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The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. PUTNAM). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 3, 2001, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. JACKSON-LEE) is recognized for 60 minutes.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, so many of us continue to feel the overwhelming impact that Americans felt after the horrific attack on America on September 11, 2001.
My colleague just finished a very extensive discussion and explanation of the agreements and disagreements as it relates to Federal security and the airlines. We will have an opportunity, however, this week to debate that question on the floor of the House, those of us who support the Senate bill and the Democratic substitute that we hope will be presented; and of course the majority will have an opportunity to present their ideas to the floor.
A couple of weeks ago we debated the question of how the President would respond to these horrific acts. Although the time was not long enough, we had the opportunity to debate the war resolution and the War Powers Act and to include Congress' voice and Congress' desire to have oversight as we send our men and women to foreign shores.
Shortly thereafter, we debated the question of bailing out airlines. In the aftermath of September 11, we were told by the industry that they were in severe distress. Although it was not sufficient time, we debated that question on the floor of the House and provided the airline industry with approximately $15 billion.
I believe in providing an opportunity for these airlines to survive. This evening Members will hear me talk about providing an opportunity for employees to survive. So I do not fault what we ultimately did with assisting airlines. I am hoping, having the responsibility of representing Continental Airlines in my hometown, my congressional district, I do believe that we must ensure that the access to commerce, the free movement of people is supported. We are hoping as we begin to secure the airlines and to pass legislation that will provide Federal security for our airlines, we will see the American people accept the comfort, if you will, of the safety of traveling and more and more will travel.
Just today we passed H. Con. Res. 243, expressing the sense of Congress that the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor should be presented to the public safety officers who have perished and select other public safety officers who deserve special recognition for outstanding valor above and beyond the call of duty in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.
I supported this legislation. I am gratified that the House had an opportunity to debate the valor of these public safety officers, the great thanks that we owe them, the firefighters, the emergency preparedness officers, the police officers and all others who worked those days in New York and Somerset, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
We debated on the floor of the House H. Con. Res. 233. I am delighted that we were able to support legislation expressing the profound sorrow of the Congress for the death and injuries suffered by first responders as they endeavored to save innocent people in the aftermath of the terrorist acts on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
We, in a very unified manner, supported this legislation. I am proud that the Congress took time to debate this and voted on this unanimously, almost, to the extent that Members were here. This is good legislation, and I support it.
Interesting enough, however, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, I have not heard one full debate on the floor of the House about the children who suffered and are still suffering. Not one hour, not one moment has been debated and allowed for legislation that focuses on the loss of these children.
H. Con. Res. 228 dated September 14, 2001, sponsored and cosponsored by over 40 to 50 Members of the United States Congress, focuses on these children. It seems to me that a Nation that prides itself on the value and investment of children and recognizes that our children are our future, it seems to me that the House leadership is going astray, that they cannot find minimal time in all of the time for suspensions and other initiatives, to be able to bring to the floor of the House a resolution that acknowledges to America we care about our children.
This evening I am going to discuss the plight of these children and wonder why this House leadership in conjunction with the many Members who have signed H. Con. Res. 228, have not been able to bring this legislation to the floor. Let me read simply what it says: expressing the sense of Congress that the children who lost one or both parents or a guardian on September 11, 2001, World
Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies, including the aircraft crash in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, should be provided with all necessary assistance, services and benefits, and urging the heads of Federal agencies responsible for providing such assistance, services and benefits, to give the highest priority to providing such assistance, services and benefits to those children.
It is a simple proposition. It simply acknowledges in the law that if a child lost one parent or two parents, either through the tragedies of those airplanes or anyone lost on the ground, that you would be prioritized for benefits that the Federal Government might assist you in securing. Is it a handout legislation? No, it is not. Is it legislation that throws aside other needy children, children who have been abused, suffering from child abuse and other forms of abuse, sexual abuse? Absolutely not.
It takes the bully pulpit of the United States of America and acknowledges this family. Acknowledges Mr. Calderon and the loss of his wife, Lizzie Martinez Calderon. Mr. Calderon is a bus driver in New York. Immediately after he finally concluded that Lizzie was not coming home any more, he realized he was a single parent, like many other parents in the United States of America, but with a connection to a horrific day, a situation where he could not tell his children where their mommy had gone. Little Naomi, 4 years old, and his baby son, 20 months old.
