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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 37: 9/18/2006   
Headlines

Bipartisan Deal on PSSF Likely to Get Approval Before Break

CWLA, APHSA Ask HHS to Put Hold on Cut Instructions

CWLA Supports Congressional Briefing on Trauma

House Committee Schedules Hearing on Home Visiting Legislation

Adoption Incentive Funds Released

Update on Congressional Action

CWLA Submits Comments on Regs to Implement National Youth in Transition Database

Advance The 5-Point Candidate Platform!

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Bipartisan Deal on PSSF Likely to Get Approval Before Break

House and Senate negotiators have reached a compromise on reauthorizing the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program and appear to be close to final approval. PSSF provides $305 million in mandatory funds (funding provided automatically without an annual appropriation) and $200 million in authorized funds, which Congress must approve each year through the annual appropriations process. In FY 2006, Congress approved $89.1 million in discretionary PSSF funds, for a total of $394 million ($305 million mandatory, plus $89 million appropriated). States use these funds for four programs: time-limited reunification services, adoption promotion and support services, family preservation, and family support services.

The Deficit Reduction Act, passed in February, provided a one-year (FY 2006) increase in mandatory funding for PSSF of $40 million, bringing the mandatory funding up to $345 million.

The House and Senate reauthorization bills (H.R. 5640/S. 3525) reauthorize PSSF with few changes. Both bills continue the $40 million in mandatory funds, but spend it in two different ways. The Senate designated the $40 million for competitive grants of $500,000-$1 million to be spent on projects that address the use and abuse of methamphetamine and its effect on the child welfare system. The House allocated the $40 million to all 50 states, but states could only draw the funds if they assured that children in foster care were visited once a month, and provided the data to prove it. The funds could be spent on ways to promote and strengthen the child welfare workforce as they relate to the monthly visits.

The compromise bill creates competitive grants of $500,000-$1 million to address substance abuse as it affects the child welfare system. States would have to be partners in these projects, and methamphetamine abuse would be a priority, but other drugs and substance-abuse problems could be addressed. The funding would start in FY 2007 at $40 million, then continue at $35 million in 2008, $30 million in 2009, and $20 million in 2010 and 2011.

The remaining funding is tied to monthly foster care visits and workforce initiatives. For a state to receive its share of the remaining mandatory funds, it would have to implement a policy providing monthly visits to children in foster care. States have to collect and provide data as proof of these visits. The goal is that all states would be providing monthly visits to children in care by 2012. States that could not do this immediately would work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish targets to reach this goal.

To reach this goal, the additional $40 million in mandatory funds for FY 2006 would be available to states. States would draw down these funds on a matching basis, with the federal government providing a 75% match to a state's 25%. These funds would be carried over for three years so states that could not implement or reach the policy immediately could draw their share of the $40 million over the three-year period. The funds are to be used for workforce initiatives designed to help states reach the goal of monthly visits. This could include technological support, loan forgiveness, recruitment, and other initiatives that would help develop and support the workforce. Funding beyond the 2006 funds would be $5 million in 2008, $10 million in 2009, and $20 million in 2010 and 2011.

The agreement also reauthorizes a program to provide mentoring to children with incarcerated parents. The compromise allows some funds to be used for a new voucher system that would be governed by a private entity. Funding for the voucher approach would start at $5 million, rising to $15 million by the third year of the project.

CWLA will provide a complete description when the compromise bill is introduced. The final bill number will be S. 3525.

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CWLA, APHSA Ask HHS to Put Hold on Cut Instructions

CWLA has joined with the America Public Human Services Association (APHSA) in a letter to Wade Horn, Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), asking that ACF stop directing states to submit annual spending reports based on a half billion dollar cut to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).

The Bush Administration proposed in its FY 2007 budget to cut SSBG from $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion. The Senate and House have both rejected the proposal in their appropriations legislation. ACF, however, is instructing states that when they file their annual pre-expenditure reports on how they intend to spend SSBG funds, they base their report on the assumption that SSBG will be cut by half a billion dollars.

The September 11, 2006, letter states, "If States were to follow the rationale put forward by ACF and act on all of the proposals put forward in February, their budget planning process would be in constant turmoil. This action...has placed states in a difficult position..." The Senate has rejected the proposal twice, most recently when the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its HHS appropriations bill (S. 3708). Early in the year Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered an amendment in the Budget Committee, when that committee was passing a budget resolution, that specifically rejected the White House cut.

House appropriators also rejected the cut to SSBG when they acted on their HHS appropriations bill (H.R. 5647). In addition to the letter, CWLA and APHSA are alerting members of Congress on these Administration actions.

A copy of the letter is available online.

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CWLA Supports Congressional Briefing on Trauma

CWLA cosponsored a congressional briefing on September 13 entitled, "Traumatized Nation: Disaster, Terrorism, War, and Violence Highlight Psychological Trauma as an Emerging Public Health Crisis." The briefing was hosted by Witness Justice, a national, nonprofit organization whose mission is to assist victims of violence heal from trauma, in collaboration with the House Bipartisan Caucus on Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery.

