U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced legislation to strengthen America’s child welfare system, including LGBTQ youth.
The Child Welfare Workforce Support Act would address high turnover rates among child welfare workers and the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act would help prevent the mistreatment of LGBTQ youth – who are nearly four times more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse than their heterosexual peers. The pair of bills would help ensure there are enough well-trained child welfare workers and improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. In addition to Kaine, the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act is also sponsored by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin.
“Abuse has devastating impacts on children’s lives, and more resources are needed to both prevent maltreatment and help those recovering from trauma. With high turnover rates among staff, America’s child welfare system often lacks workers needed to care for at-risk youth. By strengthening the child welfare workforce and specifically addressing the higher rates of abuse among LGBTQ children, these bills would help ensure that our child welfare system better supports vulnerable kids,” said Kaine.
The physical and emotional challenges inherent in child welfare work, combined with relatively low compensation and work benefits, make these careers difficult to sustain, resulting in high turnover rates – including a 30% annual turnover rate in Virginia. High turnover decreases the quality of services delivered to children and families and results in an estimated cost of $54,000 per worker leaving an agency.
The Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to:
- Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct research to protect LGBTQ youth from child abuse and neglect and to improve the well-being of victims
- Expand demographic information collected to include sexual orientation and gender identity when reporting on incidences and prevalence of child maltreatment
- Open grant funding opportunities for the training of personnel in best practices to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ youth
- Include individuals experienced in working with LGBTQ youth and families in state task forces
You can view the bill text of the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act here.
The Child Welfare Workforce Support Act would:
- Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct a five-year pilot program that would focus on building best practices for:
- Reducing barriers to recruitment, development, and retention of child welfare workers
- Better supporting the child welfare workforce and their efforts to better meet the unique needs of infants and children
- Providing ongoing professional development opportunities and support, including addressing secondary-trauma, to improve the retention of child welfare workers
- Require programs to be monitored and evaluated by the Department of Health and Human Services and issue a report on outcomes from the pilot program
You can view the bill text of the Child Welfare Workforce Support Act here.