They were here in Washington with me because I felt it was important to bring this family here to show to the Congress that he is but one example of the thousands and thousands of children who have lost a parent or both parents. Children who waved good-bye early morning on September 11, 2001, children who were left at baby-sitters and day-care centers and schools, and parents never came home to see them.
This resolution is simple. It simply says we need to get a handle on the children who have lost parents and who have lost a single parent, and we simply need to help them.
This does not have anything to do with children who are in the system, who are being taken care of, who are suffering from abuse. I have heard that excuse as to why this legislation is not moving. But I simply want to point to this family, and I will point to them time and time again about this great loss that this family has experienced. The tragedies of September 11, 2001, left thousands of victims from all around the world experiencing the devastation of the loss of a loved one. Those of us who have gone to Ground Zero, still seeing the seeping smoke, smelling the stench but most of all seeing the sense of loss, those of us who have seen the wall of honor, who have looked at those families, knowing they have come from places around the world and certainly those here in the United States, we realize that the words that the mayor of New York said are so close to our heart. Indeed, these attacks against all people and against all humanity are more than any of us can bear.
What do you think the children are experiencing today? What about the quagmire of red tape and bureaucracy as it relates to a variety of benefits that would provide them with assistance? This legislation simply wants to help the children. Specifically what it does is it works to provide them with the needed foster care assistance, adoption assistance, medical, nutritional and psychological care, such additional care or services as may be necessary. It seeks to help thousands of families like the Calderon family.
Let me talk a little bit about these tragedies. Let us just talk about these victims. Passengers and crew of Flight 77, Flight 11, Flight 93 and Flight 175, civilians and military at the Pentagon, thousands of civilians and rescue workers killed or injured at the World Trade Center, all of them, or many of them, left children behind. The children are what we are speaking about this evening. Let us begin to talk about the numbers.
One of the concerns that this legislation would be able to address, this sense of Congress, is to find out how many of our children are lost, estimates of children impacted. The estimates vary greatly. The reason is because we have not had a Federal presence to assist the local and State governments with being able to assess the number of children. Based on news sources, we understand there might be 10,000 children lost. Based upon a report in the New York Times, 15,000. We do know that 4,000 qualify as orphans under the Twin Towers Orphan Fund. One thousand five hundred children left by the 700 missing Cantor Fitzgerald employees alone. This is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that we must address. Four thousand orphans, between 10 and 15,000 children. H. Con. Res. 228 can help us solve that problem.
I am delighted that I see on the floor one of my colleagues who was an original cosponsor of this legislation, the cochair of the Women's Caucus, a strong and eloquent voice for the rights of women and children who realizes that this number, which will continue to grow, cannot be left unattended. What kind of Nation are we if we cannot even attend to the needs of these children? What kind of Nation are we if we cannot address the concerns of the Calderon family? What kind of Nation are we if we cannot eliminate the bureaucratic red tape and help assist those many families? I am delighted to yield to such a fighter for children, the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Millender-McDonald).
Ms. MILLENDER-McDONALD. I thank the gentlewoman from Texas for her leadership on this issue, an issue that she has garnered as the chair of the Congressional Issues on Children, especially the critical role addressing children and mental health. I am here to join her tonight in her efforts to try and push through H. Con. Res. 228 as it relates to our children, and especially the children who have been left parentless with either losing one or two parents.
