Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 32: 8/7/2006   
Headlines

CWLA Expresses Concern to Bush Administration on Citizenship Verification and Foster Children

GAO Report Calls for Better Disaster Planning for State Child Welfare Systems

Congress Departs Until September 5

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



CWLA Expresses Concern to Bush Administration on Citizenship Verification and Foster Children

On August 4, CWLA submitted comments to the Bush Administration expressing serious concerns about the new Medicaid citizenship documentation requirements. In its letter, CWLA specifically calls on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to exempt foster children from the new requirements, which could cause a delay or denial in providing health care to the already extremely vulnerable child welfare population.

In making our case, CWLA emphasized the pressing health care needs of children in foster care and the relatively high rates of physical and mental health problems found in the foster care population, compared with children from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. We stress that the stringent new requirements mandating proof of citizenship with an original or officially certified birth certificate or passport are not realistic for foster children, who are unable to rely on parents and family to help obtain the necessary documents.

The letter discusses how imposing these new requirements to prove citizenship or nationality and identity create a critical burden on foster children, foster families, and an already overburdened child welfare system. It also points out the new requirements are duplicative in the case of foster children, as, according to federal law, foster children already must have documented citizenship to receive Title IV-E assistance.

Barring outright exemption of children in foster care from the new mandates, CWLA urges CMS to issue written guidance that children entering the foster care system be considered as recipients, rather than applicants, and to accept as evidence of identity the fact that these children are wards of the state. Due to provisions in the original statute, allowing foster children to be considered as recipients rather than applicants would enable them to receive immediate Medicaid services while child welfare agencies attempt to obtain the necessary documentation of citizenship within a "reasonable opportunity period," as specified in the law.

More information about the new eligibility requirements, including our recent comment letter, is available on CWLA's website at www.cwla.org/advocacy/medicaid.htm.

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GAO Report Calls for Better Disaster Planning for State Child Welfare Systems

On July 28, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on the readiness of state child welfare systems when disasters strike. Requested by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), GAO's report concluded only 20 states and the District of Columbia had written child welfare disaster plans, but those plans varied among the states. Nineteen addressed the preservation of child welfare records, 13 addressed the ability to identify children who may be dispersed as a result of a disaster, 11 addressed the ability to identify new child welfare cases, 10 addressed the coordination of services, and 6 addressed the need to place children in other states.

GAO recommended that Congress pass legislation requiring states to develop and submit disaster plans, and that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide guidance to states in the planning of disaster relief as it relates to child welfare issues. There were 48 declared federal disasters last year, punctuated by Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of that disaster McDermott had offered legislation to help the child welfare systems in hurricane-affected states. The request for the GAO report was an outgrowth of those efforts and the issues raised in the aftermath of Congress's hurricane relief debate. The GAO report is online at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-944.

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Congress Departs Until September 5

At press time, the U.S. Senate was attempting to finish a few remaining contentious issues before joining the House of Representatives on a month-long summer break. When it returns on September 5, the day after Labor Day, Congress will face a long list of business and less than three and a half weeks before it breaks for the election campaign on September 29.

Chief among the remaining issues are the appropriations bills. Congress has not given final passage to any of the 11 House or 12 Senate bills. Appropriations Committees in both houses have been ahead of schedule as far as preparing the bills for floor debate, but the process has stopped there. When the 2007 fiscal year begins on October 1, Congress will have to adopt a continuing resolution that will extend funding to most federal departments until November, when it will return from election campaigning.

Also slated for action in September is a final agreement on the reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. The House and Senate have adopted two very different versions of the reauthorization. (See Children's Monitor for July 31.)

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

September 5: Congress Returns from Summer Recess
September 29: Congress Begins Fall Recess
October 6: Original Target Adjournment
November 13: House Lame Duck Session


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