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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

U.S. Rep. Lawrence Introduces Legislation to Encourage the Development of Specialized Foster Care Programs for Siblings

July 9, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Representatives Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Rep. Don Bacon (NE - 02) Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), and Jim Langevin (RI-02), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth introduced the Protecting Sibling Relationships in Foster Care Act, to authorize the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to establish a competitive grant pilot program to encourage the development of specialized foster care programs designed specifically for sibling groups with a large number, a wide age range, and complex needs.  The idea is inspired by a 2018 intern from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), Brittney Barros, who seeks to improve sibling relations.

 

While current federal law requires states to make a “reasonable effort” to place siblings together in the foster care system, a majority of siblings in the foster system are separated.  Some reports identify as many as 75% of foster children are placed apart from one or more of their siblings.  This is a serious problem that is preventable.

 

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) there are three major barriers that states face in placing siblings together: sibling groups with a large number, a wide age range, and complex needs.  The bill authorizes $10 million over a 5-year period for this demonstration program that will be awarded to five applicants.

 

 

"Separating siblings in the foster care system can have a negative effect on their mental and emotional well-being. In an unfamiliar and ever-changing environment, siblings are a source of familiarity and stability for each other. I'm grateful to work with our Foster Youth Caucus leadership to introduce this bipartisan legislation to address the challenges siblings in foster care face and help keep them together," said Rep. Lawrence.

 

“Keeping siblings together in the foster care system significantly increases their chance of having positive life outcomes.  As a foster to adoptive parent of a sibling group, I believe this bill will go a long way towards helping address the unique challenges faced by sibling groups with large numbers, wide age ranges, and complex needs,” said Rep. Bacon. “We have a responsibility to empower our Nation’s children by guaranteeing them a stable, loving home, surrounded by their siblings, and I appreciate working with Brittney Barros and the Foster Youth Caucus on developing this bill.

 

“When a child is placed into the child welfare system, they become the responsibility of the government. It should be our responsibility to work towards the best outcome for those in our care, which absolutely includes specialized care for sibling groups. I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation thank Congressman Bacon for leading on this important issue,” said Rep. Bass.

 

“Too many siblings are separated when they enter the foster care system, undermining their future success, stability, and happiness,” said Rep. Langevin. “I’m proud to work with the Foster Youth Caucus to introduce this important legislation so that we can keep families together and make sure that our foster care system is equipped to handle large groups of siblings with complex needs.”

 

“Sibling bonds are truly one of a kind. They entail some of the darkest secrets and impeccable loving memories, share valuable life lessons, and are the longest-lasting relationships of a lifetime,” said Barros. “Siblings bleed the same blood together, cry the same tears together, and fulfill life’s destiny together. They are each other’s best friends, shoulders to cry on, and truly shape life’s adversities and achievements. Foster youth deserve this one-of-a-kind bond which should not be taken by a broken system.”