A few weeks ago, when Congress came back from its August recess I blogged that I thought Congress should resist the temptation to use its remaining time in session as a proxy for the election in November and instead focus on passing some common-sense legislation.

That was before the financial meltdown on Wall Street kicked into high gear, but Congress has nonetheless followed through and passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increased Adoptions Act of 2008, the most significant reform of the nation’s child welfare and foster care system in at least a decade.

The bill isn’t going to win any member of Congress an election, or attract blanket cable news coverage, but it will give some of our nation’s most vulnerable children a chance to find a permanent home. It’s also exactly the sort of bicameral, bipartisan bill that should restore some confidence in a beleaguered Congress (and among policy wonks everywhere).

One of the bill’s real innovations, a provision that defies liberal and conservative orthodoxies, will allow children in foster care living with grandparents and other relatives to exit the foster care system to what is called subsidized guardianship. Many of the 500,000 children in foster care are living with relatives in a stable home, but can’t leave without jeopardizing the Title IV-E maintenance payment that allows their grandmother or grandfather to care for them. The new provision allows the children to exit the foster care system while the grandparent still receives the Title IV-E maintenance payment. Several states, including Illinois, got a waiver to run such a program and were able to significantly reduce the number of children in foster care.

But, want to know the most encouraging part of the program? It actually saves taxpayers $700 million over 10 years — now that’s the kind of bailout everyone can support.

The views expressed in this blog do not represent the views or opinions of Generations United.