FosterClub Urges Congress to Pass Family First Before Adjourning for Holidays

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Earlier this week, the Family First Prevention Services Act out of the 21st Century Cures Act. FosterClub, the national network for young people in foster care, is urging Congress to pass Family First before the year end.

Every year, thousands of children and young people spend their holidays in foster care, away from loved ones. FosterClub views the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 (Family First) as an unprecedented opportunity to do something to change this.

This week, FosterClub was disappointed to learn the Family First Act was pulled from the “21st Century Cures Act".

“In America, we have long recognized bringing children from foreign-country orphanages into our own homes as a noble effort. We know the harmful effects of orphanages and all children deserve to grow up in families. America’s children deserve the same love and support,” says Celeste Bodner, Executive Director of FosterClub. “Congregate care is not a place for a child to spend their entire childhood. Short therapeutic and service-oriented treatment in congregate care is sometimes necessary, but congregate care is not necessary for all children. Family First values families for children and carves out treatment placements when necessary.”

After months and months of carefully constructed compromises and progress toward passage for improvements that have been years in the making, FosterClub is troubled that Family First may not cross the finish-line before the end of the year. FosterClub is urging Congress to find a way to pass Family First—before leaving town for the holidays.

Simply, FosterClub urges passage of Family First this year as it believes the act will accomplish these broadly-supported provisions:

PREVENTION: Our country is facing an opioid and addiction crisis. 38% of children enter foster care due to drug and alcohol abuse problems (AFCARS, 2015).* Federal support for prevention services would allow children and youth to stay with their families while a parent receives treatment services.

CONGREGATE CARE & TREATMENT: Some children need elevated interventions that are best delivered in a congregate care setting. In these settings, children deserve top-notch medical, mental health and behavioral services that Family First prescribes. For children who do not need these services, placement in congregate care creates a barrier to bonding with family, whether birth, relative, adoptive, or other lifelong arrangement preferred by a youth. Family First will also improve oversight of psychotropic medications, an issue FosterClub believes must be addressed now since federal GAO findings reveal a need for policy improvements in this areas as youth in foster care are taking these medications at alarming rates with little oversight.

SERVICES FOR OLDER YOUTH: Family First modernizes the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. It would allow youth to access education and training vouchers to the age of 26 and for up to five years, improves access to services for pregnant and parenting youth, ensures youth receive personal documentation so they can access services once they age out of foster care, and helps youth start preparing for adult life earlier.

“I spent 9 years in foster care in Los Angeles County. I do believe in keeping family together first, then if not [an option], search other options close to a family situation,” said Jesse Gabriel De Luna of Pomona, an advocate and alumni of California’s foster care system. “I see first hand the destruction it puts on youth by placing them in foster care and even more devastating in group homes. Let's keep families together safely.”

FosterClub believes the best gift Congress can give to children and youth in foster care is to pass Family First before departing Washington D.C. for the holidays.

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FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. FosterClub's mission is to lead the efforts of young people in and from foster care to become connected, educated, inspired and represented so they can realize their personal potential and contribute to better outcomes for their peers. The organization’s approach is to engage and empower those who have the most at stake in transforming the foster care system: young people themselves. More information can be found at

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George Collins-White
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George Collins-White
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