News Releases or Statements
DAVIS, WALORSKI, LARSON, REED ISSUE STATEMENT ON GAO REPORT ON BENEFITS PAID TO FOSTER YOUTH BY THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
June 4, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, House Ways and Means Committee Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson and Ranking Member Tom Reed released the following statement regarding GAO’s report on benefits paid to foster youth by the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was mandated by the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018:
“GAO’s report makes it evident we have work to do to make sure all foster youth receive and benefit from all SSA benefits for which they qualify and that benefits follow the child. Increasing the use of regular data exchanges between SSA and state foster care agencies is clearly necessary to ensure that benefits for youth in foster care are paid correctly, based on the large number of incorrect representative payees SSA identified in the small subset of states currently complying with SSA’s request to share data. The data we have suggests that the SSA benefits are not always being used as intended, in the youth’s best interest, although there appears to be wide variation among states. We are specifically concerned about the possibility that benefits are being paid to a parent or entity that no longer has custody of the child, and about reports that benefits are being used to help state budgets instead of children.”
“We plan to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration to get the information we need and do right by these vulnerable youth, many of whom have serious illnesses or disabilities in addition to being in foster care.”
CONGRESS MUST PROTECT FOSTER YOUTH BY PASSING THE JOHN LEWIS EVERY CHILD DESERVES A FAMILY ACT
June 2, 2021
By Reps. Danny K. Davis, Jenniffer González-Colón, Angie Craig
“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
— John Lewis, July 2020
Children in foster care are among the most vulnerable people in our society. They are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, indigenous, and LGBTQ. Every year, more than 20,000 foster youth age out of care and only half of the 120,000 foster children waiting to be adopted find their forever family.
Although there is a shortage of foster parents in every state, several states allow taxpayer-funded agencies to turn away otherwise-qualified, caring parents due to their religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
Government has the solemn responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the child, consistent with accepted child welfare standards. A decision made in a child’s best interest requires a diverse array of safe and affirming foster homes to ensure that neglected and abused children find the right placement in a time of crisis to mitigate the trauma and instability they have experienced. Denying prospective parents based on religion and sexual orientation exacerbates existing foster home shortages, undermines youths’ well-being, and removes opportunities for youth to join loving homes.
One in three foster youth identify as LGBTQ+ and suffer greater rates of mistreatment in care, placement in residential settings rather than with families, and homelessness, being trafficked and criminal justice involvement.
We can address the shortage of foster families, the poor outcomes for LGBTQ+ foster youth, and the injustice of discrimination in one step by passing the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which we proudly introduced this week.
For the last eight years, Congressman John Lewis championed this bill as the lead sponsor because he believed, like we do, that federally-funded child welfare service providers should not be allowed to turn away, deny needed services to, or otherwise discriminate against children, families, and individuals because of their religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
The bill promotes the best interests of children by increasing the number of foster and adoptive homes available to all children in foster care. It also ensures that all children and families touched by the child welfare system receive the identity-affirming, culturally-competent care they deserve.
The stories we’ve heard from youth about their hope for an affirming family and the suffering they experienced - especially as they aged out of the system - moved and motivated us to advance this legislation.
This bill includes the requests of foster youth for supportive adults and homes that help heal their identities so they can thrive. In his final opinion piece, John shared that he drew hope from the millions of protestors around the globe who set aside divisions based on personal characteristics, background, and nationality to demand respect for human dignity. Whether we’re members of Congress or teachers, farmers or nurses, caseworkers or child advocates, we each have a role in building a more just and equal society for everyone.
As John would say, fighting discrimination is just the right thing to do.
REPS. DAVIS, WALORSKI, BASS, AND BACON HONOR NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH WITH BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO HELP FOSTER YOUTH FIND PERMANENT FAMILIES VIA ADOPTION
May 7, 2021
On Friday, May 7, 2021, Congressmen Danny K. Davis (D-IL) joined with Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) to introduce the bipartisan Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2021. The legislation would make the current Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable, helping low-income families adopt children.
