Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced the completion of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980). This bipartisan legislation reflects agreements reached between the House and Senate negotiators, reconciling differences on three bills previously approved by the House (H.R. 1896, H.R. 3205, and H.R. 4058) and the Senate Finance Committee (S. 1876, S. 1877, and S. 1878). The legislation is fully paid for, and includes numerous provisions that will encourage states to reduce the incidence of sex trafficking among youth in foster care, empower and promote normalcy for foster youth, quickly 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 is outside of the U.S.
“Sex trafficking is a truly heinous crime that often preys on vulnerable women and children,” Senator Casey said. “Law enforcement in Pennsylvania and across the country have taken steps to combat sex trafficking but it’s critical that more be done. Congress has an opportunity to come together on this legislation which will streamline data collection on sex trafficking and improve reporting practices of missing children. I’m hopeful this bipartisan legislation will quickly pass both the House and Senate.”
The following are 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 so these children can more easily participate in age appropriate social, scholastic and enrichment activities.
- Allocates $3 million per year starting in 2020 to states to support foster youth's participation in activities, such as by paying youth sports team fees or the cost of getting a driver’s license.
- Ends “Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement” (APPLA) for foster youth under age 16, thereby ending the practice of deeming young children as expected to age out of foster care; for tribal youth, this change is effective after three years.
- Requires states to regularly review the permanency goal for children over the age of 16 with an APPLA designation and ensure such youth are able to engage in age-appropriate activities;
- Requires children age 14 and older (down from age 16) to be involved in their case planning, including by consulting with trusted adults of the child’s choosing.
- Requires states to provide children in foster care with a list of their rights.
- Requires states to provide children who emancipate after being in foster care for at least 6 months with (1) a birth certificate, (2) a social security card, (3) health records and insurance information and (4) a driver’s license or state ID.
Title II: Improving Adoption Incentives
- Improves the adoption incentives program and extends it for three years.
- Among other changes, uses the rate of increase in adoptions to judge state performance instead of the number (this would ensure that incentives are rewarded based on continued improvements in performance as foster care caseloads decline).
- For the first time provides incentive awards for guardianship placements, while providing larger incentives to states for increasing adoptions of older youth who are the hardest to adopt.
- The new award structure and other changes would be phased in over three years, increasingly prioritizing recent improvement over past performance in increasing adoptions and guardianship placements.
- Extends the expiring Family Connection Grants demonstration program for one additional 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 TANF, child welfare, Unemployment Insurance and 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.
Overall, the entire bill would save $1 million over 5 years and $19 million over 10 years.