First Lady Melania Trump has championed the social, mental, and physical well-being of youth since she introduced her "Be Best" campaign in 2018. Now, she’s using her platform to draw attention to another area: The United States foster care system.
On Thursday, Mrs. Trump announced that her initiative is making it a priority to help every child find “a loving, safe, and forever family.”
Through roundtables, engaging directly w/governors, human srvcs leaders, philanthropic & faith-based orgs, Lynn Johnson & @FLOTUS are working to support kids in #fostercare. This initiative is aimed at achieving permanency for kids waiting for placement. https://t.co/xzcvvDnaTZ pic.twitter.com/gQkka49z5s— ACF (@ACFHHS) July 30, 2020
“The Trump administration is committed to ensuring that children benefit from the care and support of loving, permanent families, preferably in their own homes whenever possible,” she stated. “We are doing all we can to establish commonsense solutions that best serve our children in the welfare system.”
Mrs. Trump said she is working with the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services to help ensure that children are placed into forever families and to strengthen partnerships with private advocacy organizations. In addition, she said her initiative is reaching out to state leaders to extend the foster care eligibility cutoff from 18 to 21, facilitate discussion with foster youth, work with courts to expedite hearings, develop additional resources for older foster youth and adoptive parents, and identify laws that stand in the way.
Currently, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, with 124,000 awaiting adoption. President Trump has made several efforts to address the issue, most recently signing an executive order instructing HHS to collect data needed to improve partnerships, resources, and oversight in the foster care system. Last year, the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era rule that conditioned federal funding of child welfare agencies upon their placing children with same-sex couples, thereby expanding the pool of potential families. The president also signed the Family First Prevention Services Act, bipartisan legislation that reforms the federal child welfare financing system and incentivizes states to place children in family foster homes rather than group care settings.
Still, the last major legislation addressing foster care reform was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. Mrs. Trump seems to be on a mission to change that.
Earlier this week, the first lady hosted a virtual roundtable with 12 foster youth interns from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute to discuss their research and policy recommendations on issues affecting children in the system.
Yesterday I held a virtual roundtable with the @CCAInstitute #FosterYouth Intern Group. We discussed their ideas to improve #FosterCare policy & proposals for child welfare advocates across the country. Thank you for your efforts to raise awareness to policymakers. #BeBest pic.twitter.com/2V8LdQ04az— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 28, 2020
In June, Mrs. Trump held another roundtable on child welfare that included participants who have been impacted by the foster care system, such as young adults who had spent time in foster care, foster parents, and representatives from foster care and adoption organizations.
Thanks to @SecAzar, @GovMikeDeWine, @GovChrisSununu & other leaders for joining our roundtable today on strengthening our child welfare system. We must confront the challenges & impacts for the vulnerable children in the foster care system & protect the well-being of all youth. pic.twitter.com/WVfS3jLJWz— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 1, 2020
“This is a team effort to help America’s children,” she said. “We are taking bold actions, and we will stop at nothing to help our children find safe and loving families that they can call their own forever.”