Congressional Champions for Foster Youth Urge Inclusion of Additional Supports in COVID-19 Response Package

Mar 19, 2020 Issues: Children and Families, Education, Foster Youth, Housing, Rhode Island

WASHINGTON – Co-chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth Jim Langevin (D-RI), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Don Bacon (R-NE) sent a letter yesterday urging House leadership to prioritize supports for current and former foster youth in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response packages.

“Foster youth may be particularly vulnerable to financial hardship and food and housing insecurity during this time,” they wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “To address these unique challenges, we respectfully request that you include provisions in the next legislative package addressing COVID-19 to provide temporary assistance for this population, including support for housing, healthcare, nutrition, and other basic needs.”

There are approximately 437,000 youth in foster care in the United States, with nearly 18,000 exiting foster care without a family each year. Two in five foster youth will experience homelessness, and only half of those who “age out” will be employed at age 24. Nearly one third of those in foster care are living with relatives like grandparents who are at high risk for COVID-19.

In their letter, the Representatives requested an increase in funds for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood, which supports older foster youth with financial, housing, counseling, employment, and educational assistance. Given the rapidly rising number of closed college campuses, the letter urges increasing funding and flexibility of the Chafee Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program to assist the approximately 10,000 foster youth in college who may have lost housing and access to food.

There is increasing worry that school closures and other social distancing measures will put a strain on already stressed caregiver services, as people caring for family members will be unable to go to work caring for foster youth. There are also fears that adoptions in progress may be disrupted due to the social and economic uncertainty surrounding the public health emergency. The members therefore call for increased funding for Title IV-B programs, which will provide enhanced supports for Tribes, foster parents, kinship caregivers, and residential providers. Lastly, the letter requests that the Departments of Health and Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; and Agriculture are provided authority to temporarily waive program restrictions, such as the 30 percent cap on using Chafee funds for housing, that could result in homelessness, food insecurity, or inadequate healthcare for current and former foster youth.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law yesterday, includes a temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) that provides additional funding for child welfare agencies, including for foster youth through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act.

Full text of letter.