U.S. Rep. Karen Bass testified today before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Ways and Means Committee at a hearing titled, "Improving Programs Designed to Protect At-Risk Youth."
A long time advocate for children and youth in California, and the founder of the newly created Foster Care Caucus, Rep. Bass has introduced legislation in Congress recognizing May as National Foster Care Month and the Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011 providing funding for mentoring programs.
During the hearing, Bass spoke of her experiences 20 years ago as the crack-cocaine drug epidemic created a spike in the number of children removed from the home because of parental substance abuse. Families under great strain were confronted by this trauma, and grandparents began caring for and raising grandchildren, causing newfound challenges on the child welfare system, Bass explained.
Through that experience, Bass helped found a grassroots, community-focused organization called Community Coalition mandated to transform social and economic conditions within the South Los Angeles community.
"Though we have come a long way in a short amount of time, the fact remains that there is still enormous work to do to improve our system to help at risk children and families prevent entry into foster care," said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass at the hearing. "By providing help to families to prevent the spiral into abuse and neglect, we could avoid the substantial costs of foster care, avoid the trauma of removal, and help families stay together."
Ms. Bass highlighted at the hearing SHIELDS for Families in South Los Angeles as an organization that has used federal funding and waiver programs to address critical family needs while keeping children at home within the care of the family structure.