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Uninterrupted Scholars Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I want to thank the gentleman from California both for his longstanding leadership and the history of his emphasis on how important our children are.

As a founder and chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus, I'm delighted to have joined with my colleague, Congresswoman Bass, and various cochairs of the Foster Care Caucus on the bipartisan legislation that the Uninterrupted Scholars Act is, and the bicameral legislation, and to also add appreciation to Chairman Kline of Minnesota and to Senator Landrieu for her leadership and partnership. I know of her great interest on the issues of both domestic adoption and international adoption.

Certainly, unfortunately, the system of foster care has many times, when it has not been intended to, been, if you will, a place of hopelessness. This legislation wants to provide a lifeline to foster care children, particularly as they approach adolescence and high school and going on to college, so that they can be taken out of the abyss of hopelessness.

I've had the opportunity, of course, to be able to meet with foster care children both in my district and here when they've lobbied on the Hill, and their stories are both of passion and commitment to having a future, a commitment to serving the Nation, a commitment to making a difference. Why shouldn't they have the opportunity to make a difference? Why can't they be considered just like those who have different lifestyles, if you will, in terms of a family situation?

So this legislation says that they should have, as well, that kind of orderliness. And if their orderliness comes through a social worker or a caseworker who will have access to their records to be able to plan for them the best format, whether it is to remain in a school, to transfer to a school, when they cannot access that natural parent or any other relative that would stand in for that child. There's nothing more, if you will, desperate and disappointing than to be able to find a child that has no hope, no one to turn to, and really wants to do, wants to accomplish, wants to graduate from high school.

So I believe that the Uninterrupted Scholars Act is a very important provision that reflects the laws that have been passed dealing with privacy as it relates to records of children in postsecondary school and the protection of those school records. This, in particular, allows, let me say, an exception to release the student's education records to a caseworker, State or local child welfare representative, or tribal organization that has a right to access that student's case plans. Again, that helps those students be able to have a lifeline.

Just a week or so ago, there was an article in The New York Times on three young people from Galveston, Texas. They were not necessarily foster care children, but it is indicative of what happens to children of less means. Part of their lack of success was their inability to access the Internet, to get timely notices that they were supposed to apply for a scholarship, to have their parents know that they were supposed to modify their income sheet.

If you can imagine, we just went through Hurricane Ike, and this one child's parents had received aid through Hurricane Ike. Well, they were told that they didn't meet the scholarship standards because they made too much money, and they didn't modify it to say that it wasn't money that we made; it was aid because we were victims of Hurricane Ike.

This is similar to what happens to foster care children, and I am very delighted that we have legislation that is common sense and that we can attribute to the Foster Care Caucus, which we work closely with as a Congressional Children's Caucus.

I want to thank Mr. Miller and Mr. Kline for their dedication and commitment to the Nation's children. They are, in fact, a precious resource, and the Uninterrupted Scholars Act is one element of saying that they are important to us.

Let me again thank Congresswoman Bass and Senator Landrieu for their leadership, as well.

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