I am really touched and heartened by the New York Times article today, ``A Nation Challenged.'' Indeed, these are challenging times for all of us, given the events and the tragedy of September 11, but none that is more challenging than that of the children who have been left to try to carry on with either one parent or no parents left after this tragedy. I was reading about this young man, his name is Aidan Fontana, age 5, who lost his father in that tragic fire in New York. His father was a firefighter. This article continues to talk about the trappings of a funeral when his mother finally gave in to the notion that the husband would not be returning and she had the funeral just the other day. It states here that when this young boy, age 5, Aidan, looked out the window and saw the spectacle of a thousand firefighters saluting him, he said to his mama, ``Mommy, I'll remember this day for the rest of my life.'' The mother said, ``Good, that's why we did it.'' She was trying to bring some closure. But, yet, in the aftermath of this, the article goes on to say that he throws tantrums when it is time for bed, something he has never
done before. That is where the whole notion of H. Con. Res. 228 comes into play, when it addresses the needs of these children. It talks about the foster care assistance. It speaks to adoption assistance. There are so many children, 15,000, as the Congresswoman out of Texas has so eloquently put on the floor. We are talking about medical care, nutrition and psychological care, educational services. Such additional care or services are necessary in light of this tragedy. I am so pleased that the Congresswoman has seen the need to bring such a critical and important piece of legislation to this floor, not just because of the Women's Caucus but that is indeed an element by which she has brought this resolution to us, and we have all embraced it, but it is because of this House speaking to and addressing this very Nation's tragedy, this challenge that parents now have before them, a Nation that has been challenged to try to address the needs of these children. And so as she spoke about the 4,000 qualified orphans under
the Twin Towers Orphan Fund, when you talk about the different children missing at the Cantor Fitzgerald employees alone, some 1,500, I say to her, keep bearing, keep pushing on. This legislation is critically needed. We know that the children of our Nation are suffering in many ways and in need of mental health, but this is another group that has been added to those numbers that indeed need the mental health assistance, the psychological assistance and the nurturing assistance of all of us here in Congress.
I urge my colleagues to join with me and all of the others who are original cosigners of H. Con. Res. 228 that speaks to, addresses, listens to and helps in the assistance of the children who have been befallen by the death of one or two parents. I thank the gentlewoman so much for yielding.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to applaud the gentlewoman for putting a visual face on this young boy through the article of the New York Times to really translate to this House what this legislation does. What this legislation helps us do, first of all, is to have a debate about children, how the children were impacted on September 11, but then it moves to the next step, which says this is going to be a long journey. Remember, the President said the war is going to be a long journey. But the pain and the hurt that will be impacting these survivors, and then these children, is going to be a long journey. The gentlewoman just highlighted what has been quiet, what has been hidden, what these now single parents and certainly as I indicated earlier, we know children across the Nation have suffered the loss of a parent. We know children across the Nation need foster care and need adoption. But we have never experienced this in our entire lifetime.
Ms. MILLENDER-McDONALD. If I might say to the gentlewoman, this is absolutely true. Many kids have lost their parents at an early age, some to illness and other catastrophic events. But this event has taken us not only by surprise, it has knocked us off our feet. Yet we have so many children who have been knocked off their feet, off their pedestal, if you will, of having a father to come home at night and tuck them into bed, of having a mother who is a flight attendant to come in after having circled the globe, if you will, from one end of this country to the other and then back home. We can think of the flight attendants whose husbands have talked about the loss of their wives. Yet they talk about now having to be the parent for the children. I say to the gentlewoman, this debate must be taken on this floor, because we must continue to raise the bar on the importance of attention to these children who lost their parent or parents on September 11.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. I thank the gentlewoman. She is so absolutely right. The issue before us is long range. I would just simply refer to her, because I know that she is a parent. I know that in her legislative leadership in the State of California, certainly she was very active on education issues. We are told frequently in dealing with teachers, in dealing with the school system, there is some latent impact, if you will, on children who have gone through trauma. So we do not know how many months, years down the road we will be experiencing some of the impact of this particular incident through these children, as indicated by these findings. But what I want to say to the gentlewoman and I would like to yield to her for her response, the difference, I think, that will befall these children slightly different from certainly the other sad stories of children who have lost their parents, this is being repeated over and over and over again. This is going to be the discussion of Americans over and over and over again. Just yesterday, we were put on a high alert. We are living this. And so these children cannot put it to rest. They cannot get past this. They cannot heal. It is important for the Federal Government to take a public stand of being concerned about these children.
