Keeping Families Together

2003 Teresa Kellerman

Updated March 22, 2009


Keeping Families Together Act

110th Congress

Senate Bill 382

House Resolution 687

This legislation was introduced in October 2003, and again in 2004, and again in 2005, and again in 2007.  Each year the bill is introduced, sent to committee, and left to die.  It has been introduced again in the 111th Congress (2009).  This bill if passed would amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a State family support grant program to end the practice of parents giving legal custody of their seriously emotionally disturbed children to State agencies for the purpose of obtaining mental health services for those children.  This is a response to the crisis in our nation presented by ineffective and inadequate services available to families whose children have serious emotional disturbances. 

Children who have mental health issues often require emergency treatment, and families find themselves faced with returning home with children who are still in crisis, without the supports they need to keep the children and other family members safe.  Cost of care that these children require is prohibitive to all but the few famileis who have financial resources for private care.  Most families are forced to relinquish parental rights in order for their children to get the care they need through state systems.  This legislation will offer a solution to this dilemma by funding emergency care systems and Medicaid coverage for home and community based services, thus ensuring that these children receive the services that they need without their parents giving up legal custody of their children.

The National Mental Health Association has requested letters from families who have had to relinquish custody of their children in order to get needed mental health services.  Personal stories can be sent to  Kirsten Beronio at  The Mental Health Association has issued a legislative report that is following the house and senate bills:

Children who are prenatally exposed to alcohol are at high risk of having serious emotional problems and mental health issues, especially those children with the invisible forms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).  Some of these children are diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and some are not.  Some are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder, and some do not have a diagnosis at all.  Many children with FAE are bright and appear to be physically normal, but have serious neurobehavioral disorders that are not diagnosed or recognized until adolescence.  Parents are often not prepared to provide the kind of care these children need.  Here is one parent's story:

"We cannot take her home"


Find out the status and cosponsors of SB382:|/bss/d110query.html|


Track the status of HR 687 here:|/bss/d110query.html|


Track the status of HR823 (2005) here:


Track the status of HR687 (2007) here:|/bss/d110query.html|


Track HR 938 (2009) here:



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