Blunt, Stabenow and Lawrence lead colleagues to urge HHS to ensure children in foster care have access to mental health services
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), along with U.S. Representative Brenda L. Lawrence (Mich.), led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the U.S. Department of Health and of Human Services (HHS) to seek information to determine what resources states and territories need to ensure that children in foster care have access to mental health services. Members urged HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to collect data, such as the number of children who receive an initial mental health screening and the number of foster children who are referred for services mental health following a screening, as part of The Children’s Bureau’s upcoming review of child and family services.
“As members focused on protecting and advancing opportunities for children in foster care, we are seeking information from the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) to determine the resources that states and territories need to ensure that every child has timely access to mental health services in foster care,” they wrote. “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the health, particularly the mental health, of children in the United States. Data from a CMS report shows that outpatient mental health services for children declined in nearly every state about a month and a half into the pandemic. Now that we’re almost two years into the pandemic, we want to make sure that young people in foster care don’t fall through the cracks.
Members continued, “Children entering foster care deserve federal legislation that reflects best practices. The Children’s Bureau conducts periodic Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), which provide an opportunity to examine the practices and performance of state child welfare systems. As part of the CFSR process, the Children’s Bureau assesses the outcomes of children and families in child protective services and provides an opportunity to assist states in ensuring that these children and families achieve outcomes positive. We urge the Ministry to collect the following data and include it in an upcoming CFSR:
- The number of children who receive an initial mental health examination required under Section 422(b)(15)(A)(i) of the Social Security Act;
- If the initial mental health screening takes place within 30 days of a child’s entry or reintegration into foster care;
- The number of children who receive a follow-up comprehensive mental health assessment;
- If the comprehensive follow-up mental health assessment occurs within 60 days of a child’s entry or reintegration into foster care; and
- The number of foster children who are referred to mental health services following the comprehensive follow-up mental health assessment.
The text of the letter is available here.