2009 Legislative Hot Topics
White House Conference on
Children and Youth
© Child Welfare League of America. The content of these publications may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.
- Reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth by sponsoring
and passing legislation to once again hold this decennial event.
In the 110th Congress, bipartisan legislation was introduced to reestablish the
oldest White House Conference-the White House Conference on Children
and Youth-to be held in 2010. President Theodore Roosevelt first called this
Conference in 1909 and it was held every 10 years through 1970. Similar to recent
White House Conferences on Aging, such an event begins with hundreds
of state and local gatherings, meetings, and conversations during 2009 and 2010,
culminating in a national conference called by the President.
While the conference focuses on issues of child welfare, it creates a national
dialogue and opportunity to address the challenges some of our most vulnerable
families and children face each day. The critical issues to be examined include
permanency, health and mental health care, education, substance abuse, housing,
juvenile justice, workforce issues, tribal access and services, strategies to help families,
and strategies to prevent abuse. This conference will build a state and local
commitment that can inform federal support.
The Two-Year Process
Similar to previous White House Conferences on Children and Youth and conferences
on aging, Congress first passes authorizing legislation that sets the goals
and establishes a policy committee that oversees a two-year process. The policy
committee is bipartisan, with the President and the majority and minority leadership
of both the House and Senate selecting members.
In the first year, state and local meetings and conferences are held, with
some meetings under the oversight of the policy committee. Local agencies,
advocates, and policymakers wanting to contribute their ideas, solutions, and
goals for this dialogue and conference would organize other state and local
gatherings. The dialogue focuses not only on legislation, but also on how
communities can come together to address the issues raised by the child
Delegates from the states are selected to attend the White House Conference
by each member of Congress, by every state governor, and by members of the
Brief History of Past Conferences
Starting in 1909 through 1970, a White House Conference took place every
10 years. These conferences made significant contributions to national, state, and
local policy. In 1909, the White House Conference on the Care of Dependent
Children addressed the effects of the institutionalization of dependent and neglected
children. The delegates emphasized the importance of family and home
life and advocated for better foster care services and the creation of a Children's
Bureau. They also called for regular inspection of foster homes, and education and
medical care for foster children. At the 1919 Conference on Standards of Child
Welfare, committees were formed to determine minimum standards for child
labor, health care for children and mothers, and aid for special-needs children.
Other conferences were held in 1930, 1939, 1950, 1960, and 1970. In 1950, the
conference became the White House Conference on Children and Youth; this
name was kept through the succeeding conferences. The results from these conferences
include: a Children's Charter offering 19 proposals on the requirements
for a child's education, health, welfare, and protection (1930); the creation of the
Emergency, Maternity, and Infant Care Program, the largest medical care program
instituted by the United States at the time (1940); the elevation of the Children's
Bureau in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1960); and the creation
of a new Subcommittee on Children and Youth, chaired by Senator Walter
Mondale (1970). In addition, the Nixon Administration followed up with a
$300,000 budget request to help carry out recommendations at the state level as
a result of the 1970 conference. In 1980 and 1990, authorizing legislation allowed
for conferences, but they were never followed by actual White House conventions.
Many White House events, meetings, and conferences take place, but few focus
on children and families. This White House Conference is a way for citizens
nationwide to become engaged in determining and recommending to the national
government and to their communities the best ways to improve the well-being of
America's children. Imagine a gathering in your congressional district or state that
brought together not just state and local policymakers and agencies, but also communities
of experts and, perhaps most importantly, families, children, and youth.
State and local events would include experts on health, education, mental
health, and other vital community resources. The events would bring together
tribal governments and leaders, local advocates and judges, as well as the people
most affected-families, children, and youth. They all would participate in
a national dialogue, develop recommendations, and commit to improving the
lives of our most vulnerable children and families.
Child Abuse and Neglect
- During FFY 2006, an estimated 905,000 children in the 50 states, the District
of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or
neglect. 64% were neglected, 16.6% were physically abused, and 8.8% were
- Of the children substantiated as abused and neglected, only 58.9% received
Health and Mental Health Care
- Of the 504,000 children in foster care in 2006, approximately 129,000 were
waiting to be adopted.
- In 2004, 935,225 children were enrolled in Medicaid on the basis of being in
foster care, representing approximately 3.4% of all children enrolled in Medicaid.
- Although children in foster care represent a very small percentage of Medicaid
enrollees, they account for 25% to 41% of Medicaid mental health expenditures.
- 44% of former foster youth in Wisconsin reported difficulty accessing health
and mental health services.
- More than 40% of children entering the child welfare system do not receive
initial screening for mental health or developmental delays
- Despite the disproportionate need, some estimate only about 25% of children
in foster care are receiving mental health services at any given time.
- In a national study of 1,087 foster care alumni, youth who had one or fewer
placement changes per year were almost twice as likely to graduate from high
school before leaving care.
- In a study of Chicago public school youth, 15-year-old students in out-of-home
care were half as likely as other students to have graduated five years
later, with significantly higher percentages of students in care having dropped
out (55%) or been incarcerated (10%).
- A national study indicates that only 15% of youth in foster care are likely to be
enrolled in college preparatory classes, versus 32% of students not in foster care.
- In 2007, approximately 2.5 million grandparents across the country had
primary responsibility caring for their grandchildren.
- A 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) report documented that staff
shortages, high caseloads, high worker turnover, and low salaries impinge
on the delivery of services to achieve safety, permanence, and well-being
- The 2003 GAO report cited that the average caseload for a child welfare/
foster care caseworker was 24 to 31, and that these high caseloads contributed
to high worker turnover rates and to insufficient services being provided to
children and families.
- Females who have been in foster care are 2.5 times more likely than those
who have not been in foster care to become pregnant by age 19.
- Females who have been in foster care have higher birth rates than their
non-foster care counterparts (31.6% versus 12.2%) and higher subsequent
pregnancy rates (46% versus 29%).
- Three in 10 of the nation's homeless adults report foster care history.
- In a survey by the National Center on Child Abuse Prevention Research,
85% of states reported substance abuse was one of the two major problems
exhibited by families in which maltreatment was suspected.
- Data indicate that abused and neglected children from substance abusing
families are more likely to be placed in foster care and more likely to remain
there longer than maltreated children from non-substance abusing families.
Where You Can Learn More
- In 2006, 26,154 youth "aged out" of out-of-home care, meaning they left
foster care only because they reached their 18th birthday.
- A study of young adults who had spent a year or more in foster care between
age 14 and 18 found that 25% had experienced post-traumatic stress, compared
to 4% of the general adult population.
CWLA Advocacy Team
Vice President, Policy & Public Affairs
Co-Director Of Government Affairs
Co-Director of Government Affairs
Government Affairs Associate, Outreach
Government Affairs Associate, Child Welfare
Government Affairs Associate, Health
Back to Top Printer-friendly Page Contact Us