2009-05-13 / Features

Crowley Introduces Foster Care Mentoring Bill

Congressmember Joseph Crowley has introduced a bill to connect children in foster

Congressmember Joseph Croley (c), speaking, is joined at press conference by Rosie O'Donnell, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, and foster care advocates. Congressmember Joseph Croley (c), speaking, is joined at press conference by Rosie O'Donnell, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, and foster care advocates. care with responsible, caring adults by funding programs to establish statewide foster care mentoring programs and to launch a national public awareness campaign for mentor recruitment programs. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D- Louisiana) is the sponsor in the Senate.

Crowley was joined at the announcement of the legislation by movie and television star Rosie O'Donnell, a foster care advocate.

Crowley's legislation meets the goals set by advocates of National Foster Care Month.

"Too many foster children in the United States are growing up without the support and guidance of a close adult," Crowley stated. "This is unacceptable. Children need consistent and stable adult support to navigate through difficult times. Foster children with mentors have better academic performance, fewer behavioral issues and are less likely to commit crime."

The lawmaker continued, "The Foster Care Mentoring Act we have introduced today will build a national program to recruit and sustain mentors for foster children across the U.S. including my home state in New York, and raise public awareness on the issue. Mentoring is an enriching experience for both mentor and mentee."

O'Donnell pointed out the shortcomings of the present system which she said must be addressed. "The state doesn't do a wonderful job of raising foster kids, so we need to set up systems and opportunities like those mentoring programs proposed by Senator Landrieu," O'Donnell declared.

"Part of the issue with getting people to volunteer with foster care youth is that you want to entice the right kind of people with the right kind of motives," she added. "Attracting college-educated people to help mentor kids who are in need and at the same time forgive some of their student loans is a wonderful, unique and very clever way to introduce a whole new segment of the population to this at-risk group of kids here in our country."

O'Donnell referred to a provision in the Crowley/Landrieu legislation that would allow up to $20,000 in federal loan forgiveness for volunteers who mentor a child in foster care.

The sponsors and O'Donnell were joined by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute (CCAI) and Lifetime Television as the legislation's unveiling.

Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) said the bill would provide $15 million to establish foster care mentoring programs and $4 million to begin a national public awareness/campaign recruitment program, as well as the student loan forgiveness offer.

—John Toscano

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