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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 48: 12/11/2006   
Headlines

109th Congress Comes to an End

Funds to Address SCHIP Shortfall in Danger

Federal Government Launches Campaign to Reduce Stigma of Mental Illness

CWLA to Hold Annual Hill Day and First-Ever Preconference Advocacy Institute

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



109th Congress Comes to an End

The 109th Congress (2005-2006) adjourned at the end of last week, retiring this Congress to history. In ending its second session, Congress left behind most of the final appropriations decisions for the current fiscal year. Those decisions will be awaiting the new Congress in January.

The 109th Congress was able to pass only two FY 2007 bills--for the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense--before the federal fiscal year began October 1. The rest of the government has been funded by three continuing resolutions (CRs), which provided funding at approximately the same level as FY 2006. Before leaving town, Congress passed its final CR, extending federal funding for all nondefense and homeland security programs until February 15, 2007. Also left unfinished in the 109th is legislation on the minimum wage and immigration reform, among other bills.

In the area of child welfare, Congress did pass a reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program. This legislation (PL 109-288) extended funding for PSSF for five years at the current funding level of $305 million in mandatory funds, with an additional authorization of $200 million a year.

Significantly, Congress added two new funding streams to PSSF: One will provide grants of $500,000 to $1 million to address substance abuse, the other will assist states in addressing child welfare workforce issues conditioned on states providing data that demonstrates children in foster care are visited monthly. More information on PSSF is available online.

The 109th Congress also adopted a deficit reduction act that reduces funding for child welfare through Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance. A summary of this legislation is online.

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Funds to Address SCHIP Shortfall in Danger

At press time, Congress had not finished consideration of fully funding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for FY 2007 before adjourning. This was 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 funding is necessary to allow these states to maintain their current caseloads. If not addressed immediately, health care coverage for more than 600,000 children will be at risk. The next issue of Children's Monitor, on December 18, will provide more information on SCHIP funding.

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Federal Government Launches Campaign to Reduce Stigma of Mental Illness

The federal government on December 4 launched a $1 million public service campaign with the goal of reducing the stigma that too often surrounds mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder. The campaign, which will use public service radio and television ads to encourage young adults to stand by their peers with mental illnesses, will employ a new tactic in destigmatizing mental illness by emphasizing the value of friendship in promoting recovery.

The targeted age group--18- to 24-year-olds--is particularly affected by such conditions as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which, along with the Ad Council, is cosponsoring the campaign, in 2005, 19% of that age group exhibited signs of "serious psychological distress" consistent with these disorders. The percentage for all adults exhibiting such signs is just 11%.

By targeting young people, the ad campaign seeks to mold the next generation of Americans into the vanguard that transforms society's attitude toward mental illness. The campaign will communicate that mental illness is a condition from which many people recover and go on to live full, productive lives. Of the 13.5 million adults who did not seek treatment in 2005, 26% cited the stigma associated with mental illness as one of their primary reasons for not pursuing help.

Mental health is a particularly prominent issue in the field of child welfare. Officials estimate up to 80% of children in foster care have serious behavioral or mental health problems, and behavioral issues can negatively afect the potential for family reunification or permanent placement. In 2005, the Casey Family Programs Northwest Alumni Study found disproportionately high rates of mental illness in youth who were alumni of the foster care system; foster care alumni in the study were twice as likely as the general population to receive a mental health diagnosis.

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CWLA to Hold Annual Hill Day and First-Ever Preconference Advocacy Institute

CWLA's National Conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, will be held February 25-28. The National Conference will feature the release of CWLA's 2007 Legislative Agenda, an institute on advocacy, and an entire day dedicated to constituent lobbying and advocacy at the U.S. Capitol.

Hill Day gives constituents the opportunity to actively promote CWLA's 2007 Legislative Agenda by meeting with members of Congress and their staff about the issues affecting children, youth, and families. Hill Day begins with presentations by leaders in Congress on their priorities for 2007, and briefings by the CWLA Government Affairs staff. At lunchtime, participants go to specific state and regional caucuses to discuss the issues, talking points, lobbying tips, and more general information. In the afternoon, Hill Day participants take a bus to the Capitol to meet with their Representatives and Senators.

Beginning in January, after the new 110th Congress convenes, we encourage everyone attending the conference to schedule meetings with their members of Congress for Hill Day. Stay tuned for contact information and tips on arranging visits. This will be an energizing conference and one of the most important advocacy events for child welfare in 2007! Register for the conference online.

As part of the annual conference, CWLA is conducting a special institute on local advocacy, "Create Change: New Strategies and Lessons Learned Around Local Level Advocacy," to be held Sunday February 25, 1:00 pm-5:00 pm. This institute will be dedicated to developing effective messages and creating and testing different approaches to advocacy. Guest presenters will discuss how to craft successful local messages and initiatives based on recent analysis. Create Change will be a great opportunity for child welfare advocates to develop local level strategy and messaging.

For more information about Create Change or Hill Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold at cfahrenthold@cwla.org or 202/942-0257. Look for more information on Hill Day and Create Change soon at www.cwla.org/conferences/ShowConference.asp?CONF=NATIONAL&YEAR=2007 and www.cwla.org/advocacy.

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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

January 3: First session of 110th Congress begins
February 15: Continuing resolution expires
February 25-28: CWLA National Conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, Washington DC


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