In a forum on Capitol Hill earlier today Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Committee, heard from child welfare experts about moving the child welfare system towards a greater emphasis on child well-being. This forum follows closely on the release last week of an Information Memorandum on well-being from the Administration on Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. Both events are significant steps towards making well-being on a par with safety and permanence as primary goals for children who come to the attention of child welfare.
At the forum Baucus expressed the hope that legislation could be enacted to make the next step on reforming child welfare focused on improving well-being outcomes and he compared the effort to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act which the Senate approved earlier this week. Wyden agreed with the need to go further and to build on recent steps such as the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (P.L. 112-34) which was enacted into law last September. Wyden has introduced the Promoting Accountability and Excellence in Child Welfare Act (S. 1509) which creates a grant program to provide eligible entities resources to improve the well-being of all children in the child welfare system and incorporate higher standards of accountability for state and local agencies and organizations that provide child welfare services.
Today’s forum is the first in a series of roundtables that the Finance Committee will hold to discuss the challenges and opportunities in federal child welfare policy.