— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff
On Oct. 7, President George W. Bush signed into law the "Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act" (H.R. 6893), which is aimed at certain deficiencies in the child welfare system.
"This law recognizes the importance of providing foster care youth with needed support as they transition to adulthood, which can be a vulnerable time for many of them," said NASW Senior Lobbyist Nancy McFall Jean.
The bill extends federal foster care payments, at state option, for youths who remain in foster care up to the age of 21. It aids relatives in caring for foster children by extending adoption assistance and guardianship payments, at state option, up to the age of 21 for young adults who were adopted or entered guardianship after turning 16; by authorizing Family Connection Grants to help relatives become more involved as caregivers and in navigating public programs; and by mandating notification of close relatives when youth are placed in foster care.
The bill also states that, when siblings are removed from their homes at the same time, reasonable attempts to place them together must be made. "The law seeks to make it a priority to have siblings placed together, which is crucial for family stability," said McFall Jean.
McFall Jean also said NASW is happy that the law increases the availability of federal training dollars for child welfare workers who comprise private, state-approved agencies.
Furthermore, the law provides additional bonuses for special needs and older children who are adopted out of foster care, calls for better oversight of foster children's health and educational stability and benefits tribal governments by providing them with direct federal foster care and adoption funding.