Grassley, McConnell Bill Would Help Foster Children Affected by Opioids, Methamphetamine, Other Substance Abuse

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky today introduced legislation to re-authorize a program to help children who are in foster care or at risk of such placement because of parental abuse of methamphetamine or another substance.  The new bill ensures that opioid abuse is also a key focus of the grants given to child welfare agencies to promote services to children and families under the measure.

The Grassley-McConnell bill, the Protecting Families Affected by Substance Abuse Act, would reauthorize for five years the Regional Partnership Grants that were created in 2006 under Grassley’s Finance Committee chairmanship and included as part of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act.  Congress reauthorized the grants in 2011.  While the original intent of the 2006 grants was to address methamphetamine abuse, the scope expanded to other substances as new problems emerged.   Opioid addiction is a key focus of the new bill, as we have seen the havoc prescription painkillers and heroin continue to have on families and communities around the nation. 

The grants support regional partnerships for services including early intervention and preventive services; child and family counseling; mental health services; parenting skills training; and replication of successful models for providing family-based, comprehensive long-term substance abuse treatment services. 

“Many of the kids in foster care are there because of substance abuse at home,” Senator Grassley said.  “Families are torn apart because of substance abuse, and parents can benefit from services to get them off of drug abuse and back to caring for their children.  Children benefit from being reunited with their family members and learning how to break the cycle of addiction that can strike multiple generations of the same family.  This program is meant to prevent the substance abuse and dissolution of families that have a very great cost to society and state and federal treasuries over time.”

“I applaud all that Kentucky’s child welfare and substance abuse officials are doing to help the children of families struggling with addiction,” Senator McConnell said. “We must do all we can to ensure children grow up in safe, stable, and loving families, which can often mean helping parents break the cycle of addiction that allows for the safe reunification of families, rather than forcing children into a costly foster care system.  That is just what this grant program aims to achieve. Kentucky has made use of these grants in a number of ways, and it is important this progress continues as we work together to address the ramifications of addiction, largely stemming from abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin, on families in the Commonwealth.  I look forward to working with Senator Grassley to advance this critical legislation.”

In 2015, close to 8,000 children were living in Kentucky’s foster care system, and nearly 90 percent of children who enter its system do so as a result of parental neglect, which often stems from substance abuse issues.

Eligible grantees under the senators’ bill include nonprofit and for-profit child welfare service providers, community health service and community mental health providers, local law enforcement agencies, judges and court personnel, juvenile justice officials, school officials, state child welfare or substance abuse agencies, and tribal welfare agencies.  Information on current grantees can be found here.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, in a national study, caseworkers investigating allegations of abuse or neglect noted that of primary caregivers from whom children were removed, 37 percent were actively abusing drugs and 29 percent were actively abusing alcohol. The percentage of children who remain in care due to issues related to substance abuse is believed to be even larger because, among other reasons, accessing and successfully completing treatment services is often time-consuming, and children may not be able to safely return to their homes until treatment is successfully completed.

Grassley is founder and co-chair of the Caucus on Foster Youth, chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.


Related Issues: Opioid Abuse