America’s kids need us now more than ever. The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have had a serious impact on America’s children and those who care for them, from parents and teachers to child welfare workers and foster families.
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. We are doing all we can to establish commonsense solutions that best serve our children in the welfare system.
As part of my Be Best campaign, I have made foster care a top priority. It remains our generation’s responsibility to help our children overcome the many issues they face today, which may include their social, emotional and physical well-being.
Right now, there are over 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system and 124,000 of them are awaiting permanent placement with a forever family. It is our time to be the voice for these thousands of children waiting for a forever family — and it is our time to decide on how we proceed so we can do the most for children in need.
On June 24, President Trump signed the historic Executive Order on Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America’s Children. This executive order aims to strengthen America’s child welfare system through three key actions: improving partnerships, resources and oversight.
The executive order is the next great step towards our goal of creating long-term solutions for America’s most vulnerable. And with this great momentum, I’m working with the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to continue our journey towards helping children waiting in the foster care system find loving, safe and forever families.
In supporting this priority, I recently held a virtual roundtable and heard from foster care advocates, parents, governors and their spouses, as well as youth who have aged out of the system without a forever family.
I was incredibly touched to hear personal stories from those who have spent most of their lives in foster care. A story in particular that touched my heart came from two young people who shared their struggle of being apart from their siblings when they entered the foster care system. We believe that no child should be out on the streets due to their birth date and no child should have to grow up without their siblings.
It is so important that we use these voices to create policies and deliver resources for children and families so that no child has to go through the experiences that these children and adults have experienced.
As my husband, President Donald Trump said, “The best foster care system is one that is not needed in the first place.” If we address our child welfare system with the lens of “primary prevention,” we can have the ability to support children and families long before they ever need to enter the system in the first place.
Still, we understand that prevention efforts will not completely eliminate the need for foster care services to ensure the safety and well-being of some children. When that is required, it is our responsibility to make sure that children and youth do not leave our foster care system without a forever family.
To support children in the foster care system, Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson is leading an important initiative aimed at achieving permanency for the 124,000 children waiting for placement with forever families. In November, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the Assistant Secretary’s “All-In” Foster Adoption Challenge.
Federal officials have been hard at work engaging directly with governors, human services leaders, philanthropic organizations and faith-based organizations to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families.
As we talk to governors and state leaders, we are asking them to extend the foster care age from 18 to 21, host roundtables with partners and foster youth, work with the courts to expedite quality hearings, develop additional resources for older foster youth and adoptive parents, and identify laws or barriers that stand in the way of helping our children.
But we cannot do this alone. We need the engagement of our youth who have experienced the best and the worst of the child welfare system.
We need these strong voices to bring awareness to circumstances, issues and policies that can be changed. We also need everyone’s involvement — from families to governors to churches and nonprofits.
This is a team effort to help America’s children. 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.