|1:36 PM EDT||
Jim McDermott, D-WA 7th
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this bill to renew the Nation's child welfare programs. I'm glad to see this happening as it has in the past by unanimous consent, and it's important not just to keep these programs funded and renewed. With more than one in five children in the country living in poverty and with so many odds stacked against foster kids, we need to do more. We need to make progress. That's why I'm so supportive of this bill, because it is not just
an extension of the program; it has some important and targeted innovations.
Some States, especially my home State of Washington, have some truly new ideas about how they can do more to prevent children being put into foster care even in tough economic times. One of the real innovations of this bill is to give States waivers for some governmental funding restrictions so that they can test these innovative interventions in their child welfare programs. If the States can maintain their current quality and if the innovations they want to try meet solid criteria, the Federal
Government should be a partner in making real progress. That's what these new waivers do.
Washington State is one of the leaders in innovating child welfare policy, and it has some things it has been eager to try out. Right now, the law doesn't allow for this kind of experimentation, but this bill gives States a way to begin. Washington State is not alone. There is room for 10 States to have these kinds of programs. There are some States already ready to make these moves.
Now, the Department of Health and Human Services allowed this kind of thing in the past, but it was allowed to lapse. This is really an extension of something we've had before. HHS was allowed to give out a number of waivers in the past, and some progress was made in a number of States. This bill restores that limited waiver authority and sets out criteria to keep the integrity and level of effort they need to have. We need to allow these States to do it.
In addition to extending the program and making more room for innovation, the bill does something else that's really important. In 2008, we passed the Fostering Connections and Increasing Adoptions law. This Fostering Connections law did a lot of good in helping foster kids have a better chance of truly making it in this country. Among other things, it addressed the health concerns of foster children who moved from home to home and from health care setting to health care setting, and it required
States to develop health coordination plans for these kids so that they had some continuity of care. These plans had to include oversight of prescription medications, including psychotropic drugs.
As a psychiatrist who has worked with children in child welfare and the juvenile justice system, I am very concerned about the use of psychotropic drugs. It has bothered me for a long time. In the fostering care population, it is a particularly vulnerable group because of this question of continuity of care. You want somebody to be monitoring what's happening as they move from home to home to home. We need [Page: H6300]
to do more. We need to get a clearer picture
of what is happening with these kinds of medications in the foster kids, and we need to make sure they are being used properly and are not overly prescribed.
One of the parts about this whole law that's crazy is that when a kid gets to 18 they could be on a medication. When they hit 18, they're done. Their Medicaid ends. They have no continuity of the drugs. They go off cold turkey. So there's some real questions that we need to answer here.
This bill takes the 2008 requirements another step forward and it requires States to adopt protocols for using and monitoring psychotropic medications among foster children.
Mr. Speaker, I speak strongly in favor of the bill and urge my colleagues to say ``yea.''