On Saturday, December 6, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) lost her bid for re-election in a Senate run-off race in Louisiana. With her departure a long time advocate on child welfare issues will be leaving the Senate in a few days.
Although Landrieu was not on the two key committees that oversee child welfare programs, the Finance Committee and the HELP Committee, she managed to play a significant roll and provide an important voice on child welfare issues. She is an adoptive parent. She was a founding co-Chair and Board President of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and co-chair of the Congressional Foster Care Caucus. In terms of legislation she managed to play important roles despite not being on key committees of jurisdiction, a task not that easy in the U.S. Congress. Senator Landrieu was the proponent of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires states to provide Medicaid coverage to age 26 for youth that had been in foster care. More recently in the last appropriations she managed to insert language into the HHS appropriations that designates a small amount of funding for the purpose of promoting programs that focus on the adoption of older youth from foster care.
Landrieu came to the Senate after winning her first race in 1996 and in her farewell remarks on Thursday, December 11, she reflected on a number of important issues including adoption and foster care, in those remarks she said,
“There are over 100,000 children who are waiting for families in the United States. There are over 500,000 children in foster care. These children think it is their fault they are there, and it is not. It is not their fault that their family disintegrated around them. It is not their fault that they got pregnant at 11 and were kicked out of their house. Instead of the family wrapping that child in their arms and helping them to grow, they just kicked them out on the street. It is not their fault.
We need to realize that God does not make trash. He never has, and he never will. Everybody he has made has a purpose and dignity, and we need to honor that and do better work. I have spent a lot of time here on it. I am going to continue to do so. I will never stop working on it. I am very proud of the work we have done.”