Ms. MILLENDER-McDONALD. I am reminded of the fact that when we both went to New York to Ground Zero, that the very able Mayor Giuliani said that they see 20 funerals a day. Just think of the 20 funerals a day that our children see on television or even being talked about by friends who were friends to their father or mother whose life was lost. Yes, in education, as a former teacher, I have seen children who have gone through different traumas. You would think that they have walked through and there has been some finality to it. But in a month or 2 months or even a year, it all comes back and they are back into the throes of a very imbalanced, they are just absolutely frustrated, confused, they cry. They do those things that get attention because they do not know what else to do given the hurt that they are bearing, that they are feeling because of the death of a parent. Just to think of these children who just in a matter of 30 minutes with the catastrophic thing that happened to the Twin Towers, their parent, one of their parents' or both of their parents' lives were taken. And so I challenge all of us to talk about and to get to the crux of the problem of how we are going to deal with these children who have lost their parent or parents, and who are now challenged with trying to continue on in their little lives with this type of traumatic mental and psychological issue before them. I challenge every one of the Members of this House to let us pass H.Con.Res. 228, let us debate upon it, and let us begin to start addressing the needs of our children.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from California (Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD) for joining me this evening, and I appreciate very much her leadership on this issue. The gentlewoman highlighted some very important issues and particularly talking about the little 5-year old. What a sense of maturity for a 5-year old to say he will never forget this day and then to hear that he experiences these traumatic events at night, these kinds of episodes that he is experiencing. None of us are psychologists but we can imagine that he is going through something so tumultuous that he cannot explain it.
In fact, the National Mental Health Association has highlighted that very point.
War-related violence of the Bosnian war paralleled attacks of September 11, 2001. Again, violence, war-related violence on our soil.
Years after the war, teens, from the Bosnian war of course, still experience chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and grief.
Children's normal grievance process interrupted. That, of course, is the process that we are talking about. We cannot bring closure if in the instances of many of these children the loved one's remains were not found. I mentioned the loss of 700 employees from Cantor Fitzgerald. I know this is tragic to say. Someone may be listening and so I do not want to emphasize it, but they were at a very high height, and so many of these families have not had the ability to grieve, and those families include children who have not had the ability to grieve.
In addition, as we said earlier, this goes over and over again. If New York is showing 20 funerals a day, if the media is recounting these episodes, if we are still talking about finding terrorists, all of this reminds the children of the fact that this incident occurred but that they lost their parent.
I am told that in the State of New Jersey in one city 25 dads were lost in that one community. If that is accurate, can you imagine the need for an emphasis of care there?
This resolution does two things. One, it allows the Federal Government to speak in one voice about the children. Secondarily, it gives comfort and encouragement to State jurisdictions and local jurisdictions to formulate their own special task force that can assist the spiritual community, social service community in finding these families and guiding them through the process.
These families may not all need a welfare assistance. They may need the Social Security death benefit. They may need educational benefits, but they may not need the ongoing welfare system. I do not want anyone to think that all the families are alike, but I can assure you they may need the social services and to have the social service community focus upon their needs.
How many times I have spoken to parents who have gone through this traumatic event and they are just going through normal events, and they need the social service system.
I would be happy to yield to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Millender-McDonald).
Ms. MILLENDER-McDONALD. Mr. Speaker, when the gentlewoman talked about this legislation and the need for the local and State to integrate their coordination of services to address the needs of these children and families, I am reminded of the fact that we will soon have the aviation security bill on the floor. The one thing that we have talked about with that bill, with the anti-terrorism bill and all of the bills that have come since the tragic events of September 11, we have talked about the local and the States services getting together, public health, other health, mental health, psychological health services, getting together in a coordinated effort to address the needs that is addressed in the various pieces of legislation I have just mentioned.
It is so timely now for us to bring about the same type of coordinating of services that addresses the needs of our children. It is really I think unconscionable for us not to have the children as part of this whole package of legislation that we speak to with reference to healing, trying to bring closure, trying to bring some sense of caring and some sense of assistance to the myriad of needs out there, given the September 11, but our children, the most important investment that we have, the future of this country, we cannot tarry any longer from addressing those needs that are outlined in this legislation.
So, again, I thank the gentlewoman so much for her leadership on this and for bringing this to us, letting us now include in that final piece of that puzzle our children, the need to address their psychological and other needs given the tragic events of September 11.
