CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, under a suspension of the rules. H.R. 4980 was introduced on June 26, 2014 by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and referred to the Committees on Ways and Means and Budget.
Title I of H.R. 4980 is aimed at protecting children and youth at risk of sex trafficking. Title I requires state child welfare agencies to identify and determine appropriate services for children in foster care who are victims of child sex trafficking or are at risk of becoming victims. Moreover, this legislation requires state child welfare agencies to promote “normalcy” for youth in foster care by allowing them to more easily participate in social, scholastic, and enrichment activities. Starting in 2020, this legislation provides $3 million per year to states to support foster youth participation in activities. Title I also ends the Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) for foster youth under age 16, which would end the practice of deeming young children as “expected to age out of foster care.” H.R. 4980 involves foster children in their future by: 1) requiring states to engage children age 14 and older in case planning; and 2) requiring states to provide children in foster care with a list of their rights. Finally, Title I requires states to provide children who emancipate after being in foster care for at least 6 months with: 1) a birth certificate; 2) a social security card; 3) health records and insurance information; and 4) a driver’s license or state ID.
Title II of H.R. 4980 extends the adoption incentives program for three years and makes important changes to the calculation of incentives for states. Most importantly, it uses the rate of increase in adoptions rather than the number of adoptions. This will ensure that incentives are awarded based upon improvements in performance even as foster care caseloads decline. Moreover, this legislation provides incentive awards for guardianship placements for the first time. The award structure would phase in over three years. Title II also extends the Family Connection Grants demonstration program for one additional year.
Title III contains provisions that will improve international child support recovery. First, H.R. 4980 requires states to make changes to implement the Hague Convention in enforcing international child support cases. It also extends access to the Federal Parent Locator Service and provides waiver authority to tribal child support enforcement programs. Moreover, it requires data standardization in the child support enforcement program in order to streamline its interactions with TANF, child welfare, unemployment insurance, and SNAP. Title III also requires states to implement electronic processing of income withholding, which will increase child support collections, achieving significant benefit savings. Finally, it creates a task force to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of the child support enforcement program.
H.R. 4980 represents a bipartisan and bicameral agreement between the House and Senate on policies designed to prevent sex trafficking of youth in foster care, improve the normalcy of youth in foster care, promote adoptions from foster care, and increase child support collections.
Currently, the foster care system is inadequately identifying and addressing instances of sex trafficking of youth in foster care. 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. 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 are more at risk of being homeless, arrested, or using drugs. Title I is intended to address the above problems and requires states to provide better reporting on children within the foster care system.
The Adoption Incentives Program provides states federal bonuses for increasing adoptions from foster care. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “All 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have earned a part of the $375 million in Adoption Incentive funds that have been awarded since the program was established as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.” The program was most recently reauthorized in 2008. The program paid awards in FY 2013, but has not yet been reauthorized for FY 2014. Title II extends the program for three years, while making improvements that will continue to incentivize states to improve their adoption programs.
In the United States, U.S. Child Support Enforcement (CSE) System is a federal-state program that provides mechanisms for enforcing domestic interstate child support cases. In regards to international cases, while United States courts generally enforce foreign child support orders, many countries do not reciprocate in the absence of formal treaty obligations. This means that U.S. residents may not be able to enforce child support obligations if the other parent lives abroad. Implementing the Hague treaty will strengthen international enforcement of U.S. child support orders, ensuring that U.S. children will receive the support they are owed regardless of whether a parent lives in the U.S. or not. Title III addresses these concerns and makes other improvements to the CSE system.
 Committee Report 113-441 at 10.
 Id. at 10.
 Id. at 10-11.
 See H.R. 6893, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, P.L. 110-351.
 See Senate Executive Report 111-2.
CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would increase direct spending by $15 million in 2015, save $1 million over five years, and save $19 million over 10 years.
For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.