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January 29, 2004

Immediate Action Needed!

Urge Congress to Support the Keeping Families Together Act

As Congress comes back to Washington to begin another session, we ask that you urge Congress to support the Keeping Families Together Act. The Keeping Families Together Act (H.R. 3243/S. 1704) is designed to address the barriers that prevent families with children who have mental or emotional disorders from accessing critical mental health services. Introduced by Reps. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Pete Stark (D-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), this legislation is a bi-partisan effort that will go a long way in keeping children who are suffering from severe mental disorders with their families and receiving appropriate treatment services.


Call your United States Senators and U.S. Representative. Ask your Senators and Representative to cosponsor H.R. 3243 and S. 1704, if they have not already done so. (Refer to list below.) You can reach all congressional offices through the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121. If your Senators and Representative have already cosponsored, a thank you would be appreciated.


Today, many parents are faced with an impossible choice - relinquish custody of their child to the state child welfare or juvenile justice systems in order to obtain necessary mental health care services or deny their child the life-saving treatment they need. Treatment for mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and other serious mental illnesses can be very expensive to treat. Many parents exhaust their private insurance after just a few months and are ineligible for Medicaid or other assistance due to income and assets. This leaves the parents of a child with a severe mental illness with the agonizing decision between care or custody. No parent should be put in the position of making this decision, and no child belongs in the child welfare or juvenile justice system for the sole purpose of obtaining mental health services.

The Keeping Families Together Act will provide states with the ability to build new infrastructure to more efficiently serve children needing mental health services while keeping them with their families in their own homes. This legislation:
  • Provides $55 million over six years in Family Support Grants to states that have committed to providing appropriate mental health services to children so that parents do not have to relinquish custody of their children to get them the help they need.

  • Eligible children and youth are those under age 21 who are in the custody of the state or are at risk of entering care to receive mental health services.

  • Family support services are individualized with family input, provided to the eligible child or youth and their family, and created to promote the mental health of an eligible child or youth.

  • Requires collaboration between both private and public partners, including representatives of families of seriously emotionally disturbed children, mental health care providers, private health insurers, hospitals and residential care facilities, as well as state partners, such as the child welfare and juvenile justice agencies among many.

  • Establishes a Federal Interagency Task Force to make recommendations to Congress concerning strategies to improve the delivery of mental health services. The Task Force will work with mental health and child advocates, as well as representatives of affected families and state systems of care to submit a biannual report to Congress on its progress in implementing recommendations, ending relinquishments and improving the delivery of mental health services.


  • Urge your Senators and Representative to cosponsor H.R. 3243/S. 1704, if they have not already done so.

  • Share how the Keeping Families Together Act will affect the children and families you work with on a daily basis. Emphasize the need to stop the practice of parents having to relinquish custody of their children to the child welfare or juvenile justice systems for the sole purpose of obtaining mental health services for them.
For more information, contact Barbara Allen, CWLA Senior Government Affairs Associate, at 202/639-4924 or

SPONSOR OF H.R. 3243: Representative Jim Ramstad [MN-3]

Rep. Spencer Bachus [AL-6]
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva [AZ-7]
Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark [CA-13]
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo [CA-14]
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald [CA-37]
Rep. Mary Bono [CA-45]
Rep. George Miller [CA-7]
Rep. Nancy L. Johnson [CT-5]
Rep. Michael N. Castle [DE]
Rep. Mark Foley [FL-16]
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [FL-18]
Rep. E. Clay, Jr. Shaw [FL-22]
Rep. Charlie Norwood [GA-9]
Rep. Janice Schakowsky [IL-9]
Rep. Jim Ryun [KS-2]
Rep. Albert Russell Wynn [MD-4]
Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering [MS-3]
Rep. Edolphus Towns [NY-10]
Rep. Major R. Owens [NY-11]
Rep. Charles B. Rangel [NY-15]
Rep. Amo Houghton [NY-29]
Rep. Sherrod Brown [OH-13]
Rep. Todd Platts [PA-19]
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy [RI-1]
Rep. James R. Langevin [RI-2]

SPONSOR OF S. 1704: Senator Susan Collins [ME]

Sen. Mark Lunsford Pryor [AR]
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski [MD]
Sen. Norm Coleman [MN]
Sen. Jeff Bingaman [NM]

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