The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act continues this Committee’s 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 Subcommittee on Human Resources over the past few months. This bill is the result of collaboration between House Republicans and Democrats, as well as our colleagues from both parties in the Senate.
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 passed legislation renewing this authority, but the Senate has not followed suit. This bill, which our colleagues in the Senate also support, will allow innovation to continue, and may yield information for us to use in improving 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 Subcommittee 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 HHS to work with States to establish national data standards so that all State child welfare systems are speaking the same language.
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.
I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation, and thank you for scheduling today’s markup of it.