The Adoption Tax Credit helps families offset some of the costs of adoption, especially for children with special needs. Currently, the tax credit disadvantages low- and middle-income families, in particular families with annual incomes between $30,000 to $50,000. This inequity is problematic given that approximately half of youth adopted from foster care live in families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level; thus, the credit inadvertently creates barriers to permanency for a substantial number of families. During the Great Recession, Congress made the Adoption Tax Credit refundable recognizing that the economic hardship could prevent families from adopting or exact a heavy financial toll from families choosing adoption during a downturn. The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2021 would again make this credit permanent to remove income as a barrier to adoption to help more children join permanent, loving families.
“The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act reflects common-sense federal policy,” said Congressman Davis. “It strengthens families, removes income as a barrier to adoption, and helps vulnerable children join permanent, loving families. Former foster youth represent the majority of children adopted by families earning less than 200 percent of the poverty level. This bill will make a critical difference in the ability of lower and middle-income families to adopt, especially when so many families are struggling economically due to the pandemic. I am proud to recognize National Foster Care Month by working across the aisle to improve the Adoption Tax Credit to better help more children and families benefit.”
“Adoption is truly a blessing for both children and families,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “Breaking down barriers to adoption – especially for lower- and middle-income Americans – is essential to giving foster youth and other vulnerable children a better chance to thrive. This bipartisan bill will restore refundability of the Adoption Tax Credit and help more hardworking families welcome a child into a loving, permanent home.”
“When a child is placed in the child welfare system, they become the responsibility of the government,” said Rep. Karen Bass, co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “It is our duty to do well by these young people, which includes helping them find forever homes. This bill will help achieve this goal by addressing income as a barrier to adoption. Too often families are unable to provide loving, permanent homes but making the current Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable will help change that. I’m proud to lead this bill with my friend, Congressman Danny Davis, and urge my colleagues to support this important bill.”
“For years, income has become a roadblock for many families wishing to adopt,” said Rep. Bacon. “As co-chair of the Foster Youth Caucus and an adoptive parent myself, I understand the need to remove this barrier by offsetting these burdensome costs. By making the adoption tax credit fully refundable, this bill makes it easier for families to adopt and gives our nation’s youth a safe, loving, and permanent home. I thank my co-leads for their partnership on this common-sense, bipartisan legislation that is desperately needed today.”
The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2021 is supported by the 83 Members of the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group, including state and national leaders on child welfare, such as: Child Welfare League of America; Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption; Lutheran Services in America; National Council for Adoption; North American Council on Adoptable Children; and Voice for Adoption.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the bipartisan Senate companion measure.
Congressman Davis and Congresswoman Walorski are Members of the House Ways and Means Committee with broad jurisdiction over Federal revenue measures. They serve as the Chairman and Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support with jurisdiction over child welfare issues. Congresswoman Bass and Congressman Bacon are co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.
LARSON, DAVIS CALL ON SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION TO REVOKE HARMFUL RULE Click here to view the full letter. Last year, top Democrats called on SSA to abandon this rule.
May 7, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (D-CT) and Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) wrote to Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Andrew Saul urging him to revoke the SSA Final Rule, “Hearings Held by Administrative Appeals Judges of the Appeals Council” (85 Fed. Reg. 73138; effective Dec. 16, 2020).
“This harmful final rule allows SSA to use agency staff attorneys – rather than independent Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) – to hold hearings and issue decisions for individuals who are appealing a denial of Social Security benefits. SSA hearings play a vital role in ensuring that Americans receive the benefits they have earned: a hearing is typically the first time that a person who is applying for benefits is heard directly by a decisionmaker,” wrote the members. “It is essential that ALJs continue to preside over SSA appeals hearings, to ensure impartial and fair adjudication of Social Security benefit claims....
“It is outrageous that you finalized this rule last December, in the middle of a pandemic that is threatening the lives and financial security of our nation’s seniors, people with disabilities, and survivors who have lost loved ones. Your actions have added insult to injury for vulnerable Americans who now more than ever should be confident that SSA will pay them benefits if they are eligible and will not erode their right to be heard fairly and impartially.
“We urge you to initiate immediate action to revoke this harmful and reprehensible rule.”