In 1996 I was a part of the historic reform of our welfare system as were some of the members to my left and right here on the dais. So, I’ve seen what Congress can do when we work together across party lines to accomplish goals for the greater good, and the child welfare legislation before us today is no different.
I’d like to thank Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Davis and Ranking Member Doggett for their leadership on this issue. They’ve held numerous hearings on these issues and this markup is a product of their hard work over many months. I’d also like to thank Senate Finance Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch for their work on this in the Senate.
The legislation has two main components – reauthorizing and improving expiring child welfare programs and extending child welfare waiver authority.
The waiver authority, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow states to use federal foster care money to test innovative child welfare programs.
This waiver program allows states to figure out which child welfare programs work best, and which are examples of success that can and should be repeated.
Among the many technical but important policies included in this legislation is a provision I am very interested in, involving the accuracy of data about child deaths due to maltreatment. One of the failings of our current system is we don’t even have a complete count of the number of children who die each year due to maltreatment. Literally hundreds of child deaths are missed each year in official statistics. I asked GAO to review this and provide recommendations for improving the accuracy of this important data. The legislation before us will help close gaps in our knowledge by directing states to describe how they currently report child deaths due to maltreatment, as well as explain how they will fill in any gaps. Unless we have a complete picture of how many children die due to maltreatment, we will never be able to design fully effective systems to prevent that horrific outcome. This bill helps us make important progress toward that goal.
Also, given the current condition of the economy and the need to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, it should be noted that this legislation does not add one dime to the deficit and is fully paid-for.
Like I said before, this bipartisan and bicameral legislation is an example of what can happen when we come together to solve problems for our nation. I now yield the remainder of my time to Chairman Davis for the purpose of an opening statement.