As a husband and a father, I understand that strong families are the foundation of a healthy society. Ensuring the health and safety of children, our society's most innocent and vulnerable members, is one of our deepest moral responsibilities, and one of the most important things we can do for our country's future.
As a strong supporter of improving health insurance coverage to children, I introduced the Kids Come First Act, a bill that would guarantee health coverage to the millions of uninsured children in America. In these uncertain economic times, families should never be forced to forgo health insurance for their children. I also supported improvements to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which became law in February 2009. This new public law will strengthen and expand health coverage to an additional four million children, nearly halving the number of uninsured children over the next five years. This new law included legislation that I wrote, the Children's Mental Health Parity Act, which will ensure that children served by this program will also have access to critical mental health services.
As a former prosecutor, I am extremely concerned about the dangers our children face. It is our duty to put safeguards in place to prevent abuse and to aggressively pursue perpetrators of crimes against children.
Throughout my career in the Senate, I have supported legislation to reduce incidences of child abuse and to fund efforts to provide intervention and treatment services to victims of abuse. I was a strong supporter of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which became law in 2006. This law established a comprehensive national registration system of sex offenders and those who commit crimes against children. It also increased criminal penalties, and included preventative measures for child safety.
Several years ago, I was inspired by the courage of a young woman named Masha, who had been victim of child pornography and exploitation by her adoptive father. I introduced legislation to push for changes in the law to expand the amount victims can receive in civil court. I was proud to have my legislation, Masha's Law, included in the Adam Walsh Act. Outrageously, before this law, the court penalties for illegally downloading music were greater than what was allowed in child pornography cases. Now victims can receive larger settlements and the unfair practice of not allowing damages to be awarded to victims after their 18th birthday has been abolished. We have an obligation to protect children and eliminate incidences of child abuse and exploitation, and I will continue to support legislation that will aid in the fight to end such atrocities against children.
Another group of children we must not forget are those within our foster care system. Older youth in particular are in need of greater supports and deserve more resources. I am continually impressed by the dedication of foster families, social workers, and others who give their time and their love to foster children. But we can and we must do better. Too many children continue to age out of the foster system without a forever family. I will continue to work with my colleagues on measures that strengthen the supports and outcomes for families and children.