On October 28th, 2021, President Biden announced the Build Black Better framework.
If passed, the legislation would make significant investments in the United States’ social safety net, and could provide substantial benefits to children and families impacted by the child welfare system. The Build Back Better package passed the House of Representatives in late November. Next, it is in the Senate, where it is likely to be revised in the coming weeks.
First, The BBB legislation proposes to invest more in children and caregiving, providing free universal preschool access for all children ages three to four. Universal preschool will create more time and respite for caregivers, especially foster and kinship caregivers. Additionally, the new policy will lower child care costs and provide more support for parents seeking child care. For example, a family of four making less than $300,000 yearly will pay no more than 7% of their income on child care for children under six. Access to early childhood education and child care are associated with decreased rates of children maltreatment (Green et al., 2014; Klevens, Barnett, Florence & Moore, 2014).
The Build Black Better legislation also proposes to extend tax credits beyond the end of the year. Since July 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) increased the Child Tax Credit (CTC) from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under the age of six, and raised the age limit for benefits from 16 to 17 years old. All working families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a family with a single parent. Data showed that since the ARPA’s expansion, families have been getting more sufficient access to food and other necessities (DeStefano, 2021). Moreover, the Child Tax Credit was associated with lower likelihood of injuries and behavioral problems in children whose mother was eligible for CTC (Rostad, Klevens, Ports & Ford, 2020). Several policy analyses indicate that expansion of the ARPA will significantly reduce child poverty (Landry & Nunez, 2021; Acs & Werner, 2021).
The Earned Income Credit (EITC) is proposed to triple for childless workers. Under the new policy, youth in extended foster care would receive a higher tax credit. The EITC lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty in 2013, including five million children; and is associated with positive academic and health outcomes in children (Marr, Huang, Sherman & Debot, 2015). However, the former EITC policy failed to include individuals who do not have children, which heavily affected youths who are formerly in foster care or those currently in extended foster care as they are less likely to receive financial support from their parents like youths who are not involved in foster care. The new expansion will allow these youths to receive more tax credits, which might help them stay out of poverty.
Build Black Better expands Medicaid coverage for people who are uninsured, and will benefit children, parents, and caregivers through increased access to medical care services. Continuity of medical coverage has been an issue in child welfare; children often experience gaps in healthcare coverage as they move between homes and uninsured rates increase as they age of out the system. Continuous Medicaid access is linked to lower child maltreatment investigation rates (Klevens et al., 2014).
Another component of the framework includes expanding access to affordable, high quality education beyond high school. Specifically, the new policy increases the amount of available Pell grants for colleges and job trainings, and invests in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Former foster youths experience financial barriers in seeking higher education (Tobolowsky et al., 2019). The increased investment in Black minority serving institutions will be beneficial for youths in foster care since Black youths are overrepresented in the child welfare system (Children’s Bureau, 2021). This expansion will grant better educational and training access for youths in foster care and extended foster care, thus providing them more career opportunities.
If the Build Back Better legislation passes in its current form, it will have numerous positive effects on families involved with and at risk of becoming involved with the child welfare system. Read more about the plan here.