Mr. Speaker, I will yield back.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, as I
indicated, I thank the gentlewoman for her leadership. I think the working relationship between the Congressional Children's Caucus and the Women's Caucus has been a steady and ongoing friendship, and I look forward to us maybe collaborating on hearings, briefings that would bring families like Mr. Calderon, who I have had the pleasure of seeing and giving him encouragement, but maybe some more of these families can come and brief us and inform us as to what other services this whole community may need.
Again, it is New York. It is right here in Washington, D.C. I think we recall the fact that even children were lost on the planes, and I know that their parents are suffering.
We are speaking about children but I am reminded of the story of the little boy here from Washington, students, I guess there were more than one, going out for a special program out in California who lost their lives, but there are going to be a lot of children here, New York, Somerset and other places because we have not accounted for the passengers who lived in different locations other than these places, and that is the concern that I have, have we reached out to all these.
So I look forward to us maybe collaborating so that this House can understand better.
Let me again reemphasize to the House what we are speaking about as it relates to this legislation.
Foster care assistance. There may be a need if a single parent is the sole bread winner now that foster care be temporarily in place, because that parent is not willing nor desirous of giving up that child. He or she loves the child but because of the tumultuous experiences that both have gone through in losing another parent they need temporary assistance. We need to ensure that that is prioritized and those children are in the system in an expedited process.
In addition to the foster care that they might be given, that because of these unknowns, that the foster care parent, family that they select has the special resources and support to help that child go through trauma while they are separated from their parent.
Adoption. I indicated that there were children who lost two parents, remaining at day care centers, remaining at baby-sitters, remaining at schools. Some of them are in homes of relatives, but that may not be the final place for them. It may not be a place where they can continue to live. We appreciate families and friends that have taken in these children, but this may not be the final place where they are able to be maintained.
Medical, nutritional and psychological care. There is no doubt this particular list points to teenagers, but we just heard a story about a 5-year-old who is experiencing temper tantrums. You just met Naomi, who is four and her younger brother, 20 months old, who are continuously asking even in my presence where their mommy was, calling out mommy's name.
How do you work with children unless the Congress, in collaboration with local governments, begins to ask the questions are there sufficient services like foster care assistance, adoption assistance, medical nutritional and psychological care and educational services? These children are going to be in our school systems all over the country. They are going to be in classes from preschool to kindergarten, to primary and middle school. They are going to be in high school and they are going to be looking to teachers and school guidance counselors and others. How can we help them if we do not have a sense of their need?
Additionally, we urge such agencies to maximize to the extent possible to take such steps to ensure that such assistance, services and benefits are provided within 60 days of the date of the determination of the death of the child's parent or guardian. That is a big step in this legislation.
What we are suggesting is we want these children to be out of the quagmire of bureaucracy. We want their needs to be addressed quickly and carefully. We would like these supporters, if single parent or relative or friends, who have these children right now, to be able to get in the social service system in the right way so that the stress is not overly emphasized.
It is very important that this Congress again speak to this issue. We had, as I indicated earlier, the Congressional Children's Caucus, a briefing on October 12, 2001, on the basis of moving this legislation forward. We had a briefing that would help to move the Congress' mind toward making sure our children are taken care of.
Cindy Freidmutter, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York, spoke to the very issue of how to take care of these children. She noted that after September 11 the Adoption Institute proposed the permanency project to minimize further trauma and uncertainty in lives of children who lost one or both parents in the attack.
This project is needed due to the uncertain future
faced by children who have lost their parent, parents or guardian. For many of these children, extended family members become decision makers and permanent care givers for these children. Some children, however, may not have a relative or a friend to assume parental responsibility and eventually enter the public welfare system. Other children find themselves moved from place to place and relative to relative.
We need to embrace such programs in order to be able to step in and provide the social service embrace that these children need. This resolution will help the Department of HHS, Health and Human Services, begin to interface with organizations like the one represented by Cindy Freidmutter dealing with adoption and establishing a permanency project.
It is important that as adoption is looked at for these children that included in the determination are new parents who can address the question of trauma. Again, I repeat the point, these children will be living through this day after day after day, month after month after month because we are living through this as we speak.
