2005 Legislative Hot Topics
CWLA's top federal legislative priority in 2005 is to work with Congress and the Administration to develop and advance new federal policies that improve the existing federal-state partnership that finances child welfare. CWLA calls on Congress to implement a true reform for the child welfare system to ensure better protection and support for our nation's most vulnerable children and families and not to react to budget constraints by limiting federal supports for abused and neglected children.
To move forward with a new vision and course of action, the Child Welfare League of America urges Congress to take action to ensure that states and community-based agencies have the tools and resources in place to ensure that our children are protected.
- Reject limited, shortsighted efforts that impose a cap or block grant on federal funding provided by the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program.
- Develop and advance needed comprehensive reform of the child welfare system to ensure that states and child serving community based agencies have the flexibility AND new federal financial resources to implement needed improvements and expand services. This type of comprehensive approach must provide for a full continuum of care, including prevention services, early targeted intervention, family support, family foster care, residential care, treatment services, permanency planning, adoption, kinship/guardianship support, and post permanency services.
- Support incremental improvements including: (1) providing federal assistance to support grandparents and other relatives caring for children with the enactment of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act; and (2) updating the current income eligibility criteria for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.
I. Reject Efforts to Cap or Block Grant Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance
Congress is about to take action on the FY 2006 budget resolution. As a means to reduce overall federal spending, Congress is expected to use this process to reduce federal spending on entitlement programs. As Congress makes these decisions, a cap may be imposed on federal spending for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance that is currently available to anyone who meets the program's strict eligibility criteria. The President's FY 2006 budget proposal also included cap on Title IV-E Foster Care.
II. Support Comprehensive Reform of the Child Welfare System
- Proposals to cap federal funding for foster care and adoption assistance are shortsighted and do not offer the comprehensive solution to addressing the needs of the children and families in the child welfare system.
- Capping the federal level of support for foster care and adoption assistance abandons the federal government's commitment to funding services for abused and neglected children based on the number of eligible children. Instead, a fixed amount of funds for foster care would be available that is no longer driven by the number of eligible children, but by federal budget restrictions.
- A cap or block grant of Title IV-E funding would reduce the federal government's commitment to share the costs of the caring for these abused and neglected children.
A comprehensive federal plan has never been established to ensure that states and communities have all the tools and resources in place to protect our nation's children. Title IV-E is the single largest source of federal funding for child welfare, providing support for out-of-home care and adoption and a safety net for eligible children who have been abused and neglected or are at risk of abuse and neglect and need out-of-home care. However, no comparable guaranteed federal funding exists to support other services, including prevention, family support, postadoption, and reunification services.
What now exists at the federal level is an incomplete federal financing system that is in urgent need of reform. The federal government has established new mechanisms for review and oversight of state child welfare systems, yet has not provided the resources needed to help states meet the expectations set forth in the reviews: safety, permanency, and well-being for all children.
True child welfare reform hinges on an improved system of shared financing responsibilities among federal, state, local, and tribal governments to ensure that states and child-serving, community-based agencies have the flexibility and new federal financial resources to implement needed improvements and expand services. This type of comprehensive approach must provide for a full continuum of care.
Key elements of comprehensive child welfare reform include:
III. Support Incremental Improvements
- Supply the new resources necessary to provide a flexible array of services to prevent child abuse and neglect, support children who are in foster care and those children who are reunited with their families from foster care, and support families who adopt children from the foster care system.
- Preserve and better coordinate access by the child welfare system to necessary Medicaid rehabilitative and case management services so that children who are harmed have the chance to heal.
- Strengthen, redefine, and preserve access to Title IV-E administrative funds used for activities related to advancing the well-being of children in the child welfare system.
- Maintain the basic federal safety net of Title IV-E entitlement funding for foster care and adoption assistance for children who need this help. Update the current Title IV-E financial eligibility standard, currently linked to 1996 standards from the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. This outdated link has resulted in the federal government providing support for fewer children in foster care.
- Extend federal Title IV-E funding to support guardianship placements.
- Implement a series of changes that will recognize the need to strengthen and build on the child welfare workforce. The foundation of our nation's ability to care for abused and neglected children is a well-trained, well-equipped child welfare workforce.
- Extend access to federal Title IV-E and Title IV-B funds to tribal governments and nations.
For more information, contact Liz Meitner, CWLA Vice President of Government Affairs, at 202/942-0257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pass the Kinship Caregiver Support Act to make available a federally funded kinship/guardianship permanency option to allow states to provide assistance payments to grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianship of the children for whom they have committed to care for on a permanent basis.
- Update the current Title IV-E financial eligibility requirements currently linked to outdated 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children standards that would enable more children to receive needed support. Currently, the federal government supports less than 50% of all children in foster care nationwide.
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