Daines, Peters Introduces Bill to Protect Children from Meth Abuse

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced legislation that strengthens states’ abilities to provide an additional option within the foster care system in Montana and Michigan and across the country.  

Montana has a record 3,400 children in foster care and about a third of those children are there because of methamphetamine use by their parents. Last December, the Montana Department of Justice issued a report detailing fourteen child deaths within a year of contact with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Division. 

This bill responds to that report by allowing a child to benefit from federal foster care support payments while placed with a parent in a licensed residential family-based treatment facility. Secondly, the bill reauthorizes the Regional Partnership Grant program, which facilitates collaboration between local organizations and relevant state agencies to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children who, because of parental substance abuse, are in, or at risk of, placement in foster care. 

“The death of one child is too many,” Daines stated. “We must work to put an end to this tragic trajectory and the meth epidemic that is closely tied to Montana’s child welfare crisis. We need to help support families and protect children who are at risk.”  

“Our children are our future, and it is critical that they have every opportunity to succeed,” Peters stated. “I’m proud to join with Senator Daines in introducing this bipartisan legislation, which builds on evidence-based services that support Michigan families as parents work to overcome substance abuse.”  

MaryLee Allen, Director of Policy of the Children’s Defense Fund: “The Children’s Defense Fund supports the Child Protection and Family Support Act, which gives needed attention to the opioid and methamphetamine crises facing many families and creating enormous demands on child welfare systems across the country.  It reinforces the need for Congress to enact now the comprehensive child welfare finance reforms in the Family First Prevention Services Act, which includes these important improvements in services and treatment.”

Fernando Stein, MD, FAAP, American Academy of Pediatrics President: “The American Academy of Pediatrics commends Senators Daines (R-Mont.) and Peters (D-Mich.) for introducing legislation that will make a real difference for children in foster care. As the opioid crises continues to impact communities across the country, one of the groups that’s the hardest hit are children who end up entering the child welfare system. This bill will help keep families together by allowing parents to seek treatment in a residential facility with their children, which is what we know works best for both children and their parents. As Congress considers comprehensive child welfare reform, we hope to see this important bill incorporated into their efforts.”

Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children: “The number of children entering foster care because of substance use issues by their caregivers has been rising in recent years. We applaud Senator Daines (R-MT) and Senator Peters (D-MI) for addressing this problem by introducing the “Child Protection and Family Support Act of 2017,” which would help children stay with their families as they receive treatment, and invests in states to build evidence-based and trauma-informed programs that provide services for families and ensure the safety and well-being of their children.”

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox: “As proposed the bill would increase the substance abuse services available to Montana communities and enable families to stay together while addressing substance abuse challenges, thereby reducing the number of children in foster care.”

President of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council Mark Azure: “We feel like this will help the families involved, hopefully providing some sense of comfort by both the parents in treatment and their children who have to be in temporary foster care and that they will be reunited one the treatment is completed.” 

Peter J. Degel, PhD, Executive Director of Youth Dynamics in Billings, MT: “This initiative is exciting as the more flexible funding will promote the development of a service continuum that will increase much needed access to community based options meant to preserve family unity.  The services will help to preserve families at risk of losing their children.  They are thus preventative in nature.”

Northern Cheyenne President L. Jace Killsback: “Authorizing foster care maintenance payments to parents who are in a licensed treatment facility, with their children, for substance abuse is a remarkable and innovative strategy to reduce to the trauma on our Northern Cheyenne children who would normally be separated from their parents for lengthy periods time during the reunification process.  It is often agonizing for child welfare workers to remove and place children in foster homes, especially in non-Indian homes off the Reservation…   Because of the lack of licensed foster homes on the Reservation many of the children may be “split up” and placed off the Reservation.  An opportunity to keep families together for one (1) with foster care payments during substance abuse treatment would truly be a blessing to parents and children already traumatized by the social ills associated with substance abuse.  To develop and authorize a process in the Title IV-E program for a parent and child to begin to heal or recover from the negative impacts substance abuse together is visionary.” 

Montana State Representative Jeremy Trebas: “I’m proud to support Senator Daines’ efforts to change the way Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments are distributed and enhancements to regional partnership grants. Important aspects that have been needed include greater focus on reunification of the family after substance abuse treatment, more accountability on the part of the grantees to ensure their effectiveness, and encouragement of grant funds to be used in supporting families affected by meth and opioid abuse. Together these changes will lead to stable families who are able to get their lives back.”

Montana State Representative Kimberly Dudik: “I fully support this important piece of legislation.  It is important to improving the welfare of children and strengthening families.  At the same time, it removes barriers that currently exist to helping children.  I am happy to see Senator Daines taking an active role in improving the lives of our children and building on the work being done in this area.” 

Geoff Birnbaum, Executive Director of Youth Homes Inc in Missoula, MT: “I am so happy and encouraged that Senator Daines is in the early stages of promoting a “child welfare bill” to support the care and future of foster children in Montana and across the nation.  I understand and fully support the effort and support the need to assist birth families, first, to meet the needs of their children and, if that fails, their continued involvement and the development of other forms of family care for these young people.  In addition there must also be other services including mental health services and group living to ensure the safety and growth for higher needs youth.  Our system of services youth and families are best when the menu is deep and wide with options.”   

Erika Willis, Executive Director of Tumbleweed in Billings: “Tumbleweed is proud to partner with Senator Daines to ensure Montana’s vulnerable youth get the care they deserve,” says Erika Willis, Tumbleweed’s Executive Director. “By empowering regional leaders and alleviating substance use disorders, we can revolutionize our nation’s child welfare system.”

Fred Thomas, Montana State Senate Majority Leader: “Nothing is more important than addressing the issue of child welfare. I am impressed and delighted to see this legislation moving forward that has high prospects for helping children in Montana.” 

The text of the bill is available to download HERE.