H.R. 4058, Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act, as amended

H.R. 4058

Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act, as amended

Committee
Ways and Means

Date
May 20, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4058, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act, as amended, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4058 was introduced on February 14, 2014 by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.  The bill was marked up by the Ways and Means Committee on April 29, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by a vote of 33-0.[1]

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[1] Committee Report 113-441 at 29.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4058 requires States to “take steps to prevent, identify, and address sex trafficking of youth in foster care.”[1]  Title I requires state child welfare agencies to develop policies and procedures for identifying and screening victims of child sex trafficking and those at risk of becoming victims.  Moreover, it requires states to report children identified as victims of sex trafficking within 24 hours to law enforcement and to report information on missing or abducted children to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).  Title I also requires states to develop plans to locate and respond to children missing from foster care, and to determine whether the child was a victim of sex trafficking while missing.  Finally, Title I requires the Secretary of HHS, within two years after enactment of this legislation, to submit a report to Congress providing information on:  1) children who run away from foster care; 2) state efforts to provide specialized services, foster family homes, or child care institutions for children who are victims of sex trafficking; and 3) state efforts to ensure children in foster care form and maintain long-lasting connections to caring adults.

Title II of H.R. 4058 requires states to implement a “reasonable and prudent parent” standard in reference to foster parents.[2]  This allows foster parents to make more decisions for youth in their care, such as allowing them to participate in social, extracurricular, enrichment, and cultural activities.  Moreover, this legislation prevents states from designating children under the age of 16 as having a case goal of “Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement” (APPLA).  As a result, the case goal of children under the age of 16 must be to return home, be placed for adoption, be placed with a legal guardian, or be placed with a relative.  This would ensure states more quickly move children out of foster care and into permanent families.  Title II allows foster children over the age of 14 to be involved in the development of their own case plan and allows children to choose up to two individuals to be part of the team preparing their plan.  Finally, states must ensure youth over the age of 14 who are leaving foster care and have been in foster care for more than six months have a birth certificate, Social Security card, health insurance information, medical records, and a bank account (if over 18).

Title III amends Section 479(c)(3) of the Social Security Act to require states to submit data on the annual number of children in foster care who have been identified as victims of sex trafficking.  The Secretary of HHS is further required to report information on children living in group homes as part of their annual report on outcomes for children in foster care.  Finally, Title IV requires states to implement an electronic system for processing requests for income withholding orders, a primary source of child support collections.

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[1] Id. at 9.
[2] The term ‘reasonable and prudent parent standard’ means the standard characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the health, safety, and best interests of a child while at the same time encouraging the emotional and developmental growth of the child, that a caregiver shall use when determining whether to allow a child in foster care under the responsibility of the State to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities.

Background

Currently, the foster care system is inadequately identifying and addressing instances of sex trafficking of youth in foster care.[1]  Moreover, child welfare experts, foster parents, and foster youth have argued that some policies hinder children’s chances to participate in normal childhood activities, which further isolates foster children.[2]  Despite evidence showing a link between sex trafficking and the foster care system, the current child welfare system in many states is ineffective at identifying those at risk of being trafficked.  Foster care can be a positive influence, protecting many children from abuse and neglect.  However, children who stay in extended foster care (especially those who leave at age 18 without being placed in a permanent home) are less likely to graduate from high school, attend college, be employed, or make a livable income and more at risk of being homeless, arrested, or using drugs.[3]  This legislation is intended to address the above problems and requires states to provide better reporting on children within the foster care system.

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[1] Committee Report 113-441 at 10.
[2] Id. at 10.
[3] Id. at 10-11.

Cost

According to a preliminary estimate by CBO, implementing H.R. 4058 would reduce direct spending by $4 million over 5 years and by $27 million over the 2014-2024 period. Implementing this bill would not affect spending subject to appropriation.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.