Brown Leads Legislation to Help Young Ohioans, Families, Child Welfare Agencies during Covid-19 Pandemic

Package Would Support Young Ohioans and Families during Current Pandemic, Provide Critical Resources to Child Welfare Agencies across the State

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call after he recently introduced the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act, comprehensive legislation to provide flexible, emergency aid for key child welfare programs working to support young people and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown’s legislation will help ensure child welfare agencies and organizations are equipped with resources to continue protecting and supporting families during this public health crisis.

“We can’t allow children and young people in foster care to fall through the cracks during this pandemic,” said Brown. “We know families and young people are dealing with unprecedented financial stress, social isolation, and abrupt changes to daily life. And child welfare agencies are worried about devastating cuts, as Ohio and states all over the country face severe budget shortfalls. Leader McConnell needs to let the Senate act to get resources to the Ohioans who need it, including the agencies and organizations who support our most vulnerable children and families.”

Brown was joined on today’s call by Jamole Callahan, a former foster care youth who is now a leading advocate in the state for foster care youth and improving the foster care and child welfare system in Ohio.

“I’m so grateful that Sen. Brown listened to the voices of current and former foster youth in crafting the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act.  He has tapped and increased existing federal programs to give us a platform to rebuild our lives and get the skills we need to contribute to the rebuilding of this nation as we all recover from this tumultuous time,” said Mr. Callahan.

Specifically, the legislation will invest in the health, safety, and wellbeing of children, youth, and families by:

  • Investing $2 billion to support state and tribal child welfare agencies in providing families, kinship caregivers, and young people with a broad range of support services, including assistance for transportation, housing, and utility payments. Child welfare agencies could also use this funding to expand adoption promotion and support services, or to hire, train and support caseworkers to conduct safe in-person home and remote visits, including the purchase of personal protective equipment and technology.
  • Providing $30 million for kinship navigator programs to ensure kinship caregivers have access to information and resources, including food, safety supplies, technology, and COVID-19 testing.
  • Dedicating $50 million to help states implement health oversight and coordination plans to ensure children in foster care are up-to-date on vaccinations and have access to needed care and telehealth services.
  • Investing $15 million in states and tribes for training on trauma-informed de-escalation strategies for child welfare partners, congregate care facilities, and families.
  • Requiring states to develop and implement de-escalation strategies to limit unnecessary involvement with law enforcement, and ensure any contact with law enforcement is non-coercive.
  • Expediting eligibility for children living with a relative in foster care for federal support, and allow 100% federal support for kinship caregiver payments through the Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program and kinship-related Title IV-E adoption assistance payments.
  • Providing $500 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to ensure young people have access to supports such as housing, food, and cash assistance, and allow more of these funds to cover housing costs for foster youth. Funds could also be used for education and training vouchers, which help young people cover the cost of education.
  • Establishing a moratorium on “aging out” of foster care to ensure no young person is cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency.

The legislation will also increase support for services to prevent foster care and the ability of courts to serve families by:

  • Increasing federal support to provide Title IV-E prevention services, such as parent training, family counseling, and substance use disorder treatment.
  • Providing $30 million for the Court Improvement Program to ensure dependency courts have resources to facilitate the transition to remote hearings, train judges, volunteers, and court personnel on the use of technology, and support innovative programs to help families continue to address case plan requirements.

A number of organizations are supporting the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act, including the Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, American Academy of Pediatrics, Generations United, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, ACTION Ohio, OHIO Youth Advisory Board, Ohio Grandparent Kinship Coalition, and the Ohio Federation for Health Equity and Social Justice and FosterClub.

Read more about the Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act here. 

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