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Kline Statement: Debate on H.R. 4843, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act

Like many of the bills the House is slated to consider this week, this legislation will help address the growing opioid epidemic that has swept across America, focusing specifically on the most vulnerable among us.

This crisis has led to a number of painful consequences for individuals and families across the country, but few are as tragic as those suffered by infants born to parents struggling with an opioid addiction.

As is often the case with addiction, the parents’ struggle affects those around them, including their newborns. In fact, according to a recent Reuters investigation, more than 130,000 babies born in the United States in the last decade entered the world addicted to drugs.

The Reuters report described the pain suffered by newborns going through withdrawal and told the stories of infants who actually lost their lives because of a terrible addiction.

Many of the stories are too disturbing to even mention, but perhaps even more disturbing than the details is the fact that these deaths should have been prevented.

Current policies—including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act—are meant to prevent these tragedies from ever happening. The law is simple: if a state wants to receive federal funding, then the state has to provide some basic assurances about their child welfare policies, and the Department of Health and Human Services has a responsibility to ensure those policies are actually in place.

But as we now know all too well, this important federal law is not being properly followed and enforced.

Earlier this year, I sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to better understand how it works with states to ensure they are meeting current child welfare requirements.

Not surprisingly, the department passed the buck and suggested recent changes to the law somehow absolve them from their enforcement responsibilities—a disappointing response, to say the least.

Fortunately, thanks to the work of Representatives Barletta and Clark, we’re here today to consider our response to this preventable problem: the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act.

I appreciate their leadership in developing a bipartisan bill that will require the department to do its job and assist states in their efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation and to help ensure the most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic receive the help and care they desperately need.

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