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Ms. BASS. Thank you, Ranking Member Doggett.
I rise today in support of the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act.
First, I would like to commend Chairman Camp and Chairman Reichert and Ranking Members Levin and Doggett for their great work on this legislation and their ongoing commitment to our Nation's foster youth. As the cochair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Congressional Caucus on Adoption, I sincerely appreciate your leadership and partnership on this issue.
Since 1997, when the Adoption Incentives legislation became law, we have seen a significant reduction of the number of kids in foster care and, more importantly, an increased number of kids in forever families; yet there are still over 400,000 children in our Nation's child welfare system, many awaiting the stability and love of a permanent family.
Unfortunately, studies show that foster youth, especially those who ``age out,'' are much more likely to experience poverty, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, and compromised health after they leave foster care. Each year, nearly 30,000 teenagers age out of foster care without a permanent family. We know that this is unfair and unacceptable. We must strengthen policies that help to find forever families for our Nation's foster children, especially our older youth.
I would like to focus my remarks on one of the noteworthy aspects of the bill--the enhanced support for legal guardianship. By making this investment, we will ultimately help more kids find permanent families, often with relatives.
Today's foster care system looks much different than the child welfare system of previous decades. While children continue to be placed in foster homes with strangers or in group homes, more than half are placed with a relative caregiver, a grandmother, aunt, uncle, or older sibling. In fact, in my district in Los Angeles, relative caregivers are the largest foster care providers. Research shows that foster placement with relatives is good for children. They often allow children to stay in their schools, receive continued support from their community and culture, and feel connected to families that continue to love them.
Despite the importance of relative caregivers, they face unique obstacles. Becoming a caregiver changes lives in every way--physically, emotionally, and financially. Stable middle class families or seniors who live on their life savings are often pushed to the brink of poverty because they have accepted the unexpected financial burden of caring for a child. As a Nation, we should take the extra steps needed to support family members that heroically step up to care for children in times of need.
Additionally, I strongly support the Family Connection Grants reauthorized in this bill. These grants help to strengthen families, support kinship care, and prevent youth from entering or reentering foster care.
Before my time in elected office, I was honored to advocate for kinship and guardianship resources alongside relative caregivers at the Community Coalition's Kinship in Action program. Today, I am greatly encouraged that the bill before us encourages permanent families of all kinds, supporting both adoption and guardianship throughout the Nation.
I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this bipartisan legislation.
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