WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican Leader for the Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), kicked off today’s hearing examining common-sense updates to bipartisan provisions that assist America’s families and foster youth.
Rep. Walorski said, “During this Congress, several child welfare programs are set to expire. We have the important responsibility to really look closely at these programs and the changes needed to make them work better for vulnerable youth and families.”
- Rep. Walorski emphasized the importance of ensuring grandparents and kin providers receive the support they need to maintain a core family unit.
- Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line.
- Nearly 8 million children live in grand families, where grandparents or other relatives are the householders.
- Rep. Walorski also highlighted the need to continue working with states on the implementation of existing child welfare programs, such as the bipartisan Ways and MeansFamily First Prevention Services Act.
Rep. Walorski’s opening remarks as delivered appear below:
Thank you, Chairman Davis. I’m grateful we’re having this hearing today on making a difference for families and foster youth. This is an important forum to discuss the challenges foster youth have faced during the pandemic and how we can shore up gaps and better ensure America’s children and families can thrive.
In 1988, President Reagan was the first President to proclaim May as National Foster Care Month. In his proclamation he stated: National Foster Care Month presents an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the pressures facing families today and on the need for increased efforts to ensure all children have the opportunity to live in healthy, loving homes.
Thirty-three years later, I am thrilled that this subcommittee continues to carry the torch for these vulnerable children and families.
Mr. Chairman, I’m proud of our work together last year to pass the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act. That bipartisan legislation provided timely, commonsense solutions that are making a real difference in young people’s lives.
Each year, approximately 20,000 youth age out of foster care when they turn 18 or 21. The pandemic left these foster youth particularly vulnerable because they often do not have reliable adults and other sources of support in their lives.
The bill we passed into law increased funding allowances for housing, to make sure youth would not face homelessness.
It also ensured they could maintain their enrollment in school and have the technology they need to participate in online courses and continue their education.
And it made sure youth would not age out of the foster care system during the pandemic and provided increased access to funds for Kinship Navigator programs.
During this Congress, several child welfare programs are set to expire. We have the important responsibility to really look closely at these programs and the changes needed to make them work better for vulnerable youth and families.
One area that I think deserves our subcommittee’s continued attention is Kinship Care. Relative caregiving is definitively the next best alternative to maintaining the core family unit.
Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth have incomes that fall below the poverty line. The number of grandparents raising grandchildren is up 7 percent from 2009. Grandparents and other kin providers are often left on their own without much support.
More broadly, the Family First Prevention Services Act enacted in 2018 set the foundation for keeping more American families intact and offering brighter futures for our communities. I believe it’s crucial we continue to work with States on timely implementation of the important safeguards included in that legislation to help them move toward prevention-focused child welfare systems.
We also need to take a serious look at the evidentiary standard for kinship care to see if its application makes sense when we know, intuitively, it’s a preferred setting.
Today we’re lucky to be joined by Sharon Pierce, who recently retired from her role as President and CEO of The Villages of Indiana after 30 years.
The Villages is Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency, serving more than 3,100 vulnerable children and families each day.
Throughout her career, Ms. Pierce has been an absolute rock star, working tirelessly in Indiana to see that Hoosier children find homes where they’ll be nurtured and cared for.
Governor Holcomb recently honored her with the Wabash Award, which is the highest honor the Governor of Indiana bestows to those who rendered distinguished service to the state. This was her second time receiving the award, having also received it from Governor Mitch Daniels.
I am thrilled to have Ms. Pierce with us today to talk about her work and how changes at the federal level could better support critical community-based organizations like the Villages.
Ms. Pierce, thank you for joining us.
And as always, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to continuing this subcommittee’s rich tradition of bipartisan work together on child welfare in the coming months.
With that, I yield back.