Terrorists are here with us as we have come to understand. The Department of Justice and the Attorney General just yesterday announced that we are on high alert. These children will be engaged in that. Their classmates will be talking about it, asking them about their mommies and their daddies, have they come home yet, and because of that, this legislation is needed. We need to ensure that this legislation asks those agencies to be able to move quickly.
Medical and nutritional services. Without a parent or guardian to provide regular medical and nutritional services, children face worsening situations.
That speaks particularly to those who may have stepped in now to help these children. As they have stepped in to help these children, they need support. The medical care covers the psychological care, and we do not know whether or not these children will face medical problems because of the stress. We do not know what the impact on little bodies and little minds will be, so it is important that we provide that kind of care.
According to the National Mental Health Association, children who experience such trauma are at extreme risk of mental disorders, particularly in situations such as this, where ongoing trauma exists due to the loss of parents or a guardian. For example, as I noted in the Bosnian war, we are able to tell that those children still are impacted. But even today, with the mental health crisis that we have in this Nation, we realize that less than the number of children that need access to mental health care get access to mental health care. In fact, that is one of our greatest tragedies in this Nation. We are not able to provide those resources. We do not have them in the schools. We do not have them in the communities.
That is why I have authored H.R. 75, Give a Kid a Chance mental health omnibus bill, to provide more community mental health centers in our Nation. But we do know that less than three-quarters of the children who need such care in America do not get the care. We have seen that during the months and years that we experienced enormous, terrible incidences of children using guns. Many of those children needed mental health services. So here we have a situation where a child is not themselves doing violent acts, but violent acts have been perpetrated on them by the violent loss of their parents.
I do not know how we can stay in this House and provide the assistance that the President asked for, fighting terrorists, which we all do support; I do not know how we can debate airlines, which we all do support, the airlines being bailed out, and we can now debate the security for the airlines; we all support that. My many friends who are on the airlines working, stewards and stewardesses, I am very supportive of them getting this assistance. We want the airline industry to remain strong, to get stronger, and to be part of this economy. But can we not have a debate and pass H. Con. Res. 228 to help the children of this Nation and the children that have experienced this terrible, traumatic event.
We need as well the educational services that this legislation focuses on. Clearly, children displaced from their homes, communities and families must be stabilized as soon as possible before further damage is done. The point being made is that many of these children may be moved from where they lived in order to stay with relatives and friends. They will be going into new school systems, new schools, and they will be there lonely and by themselves without the support assistance. Why? Because we have failed to establish the Federal Government's caring about these children in order to encourage local governments, wherever these children may find themselves, in whatever States they may find themselves, to encourage these local governments to be looking out for children who are the victims, if you will, of September 11, 2001, by the enormous loss that they have experienced.
So educational services are very, very important. One of the most important factors in providing such stability immediately and in preventing further destabilization is maintaining the level of education that existed prior to the loss of the parents, or guardian. This resolution would help encourage again, the Department of Education to begin to design certain kinds of services, to even do research to be able to determine what these children will actually need in these schools, whether or not what we already have would be the appropriate, if you will, kind of training that the teachers should get and the appropriate kind of educational processes that these children can develop and flourish in.
How important it is to insist that the children have as normal a life as possible. That is what we are trying to get with H. Con. Res. 228. We are trying to get the Federal Government to put its official concern behind this terrible loss. When we have debated everything else, the economics, the war, we have debated supporting and encouraging and applauding and certainly offering our sympathy to those first responders who lost their lives, to those public safety officers who lost their lives, and I am gratified to have joined in that legislation, then do we not think it is time that we recognize the thousands of children, 10,000, 15,000, orphans already declared eligible as orphans under the Twin Towers Orphan Fund. Now we need to ensure that this is not short-lived, but, in fact, we have it in an ongoing time frame. It is very important to insist upon the children being considered important.
