|1:30 PM EDT||
Lloyd Doggett, D-TX 25th
Mr. DOGGETT. I yield myself 5 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, the chairman, Mr. Davis, is correct. We have worked on this together. We have participated in hearings and have learned together and cooperated on this very important subject to which we may bring differing perspectives but a common goal of wanting to respond to the needs of America's most vulnerable children.
I believe that this bipartisan legislation which I do fully support, is important; however, it is also important to understand what we support and where we have differences and to understand what this legislation accomplishes and what it fails to accomplish. This bill is certainly preferable to allowing two very important laws to expire next week.
Each year, over 700,000 children here in America become victims of abuse and neglect, perpetrated by the very people who are supposed to love and care for them. I think most Americans, as do my wife, Libby, and I, when we're back home in Texas and surrounded by Clara, Zayla, and Ella, our three granddaughters, believe it's just almost incomprehensible that parents or grandparents could cause harm to a member of their own families. Yet that is the reality that too many of our children face. One
expert came to our committee during the hearing and suggested that, once every 6 hours of every day, a child dies in America as a result of abuse.
I agree that both the Child Welfare Services and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families laws should be renewed for another 5 years. I disagree that these programs should be continued at their current baseline funding levels since, with need growing and funding limited, too many of our most vulnerable children cannot access the services that they so desperately need. These are the children whose neglect not only produces problems for them, but will produce more problems for all of American society
in the future. They are the children we should be helping today so that we are not incarcerating them after they have done harm to someone tomorrow.
Less than half of the children in foster care in America today receive federal assistance to help with the room and board. Today, 40 percent of children who are found to be victims of abuse and neglect don't receive any follow-up or intervention at all. That is a very big gap that will likely only grow over the course of the next 5 years with the legislation that we are renewing.
In my home State of Texas, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act accounts for a very significant source of funding to help our youngest Texans. According to one of our witnesses in committee, Dr. Jane Burstain of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, funding from this program accounted for $2 of every $3 supporting child abuse and neglect prevention programs last year. In San Antonio, for example, these programs provide important resources to help vulnerable families through
the Bexar County Child Welfare Board.
This bill also grants States support for parental substance abuse programs. My friend Darlene Byrne, a district judge in Austin, Texas, who helped establish the Family Treatment Drug Court that was partially funded by dollars from this act that we're renewing, writes that she has seen new babies who are not drug positive, moms and couples reunify with their families, and workers receive their GEDs or high school diplomas and find employment. Those are the people that these programs help.
In short, she says that this program has contributed in transforming lives and in helping to stop the cycle of drug abuse, poverty, and violence in Texas. It is important both to those who benefit directly and to all of us who have a stake in having folks participate to the full extent of their God-given potential, not posing dangers to the rest of our society.
Today's legislation also includes, as Mr. Davis indicated, some modest policy changes that strengthen the States' abilities to respond to at-risk children. Mr. Speaker, the bill, I believe, leaves too many problems unresolved. I think, though, in this current climate that the renewal of the legislation as it's proposed is the best that we can do for our at-risk children. This bill reauthorizes help to at least some children who become victims of maltreatment. It provides family support
and activities to some vulnerable families, and it promotes adoption services for those children who cannot safely return to their biological parents.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.