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File: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann addresses guests gathered for the premiere screening of "The Gift of Life," a pro-life documentary at the historic Hoyt Sherman Place on December 14, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican find an issue they can agree on. That issue? Improving the foster care system. The new caucus is headed by a former California Assembly speaker and a former GOP presidential candidate.
Nearly half a million American kids are in foster care. Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles says the federal government plays a key role in supervising their care. "Most of the policy that the states and counties are implementing begins on the federal level."
Bass has created the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Her co-chair is Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Bachmann says they're "absolutely united."
Bachmann has been a foster parent to 23 children. She cites a House colleague from a hundred years ago: "Daniel Webster said 'One heart, one cause, one country.' And we’re here to say we are one heart, one cause, one country. And our cause is children."
The caucus kicked off a series of listening tours in Los Angeles last week. Their first initiative is looking at the problem of overmedicating foster kids to control their behavior.
L.A. Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash told lawmakers it’s important to examine how we approve these drugs and monitor their use. He says in California, judges have the responsibility of approving all requests for psychotropic medication for children in our foster care system.
"In Los Angeles each year," he says, "judges are asked to approve between 5- and 10,000 requests for psychotropic medication for children." L.A. County administers the largest foster care system in the U.S.
Congresswoman Bachmann says most of her foster children were prescribed behavior-modifying drugs before they were placed with her family.