On Friday, Congressman Blake Moore introduced the Connecting Forever Families Act of 2022 to improve America’s child welfare system and expedite the process to placing foster care children in supportive homes.
The opioid epidemic has strained the ability of child welfare courts to place children in a timely manner, and new court training and hearing requirements have caused additional delays. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges as courts reduced or stopped in-person proceedings. Already overwhelmed, courts struggled to adopt new procedures and technology quickly enough to deploy virtual proceedings, and children experienced significant delays.
As a response to these challenges, this bill would improve and provide resources to the Court Improvement Program (CIP), which supports the judicial processes for child welfare proceedings across the United States. This program equips courts for training, legal representation, and technological modernization to improve outcomes and timeliness of placement for children in foster care and in need of adoption.
“Throughout my first term in office, I have been an outspoken advocate for foster care and adoption,” said Congressman Blake Moore. “The Connecting Forever Families Act is an opportunity for Congress to more efficiently help thousands of children find supportive homes by bolstering the Court Improvement Program and providing resources to expedite the placement process. A positive and safe home life is the key to a child’s success, and it is imperative that we create better outcomes and streamline the process through which foster care children are placed in loving and supportive families.”
“Utah is already leading the way in using technology for hybrid or remote proceedings, and Rep. Moore’s Connecting Forever Families Act will improve and enhance these efforts, and will be especially helpful for Utah’s foster children needing a home,” said Utah Governor Spencer Cox.
“Children and families involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are too often challenged by the complexities of scheduling, access, and understanding of the courts with which they must engage. The COVID-19 pandemic served to highlight this issue and open the conversation about what courts and court personnel need in order to address backlogs, family engagement and equitable access through remote hearings,” said Rita L. Sorenen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Rep. Moore’s Connecting Forever Families Act not only builds on the successful work of the Court Improvement Program, but provides critical funding to ensure technological modernization within the courts that ultimately will reduce delays while recognizing that without true access and engagement with families, we continue to fail them. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is pleased to support this Act.”
“This legislation will advance efficiencies and access to those receiving child welfare services—including processing adoption cases,” said Ryan Hanlon, President and CEO of National Council For Adoption. “We appreciate the commitment to improving court technology services to states and tribal nations.”
The CIP needs updates to keep up with modern challenges. The Connecting Forever Families Act would:
Increase funding for the CIP by $30 million each year for the next five years to help support timely placement of foster youth in quality homes (this funding is offset and does not add to the national deficit).
Codify regulatory language to ensure CIP funds retain wide flexibility to be used for technological modernization.
Require the Administration for Children and Families under the Department of Health and Human Services to provide non-compulsory, informational implementation guidance for remote court proceedings every five years to help inform how remote hearings can improve engagement and protect participant privacy.
This bill enjoys support from child welfare organizations including the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the National Council For Adoption, and the North American Council on Adoptable Children.
The full bill text can be found hereand the one pagerhere.