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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 24: 6/18/2007   
Headlines

House Speeds Through FY 2008 Appropriations

House Appropriations Bill Rejects SSBG Cuts

Juvenile Justice Appropriations Increased

Baucus Still Hoping for June Markup of SCHIP Reauthorization

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Gang Legislation

Providers, Parents, Advocates Hold Briefing for Family-Based Comprehensive Treatment

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House Speeds Through FY 2008 Appropriations

Last week, the House was working on as many as nine appropriations bills in various stages, from subcommittee to floor debate. Twelve appropriations bills comprise the federal budget, and the House leadership wants to debate and vote on at least 11 by the July 4 break. The Defense appropriations bill likely will be the last. Although the process was slowed last week due to arguments over the earmark process, six bills have been approved by the full appropriations committee.

Consideration of the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education was also delayed a week. The subcommittee reported out the bill on June 7. This legislation includes $151 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of 4.6% from $144 billion in FY 2007. Most of the increase was for education and health care block grants. Overall education funding was up more than 7%. Some of the health increases include the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, increasing from $693 million to $750 million; Healthy Start, increasing from $100 million to $120 million; and both Abstinence Education and Family Planning, which received increases as a way to address the political divide on the issue. Abstinence Education increases from $109 million to $137 million, and Family Planning increasing from $283 million to $310 million. On the down side, both Head Start and child care funding received increases of just $75 million. That puts child care at $2.13 billion in discretionary funding, compared with $2.06 billion in 2007, and Head Start at $6.96 billion, compared with $6.88 billion in 2007.

Child welfare discretionary programs also were not increased significantly. Discretionary funding for Promoting Safe and Stable Families remains at $89 million, the same level as 2007. Funding stayed at $27 million for CAPTA state grants, and at $42 million for the community-based prevention grants. CAPTA discretionary grants did increase by $10 million, to $35 million. These grants are awarded in a competitive process or are sometimes allocated by earmark.

The President has indicated he would veto any bill that exceeds what he asked for, but the Administrations' funding levels for this bill would force actual cuts in funding after several years of near freezes. Although some House Republicans have been circulating a letter indicating their support for a presidential veto of bills that exceed the Administration's request, early reactions to the House Labor-HHS bill may make a presidential veto difficult to sustain. For several congresses, the Labor-HHS bill has been one of the last bills debated and voted on, and in some years it did not get a vote and was instead rolled into a massive end-of-year bill.

The Senate, which technically must wait to act on House bills, began its appropriations deliberations when two subcommittees approved bills for Homeland Security and Military Construction. To see a list of selective children's programs and the comparison between the President and the House budget go to our website.

Back to Headlines

House Appropriations Bill Rejects SSBG Cuts

For the second year in a row, the President's fiscal year 2008 budget request has proposed cutting the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to offset spending in discretionary programs, and for the second year, appropriators have rejected these cuts. Proposed funding for SSBG is $1.2 billion in the Administration's budget, a $500 million decrease from the FY 2007 funding level. The Administration has argued that, as a block grant, it is hard to track results in SSBG. At the same time, the Administration argues the flexibility of a block grant is one reason why they are proposing an optional block grant of foster care funding.

Last fiscal year, the Administration took the initiative of directing state agencies to submit their annual preexpenditure reports for SSBG to include the proposed cut. Some states then directed state programs and local governments to assume the cuts in SSBG. CWLA joined with the American Public Human Services Association in asking the Administration to stop this directive since Congress had given an indication it would not cut SSBG.

SSBG funds a range of human services, including child care, home-based services, employment services, case management services, prevention and intervention programs, special services for people with disabilities, as well as vital child welfare programs. In fact, child welfare services are the single largest category of services funded by SSBG.

Back to Headlines

Juvenile Justice Appropriations Increased

The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science has approved legislation providing the first increases in juvenile justice funding in years. The Title V Delinquency Prevention Grant program funding is increased to $80 million, up from $65 million; state formula grants went to $96 million, up from $80 million; and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant is increased to $60 million, up from $50 million.

