Children

Advocating for Children

Senator Casey believes that all children deserve a strong start in life, and the economic health of our Nation rests upon how well we help prepare our children for success. By laying a solid foundation that includes health, nutrition, safety and education from the day they are born, we can ensure every child can grow to his or her full potential. No matter what the circumstances, it is the obligation of every public official to do all that they can to make sure that the light inside every child in America burns as brightly as possible, and that every child reaches his or her potential. Some of the highlights of Senator Casey’s work for children are outlined below.

Early Learning

  • Senator Casey introduced the Child Care Access to Resources for Early-learning (Child CARE) Act, which would provide grants to states to expand access to high-quality child care for families with children under age four who live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Prepare All Kids Act, which would provide at least one year of voluntary high quality pre-kindergarten, with a focus on children from low-income families and children with special needs. He is also a cosponsor of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act which would fund preschool for four-year-old children from families earning incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level and encourage states to spend their own funds to support preschool for young children with family incomes above that income level.

  • Senator Casey's legislation to align early learning and grade school programs, the Continuum of Learning Act, was included in the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act with Senator Murray, to establish a new federal-state funding partnership to provide high-quality, affordable child care from birth through age 13. This legislation would provide direct financial assistance to working parents to help pay for child care and early learning expenses on a sliding scale based on their income; limit childcare payments to seven percent of a family's income; support universal access to high quality preschool programs for 3- and 4-year olds; and improve workforce compensation by ensuring that all early learning educators are paid a living wage.

  • Senator Casey has consistently led the fight to increase funding for early learning and child care programs including Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Preschool Development Grants. In FY2018, the Child Care and Development Block Grant was increased by eighty-three percent, the largest single year increase in the program's history.

Education

  • Senator Casey has been a champion of ensuring protections for students with disabilities. In addition to fighting for funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Senator Casey introduced the Empowering Parents and Students through Information Act. This bill requires that students with disabilities are given an equal chance at academic success as their peers, and that parents are engaged in determining what type of assessment their child takes. This language was included in ESSA and is now law.

  • Senator Casey authored the Keep Kids in School Act, which requires states and school districts to report on the use of exclusionary discipline and create plans to reduce its use. The bill also provides funding to implement activities that have been proven to create a more positive school climate. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Sections 1005 and 4304 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which was signed into law on December 10, 2015.

  • Senator Casey authored the Better Educator Support and Training (BEST) Act, which reforms the educator professional development pieces within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. With the passage of the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) ESEA reauthorization, states and districts are now required to implement evidence-based activities that help keep teachers in the classroom, strengthen the teaching profession, and ensure principals have the skills they need to be effective by setting aside specific resources for their professional development. Major portions of this bill were incorporated into Title IIA of the Every Student Succeeds Act, S. 1177, which was signed into law on December 10, 2015.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Computer Science Education and Jobs Act in the 114th Congress. This legislation adds computer science as a core academic subject within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and adds supports for teachers who specialize in this subject area. These key provisions were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act as part of a definition of “well-rounded education,” and will provide support and clarity to states and school districts to expand this discipline, ultimately helping to keep the nation competitive in the global high-tech market.

  • Senator Casey helped lead a bipartisan effort in the Senate to renew the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides millions of students nationwide with the training and education necessary for success in high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand career fields like engineering, information technology, and health care. On June 26, 2018, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously passed a version of a Perkins CTE Reauthorization formulated by Senators Casey and Enzi. This text was signed into law on July 31, 2018. The new law increases authorization levels and makes important updates including, creating more alignment with other federal laws as well as local economic need; encouraging collaboration between educators, industry, workforce development boards and community partners; fostering innovation; and improving access for special populations, including students with disabilities.

  • Senator Casey is the author and longtime sponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would prohibit bullying and harassment in K-12 schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He is also a cosponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would expand federal civil rights statutes to include a protection in schools against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Economic Security for Families

  • Senator Casey cosponsored the Working Families Tax Relief Act, which would help families with children and low-income individuals. Part of this bill was passed in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act in December 2015, including permanent improvements the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit.

  • Senator Casey is the lead cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would ensure families across the country have access to affordable, high-quality child care. It would also expand universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year olds and increase training and compensation for the child care workforce.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Enhancement Act, which helps make child care more affordable, by expanding and improving access to the tax credit for low and middle income families.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Foster EITC Act, which would extend the EITC to foster youth at age 18. The bill provides assistance to youth exiting foster care, who often lack familial support in their transition to adulthood.

  • Senator Casey supported a provision in the PATH Act to make college more affordable for working families by permanently extending and enhancing the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to a $2,500 tax credit to offset the cost of college.

Supporting Child Nutrition

  • As a Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Casey works on a bipartisan basis to develop policies to ensure that children and all Americans have access to safe, affordable and nutritious foods. Healthy, nutritious food is critically important to the health and well-being of our children. That is why he supported the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016 and the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in the Farm Bill.

  • Senator Casey is the sponsor of a bill that would extend WIC eligibility for children to age six, rather than cutting kids off on their fifth birthdays. The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act would also extend WIC certification period for infants to two years, rather than the current one year, so WIC offices can focus on service rather than paperwork.

  • Senator Casey is concerned about the children of low income, working parents who rely on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP, as a quality source of nutrition. For many young children, the meals they eat in child care programs are the most nutritious meals they eat all week. CACFP provides healthy, nutritious meals to more than 3 million children each day who are in Head Start, Early Head Start and child care programs in both centers and family child care homes. Senator Casey is proud to be the sponsor of legislation, the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act, to improve and support CACFP.

