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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 19: 5/14/2007   
Headlines

House to Hold Hearing on Child Welfare System

Speaker's National Summit on America's Children Taking Shape

Kinship Legislation Reintroduced in House

Capitol Hill Briefing on Kinship

SCHIP Mental Health Parity Bill Introduced

ACF Announces Grants to Improve Outcomes for Children Affected by Substance Abuse

Budget Update

Bush Nominates Weems to Head CMS

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House to Hold Hearing on Child Welfare System

The House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support will hold a hearing May 15 on the challenges facing the child welfare system. This is likely the first in a series of hearings on child welfare. In the first months under the leadership of Chair Jim McDermott (D-WA), the subcommittee has focused much attention on the issue of poverty in America.

In announcing the hearing, McDermott said, "There are a number of obstacles that undermine the ability of the child welfare system to ensure safe, nurturing, and permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Overcoming these obstacles is critical to achieving positive outcomes for our most vulnerable children. This hearing will be the first step toward reviewing our nation's child welfare system, and its capacity to ensure the safety of children and to provide necessary resources to families in crisis."

This week's hearing will focus on factors that most negatively affect state efforts to ensure the safety, well-being, and permanency of children under their supervision. CWLA will submit testimony, which will be available next week. View details on the hearing and instructions on submitting written testimony.

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Speaker's National Summit on America's Children Taking Shape

On May 22, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will sponsor a National Summit on America's Children. According to the Speaker's letter of invitation, the summit is "designed to give Members of Congress a forum from which they can hear from national experts on recent scientific findings and how they relate to early childhood development."

Limited mainly to members of Congress, as well as experts from the field, the summit will include four central panel presentations on
the science of early child development,
early learning,
health and mental health, and
income and family support.
According to Pelosi's office, practitioners of innovative public and private initiatives will offer research-based testimony to help Congress develop federal policies affecting children that are informed by sound research.

Preliminary discussions were held on the main topic areas earlier this month. Judith Silver, Director of the Starting Young Program, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, participated in a panel discussion with members of Congress preparing for the summit. She has extensive expertise in young children in foster care, has written a book and several articles, and was on the committee that helped develop the new CWLA Health Care Standards. CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown will represent CWLA at the summit. To join the webcast on May 22, click here.

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Kinship Legislation Reintroduced in House

On May 7, Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL) introduced the Kinship Caregiver Support Act (H.R. 2188), which is the same title of the Senate version (S. 661). Last year, the title of the bill was the Guardianship Assistance Promotion and Kinship Support Act (H.R. 3380). H.R. 2188 is similar to last year's version, except it would extend subsidized guardianship payments to relative caregivers only, which is similar to this year's Senate bill.

Both bills would establish a kinship caregiver navigator program, establish kinship guardianship assistance payments, notify relatives once a child has entered foster care, create separate licensing standards for relative and nonrelative providers, and extend education and training vouchers to youth.

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Capitol Hill Briefing on Kinship

Generations United and Kids Are Waiting, in collaboration with Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL), sponsored a briefing on May 11 entitled Children Being Raised by Grandparents and Other Relatives: How Are They Faring? CWLA and several other organizations cosponsored the briefing.

The briefing took place the same week Davis and Johnson introduced the Kinship Caregiver Support Act (H.R. 2188). This briefing also falls within the 10-year anniversary of the inception of Illinois's successful kinship program. The event helped demonstrate the unique challenges kinship caregivers face and the need for federal support to help them successfully raise children in their care.

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SCHIP Mental Health Parity Bill Introduced

Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) and John Kerry (D-MA) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would achieve mental health parity for children enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The Children's Mental Health Parity Act (S. 1337) would level the playing field by mandating that financial requirements and treatment limitations found in SCHIP plans be the same for both medical services and mental health or substance abuse services. The bill would also eliminate a provision that currently permits states to lower the amount of mental health coverage they offer to children receiving health coverage from SCHIP to 75% of allowable benchmark plans.

SCHIP covered an estimated 7 million low-income children in 2006 and is set to expire September 30 of this year. On April 25, Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S. 1224), which would strengthen the federal standards for the provision of mental health benefits under SCHIP, but would not require mental health parity per se.

Other important mental health parity bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate, in particular S. 558 and H.R. 1424, but each deals with group health plans. Kerry, in a press release, reminded the public, "It's no less important to care for our kids' mental health, and this unfair and unwise disparity should no longer be acceptable."

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ACF Announces Grants to Improve Outcomes for Children Affected by Substance Abuse

On May 4, the Children's Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally announced much-anticipated competitive grants authorized by the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-288, which authorized the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program). Grants may be awarded to regional partnerships that provide, through interagency collaboration and integration of programs and services, activities and services designed to increase the well-being of, improve permanency outcomes for, and enhance the safety of children in out-of-home placement or at risk of being placed in an out-of-home placement as a result of a parent's or caretaker's methamphetamine or other substance abuse.

The grant announcement is online. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to consult an extremely informative Q&A package that CWLA, the American Public Human Services Association, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Children's Defense Fund, the Legal Action Center, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights has prepared on these grants. That Q&A is available online.

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Budget Update

Late last week, members of the House and Senate Budget Committees reached an agreement on a single budget resolution that, if finalized and adopted this week, will officially allow the various appropriations subcommittees to begin acting on the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2008.

There was a delay between the two houses as they negotiated a difference over how any future surpluses might be spent five years from now. The issue is entangled with the debate over whether or how to extend President Bush's various tax reductions. Key congressional negotiators and leaders have also been working on discussions over the 2007 supplemental war appropriations bill, which has diverted attention from the budget process.

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Bush Nominates Weems to Head CMS

On May 3, President Bush nominated Kerry M. Weems to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency, housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), responsible for oversight Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Weems has worked for HHS for 24 years and serves as deputy chief of staff. If confirmed by the Senate, Weems would replace Mark McClellan, who left CMS last October. Since then, Leslie V. Norwalk has been CMS Acting Administrator, but she made it clear she did not want to be considered as McClellan's permanent replacement.

HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt has praised Weems for his wealth of experience and understanding of intricate fiscal challenges. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) has said he is pleased a nomination has come forward and that he plans to work quickly and closely with his Finance Committee colleagues to carefully review the nomination.

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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: Foster Care 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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