Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Help Find Missing Foster Youth
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the Find and Protect Foster Youth Act, which would create a feedback loop between states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children and Families to provide better care and information-sharing for missing and runaway foster youth:
“Foster youth are some of the most at-risk children for trafficking, substance abuse, and other forms of exploitation,” said Sen. Cornyn. “No child should fall through the cracks of the Texas foster care system, and our bill will improve reporting and standard practices for state social service agencies to ensure vulnerable children remain in a safe home.”
“Too many of our foster youth face difficult experiences and go missing while in foster care. That’s unacceptable and must change,” said Sen. Stabenow. “Making sure our children have a safe place to call home isn’t a partisan issue. I am pleased to partner with Senators Cornyn and Grassley on this bipartisan legislation.”
“The purpose of foster care is to ensure that children are kept safe from harm,” said Sen. Grassley. “Unfortunately, far too many youth in foster care go missing and are at a higher risk of being trafficked. This bipartisan bill will help states and federal agencies work together to protect vulnerable children.”
“In West Virginia, our children are our future, and we must make certain that our youth in foster care are safe and protected,” said Sen. Capito. “This legislation will strengthen the coordination of information sharing between the state and federal level, and improve our ability to quickly locate missing and runaway foster youth. We must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable children and keep them safe, and this legislation is a step in the right direction in achieving that goal.”
States are currently required by law to implement plans to prevent, mitigate, and find cases of missing foster youth, but tens of thousands of foster children have gone missing in the last two decades. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, there are almost 32,000 children in foster care in Texas, and more than 1,600 children in its care were reported missing in FY2021 alone.
Increasing communication between states and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) would allow them to use real-life experiences to inform the assistance they provide to child protective service agencies. The legislation would require ACF to report to Congress on progress being made to find missing foster youth and prevent runaways. In addition, it would establish screenings for children who return to foster care after running away or otherwise being absent to determine if the children were victims of sex trafficking during their absence.
This legislation is endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Sen. Cornyn is a member of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, which was founded in 2009 to bring together stakeholders to collaborate on issues that impact foster youth. Sen. Grassley co-founded the Caucus and currently serves as its co-chair with Sen. Stabenow.