In Response to The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, HR 794

Jennifer Pokempner,
a stack of white books

We thank Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) for introducing The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act, HR 7947, today. The Act provides a comprehensive approach to address the serious needs of children, youth, and families across the entire child welfare continuum as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A summary of the full bill can be found here.

In addition to addressing many child welfare needs, this bill takes significant steps to meet the urgent needs of young people in and leaving foster care during the pandemic. Young people in foster care have been hit hard by the pandemic. Without the support of family, young people in foster care have been left on their own to navigate a national public health and economic crisis. Their needs for housing, income, basic needs as well as social and emotional support has been extreme and has only grown since March. Young people have voiced their needs and requests for support, but to date, none of the relief bills have provided aid to youth in foster care.

The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act provides youth in foster care and those who have aged out the targeted support all young people deserve. Among the key provisions of the bill that will provide vital assistance to older youth during the pandemic are:

· Increases Chafee funds by $400 million so the immediate needs of young people for crucial resources like housing and food can be met;

· Extends eligibility for Chafee services until youth turn age 27;

· Removes the 30% cap on Chafee funds for housing for youth who have aged out;

· Increases the maximum award for Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) from $5,000 to $12,000 per individual youth per year;

· Places a national moratorium on youth aging out of foster care during the pandemic;

· Provides federal IV-E funding to support extended foster care services and supports;

· Provides for the re-entry into foster care for young people in need of support; and

· Ensures that young people continue to receive assistance in planning for their future (transition planning) and connecting with family and caring adults to aid in the transition from foster care to adulthood while they remain in foster care.

(A detailed summary of the older youth provisions can be found here.) We applaud the introduction of this bill and urge Congressional Leaders to ensure that the provisions of the Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act are included in the COVID-19 relief bill currently being negotiated.

About the Expert

Jennifer Pokempner is a Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center. At Juvenile Law Center, her work focuses on improving outcomes and opportunities for older youth in the foster care system through policy and legal advocacy at the local, state, and national levels.