The briefing highlighted trauma as a common denominator of all violence and disaster victims that has destructive--but virtually ignored--mental health, substance abuse, and related economic effects on individuals, families, and communities nationwide.

Speakers included A. Kathryn Power, Director of the Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI). Kennedy spoke about the importance of passing mental health parity legislation and incorporating support for healing from trauma into the nation's health care system. Power and others addressed trauma affecting war veterans and victims of violence, including victims of child abuse. According to Witness Justice and Prevent Child Abuse America, the estimated cost to society of child abuse and neglect is $94 billion a year, or $258 million a day.

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House Committee Schedules Hearing on Home Visiting Legislation

On September 27, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Education Reform will hold a hearing on the Education Begins At Home Act (H.R. 3628). Its companion bill in the Senate (S. 503) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

This legislation provides home visiting services to targeted new or vulnerable families. It provides grants to states to help expand the use of home visiting programs. Four hundred thousand children between birth to age 5 receive home visitation as either a stand-alone program or as part of a center-based program. Eligible families may receive services as early as the prenatal stage.

CWLA will submit comments for the hearing. Written testimony can be submitted to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce up to 14 business after the hearing. If you would like to provide testimony, please specify the bill title and number (Education Begins At Home Act, H.R. 3628) when submitting your testimony. For more information on the background of home visiting and several model home visiting programs go to our website.

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Adoption Incentive Funds Released

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released $11.6 million in adoption incentive funds to 21 states. These states increased the number of children adopted from foster care last year. States receiving incentive payments had more adoptions in 2005 than in the baseline year--the highest number of adoptions for the period between 2002 through 2004.

The incentive, sometimes referred to as an adoption bonus, went to Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Texas received the largest bonus, at $4 million, while Wyoming received the least, at $30,000.

States receive $4,000 for every child adopted above their target, plus a payment of $4,000 for every child age 9 and older, and $2,000 for every special-needs child, adopted above the baseline year. In FY 2005, the total number of adoptions with public agency involvement is estimated at just below 51,500, up from about 50,700 in FY 2004. The average age of a child waiting to be adopted is 10. Each year, about 19,000 young people age out of the system without ever having a permanent home.

The complete list and what each state received is available online.

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Update on Congressional Action

Last week, the Senate debated port security issues and sent a Defense appropriations bill to conference with the House. The Senate bill (Senate substitute H.R. 5631) totals more than $468 billion, with approximately $66 billion for the war. The House bill (H.R. 5631) totals $427 billion, but the House is expected to add funds during negotiations in conference committee. Funding for the war is expected to last into early next year, when a supplemental appropriation is likely to be proposed.

The House focused its attention last week on a resolution commemorating September 11 and debated how to deal with earmarking of funds in the appropriations process.

Since only a few federal departments will have funding approved before the start of the fiscal year on October 1, a continuing resolution (CR) may be added to a final defense bill. It is unclear how Congress will structure the CR. The CR may extend funding for nondefense programs into mid to late November when Congress will return. In such a case, Congress could propose to fund federal programs at the lower total approved by the House and Senate committees, or it could merely continue funding at FY 2006 levels.


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CWLA Submits Comments on Regs to Implement National Youth in Transition Database

On September 12, CWLA submitted comments to HHS on proposed regulations establishing the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD). The proposed rule implements the data collection requirements of the Foster Care Independence Act (P.L. 106-169), which governs the federal support for independent-living services. This long-awaited rule was published in the Federal Register July 14, 2006.

NYTD is a tracking system that not only focuses on youth receiving independent-living services, but also on their outcomes at ages 19 and 21. The database establishes benchmarks that will add to our understanding of how youth in foster care go on to live their lives with substance and quality. The development of federal rules that improve consistency and comparability of data among states will enable states to evaluate and improve their services, better preparing youth for successful outcomes as adults. In addition, this data will help focus attention on the needs of older youth.

The comments were developed with the involvement and inclusion of many states and represent a collective effort. Our concerns and recommendations fall into five areas: the cost and burden to states and funding mechanisms to support the database, timeframes for reporting and implementation, tracking youth who have left foster care, penalties, and data definitions.

Children's advocates are encouraged to contact Wade Horn, Assistant HHS Secretary,
Administration for Children and Families, and urge him to issue the final regulations as soon as possible in order to minimize any delays in implementing NYTD.

CWLA's comments on NYTD are available online.

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Advance The 5-Point Candidate Platform!

Join CWLA and participate in this new effort. You can make a difference in children's lives by being a part of this new initiative to engage candidates and Members of Congress. Urge candidates for Congress and the Senate to support the 5-Point Platform. Make Children a National Priority in 2006.

The five points in the platform will help protect children who are abused and neglected and help prevent abuse. Included in the platform are specific, concrete issues that federal legislators can and should support to protect the nearly 900,000 children abused and neglected each year. The five points in the platform represent specific legislative actions every member of the House and Senate should support. To find out more, go to www.cwla.org/advocacy/5pt.htm.

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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.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

September 29: Congress Begins Fall Recess
October 1: Federal Fiscal Year 2007 Begins
October 6: Original Target Adjournment
November 7: Election Day
November 13: House Lame-Duck Session


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