CWLA 2009 Children's Legislative Agenda
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CWLA is pleased to submit Hope for America's Children,
Youth, and Families to President Barack Obama and
the 111th Congress. During this transition for a new president
and Congress, CWLA offers policymakers a vision and
recommendations that address both legislative and administrative
efforts to improve child welfare services and, ultimately,
advance the well-being of the country's most vulnerable
families and children. As the nation enters a new era,
we believe Americans have the creativity, expertise, and
perseverance to address the challenges these families face
so all children and youth reach their ultimate potential and
achieve the great American dream.
Hope for America's Children, Youth, and Families reflects
the collective wisdom, insights, and concerns of CWLA's
public and private member agencies gathered over the past
half year. These agencies, small and large, provide an array
of child welfare and related services to vulnerable children,
youth, and families in cities and communities across all
50 states. This document is also based on a review of our
policies, best practice guidance, and advocacy positions
researched and crafted over the past several years.
Although this document is based on our cumulative knowledge
and work over the past half of 2008, clearly much has
changed in our country during this time period.
In fall 2008, Congress enacted the Fostering
Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of
2008 (Fostering Connections Act, P.L. 110-351). This legislation
is the most significant federal child welfare legislation
enacted in at least a decade--if not since the creation
of Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance in 1980.
This bill, when fully phased in, will have a significant
impact on outcomes for children in foster care and specialneeds
adoptions across the country. It begins the critical
task of focusing on the disproportionate overrepresentation
of some minority populations in child welfare by providing
federal funding to some kinship families and by allowing
direct access to tribal governments-and, by extension,
to children in Indian country. It also holds the promise of
improving education and health care access for children
in care and moving this nation, at least in some small way,
toward a sounder workforce development policy in the area
of child welfare.
The Fostering Connections Act offers opportunity, but the
economic crisis threatens the ability of state and local agencies,
both public and private, to take advantage of these
opportunities. Many if not all states are considering significant
budget cuts. In the coming weeks, assessing how human services
can be protected from budget cuts, at the very time when
human need will increase, will be critical. This will almost
certainly extend to the challenge of child abuse and neglect.
Also critical will be implementing and regulating the Fostering
Connections to Success Act in a way that recognizes this
dynamic. The economy will challenge state and local agencies
in many different ways; we must shape federal policy over
the next year in a way that takes this into account.
Despite these challenges, we offer this document as a
detailed blueprint that, carried out over both the short and
long term, can create a strong vision for this country's most
vulnerable children and families--and all of America's families.
CWLA envisions a future in which families, communities,
organizations, and governments ensure all children
and youth benefit from the resources they need to grow into
healthy, contributing members of society. Child welfare
services must be available to families whenever concerns
arise about the safety and well-being of children. A network
of community-based, family-centered organizations, whose
mission is to support and stabilize children, youth, and
families, with appropriate sensitivity to family culture, will
provide these services.
CWLA's ultimate goal is to achieve better outcomes for
the children and families who encounter the child welfare
CWLA's model embraces the principle that families must
be at the center of services that prevent and remedy situations
that lead to child abuse and neglect. The full spectrum
of services for children and families must be involved, from
the first awareness a family is at risk, to early intervention,
to foster care for those children whose safety and well-being
is threatened, through permanency and the services necessary
to sustain permanency. Ensuring quality casework practice,
according to national child welfare standards, requires
a professional workforce. Recruiting, hiring, training, and
retaining qualified, culturally diverse and competent, effective,
and dedicated professionals is essential to this effort.
- preventing abuse and neglect;
- providing heath and mental health services to address
the impact of harm;
- preventing unnecessary separation of children from
- sustaining permanent placements that are made;
- minimizing how long children remain in foster care,
should placement be necessary; and
- ensuring no disproportionate effect on children or
families of any culture.
In this transition paper, we offer short- and long-term
recommendations across five key areas. The short-term
recommendations address matters to be addressed quickly
by changes in federal policy, guidance, or regulation. Many
of these short-term proposals relate to the new Fostering
Connections Act and how it is implemented and regulated.
The long-term recommendations may require greater effort
and, in all likelihood, legislation to be worked out cooperatively
between the new Administration and the 111th Congress.
We address five key areas of child welfare:
We continue to strongly urge that all recognize the reinstitution
of the decentennial White House Conference on
Children and Youth as an essential tool to carry out all of
these reforms, as well as a way to engage communities and
key local stakeholders, which, ultimately, is the only way we
can address any of these challenges.
- preventing child abuse and neglect;
- achieving permanency for children and families
through reunification, adoption, and kinship care;
- increasing access to health care, including mental
health and substance abuse services for children and
families in care;
- helping vulnerable young people in both foster care
and juvenile justice; and
- strengthening the building blocks of the system,
which includes such issues such as workforce, data
collection, immigration, and cultural competence.
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