The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee have come together to introduce a bill that would publicize more information about private foster care providers.
After a two-year investigation, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said Tuesday that the child welfare system needs to be more accountable.
The "Child Welfare Oversight and Accountability Act" would require every state to set up a public website where people could see government contracts with private foster care providers. The bill would also require states report care providers’ performance on things like child fatalities and maltreatment rates.
The act would establish a new penalty process for states out of compliance with federal child welfare requirements. And it would mean relatives wouldn’t have to go through the same licensing process as foster families who aren't related to the child.
“It is outrageous and heartbreaking that so many vulnerable children experience neglect and abuse within our foster care system,” Wyden said in a statement on the bill.
“The ultimate indictment of this system is there is so little oversight that the government can’t even confirm the gaps that caring advocates tell us are getting worse.”
A 2015 investigation by the Senate Finance Committee examined the privatization of foster care in 33 states. It found that flaws in data collection make it difficult to monitor the child welfare system and ensure kids are getting the proper care.
One of the largest for-profit providers of foster care services in the country, the Mentor Network, provided data that showed about 70 percent of the deaths of children in care were unexpected.
“Chairman Hatch and I are committed to making this issue a priority for the committee and will work to bring America’s foster care systems up to the standards our children deserve,” Wyden said.
During fiscal year 2016 in Oregon, more than 76,000 reports of abuse and neglect were received. About half were investigated and abuse or neglect were found in about 10 percent of cases.