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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 10: 3/5/2007   
Headlines

Christine James-Brown Addresses CWLA National Conference

CWLA Members Go to Capitol Hill; Legislative Agenda Unveiled

Grassley and McDermott Receive CWLA Advocate of the Year Awards

SCHIP Shortfall to Be Addressed in Supplemental

Budget Chair Indicates More Funding than President's Budget

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Christine James-Brown Addresses CWLA National Conference

Christine James-Brown addressed the opening plenary of the annual CWLA National Conference on February 26. Brown said she is looking forward to interacting with the CWLA volunteers and staff, its member agencies, and the organization's national, state, and local partners so that, together, we can maximize the impact of such a powerful network and further strengthen the capacity to help vulnerable children and families. Brown will become President and CEO of CWLA on April 2, assuming leadership of the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization.

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CWLA Members Go to Capitol Hill; Legislative Agenda Unveiled

Hundreds of CWLA members participated in Hill Day 2007 at the National Conference last week, visiting Capitol Hill and meeting with members of the House and Senate to advance CWLA's 2007 Legislative Agenda and Hot Topics. Hill Day is one of the biggest lobbying days of the year for child welfare issues.

This year's Hot Topics include
  • reforming Title IV-E Eligibility,
  • extending Title IV-E to Kinship Placements, and
  • defending Medicaid and expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides federal assistance to children placed in foster care. Under certain circumstances, the federal government will help share the costs of services such as food, shelter, and clothing. States receive a match based on a formula tied to the state's economic need. The shared cost is provided only for children who would have been eligible for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children cash assistance program, as it existed on July 16, 1996. As a result of this link to a program that went out of existence more than 10 years ago, the number of children in foster care eligible for federal support has declined significantly. In 1998, 55% of children in foster care were eligible for federal assistance. This number has decreased to less than 45% in 2004. CWLA's call to Congress is to take the first step in reforming child welfare financing by replacing this outdated eligibility standard for foster care and adoption assistance.

The Kinship Caregiver Support Act in the Senate, and the Guardianship Assistance Promotion and Kinship Support Act in the House, would support grandparents and other relatives caring for abused and neglected children by extending Title IV-E to cover kinship and guardianship placements. A limited number of states can use Title IV-E foster care funds for kinship placements through a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other states must rely on other federal funding sources, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Social Services Block Grant, which are also used to fund other vital human services and are under budget pressure.

The Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S. 661) was introduced in the Senate February 16 by Senators Hilary Clinton (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Thad Cochran (R-MS). The Guardianship Assistance Promotion and Kinship Support Act, is expected to be introduced in the House soon by Representative Danny Davis (D-IL).

CWLA urges Congress to oppose the President's cuts to Medicaid, including Administrative efforts to restrict Medicaid funding that serves the health care needs of children in foster care. The need for comprehensive Medicaid coverage for children in foster care is great, as research has shown extensively that children in this population have more health needs, especially mental health problems, than does the general population of children from low-income families.

CWLA also urges Congress to expand SCHIP to cover more uninsured children. SCHIP is a matched block grant program that has allocated $40 billion in federal funds over 10 years. The program is due to be reauthorized this year. The Congressional Research Service estimates that if the current allotment level and formula are continued into the future, in a few years most states will face a large shortfall of federal SCHIP funds affecting coverage for 1.9 million children.

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Grassley and McDermott Receive CWLA Advocate of the Year Awards

During the awards dinner at CWLA's National Conference, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) received the 2007 CWLA Advocate of the Year Award. Grassley was recognized for last year's efforts blocking a half billion dollar cut to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), leading the reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, and his efforts to continue the use of targeted case management services to children in foster care. Grassley also worked to exempt foster children from new burdensome eligibility requirements for Medicaid for children in care.

Rebecca Shipp of Grassley's staff accepted the award on his behalf and indicated Grassley would once again oppose efforts to cut SSBG by half a billion, as included in the Administration's 2008 budget, and he would work through the SCHIP reauthorization to ensure states extend health coverage to youth aging out of foster care. Currently, states have an option to extend Medicaid to age 21 for the more than 23,000 who leave foster care every year only because they have reached age 18.

McDermott's efforts last year included sponsoring comprehensive child welfare legislation that would expand support for prevention, expand eligibility for foster care and adoption assistance, extend that coverage to children in kinship settings, and provide tribal governments' greater access to federal child welfare funds. He was also one of the leaders in reauthorizing PSSF, and he worked to enact new requirements directing states to have a plan to ensure the safety of children in the child welfare system when a natural disaster or other emergency strikes.

In his remarks, McDermott indicated that, as Chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, he would work toward bipartisan legislation to address the needs of children in the child welfare system. He said last year's reauthorization of PSSF was positive, but it was not enough and the country has much more to do in regard to child abuse and neglect. McDermott's remarks are available online.

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SCHIP Shortfall to Be Addressed in Supplemental

Congress will likely deal with the current shortfall in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by including additional funding in an upcoming emergency spending bill. The bill may come up in the House Appropriations Committee on March 8. SCHIP funding could run out by May for some 14 states, which face a shortfall of $745 million.

Congress is scheduled to take up an emergency spending request by the Administration for additional funding for the war. That emergency spending, adopted outside of the normal appropriations process, is expected to total $100 billion. Under the scenario being discussed, the additional SCHIP funding would be included and then passed before states run out.

The issue of supplemental funding is separate from broader discussions on the SCHIP reauthorization. The administration has proposed a five-year extension that would not provide enough funding to maintain current coverage. Additional funding is necessary to maintain current coverage and cover the estimated 9 million children now lacking health insurance.

CWLA has joined other organizations in asking Congress that SCHIP legislation authorize $60 billion in new federal funding for children's health over the next five years. These funds would allow for a significant expansion in enrollment of uninsured children. The letter urges lawmakers not to cut Medicaid funding to pay for such an expansion in SCHIP, and not to force states to scale back current coverage.

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Budget Chair Indicates More Funding than President's Budget

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) indicated last week the Senate budget resolution is likely to include more discretionary spending than the $929 billion proposed by the Administration.

Under the President's budget, once discretionary (annually appropriated) funds are allocated for the Defense Department and Homeland Security, there will be little left for increases in other areas such as child welfare, education, health, and child care.

Conrad indicated that following the President's proposal would require drastic cuts in domestic spending. Conrad envisions the possibility of some tax changes that would broaden the tax base without increasing taxes. He indicated the five-year path toward a balanced budget would include efforts to go after overseas tax shelters or ways in which some corporate and individual taxpayers report income from overseas. He also indicated the proposal would include efforts to go after uncollected taxes.

In the House, Representative John Spratt (D-SC) is likely to unveil a House budget resolution on or around March 12.

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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

March 12-16: House and Senate committees target to debate 2008 budget resolution
April 2-9: Senate Spring Recess
April 2-13: House Spring Recess


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