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Tammy Baldwin introduces bill to boost health care for foster children

Bipartisan legislation that supporters say would improve access to care for America's most troubled foster children has been introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The bill — the Quality Foster Care Services Act — seeks to clarify Medicaid policy for foster children with serious medical, psychological, emotional and social needs, Baldwin said in a press release Thursday.

In Wisconsin, these children are generally placed in treatment foster care, where parents have been given specialized training and children receive intensive in-home services so they can remain in the community and avoid being institutionalized.

Approximately 1,000 children in Wisconsin and 40,000 children across the country receive treatment foster care, also known as therapeutic foster care.

Current law does not provide a definition for treatment foster care under Medicaid, a problem, Baldwin says, that impairs quality and access.

The proposed bill would establish a standardized federal definition.

Bipartisan companion legislation is being introduced in the House by Representatives by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

Wisconsin officials on Wednesday announced their own plan to provide better access to health care for children in foster care, named Care4Kids. The program provides a primary care provider and a team of specialists charged with providing each child with comprehensive and coordinated services, including physical, mental and oral health care.