Federal Legislation in the Works

There are many important child welfare bills pending in Congress this session, which we will be highlighting in the coming weeks. The bills we are focusing on this week enhance permanency and support educational outcomes of our foster youth.

Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act Half of all foster children who are adopted enter families with household incomes nearly 200% below the poverty threshold. The upfront legal costs can make adoption impractical or impossible for many loving families. Under current law, families can get a tax credit of up to $13,190 for expenses related to adoption, including travel and legal and placement fees. However, because this assistance is in the form of a tax credit, families that do not earn sufficient income to claim a tax credit receive no benefit from this law. The adoption tax credit was made permanent in 2012, but they omitted making it refundable as it was previously.

The Bipartisan Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2015, put forward by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Danny Davis (D-IL), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ), will restore the refundability provision that existed in the prior law. Making the tax credit refundable again ensures that every family willing to adopt a youth out of foster care has the necessary resources to do so. Read the most updated version of the bill.

Educational Stability of Foster Youth Act Seventy percent of the 260,000 school-age foster children are forced to change schools when initially placed into foster care. By age 17 and 18, one-third have gone through at least five different school changes. Foster youth score significantly lower on standardized tests and drop out at a much higher rate.

These statistics are why Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have put forward the Education Stability of Foster Youth Act. This bill will improve educational stability of students in foster care by increasing collaboration between child welfare agencies and state and local education agencies. It would also allow foster children to remain in their schools of origin when it is in their best interest, and offers immediate enrolment when foster youth have to change schools. These are just a few of the important provisions of the act that will increase school stability for foster youth and help them succeed educationally. You can read the full summary of the bill here.

Many of the protections that would be afforded to youth under the Education Stability of Foster Youth Act already exist in California. This year, the Alliance is working to ensure that these rights are enforceable by sponsoring AB 379, which would include foster youth education rights in the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP). These rights include the right to immediate enrollment, right to remain in the school of origin and to earn partial credits. AB 379 has recently passed on the consent calendar through Senate Education Committee and is now in the Senate Appropriations Suspense file. Read the most updated version of the bill.