The full Appropriations Committee is expected to adopt the bill in the next few days, and House floor consideration is expected soon.

Back to Headlines

Baucus Still Hoping for June Markup of SCHIP Reauthorization

Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), began meeting on June 11 to try and figure out two of the most difficult questions behind reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP): How much can be put toward the program in light of Congress's pay-as-you-go rules, and where is that money going to come from? With a prior pledge of up to $50 billion over five years in additional funding for SCHIP, some members of Congress would prefer to raise the federal tobacco tax, whereas others would rather reduce payments to insurers who offer private Medicare Advantage plans (who on average, are reportedly paid 112% the rate of traditional Medicare) and funnel those savings toward reauthorization and hopeful expansion of SCHIP.

Which route Congress chooses is up in the air, but increasing the federal tobacco tax recently received persuasive support from two key players-- Hatch and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). Hatch and Kennedy are both original authors of SCHIP and on June 6 specifically stated they propose funding it through tobacco taxes. CWLA has also endorsed funding SCHIP reauthorization and growth by raising the federal tobacco tax so the 6 million children who are enrolled in the program can be maintained, and the 6 million children who are eligible but uninsured may be enrolled.

With quite a road ahead, Baucus still hopes to mark up an SCHIP reauthorization bill by the end of June.

Back to Headlines

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Gang Legislation

On June 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act, S. 456. Heavily slanted toward a federal law enforcement approach to reduce gang violence, emphasizing incarceration and longer sentences for conviction, the legislation lacks focus on prevention and early intervention.

Improvements were made to the legislation in the days leading to the committee consideration, including increased authorized funding for prevention. The punitive provisions in the bill would apply to youth and potentially would result in many more young people incarcerated in adult prisons and jails. Incarcerating gang members does not necessarily curb reoffending.

When the full Senate might consider the bill is unclear, as is what the House might do regarding gangs.

Back to Headlines

Providers, Parents, Advocates Hold Briefing for Family-Based Comprehensive Treatment

The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, a national legal and policy organization that advocates for vulnerable families, held a briefing June 11 to promote legislation CWLA is actively supporting--the Family-Based Meth Treatment Access Act of 2007 (S. 884/H.R. 405).

The bill would provide $70 million annually from 2008 to 2012 for comprehensive substance abuse treatment to pregnant and postpartum women. The treatment would incorporate the entire family--including everyone's physical and mental health needs, parenting, education, and legal services. The bill would also permit the Department of Health and Human Services 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.

Althought less than 5% of available treatment is family-based (most is individual treatment), existing programs have shown incredible promise, yielding positive outcomes for the families they assist. Substance abuse, as Kathy Icenhower from Shields for Families in California stated at the briefing, is "not a career [these women] choose."

Lorna Hogan, mother in recovery and passionate advocate for family-based programs, explained that single adult treatment programs in her experience were "just detox" and that when released from jail, because she never received any referrals, she would repeatedly go back to the one thing she knew--using. Only after finally receiving the opportunity to complete a family-based program where even her children received comprehensive therapeutic services did Lorna truly feel ready to embark upon a fresh chapter of her life.

A 2001 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment study indicated similar levels of success. Six months after family-based treatment, 60% of mothers remained alcohol- and drug-free, 38% had obtained employment, and 75% had physical custody of one of more children. With greater availability of family-based treatment, cycles of addiction and entry and re-entry into the criminal justice and child welfare systems can finally be broken so mothers can focus on what really matters--their lives and their families.

Back to Headlines

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.

Back to Headlines

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

June 21: Tentative date for House debate and vote on Labor-HHS bill
June 30-July 8: Congressional July 4th break
August 6-September 4: August summer break
October 1: 2008 federal fiscal year begins


Back to Headlines

Click here to see the list of previous issues

If you know of others who would like their names added to this list, please have them visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm. To remove yourself from this list, send an e-mail to monitor@cwla.org with "Remove from Monitor Online List" in the subject line.

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of this publication may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.