I was so proud today to see the culmination of hard work from two members of our Congressional Delegation – yes, our Congressional Delegation, those guys in DC who are responsible for either coming to some budget conclusion today or partially shutting down the federal government. In Michigan, we have some pretty important folks who represent us in DC. Congressman Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee – you know, that committee responsible for coming up with government spending priorities – and Congressman Sander Levin, who is the ranking Democrat on that very same Committee. While more often than not, the ideological gridlock in the U.S. House of Representatives seems unbearable, every now and then, there is a glimmer of bi-partisan leadership about something that really matters to the most challenged children and families in our state and nation. This is one of those glimmers, and the leaders responsible need to have that work acknowledged and celebrated, even in the midst of larger and more polarizing conversations about how we will be spending our public resources in this nation.
Two Democrats and two Republicans, including our two delegation members mentioned above, today introduced the Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act, which reauthorizes the federal Adoption Incentives program through 2016 and makes improvements in how the program works to help some of the kids who tend to stay in foster care longer than others – those who are older, who are over-represented by children of color. This program was originally created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 to help states increase adoptions by giving them some additional resource to do so. (I shouldn’t forget the two other bill sponsors – a Democrat from Texas and a Republican from Washington state.)
In Michigan, we are again looking at the over-representation of children of color throughout our child protective services system. This disparity begins at the time that complaints are investigated and continues to increase through removal of children from their families through permanent placements with guardians and adoptive parents or aging out of foster care with no placement option. Incentives to target adoption and guardianship supports so that they benefit the kids who need them the most are critical. The fact that two members of our delegation were able to overcome their disagreements on a host of issues, to work together on this critical issue, is worthy of celebration. Now, they start working on all of their colleagues on the Hill and we are poised to assist.
Michigan’s Children is part of a national network called SPARC – the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center – that brings advocates from around the country together to insist on better public policy for children, youth and families in a variety of areas including protecting our most vulnerable. As Congressmen Camp and Levin work across the partisan aisle to build support for this reauthorization, we will be working with our colleagues in other states to encourage constituent pressure and support to assist.
Please, acknowledge this good behavior – too often our elected officials only hear from us when we are expressing disappointment for what we see as poor decision-making on their parts. Right now, we think that Congressmen Camp and Levin need to know that their constituents appreciate their efforts, and the rest of our delegation needs to understand that we expect similar bi-partisan work to be done on behalf of the most challenged children, youth and families in our state – today, tomorrow and every day.