Langevin Leads Introduction of Bills to Protect Adopted Children

Jul 27, 2017 Issues: Children and Families, Foster Youth

Today, U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Karen Bass (D-CA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Trent Franks (R-AZ), and Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced two bills aimed at eliminating “re-homing” – an illegal practice whereby parents transfer custody of their adopted child without going through the child welfare system. In many cases, these children end up in dangerous situations where they are at risk of neglect, exploitation or even sexual abuse.

“All children deserve the love, stability and safety of a forever family,” said Representative Langevin, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “To ensure all adoptions succeed, we must prepare and support families so they can handle the challenges that many adopted children face. Adoptions don’t start and end when the custody papers are signed. Families need comprehensive training and post-adoption services, particularly mental health services, so they never feel desperate enough to re-home their child.”

The Protecting Adopted Children Act would require states receiving Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments to provide pre- and post-adoption services to families adopting out of foster care. These services would help address the mental health needs of adopted children and their families, particularly related to trauma, loss, abuse, neglect, and substance exposure, from which many children in the foster care system suffer. The bill also mandates that states require a minimum 20 hours of pre-placement training for all prospective adoptive parents and legal guardians.

The Supporting Adopted Children and Families Act would create a grant program under the Public Health Service Act to fund post-adoption mental health research and service programs for adopted youth and their families. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would award grants to state, tribal, and non-profit organizations to develop and implement post-adoption mental health service programs, including those that provide counseling, mentoring, education, and support groups to adopted children and families. HHS would also be required to create policy guidance related to the provision of post-adoption services.

“We must take a proactive stance on preventing the illegal practice of rehoming and adoptions gone wrong,” said Representative Bass, co-chair of Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “I’m proud to support both the Protecting Adopted Children Act and the Supporting Adopted Children and Families Act to ensure that our child welfare system is working to make sure our young people don’t fall through the cracks and that adoptions are done as safely as possible with the highest chance for a successful placement as possible. These two bills are great examples of stepping up and helping one of our country’s most vulnerable populations.”

“Adoptive parents have a huge responsibility when it comes to the care and support they provide to the children they welcome in their home,” said Representative Lawrence, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “Supporting adopted children and their parents should likewise be a priority of Congress, and that’s why I am a strong supporter of the Protecting Adopted Children’s Act and the Supporting Adopted Children and Families Act put forth by Representative Jim Langevin. We need this kind of legislation that would support training for adoptive parents or guardians as well as addressing the importance of supporting the mental health and general well-being of adopted children. I am passionate about supporting adoptive and foster youth in our country and I am excited to support these bills.” 

“The tragic cases that are periodically sensationalized in the media – such as adopted children being ‘rehomed’ -- remind us of the challenges that families face when embracing children from hard places, who come from backgrounds in which they have suffered deep trauma caused by abuse and neglect,” said Representative Franks, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “Decades of brain science show us the lasting harm caused by toxic stress and trauma – and while we have also learned that the brain is resilient, and can heal from even severe forms of trauma – parents often need help, training, guidance, and support when they are seeking to provide the necessary specialized, therapeutic care to their children. I am pleased to be able to join with my colleagues to support the Protecting Adopted Children’s Act, to begin to address this crucial need of some of the most vulnerable children in our midst, and that of the families seeking to provide them a forever home through adoption.”

“As the proud parent of two adopted children, I understand what adoptive parents can go through when they first begin caring for their child and how stressful the process can be,” said Representative Marino, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “The Protecting Adopted Children’s Act and the Supporting Adopted Children and Families Act are two commonsense bills which help to ensure adoptions are done properly and a child is successfully placed by providing the necessary pre- and post- adoption services to families. I proudly join my colleagues in supporting these bills and look forward to continuing to shape policy which protects our nation’s adopted children and those in the foster care system.”

The bills take a preventative approach to ending “re-homing” by addressing its causes, including lack of preparation and support services, to ensure families never reach a point where they feel they can no longer care for – and thus must give up custody of – their adopted child. The legislation was introduced in conjunction with a briefing hosted by Voice for Adoption on Tuesday, which highlighted the importance of pre- and post-adoption services in encouraging successful adoptions out of foster care.