  • Provisions from these two bills Senator Casey introduced were included in the child nutrition reauthorization bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee. They will help shrink the gaps in our nutrition safety net to better serve the needs of vulnerable children by providing an extra snack for kids in daycare for long hours and allowing young children to stay on WIC until they enter kindergarten or age 6.

  • Senator Casey was proud to champion the Community Eligibility Program in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. Community eligibility allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer free meals to all students without collecting paper applications, which will expand access to more children and reduce administrative burdens on schools.

  • Senator Casey has championed ensuring schools have the resources necessary to test their water systems for the presence of lead. In May, 2017, Senator Casey coordinated a letter, signed by 28 other Senators, urging the Appropriations Committee to provide funding school lead testing. The recently-enacted 2018 Appropriations bill provided $20 million for this important initiative.

Protecting Children & Helping Families

  • Senator Casey has long supported the adoption tax credit. In 2010, Senator Casey secured an amendment that extended the credit for 2010 and 2011, increased the amount of the credit from $10,000 to $13,170, and made it refundable for those two years. The original tax credit, without these enhancements, was later extended through 2012, and then made permanent in 2013.

  • He also authored the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act, which will once again make the adoption tax credit refundable, ensuring that lower- and moderate-income families reap the full benefit of the tax credit.

  • Senator Casey authored the Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act, which improves the Plan of Safe Care requirement under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). This requirement is designed to protect vulnerable infants who have been affected by substance abuse, withdrawal, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Improving this requirement will help protect children whose mothers are struggling with opioid abuse. This bill was included in the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) in 2016 as Sec. 503, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act, and was signed into law on July 22, 2016. In 2018, Senator Casey secured $60 million in funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (the law amended by his Plan of Safe Care provision) in the omnibus.

  • He then authored the Supporting Infant Plans of Safe Care Improvement Act (S. 2696), which authorized a new $60 million/year grant program to continue supporting state efforts to provide plans of safe care for every infant who needs one. Provisions based on S. 2696 were included in H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was signed into law on October 24, 2018, allowing certain existing funds to be used in support of implementation of the Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act. Senator Casey also helped secure an additional $60 million for CAPTA in each of Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 to implement the Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act requirements.

  • The Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid (Speak Up) Act would require that all states adopt laws to ensure that adults and communities understand their responsibilities to protect children by reporting incidents of known or suspected child abuse or neglect to the appropriate state authorities. The bill sets a federal floor for state child abuse and neglect reporting requirements.

  • The Protecting Our Infants Act, which Senator Casey authored with Senator McConnell in 2015, is improving how the Department of Health and Human Services addresses Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which affects infants whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy. This bill was signed into law in November 2015. In 2018, Senator Casey and Senator McConnell introduced additional legislation to build on the Protecting Our Infants Act. The Protecting Moms and Babies Act provides important oversight and accountability to federal efforts to address neonatal abstinence syndrome through the implementation of the strategy required under the Protecting Our Infants Act, and reauthorizes the Residential Treatment Programs for Pregnant and Postpartum Women program. This bill was incorporated into H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was signed into law on October 24, 2018.

Promoting Child Health

  • Senator Casey introduced the Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act to ensure that all children who age out of foster care can maintain their Medicaid benefits through age 26, comparable to how other young adults can stay on their parents’ policies. This bill was incorporated into H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was signed into law on October 24, 2018.

  • Senator Casey has continuously championed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is a state-run, federally- and state-funded program that provides affordable, quality health insurance to children in low income families who do not qualify for Medicaid.

  • Senator Casey authored the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014, which reauthorized the EMSC program through FY 2019. This program ensures that services for children are well integrated into medical emergency services systems by funding and supporting pediatric emergency care improvement projects in every state and territory.1 This bill is now law.

  • Senator Casey created a new incentive to encourage development of new therapies for rare pediatric diseases. The Creating Hope Act encourages pharmaceutical companies to invest in drugs to treat rare pediatric diseases by providing successful companies with a “voucher” to speed the approval of another product, such as one the company expects will generate a lot of revenue. Provisions based on this bill were included in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which became law in 2012, and the Advancing Hope Act, which made important improvements to the program while extending it until December 31, 2016; the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) included an extension through September 30, 2020.

  • Senator Casey introduced the Children's Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act which will reauthorize the children’s hospital graduate medical education program (CHGME) program for another five years, through 2023, and raise the authorization to $330 million a year. This program provides funding to train pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists at freestanding children's hospitals across the country, including three in Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and St. Christopher’s. The House companion to this bill was passed and became Public Law No: 115-241.

Resources for Pennsylvania children:

  • To apply for benefits in Pennsylvania for your child or a child in your custody, please visit https://www.compass.state.pa.us/. Through COMPASS, you can apply for:

  • Medical Assistance or CHIP
  • Early Intervention Services
  • Intellectual Disability Services
  • Autism Services
  • Long Term Living Services
  • Cash Assistance
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • School Meal
  • If you or your child needs health insurance, please visit the health insurance marketplace at www.healthcare.gov for information on how to find health insurance, when to enroll, determine your family’s eligibility for Medicaid, CHIP or a subsidy for private insurance, and other resources. Open season, when anyone can enroll, occurs annually in November and December, but you may be able to enroll at another time if you experience a change like losing another source of insurance, getting married/divorced or having a baby. You can also call 1-800-318-2596, or find local help at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/.

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