Yesterday, a bipartisan bill to reform child welfare financing looked like it had risen from the ashes. Today, it was dropped back into the chimney soot.
Late last weekend, the House attached the Family First Preservation Services Act to the 21st Century Cures Act, a much larger bill that funds medical research, speeds up the approval process for drugs and devices at the Food and Drug Administration, and funds states to fight the opioid epidemic.
But as negotiations with the Senate over the larger bill proceeded today, Republicans in both chambers raised objections to the addition of Family First to the Cures Act. This evening, the House Rules Committee moved an updated version of the bill without Family First attached.
At today’s Rules Committee hearing on the markup, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) identified herself as one of the objectors, expressing support for congregate care programs. Under Family First, federal funds for such settings would be limited to two weeks with several notable significant exceptions.
“I am well aware of the work these facilities do,” said Foxx. “I did a lot of volunteer work with one of them. I know how hard they work to get foster homes established.”
The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) launched a social media campaign urging citizens to call Foxx today and urge her to push to remove Family First.
A page of the BCH website about the Family First Act suggests that the organization relies heavily on federal funding to operate, stating that Family First “would end the federal funding that statewide Departments of Social Services utilize for placing boys and girls in Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina’s care.”
The page continues:
“The bill would redirect federal funding to make foster care [sic] the overwhelming long-term solution for children needing placement. While foster care is the right solution for some boys and girls, it is not the answer for all children.”
Foxx said she told interested parties after Family First was removed from the Cures Act that “they’d have time to make their case now for why one-size-fits-all system doesn’t apply.”
“I hope the committees will look at this issue in the future and look to support the really fine programs out there taking care of children who’ve been physically, sexually, and mentally abused, and the work they do to put children back into homes and also foster homes.”
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a chief architect of the bill, said a North Carolina senator (so either Richard Burr or Thom Tillis) had also raised objections.