Langevin Introduces All Kids Matter Act

May 26, 2016 Issues: Children and Families

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, today introduced the bipartisan All Kids Matter Act, which would allow states to use federal foster care dollars for preventative services to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children who are at-risk of suffering abuse, neglect, or any other traumatic childhood experience. Langevin is joined by his Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) and Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA), who are original cosponsors, along with Caucus members Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

“Permanency must always be our priority for young people. In some cases, foster care may be the safest and only suitable option, but in other cases, early intervention and family support services can potentially avoid a crisis and spare a child from the anxiety and trauma of being forcibly removed from their home,” said Rep. Langevin. “I had the privilege yesterday of participating in Foster Youth Shadow Day, and the young man I was paired with experienced six placements in nine years. No child should have to go through that kind of turmoil, and we must create a stronger system that protects both the immediate safety and also the long-term well-being of every child.”

Under current law, states must use federal foster care dollars, known as IV-E funds, for care or maintenance of youth in foster care -- in other words, the money may only be spent after a family has already experienced a crisis and a youth has been placed in foster care. This legislation would instead allow states to use these resources to intervene before abuse or neglect happens.

“As I speak to foster youth and former foster youth from across the country, one clear message comes through: Removing children from families should be the course of last resort,” said Rep. Bass. “Even with the best of intentions, this disruption during critical developmental years can be traumatic and severely disruptive as kids must adjust to things as important as moving from multiple schools to social insecurity. Whatever we as policymakers can do to give states maximum flexibility to find ways to keep children with their families, the better ability we have to give all our kids a chance at success.”

“Growing up in a loving, nurturing home is a right not a privilege. All of our children should be afforded this opportunity. While foster care can play a vital role in that process, it is not always the best option. As a former state and federal prosecutor, I have seen the devastating effects caused by removing children from their moms and dads. The All Kids Matter Act will protect our young people from unnecessary trauma, help preserve the familial unit, and strengthen our foster care system to better protect the more than 400,000 children that depend on it each year,” said Rep. Marino.

The All Kids Matter Act, which also incentivizes states to reduce the use of congregate care and group homes, ends the outdated Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility requirements. Currently, grants to states are determined by AFDC criteria established in 1996 and not adjusted for inflation. By eliminating these requirements, Langevin’s bill will allow states to utilize their federal foster care funds for all eligible children, thereby serving a larger population of young people in need.