Cornyn, Colleagues’ Bill to Help Find Missing Foster Youth Passes Senate
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) released the following statements after their Find and Protect Foster Youth Act, which would create a feedback loop between states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children and Families to provide better care and information-sharing for missing and runaway foster youth, passed the Senate:
“Foster youth are some of the most at-risk children for trafficking, substance abuse, and other forms of exploitation,” said Sen. Cornyn.“No child should fall through the cracks of the Texas foster care system, and our bill will improve reporting and standard practices for state social service agencies to ensure vulnerable children remain in a safe home.”
“Too many of our foster youth face difficult experiences and go missing while in foster care. That’s unacceptable and must change,” said Sen. Stabenow. “Making sure our children have a safe place to call home isn’t a partisan issue. I am pleased to partner with Senators Cornyn and Grassley on this bipartisan legislation.”
“A fundamental purpose of foster care is to keep kids safe,” said Sen. Grassley. “Sadly, cracks and roadblocks in the current system leave children susceptible to exploitation. These children are at greater risk of going missing and being trafficked. For this to happen to even one child is unacceptable. I’m encouraged by the Senate’s support for this bill, which would help states and federal agencies to better coordinate on their work to protect kids in foster care.”
“In West Virginia, our children are our future, and we must make certain that our youth in foster care are safe and protected,” said Sen. Capito. “This legislation will strengthen the coordination of information sharing between the state and federal level, and improve our ability to quickly locate missing and runaway foster youth. We must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable children and keep them safe, and I’m proud to join with my colleagues to pass this legislation through the Senate.”
States are currently required by law to implement plans to prevent, mitigate, and find cases of missing foster youth, but tens of thousands of foster children have gone missing in the last two decades. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, there are almost 32,000 children in foster care in Texas, and more than 1,600 children in its care were reported missing in FY2021 alone.
Increasing communication between states and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) would allow them to use real-life experiences to inform the assistance they provide to child protective service agencies. The legislation would require ACF to report to Congress on progress being made to find missing foster youth and prevent runaways. In addition, it would establish screenings for children who return to foster care after running away or otherwise being absent to determine if the children were victims of sex trafficking during their absence.
This legislation is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Divinity Family Services, and Child Welfare League of America.
Sen. Cornyn is a member of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, which was founded in 2009 to bring together stakeholders to collaborate on issues that impact foster youth. Sen. Grassley co-founded the Caucus and currently serves as its co-chair with Sen. Stabenow.