Again, I would like to point out why that is the case and why this resolution should be passed and what it does. It is very simple. It urges the heads of Federal agencies to give the highest possible priority to those children. It is noncontroversial. It merely prioritizes the delivery of Federal benefits currently available under Federal law. When can we pass legislation in this House where we are not going into funds that we really do not have. Some members of the Homeland Security Task Force, led ably by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. MENENDEZ), and I had the pleasure of working with so many Members, we realized that to secure this Nation, to secure it with the right approach, which I believe the Homeland Security Report issued last week by the Task Force excellently presents to the American people on ways to safeguard this Nation. There are other issues that we will be addressing in the future, but it deals with the military and the health and public health system. It also deals with the military, as I said earlier, but also securing our borders. It deals with intelligence. But here we have an initiative that can be delivered to the children, benefits currently available under Federal law. It also urges such agencies, existing agencies to maximize the extent possible to take steps to ensure such assistance, services and benefits are provided within 60 days of the date of the determination of the death of a child's parent or guardian.
Does that seem too difficult, to be able to ensure that these children have a way of getting their benefits quickly? As I indicated, the Homeland Security Task Force recognized in its work that we would need financial assistance, some $3 billion to begin the process of securing this Nation. I am gratified that one of the focuses that they had was the whole idea of the public health system to ensure that we had a public health system that was connected throughout the Nation, rural areas and urban areas, and as we look to ensure that public health system, it would likely include access to mental health services. All of that certainly is something that we will look to the future to do. It is a very excellent road map, guide for legislative initiatives, but can we not, before we even begin that long journey to ensure the safety of this Nation, again, go back to assisting our children. I am unaware of why this is such a difficult proposition, to be able to get the heads of Federal agencies to be concerned about these vital needs. I raise them again. The Calderon family needs to have foster care assistance if that is what the family believes they may need to utilize. I applaud Mr. Calderon at this point because he is taking care of his family. But he is an example of the needs of families. There are families that may need adoption assistance, medical, nutritional and psychological care, educational services and such additional care or services as may be necessary in light of this tragedy.
Let me speak to number 5. What we want to happen there, of course, is we want these communities to be able to assess what new these children need. This is new for all of us. We have never had war on our soil. And this is, in essence, like war. We do not know what additional services these children may need, what kind of school services they may need, whether or not they may need to have some sort of break in their educational career, if you will, and put in another system to help them get through the trauma. Again, we reemphasize the point that these children will live through this trauma over and over again.
Let me share with my colleagues some of the letters from organizations
that I have an enormous amount of respect for, with long histories in fighting for children's issues. Save the Children wrote, ``We endorse the purpose of the resolution, which is to express the desire of Congress to provide immediate relief to the children who suffered the irreplaceable loss of parents or guardians due to the September 11, 2001 tragedies. On behalf of Save the Children, I am writing to lend our support for H. Con. Res. 228 which you introduced in the House of Representatives on September 14, 2001.'' This is from Kathleen Connolly, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy. ``Save the Children applauds your efforts and recognizes the immediate needs of the children who suffered such a great loss as a result of this tragedy. We see this as an essential first step and hope that we can continue to build upon this initiative to meet the long term needs of children everywhere who have been affected by these tragedies and potential future events.''
Child Welfare League of America, on behalf of the Child Welfare League of America: ``I am writing to lend our support for H. Con. Res. 228 which was introduced in the House on September 14. We endorse the purpose of this timely resolution, which is to express the desire of Congress, which is to provide immediate relief to these children. We urge all Members of Congress to join you and the resolution's cosponsors in supporting this legislation.'' This is from Shay Bilchik, their executive director.
Orphan Foundation of America, on behalf of the
Orphan Foundation of America: ``I am writing to lend our full support for H. Con. Res. 228, which was introduced on September 14,'' and they too want the Members of Congress to pass this.
Children's National Medical Center has also sent its support on behalf of their organization to support H. Con. Res. 228, as ``This resolution recognizes it is vital to prioritize the delivery of benefits and services already available under Federal law to children who have incurred these great losses in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and other places. Importantly, the resolution recognizes that the delivery of crucial services and benefits is sometimes delayed due to statutory or administrative delay, often leaving those in need waiting for relief. It is essential that the children who suffered such a great loss as a result of this tragedy not suffer again because of delayed access to needed services and benefits.''
