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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 17: 4/30/2007   
Headlines

Iraq Supplemental Includes SCHIP Funds and Minimum Wage Increase

CWLA Endorses Shaken Baby Prevention Bill

Plans for Speaker's National Summit on America's Children Moves Forward

Budget Resolution Discussion Continues

Senate Hearing Focuses on Child Soldiers

CWLA Joins Request for Funding and Supporting Legislation for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Iraq Supplemental Includes SCHIP Funds and Minimum Wage Increase

The conference report on the Iraq war supplemental (H.R. 1591, H. Rept. 110-107), which is being stopped by a presidential veto, also includes $650 million to address the shortfall in funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Fourteen states will run out of SCHIP funds in May, and this $650 million would address that shortfall until the program is reauthorized later this year; $750 million had been proposed originally, but more recent estimates indicate only up to $650 million will be necessary to cover all enrollees.

A replacement supplemental is expected at some point, and SCHIP funds should remain in the next version. House leaders have indicated the next supplemental could be for a shorter time frame, such as two months, but that would still include the SCHIP funds.

Also attached to the supplemental appropriations bill is a minimum wage increase. The minimum wage bill (H.R. 2) passed both houses early this year, but negotiations have stalled over how big a tax cut to attach to the bill. The Senate has proposed a business tax cut package of more than $12 billion, the House less than $2 billion. The higher tax cut was necessary to get the minimum wage increase out of the Senate, where at least 60 votes were needed to overcome a potential filibuster.

The package agreed to by Senate and House Democrats was set at $4.8 billion--a three-and-a-half-year extension of the opportunity work tax credit is the major provision. The tax credit is for businesses that hire certain low-income employees, including former welfare recipients. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, was not pleased with the agreement and had supported a larger tax cut package. Similarly, the White House has indicated the President's opposition to the new minimum wage package because the tax cut is not large enough. The House and Senate leadership have indicated that with the presidential veto, they will seek another bill to which to attach the wage increase.

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CWLA Endorses Shaken Baby Prevention Bill

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Senate has designated the third week of April as National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a form of child abuse, affecting 1,200-1,600 children every year, that too often leads to severe, permanent disability or death. SBS prevention programs that educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of shaking young children and promote healthy strategies for handling crying infants have been extremely effective, however, in stopping these horrific tragedies.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) plans to introduce the Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Act, which CWLA has endorsed. The bill would appropriate $10 million for FY 2008 and such sums as necessary for FYs 2009-2011 to enable the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), with the assistance of a newly appointed advisory council, to implement delineated components of a public health campaign.

Pursuant to the bill, HHS and the council would develop a national action plan to increase awareness of opportunities to prevent SBS and coordinate with preexisting evidence-based strategies and efforts. HHS would also oversee communication, education, and training, including SBS education and training for adoptive and foster parents. Better support, possibly in the form of a 24-hour phone hotline or website, would be provided for parents and caregivers. For more information on SBS, see the article from Children's Voice magazine online.

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Plans for Speaker's National Summit on America's Children Moves Forward

Plans continue for a National Summit on America's Children, first referenced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) when she was sworn in last January. A formal announcement was issued at the end of March, setting a date of May 22, 2007.

The summit will focus on matching the latest scientific research and information on how particular actions or policies affect children. The summit will feature panelists in areas relating to brain development; the effect of early-learning initiatives and programs; the effect health and mental health services, or lack of services; and the effect of low-income support systems.

The target audience is members of Congress, with public broadcasts of the event expected. The goal is to educate policymakers on some of the latest research from the past decade and how this new information might shape current policy and legislation.

Pelosi has appointed Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) to spearhead the effort.

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Budget Resolution Discussion Continues

House and Senate budget conferees continued their discussion over a final budget resolution (H. Con Res. 99/S. Con Res. 21). This final budget resolution will allow the appropriations process to move forward. The biggest difference between the two versions appears to be over the issue of how to spend a projected budget surplus in 2012. Although the resolution guides spending for five years, the Senate resolution proposes spending future surpluses on extensions of various tax cuts due to expire, whereas the House resolution anticipates any future tax extensions will be paid for with either spending cuts or other tax changes or increases.

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Senate Hearing Focuses on Child Soldiers

On April 24 the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held a hearing on the issue of children forced into military combat. The subcommittee indicated this was the first time the topic of child soldiering had been the focus of a congressional hearing. An estimated 250,000 children worldwide, some as young as 7, are forced to become members of government or rebel militias.

The key witness was Ishmael Beah, author of the bestselling book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. The author, now 24 and living in New York City, recounted how he was forced to become a soldier at age 13 during the civil war in Sierra Leone. He later went through rehabilitation and escaped to live in New York.

Subcommittee Chair Richard Durbin (D-IL), highlighted three areas for action: the way the Department of Homeland Security handles children who escape such forced combat, the lack of U.S. laws to allow the prosecution of adults who have forced children into combat and then escape to the United States, and promotion of S. 1175, the Child Soldiers Protection Act, sponsored by Durbin and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). This bill would restrict foreign aide to those countries that sponsor or support child soldiering, either through official government armies or government supported militias.

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CWLA Joins Request for Funding and Supporting Legislation for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

Problems with substance abuse exist in an estimated 40%-80% of the families of children who are confirmed by child protective services as victims of abuse and neglect. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that in 2005, approximately 19.3 million of the general population who needed addiction treatment did not receive it. If families do not receive proper treatment, removed children are more likely to remain in foster care longer and to later reenter care.

To bring more attention and funding to this matter, CWLA has signed on to a letter requesting members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education provide $1.9 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. This is the backbone of publicly funded substance abuse service systems, providing a flexible funding stream states and communities could put toward whichever addiction issues most plague their area. The block grant--which both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have applauded in various reports--has been cut by approximately $20 million over the last three years; for FY 2008, the Administration proposed only level funding.

CWLA has also signed on to a letter requesting support for the Family-Based Meth Treatment Access Act (S. 884/H.R. 405). Recently introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Norm Coleman (R-MN), and earlier by Representative Barbara Cubin (R-WY), the bill would provide $70 million each year from 2008 to 2012 for substance abuse treatment to pregnant and postpartum women that incorporates the whole family's needs, along with mental health counseling, medical treatment, parenting, education, and legal services. Certain programs would receive priority, including those that serve rural areas or locations forced to deal with a shortage of mental health professionals. HHS would also have discretion to award grants to local jails and detention facilities so such comprehensive, family-based substance abuse treatment services could be used to assist nonviolent offenders.

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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

May 1-31: Foster Care Awareness Month
May 13: Mothers Day and "Care About Kinship Week: Sponsor S. 661"
May 26-June 3: Congressional Memorial Day Break


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