 8813) would allow child welfare agencies to deploy resources under the existing Title IV-B Promoting Safe and Stable Families program to address the acute needs of families living in poverty that might otherwise lead to investigations for neglect. Additionally, the legislation clarifies that states must have policies in place to ensure that simply living in poverty, absent abuse or neglect, is not reason on its own to separate children from their parents. 

“Missouri’s 8th district is one of the poorest congressional districts and home to some of the hardest-working parents I know, that get up every day and provide for their children as best they can, even when times get tough. Families experiencing a crisis and hard times should not have to worry about their children being taken from them. In Missouri, 40 percent of children involved in the state’s child welfare system were removed for reasons related to neglect, not abuse.” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Smith. “No child should be separated from their family solely because of poverty. I want to thank Congresswoman Moore for partnering with me in introducing the Preventing Child Welfare Entry Caused by Poverty Act, which gives states flexibility to offer services for non-recurring, short-term help when families find themselves in a moment of crisis. This legislation will not only help states save money, such as Missouri which spends roughly $30,000 per year to have a child in foster care, but more importantly saves children and parents from the lifetime trauma created by separation.”

“The Preventing Child Welfare Entry Caused by Poverty Act builds on my ongoing efforts to redefine neglect in the child welfare system, so that families aren’t punished and separated solely for being poor. I am so pleased to join Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith in introducing legislation that takes a step toward this reform,” said Congresswoman Moore

Darrell Missey, Director of the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, praised the Committee’s bill as an important step to help struggling families remain together, writing:

Please accept this letter as my wholehearted support for the Preventing Child Welfare Entry Caused by Poverty Act. In a system designed to address child abuse and neglect, we find a child welfare system that is instead overrun by families who are in crisis as the result of poverty. This often results in extremely traumatic and harmful removal of children under circumstances where the family could have remained together with proper support…there are many stories of such tragedies in Missouri…I very much appreciate this effort and support any steps that can be taken to assist us in helping these struggling families remain together.”


  • In 2023, 62 percent of child welfare removal cases were associated with neglect. However, “neglect” is a broad term that lacks a federal definition, encompassing a wide array of issues, including poverty. 
  • Mistaking poverty for neglect can lead to higher rates of child neglect cases and child welfare involvement for families experiencing poverty.
  • Child welfare policy should prioritize keeping children in their homes whenever it is safe and feasible to do so.
  • The Preventing Child Welfare Entry Caused by Poverty Act would reduce the number of children removed from their homes by providing families in crisis with access to concrete support for critical one-time needs – including responding to urgent situations with family care resources to reduce the risk of child maltreatment or neglect. 
  • In addition, states would be called upon to implement policies for handling child abuse and neglect investigations involving reports of poverty-related neglect to prevent children from being separated from their parents solely on the basis of poverty-related circumstances such as insufficient food, clothing, shelter, or supervision.