Let me emphasize this point. This is a very important point. Benefits are sometimes delayed due to statutory or administrative delay. This is why this resolution is needed. It gives, if you will, impetus to the engine of government to untangle the administrative red tape, untangle the statutory red tape, not to violate the law, but to move forward on the benefits that these children may need.
The National Association of School Psychologists likewise are supporting H. Con. Res. 228 and they are writing on behalf of the National Association of School Psychologists. ``I am writing to lend our full support for H. Con. Res. 228.'' If there was ever a group that has dealt with children and their needs, they represent over 22,000 school psychologists who work with families and educators to promote youngsters' healthy development and learning. This organization strongly supports public policy that meet the mental health needs of all Americans and particularly those of children and youth. We have already spoken to youth about the potential of the losses that these children will experience, the potential psychological impact that they will have, and that they may need a great emphasis on psychological services right here.
We have already heard about the National Mental Health Association has already said to us that out of the Bosnian war, we saw teenagers who had long term post traumatic experiences and stress that had to be addressed. I do not see how we can even expect not to see these kinds of impacts on the children who lost their parents in that terrible tragedy.
I hope that all of them will be made whole, and that they will again see joy in America and joy in their lives. I know there are loving relatives who will be reaching out to take care of them, many of them. But in instances where they will need foster care or adoption assistance or psychological care or different kinds of educational care, can this Congress not step up to the plate?
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry likewise is offering their support: ``On behalf of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I offer our full support for H. Con. Res. 228. The resolution recognizes that the delivery of crucial services and benefits is sometimes delayed.''
Again, we emphasize that all Members of Congress should support this legislation. I thank Clarice J. Kestenbaum, M.D., president of this organization, for supporting this legislation.
This is crucial. Why we are delaying in the passage of this I cannot understand. I am gratified for the interest of the Senate, the other body, in its review of this legislation, and I do believe that we will have the opportunity to see this legislation passed.
I would hope that we will spend the next couple of days and weeks debating issues that will help the people who lost their loved ones; that we will spend time trying to help those who have been impacted even beyond the terrible violence of September 11, 2001.
I would like to add to my concerns the fact that this House has not brought forth legislation that I have cosponsored, and many others, the Gephardt legislation on the help and assistance for laid-off workers. The headline in USA Today: ``Tough Times for Laid-Off Low-Income Workers.''
``After attacks, the jobless rate climbs and assistance is harder to come by for America's working poor.'' This is a long article that indicates that Congress has yet not finished its job.
That is what I would say about what we owe families like the Calderons, who lost Lizzie Martinez Calderon, their mother. And there their dad is taking care of these two wonderful and beautiful children, children who I know will be loved so much by him and his family, though he indicated that he is here without many of his relatives. They need our help.
H. Con. Res. 228 is a legislative initiative that needs to be passed, and these laid-off workers need our help, as well. Can this Congress only talk about nuts and bolts and not talk about the human loss, the sense and the depth of the feeling that these families are having, having to take care of these precious children without any assistance?
Can we not encourage task forces where necessary, in areas where this impact is felt, that they begin to organize around assisting and providing for these children, making sure that the red tape, administrative red tape, the statutory red tape is not inhibiting or prohibiting the care and nurturing of these precious babies?
House Concurrent Resolution 228 is a simple proposition. It is a sense of Congress. It is a statement to the American people. It is a statement to those States where there is an impact from the tragedy of September 11, where there were so many dads possibly lost in one city, where 4,000 orphans were possibly created at the Twin Towers, where there are guesstimates of between 10,000 and 15,000 children who have lost a parent, guardian, or parents.
And yet on the floor of the House since September 11 we have not dedicated one moment to talk about our children and to pass legislation for these children, to encourage our Federal agencies, from the Department of Education to Health and Human Services to many, many others, to be able to talk about these children.
Health and Human Services has a whole department dealing with mental health issues. I believe they should be front and center in determining how we can help these children.
Mr. Speaker, as I close, let me simply say that I believe it is the obligation of this House to take some time to care about our babies and about our children. These children who have lost their parents, these children need our help, and we need to move H. Con. Res. 228 in order to help our children.
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