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Honorable Mark Sanford

Representing the 1st District of South Carolina

Vote Notes: H.R. 2866 & H.R. 2847, Foster Care Reform

Jun 21, 2017
Blog Post

Too often in Washington, solving a problem involves either expanding the federal government at the expense of local control or adding to our national debt. Neither are good choices for the taxpayer living in South Carolina.
In that vein, I wanted to tell you about two bills the House voted on last night. They would in part affect our nation’s foster care system - but much more directly, they would affect the balance of power between Washington and the rest of the nation. While they were well intended, I voted against both of them with a handful of other Republicans because they fell on the side of Washington deciding yet more in our lives. The first bill replaced state judgment with federal control, and the second bill expanded a welfare program with no consideration of cost.
The first bill, H.R. 2866, the Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act of 2017, would pressure states to change their foster care laws to mirror a new federal model developed in Washington.
Laws and regulations governing foster care have always been within the jurisdiction of state governments. It's important we leave it that way. While the federal government monitors the activities of each state’s Department of Child Protective Services or Human Services, it does not dictate things like standards for foster home licensing. Do we really need these things decided in Washington?
This bill would do that, which makes it awfully tough for those of us who believe in the Tenth Amendment to our Constitution. As you may recall this amendment says “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
State licensing standards for foster homes reflect the reality and needs of foster children in each state, and imperfect as they may be...I think it's important to not have them preempted by licensing requirements from the federal government that would prove to be equally imperfect.
The second bill, H.R. 2847, the Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act, would allow former foster children to receive benefit payments until age 23 and educational vouchers until age 26...up from the current ages of 21 and 23, respectively.
Most everyone I know would agree that helping foster children wherever possible is a good thing, but it ought to be done within the context of cost. How much more would it cost to add these additional benefits?
The answer here is that we don't know, and until we do...I don’t think it’s wise to sign a blank check on what amounts to new entitlement spending. Furthermore, this bill uses budget gimmickry to hide an increase in spending. Under current law, funds that are allotted to states under the program but not spent must be returned to the Treasury. This bill would allow those funds to be redistributed to other states and spent instead of returned, meaning it will increase spending under the program without technically increasing its budget.
Again, both of these bills were well intended. But one expands automatic spending, and the other injects federal regulation where state regulations have historically existed. For these reasons, I voted against their passage.