After months of comments, drafting and redrafting, a bill addressing a number of pressing children’s issues, including sex trafficking of children in foster care, was cleared by the Senate Sept. 18 for the president’s signature.
H.R. 4980, sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and passed by the House July 23, incorporates numerous recommendations from organizations, including the ABA, that responded to the committee’s call for comments on a discussion draft circulated in January. The final version of the bill, which combines provisions from several House and Senate proposals, includes the following ABA-supported provisions to prevent sex trafficking of children in foster care:
· requiring state child welfare agencies to identify, document and provide services to any child or youth over whom the state agency has responsibility when there is reasonable cause to believe the child is, or at risk of becoming, a victim of sex trafficking or another form of trafficking in persons;
· requiring state plans to include the reporting of instances of sex trafficking, as well as the locating of and responding to children who have run away from foster care, to law enforcement authorities;
· requiring state agencies to immediately report information on missing or abducted children or youth to law enforcement authorities for entry into the National Crime Information Center database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and
· including sex trafficking data in the adoption and foster care analysis and reporting system.
The legislation also includes provisions recommended by the ABA that seek to provide more stable environments for those in foster care by ensuring that foster children and youth are participating in age-appropriate extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities. The bill also gives children age 14 and older authority to participate in the development of their own case plans as well as transitional planning for a successful adulthood.
Other provisions require that foster children aging out of the system be provided with appropriate documentation, including birth certificates, Social Security cards, health insurance information, a copy of their medical records, and a drivers’ license or identification care.
Also included in the bill are provisions to improve adoption incentive payments providing financial payments to states for increasing adoption from foster care and to extend the Family Connection Grant Program, which supports efforts to reconnect children in foster care with their families.