Improved Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act of 2016

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 7, 2016
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, along with my colleagues Mr. Reichert, Mr. Doggett, Mr. Davis of Illinois, and Mr. Reed, I am proud to introduce today the Improving Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act, which provides federal tax incentives to private sector employers that hire youth transitioning from the foster care system to independence.

The outcomes for transition age foster youth in this coup are heartbreaking: half are unemployed at age 24; half will spend time in a homeless shelter; and 70 percent will be reliant on government assistance after emancipating from foster care. The federal government has both an economic and moral interest in improving outcomes for these youth.

In 2008, we passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which recognized the challenges faced by youth transitioning out of foster care and enables them to continue to receive supports and services until they turn 21. In passing that bill our goal was not to extend dependency on the foster care system, but rather to use the additional time spent in extended foster care to help them become independent. While extended foster care is providing a critical lifeline for thousands of youth across the country, more needs to be done to help these youth connect with career opportunities and attain self-sufficiency.

A key strategy will be engaging the private sector in this effort. There is a developing partnership in California between the nonprofit iFoster, public child welfare agencies, community-based organizations, and the grocery industry to create an employment pipeline for foster youth that is already demonstrating great success in preparing foster youth for competitive work, and supporting them on the job to ensure retention and promotion. The Improving Employment Outcomes for Foster Youth Act will make transition age foster youth categorically eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), an existing federal credit that provides incentives to businesses to hire employees from certain populations with specific employment challenges. In doing so, this bill will help encourage other sectors to follow the grocery industry's lead in hiring and investing in our nation's foster youth and starting them on a successful career path.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important legislation.