Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing with US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the President’s FY 2013 Budget. Senator Landrieu (D-LA) used the hearing as an opportunity to address the needs of the youth in care. Landrieu lauded the Administration for their efforts to increase adoptions while also advocating for them to double the current number. She pointed out that the adoptions from foster care increased from roughly 14,000 a year in 1990 to over 50,000 in 2010. But, as she also pointed out, there are more than 100,000 children still waiting to be adopted.
Landrieu mentioned that although children in foster care represent less than .5% of the total child population, the Administration continues to provide funding for programs and services that will improve outcomes for children in care. She highlighted examples from the President’s FY 2013 Budget, including $45 million for the Chafee Education and Training Vouchers, $39 million for the Adoption Opportunities program, and $63 million (discretionary) for Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. Landrieu noted that while the tone can sometimes be partisan, one thing that she and her Senate colleagues agreed on was the need to provide funding for adoption and foster care initiatives. She asked that the Administration continue to strengthen their commitment funding foster care and adoption programs.
Secretary Sebelius agreed with Landrieu about the importance of providing supports and resources to the children in foster care, who are (as she acknowledged) all of our children. She then thanked Landrieu for her leadership and tenacity on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care. Sebelius also described some of the Administration’s other initiatives targeting foster care, including the $250 million initiative to reform the child welfare financing system and the reallocation of unused abstinence-only education to support pregnancy prevention programs at child welfare agencies for youth in care who are at a greater risk of teen pregnancy. She ended by reinforcing the Administration’s commitment to working with Congress on important issues like improving the lives of children in care.