|Child Welfare/Family Policy
Governor Bush believes that our children are our greatest treasures and embody hope for the future. Everything must be to done to ensure that every child grows up in a safe, stable and loving family… and that our child welfare system actually advances this goal. He also believes that we can do more to promote responsible fatherhood.
Governor Bush’s Reform Proposals:
To Encourage States to Help Families in Crisis, Governor Bush will:
Provide states an additional $1 billion over five years for preventative services to keep children in, or return them to, their homes whenever safely possible.
Require states to conduct criminal background checks on prospective foster and adoptive parents and close existing loopholes permitting states to opt out of such requirements.
Set the goal that “permanence” for children in the child welfare system means returning to a safe and stable biological family or, when a judge deems that impossible, finalized adoption. This proposal will help prevent many children from spending their formative years in foster homes or other temporary care, without reducing financial support for foster care when it is necessary.
To further encourage adoption and to help those children who remain in foster care until the age of majority, Governor Bush will:
Make the adoption tax credit permanent and provide $1 billion over five years to increase the tax credit from $5,000 to $7,500 to families for non-reimbursable expenses associated with the adoption of a child.
Provide $300 million over five years for vouchers to young people who “age out” of foster care. These vouchers can provide up to $5,000 to each young person to use for college tuition or vocational training.
Help states to establish paternity registries to encourage fathers to take responsibility for their children, or failing that, to facilitate adoption if that is the mother’s wish or is required by the state.
To Encourage Single Fathers to Participate in the Lives of their Children, Governor Bush will:
Provide $200 million in competitive grants over five years to community and faith-based organizations for initiatives that promote responsible fatherhood and combat the crisis of father absence. Grants will also be awarded to organizations that conduct marriage education courses that teach conflict resolution.
The Texas Record
Governor Bush has strengthened efforts to keep families together and to protect children from abuse and neglect. In cases where children cannot remain in the home, he has also streamlined adoption laws to allow children to be adopted into loving families as quickly as possible. The number of children legally free for adoption more than doubled during 1996 to 1999; the time children spend waiting for adoption has been cut nearly in half over the last decade; and adoptions increased 175 percent from 1996 to 1999.
The Texas Fatherhood Initiative makes responsible fatherhood a top state priority and positions Texas at the forefront of the nation’s emerging fatherhood movement by:
Creating a statewide multimedia public awareness campaign stressing the critical role fathers play in child and community well-being and the social costs of father absence;
Conducting a series of local fatherhood forums to mobilize every sector of community leadership – religious, business, education, media, health, government, and others – and develop strategic plans at the grassroots level;
Establishing a Texas Fatherhood Resource Center to (i) provide state-of-the-art resource materials, training, and technical assistance; (ii) facilitate the sharing of ideas, best practices, and model programs; (iii) help programs better reach all father populations – teen, low-income, incarcerated, single or expectant fathers, step-fathers, and others; and (iv) conduct several regional events to help social service organizations make their services more father-inclusive and outcome-based; and
Developing a seed grant program to help local grassroots organizations launch or expand innovative local projects that promote and support responsible fatherhood.
Texas is at the vanguard of this bipartisan movement. A 1999 report, Map and Track: State Initiatives to Encourage Responsible Fatherhood, by the National Center for Children in Poverty showed that Texas was one of only 10 states that had enacted all five fatherhood strategies identified by the Center as important to child development.