THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press
|For Immediate Release
PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNS LANDMARK LAW TO HELP FOSTER
CARE YOUTH PREPARE FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING
Clinton today will sign into law the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. This
legislation, based on an initiative proposed by the President and the First
Lady, will help ensure that young people who leave foster care get the tools
they need to make the most of their lives. It empowers those leaving foster
care by providing them better educational opportunities, access to health care,
training, housing assistance, counseling and other services. The new law is
only the latest instance of the Administration's longstanding commitment to
children and families.
CARE YOUTH FACE CHALLENGES AS THEY ENTER ADULTHOOD. Nearly 20,000 young
people leave foster care each year when they reach age 18 without an adoptive
family or other guardian. Without the emotional, social and financial support
that families provide, many of these youth find themselves inadequately
prepared for life on their own. Studies show that within two to four years of
leaving foster care, only half have completed high school, fewer than half are
employed, one-fourth have been homeless for at least one night, 30 percent do
not have access to needed health care, 60 percent of the women have given
birth, and less than one in five are completely self-supporting.
LEGISLATION PROVIDES NEW HOPE FOR THESE YOUTH. Under previous laws, federal
financial support for these young people ended just as they were making the
transition to independence. The Act the President will sign today authorizes
$700 million over five years to help these young people cross this critical
the Federal Independent Living Program. The Independent Living program, run
through the states, helps older foster care children earn a high school
diploma, participate in vocational training or education, and learn daily
living skills such as budgeting, career planning and securing housing and
employment. Today's new law doubles the program's funding to $140 million per
year, and invests $350 million more over five years in these services. Under
the new law, states are now required to serve youth up to 21 years old,
enabling more young people to obtain a college education. It also enables
states to provide time-limited financial assistance to help these youth with
living expenses as they develop the skills and education needed to move
successfully into the workforce. The Act the President will sign today also
renames the program in honor of John Chafee, the late Senator who so
effectively championed the needs of children.
Health Insurance. Today, when young people emancipate from foster care,
they face numerous health risks, but too often lose their health insurance. The
new law grants states the option for these young people to remain eligible for
Medicaid up to age 21. Today, HHS will issue guidance to all State Medicaid
Directors encouraging them to take up this option.
Americas Heroes. In an unrelated provision, the Act provides a
special monthly cash benefit to Filipino veterans who served under the U.S.
Armed Forces during World War II if they were eligible for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) and later choose to move outside the United States.
Previously, Filipino veterans who were eligible to receive SSI benefits would
lose them if they were to return to the Philippines.
OF ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR FOSTER CARE AND ADOPTION. With today's new law, the
Administration adds to an unprecedented record of promoting the well-being of
children and providing them permanent, loving homes. In 1998 there were a
record 36,000 adoptions from foster care, the first significant increase in the
history of the program. From 1996 to 1998, the number of adoptions nationwide
rose 29 percent -- from 28,000 to 36,000 -- and is on a pace to meet the
President's goal of 56,000 adoptions in 2002. Among the President's other steps
to improve child welfare and encourage adoption:
the Transitional Living Program. Last month the President secured in the
budget agreement a 40 percent increase in the Transitional Living program,
which provides funds to local community-based organizations for residential
care, life skills training, and other support services to homeless adolescents.
The program will now be funded at $20.7 million.
the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Based on the Administration's
Adoption 2002 report, this landmark law made the health and safety of children
a clear priority, provided the first-ever financial incentives for states to
increase adoptions, tightened the time frames for making permanent placements
of children, and removed other barriers to adoption.
Adoption Affordable. In 1996, President Clinton enacted a $5,000 tax credit
for families adopting children, and a $6,000 tax credit for families adopting
children with special needs. In the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the President
provided more support for families who adopt with a $500 per-child tax credit.
And under the Family and Medical Leave Act, parents can take time with a newly
adopted child without losing their jobs or health insurance.
Down Racial and Ethnic Barriers to Adoption. New inter-ethnic adoption
provisions signed into law by the President ensure that the adoption process is
free from discrimination and delays on the basis of race, culture and
States Flexibility and Support. The Clinton Administration has given 25
states waivers to test innovative strategies for improving state child welfare
systems. The Administration has provided states technical support to improve
court operations and grants to support local adoption projects, and has also
secured federal funding for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program to
serve at-risk children and families.
Internet to Promote Adoption. In November 1998, the President issued a
directive to the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the use of
the Internet as a tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from
foster care. HHS will develop a national Internet site by the year