WASHINGTON D.C. —The U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, bipartisan child welfare legislation on Thursday, aimed at reducing child-sex trafficking, increasing adoptions and improving child support collections. The bill includes a number of proposals from legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch in September of 2013. After passing the Senate on Thursday, and the House of Representatives in June, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act will be sent to President Obama to be signed into law. Hatch said:
This bill takes crucial steps to improve the lives of children and youth in the foster care system who are vulnerable to sex trafficking and other negative outcome. I am pleased that a number of provisions I introduced last year in my bill, ‘I O Youth,’ are included in this legislation. While there is more to be done to reform child welfare, such as ending the over-reliance on group homes, this bill takes a critical step forward.
The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act would encourage states to combat sex trafficking among youth in foster care; promote normalcy for foster youth; help move more children from foster care into adoptive homes or the homes of relatives; and, increase the amount of child support provided to families in which one parent resides outside of the U.S. The legislation is fully paid for and would save $1 million over 5 years and $19 million over 10 years.
Key provisions of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act:
- Title I: Protecting Youth at Risk of Sex Trafficking
• Requires state child welfare agencies to identify, document, and determine appropriate services for children in foster care or who are otherwise involved in the child welfare system who are victims of child sex trafficking or at risk of becoming victims.
• Requires state child welfare agencies to promote “normalcy” for youth in foster care allowing them to more easily participate in age appropriate social, scholastic and enrichment activities.
- Title II: Improving Adoption Incentives
• Improves the adoption incentives program and extends it for three years. It also extends the Family Connection Grant Program for one year.
- Title III: Improving International Child Support Recovery
• Requires states to make necessary changes to implement the Hague Convention in enforcing international child support cases, increasing the amount of child support collected for families.
• Requires data standardization within the child support enforcement program, improving administration. This would streamline the child support programs with federal programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child welfare, Unemployment Insurance and food assistance programs such as SNAP.
• Requires all states to implement electronic processing of income withholding, as most states already do; this will improve the collection of child support and save taxpayers $48 million over 10 years.
• Creates a task force to explore ways to improve the effectiveness of the child support enforcement program.
The legislation enjoys widespread support within the child welfare community, and its supporters include (in alphabetical order):
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Psychological Association
Association on American Indian Affairs
Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County
Children Awaiting Parents
Children’s Defense Fund
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Eastern Shashone Tribe
First Focus Campaign for Children
Fort Belknap Child Support Program
Foster Family-Based Treatment Association
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Menominee Tribal Child Support Agency
Mescalero Apache Tribe
Meskwaki Nation Child Support Services
National Adoption Center
National Child Support Enforcement Association
National Children’s Alliance
National Foster Parent Association
National Indian Child Welfare Association
Nebraska Families Collaborative
Nez Perce Tribe
North American Council on Adoptable Children
NYS Citizens’ Coalition for Children
Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center
Penobscot Nation Child Support Agency
Red Cliff Tribal Child Support Services Agency
The Adoption Exchange
The Attachment and Trauma Network
The California Alliance of Child and Family Services
The Child Welfare League of America
The Donaldson Adoption Institute
The National Crittenton Foundation
Tribal Child Support Enforcement, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma
Voice for Adoption
You Gotta Believe
Submitted by: The Office of Sen. Orrin Hatch
- Hatch introduces legislation to combat domestic child sex trafficking
- Changing laws to help victims of child prostitution
- Acting attorney general joins others in urging congress to fund anti-human trafficking programs
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