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The Keeping Families Together Act (S. 1704/H.R. 3243)

Federal Legislation Designed to End Custody Relinquishment


NAMI Creates a Story Bank on Custody Relinquishment

Co-Sponsors Needed for Federal Legislation

Bipartisan federal legislation, the Keeping Families Together Act (Senate Bill - S. 1704 and House Bill - H.R. 3243), introduced on October 2nd -- promises to address the scandal that has lingered too long in states throughout the nation - parents being forced to give up custody of their children solely to secure vitally necessary mental health treatment.

The Keeping Families Together Act is a critical step toward ending a system in shambles and building a better mental health system for children with mental illnesses and their families.

Custody Relinquishment Story Bank

The sharing of family stories -- the pain and struggle that comes with forcing families to choose between their child and accessing critically necessary mental health treatment - is clearly one of the most effective methods to ending this practice.

The media, legislative staff and others often contact NAMI and other advocacy groups -  often in disbelief that this actually happens to families -- and request family stories related to custody relinquishment. For that reason, we are creating a story bank to allow us to share more of these stories and to put a face on this tragedy.  It will also support our advocacy efforts on the Keeping Families Together Act.  The story bank will allow us to show legislators and policymakers both the magnitude of this practice and the incredible toll that it takes on families.

If your family has faced relinquishing custody of your child to access mental health services, please consider including your story in the custody relinquishment story bank.  Also, please let other families in your state and communities know that we are developing this story bank.

To learn more about the story bank and to access it, please click here

Co-Sponsors Needed for The Keeping Families Together Act (S. 1704/H.R. 3243)

We urge you to contact your Senators and House members to ask for their co-sponsorship and support of this critically important legislation.

Here are some talking points to share with your Congressional Representatives in requesting their support:

  • This legislation provides grants to states to build more efficient and family friendly mental health care systems so that families are not forced to turn custody of their child over to the state for the sole purpose of accessing mental health services;
  • This legislation establishes a federal interagency task force to examine and make recommendations related to mental health issues in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.  The General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report documenting this crisis in which thousands of families from across the country are forced to relinquish custody of their child to these two systems to access mental health services;
  • This legislation removes statutory barriers that currently prevent more states from using the Medicaid home-and-community-based service waiver to serve children with mental illnesses - currently only 3 states use this Medicaid waiver for services for children with mental health needs - Kansas, New York and Vermont; and
  • We would not dream of asking parents and caregivers of children with other serious illnesses - like cancer or diabetes -- to give up custody of their child to access care and services -- it is morally repugnant and wrong to do so with children with mental illnesses.

The time is long overdue to stop this practice. Please urge your Representatives to co-sponsor the Keeping Families Together Act to end the practice.

Here is a list of current Congressional sponsors and co-sponsors of this critically important legislation. Please contact them and thank them for their support.

Senate Sponsor and Co-Sponsors

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) - Sponsor

Senate Co-sponsors (4):

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE)

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)

House Sponsor and Co-Sponsors

Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-MN) - Sponsor

House Co-sponsors (15):

Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA)

Rep. Charles Pickering (R-MS)

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)

Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA)

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)

Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Rep. James Langevin (D-RI)

Rep. George Miller (D-CA)

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY)

All Senators and House Representatives can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org. You can also contact them directly in the Contact Your Representative section of NAMI.org.

Thank you for your continuing advocacy on these important issues.

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