There was no news regarding the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, (HR 5456, Conference Report 114-628) as time in this session winds down to a pre-election pause. There were on-going discussions regarding potential amendments and verbal or written assurances to fix the legislation but there did not seem to be any clear indication that the bill could be amended or that assurances would be enough.

There are at least three Senate “holds,” that is individual senators objecting to moving the bill on a voice vote.  The states most public with their concerns include California, Wyoming, Texas and New York.  It is not clear how many senators have actual holds (only one is required and all can remain anonymous).

The back and forth has intensified and feelings are getting harder with some on Capitol Hill expressing concerns that failure to act this year would close a window on future actions even if children in foster care get left behind due to the political struggle.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of continued increases in foster care numbers with unofficial data indicating that foster care increased for the second straight year (FY 2015) by another 12,000 children to 427,000 children.  In all likelihood a result of the opioid epidemic.  That means that over two years from 2013 to 2015 foster care numbers have gone from 400,000 to 427,000, approximately a 6 percent increase over that period.  The numbers do not take into account increases for 2016.

The latest increases took place in 33 states.  Looking back over the two-year period between 2013 through 2015 only eight states plus the District of Columbia have not had increases: Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Oregon.