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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 47: 12/4/2006   
Headlines

Congress Sets Finish Date of December 15 Regardless of Appropriations

Funds to Address SCHIP Shortfall in Danger

GAO Examines Accuracy and Effectiveness of Abstinence-Only Programs

Landmark Report Released on Public Costs of Teen Pregnancy Released

Advance the 5-Point Congressional Platform!

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Sets Finish Date of December 15 Regardless of Appropriations

As Congress returns for its December session this week, it looks very likely that most of the Fiscal Year 2007 appropriations will be left for the next Congress to finish. FY 2007 began October 1, and beyond the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, no other appropriations bills have been adopted. Although some members had hoped to finish as many of the remaining 10 bills as possible and then combine what was left into an omnibus bill, that plan was blocked by some senators. Senator James DeMint (R-SC) has led the opposition to moving appropriations.

Congress likely will only agree to another stop-gap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR). The new CR will extend all unfunded federal programs into January. It would then be up to the new 110th Congress, with its new leadership, to determine how to fund the remaining eight months of the year. Currently, federal programs are being funded at the lower of the House or Senate appropriations bills. Programs in the Department of Health and Human Services are funded at FY 2006 levels, since neither the House nor Senate has adopted their own committee-passed.

The first CR expired November 18, and the second expires December 8. Republican leaders have indicated they intend to finish all business by December 15 and bring the 109th Congress to a close. In addition to most of the appropriations, this Congress is likely to leave on the table legislation to address the minimum wage, immigration reform, a proposed change to reverse some reductions in provider payments through Medicare, and a farm aid bill.

House Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced a 100-hour agenda for the beginning of next year's House session, with issues including an increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in student loan interest rates, changes to the Medicare prescription drug program allowing the government to negotiate prices, and some changes to the tax treatment of oil companies.

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Funds to Address SCHIP Shortfall in Danger

A bipartisan group of 20 Senators has submitted a letter to the Senate leadership urging the chamber to take up legislation before adjourning this year to address shortfalls to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in Fiscal Year 2007. The letter represents a last-ditch effort to confront the approximately $927 million shortfall in SCHIP funds projected to occur among 17 states as early as next month. The letter warns that if the lack of funding, which is necessary to allow these states to maintain their current caseloads, is not addressed immediately, health care coverage for more than 600,000 children will be put at risk next year. CWLA has issued an action alert to contact Congress and urge representatives to fully fund SCHIP before adjourning for the year. The alert is online.

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GAO Examines Accuracy and Effectiveness of Abstinence-Only Programs

A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services and states to assess the scientific accuracy of materials used in abstinence-until-marriage education programs. The report found that although the extent to which federally funded abstinence education materials are inaccurate is unknown, the federal Office of Population Affairs and some states reported they have found inaccuracies in abstinence materials. In addition, the GAO study determined that a number of factors limit the conclusions that can be drawn about the effectiveness of abstinence-until-marriage education programs. Most of the efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of such programs included in GAO's review have not met certain minimum scientific criteria, and the results of efforts that do meet the criteria of a scientifically valid assessment have varied. Funding provided by the three main federally funded abstinence programs increased from about $73 million in FY 2001 to about $158 million in FY 2005.

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Landmark Report Released on Public Costs of Teen Pregnancy Released

On a related topic, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy recently released a new study, By The Numbers: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing, which presents the first analysis since 1996 of the cost to taxpayers of teen childbearing. The analysis, by Saul Hoffman of the University of Delaware, provides the first-ever estimates of the cost of teen childbearing in each state and Washington, DC. Of particular interest to the child welfare system, the new report documents public sector costs associated with the children of teen mothers by cost category, including child welfare costs.

Significantly, the study finds most of the public sector costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers. In 2004, teen childbearing was found to have resulted in a $2.3 billion increase in child welfare costs. Overall, the report found that, in 2004 alone, the total cost of teen childbearing in the United States to federal, state, and local taxpayers was $9.1 billion.

Policy recommendations in the report included helping provide parents with information about the critical role they play in helping their children make good decisions, supporting proven teen pregnancy interventions, and increased support for youth programs more broadly. CWLA notes the special considerations that need to be given to youth in foster care in strategies to prevent teen pregnancy.

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Advance the 5-Point Congressional Platform!

Join CWLA in this initiative to engage Members of Congress to make a difference in children's lives. Urge U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the 5-Point Platform and help Make Children a National Priority in 2007!

The five points in the platform will help protect children who are abused and neglected and help prevent abuse. The platform includes specific, concrete issues federal legislators can and should support to protect the nearly 900,000 children abused and neglected each year. The five points 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.

To subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

October 1: 2007 Federal Fiscal Year Began
December 8: Continuing Resolution Expires
December 15: Target End Date for 109th Congress
January 3: First Session of 110th Congress Begins
February 2528: CWLA National Conference in Washington DC


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