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Senators Baldwin, Portman Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Treatment Family Care Services for America’s Most Vulnerable Youth

The Treatment Family Care Services Act will improve home-based health and mental health services for Wisconsin’s, country’s most vulnerable children

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reintroduced their bipartisan Treatment Family Care Services Act to improve home-based health and mental health services for thousands of America’s most vulnerable children. The bipartisan legislation would increase access to quality care by clarifying a Medicaid policy that directly impacts youth — including foster children and vulnerable children living with kinship and biological caregivers — with special behavioral health needs and/or medical disabilities.

 “As a state and a country, we have the responsibility to support our most vulnerable children. This bipartisan legislation will give at risk youth and families the tools they need to improve health care and mental health services and ensure that families have access to proven, community-based options,” said Senator Baldwin. “Increasing access to effective treatment in a setting that works can help our most vulnerable children, especially during a time when we know that more children are facing severe mental health challenges.

“This common-sense bill will give vulnerable children better access to high-quality foster care,” said Senator Portman. “By improving health care and mental health services for kids with unique needs, we will provide a sense of stability for these children and better equip foster parents to care for them.”

Treatment Family Care (TFC) is the evidence-informed, trauma-informed, and highly effective intervention for youth with serious medical, psychological, emotional, and social needs. In TFC care, guardians, foster parents, and caregivers are given special training to address the needs of youths with major mental health challenges and children receive intensive in-home services to sustain them in the community. TFC provides critical services to nearly 50,000 children across the country, working to keep particularly vulnerable youth out of costly and sometimes ineffective residential and congregate care and providing needed clinical therapy options to youth instead of overmedication.

Despite the clear benefits of TFC, current law does not provide for a standard definition of TFC benefits under Medicaid. Though TFC services are provided across the country—and are reimbursed through Medicaid and other child welfare funding streams—the lack of a federal standard impairs TFC quality and access. The Treatment Family Care Services Act fixes this problem by providing states with clear guidance on federal TFC standards under the Medicaid program and other available federal funding streams. This commonsense clarification will promote accountability for states offering TFC, promote appropriate TFC services for reimbursement, and drive personnel training and standards.

The Treatment Family Care Services Act is cosponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“As the largest provider of Treatment Foster Care in the state, Children’s Wisconsin knows firsthand how therapeutic, trauma-informed family placements are vital and effective in meeting the physical, mental, behavioral, and social needs of children,” said David Whelan, Vice President of Child Well Being, Children’s Wisconsin. “Children’s Wisconsin applauds Senator Baldwin for leading the way to ensure our most vulnerable children have access to the specialized care and resources they need to thrive.”

“Anu Family Services is proud to support Senator Baldwin and her efforts to establish the Family-Based Care Services Act and create a standard definition of TFC under Medicaid,” said Mechele Pitt, CEO, of Anu Family Services of Eau Claire, WI, MSSW, LICSW, LCSW. “Senator Baldwin’s commitment to the standardization of TFC services across the country and her commitment to children in our foster care system is commended and appreciated.  We believe that the Family-Based Care Services Act is an important step towards providing foster youth with the quality services that they need to heal from past traumas.” 

“As our Nation continues to struggle with an unprecedented mental health crisis, this legislation is vitally important to ensure that regardless of where they live, our most vulnerable children and young adults receive the highest quality evidence based, data driven, and trauma informed interventions,” said Treva R. Johnson, National Public Policy Director at The Family Focused Treatment Association. “FFTA applauds Senator Baldwin and Senator Portman for their commitment in leading this bi-partisan legislation and for ensuring strong foundations for generations to come.”

The Treatment Family Care Services Act is supported by 189 organizations, including Children's Wisconsin, Children's Wisconsin Treatment Foster Care Program, Anu Family Services, and Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies. A full list of endorsers can be found here and additional quotes of support is available here.

A one pager on the bill is available here.

Full bill text is available here.