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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 21: 5/28/2007   
Headlines

Boxer to Introduce Legislation Extending Federal Foster Care Funding to Age 21

Weller Bill Would Extend Title IV-E Training Funds to Private Agencies

Speaker's Summit Highlights Research; Child Welfare on Agenda

Funding to Address SCHIP Shortfall Enacted as Part of Supplemental Bill

Minimum Wage Increase to Become Law with Supplemental Funding Bill

CWLA Holds House Briefing Regarding Health Issues in Foster Care

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Boxer to Introduce Legislation Extending Federal Foster Care Funding to Age 21

At the end of this month, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will be introducing legislation that would extend Title IV-E foster care funding to the age of 21. CWLA is supporting the legislation and the effort to extend funding to youth in foster care beyond the current limit of age 18.
In 2004, 22,718 young people left foster care simply because they became too old; this is referred to as "aging-out" of foster care. Young people transitioning out of the foster care system can face a great deal of instability. Many of these former foster youth find themselves on their own with few, if any, financial resources, no place to live, and little or no support from family, friends, and community. The experiences of these youth place them at higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration, and homelessness.

The Boxer legislation would amend the current law that defines foster children to age 18, and states would have an option to extend this to age 21. Under current law there is a limited amount of funds under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. States use these funds to provide services to young people who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18, as well as former foster children beyond age 18. The program helps eligible children make the transition to self-sufficiency through such services as assistance in earning a high school diploma, support in career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, and training in daily living skills. The program allows up to 30% of the funds to be used for room and board. Chafee is a capped entitlement with an annual ceiling of $140 million, which has not been increased since 2001. The Chaffee law also provides states with an option to extend Medicaid to age 21.

Another bill, H.R. 1376 (introduced by Representative Dennis Cardoza, D-CA), would require all states to extend Medicaid coverage to youth leaving foster care to age 21. The legislation by Senator Boxer is to be announced this week and will be introduced when Congress returns after the Memorial Day break.

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Weller Bill Would Extend Title IV-E Training Funds to Private Agencies

On May 15, Representative Jerry Weller (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2314, a bill to extend Title IV-E training funds to private child welfare agencies. The proposal to extend training funds has been on the CWLA agenda for several years. View the current Legislative Agenda fact sheet.

Currently, Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funding includes financial support for training child welfare workers. The training funds are limited to public agencies despite the fact that many services have always been provided by state licensed or approved local nonprofit agencies. Rep. Weller sponsored the legislation in past sessions, and he announced during a hearing on child welfare issues on May 15 he would be reintroducing the legislation.

Training under Title IV-E is an entitlement program. Some recent child welfare financing reform proposals would cap and combine these training funds with administration funds to create a block grant that would be used to provide services. Under these proposals, however, no funding would be designated for training--forcing workforce training to specifically compete for funding with other vital child welfare needs. Rep. Weller's support is significant because he is the ranking Republican on the important Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, the committee with jurisdiction for all Title IV-E issues.

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Speaker's Summit Highlights Research; Child Welfare on Agenda

The daylong conference hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took place on May 22. In a statement by the Speaker issued after the conference, Pelosi said, "The summit was only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue on how we can improve the lives of America's children and in turn the future of our nation. I am committed to ensuring that the policies of this Congress match the latest research and that families are given what they need to take advantage of these scientific advances." As part of the initiative, a website will post information from the summit.

The website also lists legislative priorities that address the needs of young children in the 110th Congress. The list includes child welfare and foster care, the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the following statement:

"This year, Congress will be considering possible steps that can be taken to improve our child welfare and foster care system. Approximately 3.6 million children were the subject of child abuse and neglect investigations in 2005. Furthermore, in that same year, over a half million children were in the foster care system on any given day. Infants and toddlers are the fastest growing age group of children entering foster care and the most vulnerable to the effects of maltreatment. Congress will examine ways to improve the outcomes for children in the child welfare system by studying such steps as how to improve the level of services provided to children and families and improve the recruitment and retention of caseworkers."

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Funding to Address SCHIP Shortfall Enacted as Part of Supplemental Bill

In order to address a shortfall in State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds, $650 million was included as part of the domestic spending attached to the war funding bill (H.R. 2266). Congress originally enacted SCHIP in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 as a capped block grant and authorized $40 billion in federal funds for the program over a 10-year period. SCHIP currently provides health insurance for at least 6 million children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and those who are either not offered or cannot afford private coverage.

Nearing the end of its initial authorization period, approximately 14 states have already begun to or are expected to run out of funds in FY 2007. For instance, Georgia's SCHIP program, PeachCare, began feeling the impact of its shortfall in March. Georgia had to cut off enrollment in the program and was able to continue providing care for those already enrolled only after state officials creatively raised $81 million in state funds. By Congress insisting on funds for SCHIP in the war spending bill, the children who rely on SCHIP for comprehensive health coverage can continue to be served.

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Minimum Wage Increase to Become Law with Supplemental Funding Bill

A minimum wage increase is expected to become law with the passage of the supplemental funding bill. In a complex maneuver that allowed some House Democrats to vote against war funding and some House Republicans to vote against domestic spending, a House bill was adopted that gave the President enough funding for the war through September while also providing some additional domestic spending as well as a minimum wage increase.

The minimum wage bill (H.R. 2) passed earlier this year will increase the current wage rate of $5.15 an hour to $5.85 an hour 60 days after the President signs the supplemental bill. One year later the minimum wage will increase to $6.55 per hour, and two years after the President signs the bill the minimum wage will increase to $7.25 per hour. It will represent the first change in the law since a minimum wage bill was passed in the middle of the 1996 presidential election. The wage law also includes nearly $5 billion in tax breaks for businesses. That figure is a compromise between the House version, which provided a tax break of under $2 billion, and a Senate bill, which totaled approximately $12 billion.

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CWLA Holds House Briefing Regarding Health Issues in Foster Care

On May 21 CWLA held a briefing on Capitol Hill, titled Federal Issues Regarding the Health and Well-Being of Children in Foster Care. Panelists were David Rubin, MD MSCE, Director of Research and Policy for Safe Place, Center for Child Protection and Health, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Ella Lewis, Seat Pleasant, Maryland, National Foster Parent Association; and Deborah Williams, Dumfries, Virginia, For Children's Sake of Virginia. Christine James-Brown, President/CEO of CWLA, was the moderator.

Panelists articulated their important roles in the lives of children. Dr. Rubin's research focuses on health policy and practice for vulnerable populations, including an evaluation of racial bias in reporting pediatric fractures for child abuse, as well as population-based studies of the health of children in foster care. His presentation highlighted health care financing objectives, such as target case management and Medicaid reform, the urgency of access to care, and overuse of psychotropic medications for children in foster care. Dr. Rubin's research also implied that kinship care confers benefits to children beyond simply the increased stability achieved.

Ms. Lewis has been a dedicated foster parent for more than 10 years, during which she has parented more than a dozen children. Ms. Lewis is currently a foster parent with District of Columbia Child and Family Services. She is the foster parent for a young man who is handicapped.

Ms. Williams is also a foster parent, and she has worked with fragile infants and children with very difficult behaviors. She is currently a member of For Children's Sake, which is a placing agency providing therapeutic/treatment foster care services to children from birth to age 21.

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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 26-June 3: Congressional Memorial Day Break
June 30-July 8: Congressional July 4th Break
October 1, 2008: Federal Fiscal Year Begins


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