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October 30, 2023

Modernizing the Child Welfare System

ABA Testifies in Congress

The ABA has long recognized the rights of children and parents to family integrity and unity.

The ABA has long recognized the rights of children and parents to family integrity and unity.

On September 28, 2023, Prudence Beidler Carr, the Director of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, testified on behalf of the American Bar Association during a House Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing on the “Modernizing Child Welfare to Protect Vulnerable Children.”

The ABA has long recognized the rights of children and parents to family integrity and unity, as outlined in resolution 118 from the annual meeting in 2019. The ABA’s testimony underscored the importance of mitigating the trauma caused by family separation and supporting the use of prevention services to ensure children's safety without the need for removal into foster care.

It is important to note that child welfare is both a social service and a legal system. It is therefore vital to uphold essential procedural protections for children and parents when it becomes necessary for government actors to interfere with rights to family integrity.

During the Subcommittee hearing, Chairman LaHood and Ranking Member Davis delved into the complexities of family interactions within the child welfare court system. Ms. Beidler Carr's insights highlighted the pressing need for court oversight, shedding light on the formidable legal challenges families encounter throughout the child welfare process. These challenges are even more significant when you consider that over 37 percent of children in this country will undergo an investigation by Child Protective Services before reaching the age of 18.

ABA policy calls for maintaining family connectedness if a child needs to enter foster care. It urges prompt identification, notification, and engagement of the child's kin, prioritization of kinship placements, and unsupervised visitation between parents and children in foster care, unless it is not in the child's best interest.

Ms. Beidler Carr's testimony also emphasized the value of the Court Improvement Program, which Congress established through bipartisan support in 1993. That program, which is up for reauthorization this year, provides invaluable support in every state in the country connecting the social services and legal sides of child welfare with one another to better serve children, parents, and families under the law.

The ABA appreciates that the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Work and Welfare conducted this hearing to shine a light on the need to modernize child welfare, invest in the Court Improvement Program, protect children’s rights and parents’ rights, and ensure family integrity.

Follow us on social media platforms @ABAGrassroots to track significant legislative developments to modernize the child welfare system as they develop.

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