by Kea Bird-Riley, CASA Staff Attorney and Guardian ad Litem
Although political divisiveness in Congress seems the norm, one thing is certain: both sides of the aisle can come together to improve the child welfare system and to prevent children in foster care from becoming victims of sex trafficking.
The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, a bipartisan bill that President Obama signed into law this fall, is an important step in encouraging states to combat sex trafficking of youth in foster care. In addition to promoting normalcy for foster youth, the new law increases international child support recovery; and assists with placing children in adoptive homes or relatives’ homes.
Under this new law, the Children’s Division is required to identify, document and determine appropriate services for children in foster care. Children’s Division is also required to identify, document and determine appropriate services for children who are in the child welfare system or who are victims of sex trafficking or at risk of becoming victims.
Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act also renames the “Adoption Incentive Payments” program to “Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments.” This new program provides more incentive for adoptive resources by extending the program through fiscal year 2015 as well as extending the Family Connection Grant Program for one year.
Title III of the act seeks improvements to international child support recovery. The act requires states to make necessary changes to implement the Hague Convention in enforcing international child support cases. States are also required to standardize data within the child support program in an effort to streamline with TANF, child welfare, unemployment insurance and SNAP. Finally, the law seeks to improve international child support recovery by requiring states to implement electronic processing of income withholding.