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

Vol. 21, Issue 1: 1/7/2008   

2008 Budget Shows Weakness of Relying on Discretionary Funding for Child Welfare

Second Session of 110th Congress Begins with Familiar Agenda

Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

2008 Budget Shows Weakness of Relying on Discretionary Funding for Child Welfare

Details of the omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2008 funding (HR 2764), signed by President Bush last month, highlighted the difficulty of relying on annual appropriated or discretionary funding to provide needed child welfare services.

An analysis of 13 of these types of programs that are strictly targeted to address child welfare services, including the Adoption Opportunities program, funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), and Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), shows that of the total 2007 discretionary funding of $629 million, $24 million was cut. The total for 2008 is $605 million, a reduction of nearly 4%.

By comparison, the seven entitlement and mandatory programs for child welfare, including Adoption Assistance, Independent Living and the mandatory part of PSSF, received an increase in funds from $7 billion to $7.242 billion, despite the fact that eligibility for federal foster care and adoption assistance are tied to an eligibility standard that has been frozen since 1996, and as a result the number of children in care covered by federal funds is declining.

Of the 13 discretionary programs, 11 were cut: Child Welfare Services, PSSF, Mentoring for Children of Prisoners, Child Welfare Training, CAPTA State Grants, CAPTA Community-Based Grants, Adoption Awareness, Adoption Opportunities, Adoption Incentives, Abandoned Infants, and Education and Training Vouchers for youth leaving care. There was a slight increase of $1.4 million in CAPTA Discretionary grants and the creation of a new administration earmark of $10 million for home-visiting programs. The home-visiting program is funded through CAPTA.

PSSF received the biggest funding cut. This year, PSSF was cut drastically, with discretionary funding reduced from the 2007 level of $89 million to $63 million.

Of the seven programs that are mandatory or entitlements, the increases came from the two entitlements: Title IV-E Foster Care and Title IV-E Adoption Assistance. Foster care is projected to increase by $106 million to $4.4 billion, and adoption assistance is to increase by $129 million to $2.1 billion. As entitlements, the actual totals for these two programs could be higher or lower depending on how many children in care meet the federal eligibility standards. Approximately 45% of children in foster care are covered by federal funding.

The remaining five programs are all mandatory, with funding levels fixed in law: PSSF core services receive $305 million; an additional $40 million is designated for two programs, substance abuse grants and workforce initiatives; and another $20 million is for court improvements. The fifth mandatory program is Independent Living Services for youth leaving foster care, which received $140 million.

PSSF has become a complex funding instrument for child welfare. Created in 1993 as a family preservation program, it has grown to provide four core services to families: adoption services; reunification services; intense services to prevent disintegration, including preservation services; and services targeted to support families. States generally spend equal portions on the four services.

In 2001, the President offered legislation to reauthorize PSSF and increase its mandatory funding from $305 million to $505 million. In the end, this proposal was modified (P.L. 107-133), and the additional $200 million was provided not as mandatory funding but as an annual appropriation. In succeeding years, PSSF never received the full $200 million and in fact topped out at just under $100 million in appropriated funds in 2004. After the last reauthorization in 2006, things became more complex.

In 2006, Congress increased mandatory funding for PSSF after cutting Title IV-E foster care administrative funding in the Deficit Reduction Act. Mandatory funding for PSSF was increased $20 million a year for court improvement efforts, and $40 million a year for substance abuse/methamphetamine programs and workforce initiatives. The court and workforce dollars go to each state on a formula basis, and the substance abuse funds go only to applying programs and states. None of these additional dollars are available for the four core services in PSSF. Despite that fact, Congress has continued to cut funding for the core services. The President has also stopped requesting full funding for PSSF in his budgets.

Additional information on the budget for FY 2008 is available online.

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Second Session of 110th Congress Begins with Familiar Agenda

The House of Representatives reconvenes January 15, and the Senate is set to return the following week. The President is scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address on Monday, January 28, and his budget request for FY 2009 will be released the following week.

We will likely see some of the same budget battles as last year, since the President is expected to call for approval of his full funding request for the war and Congress will object. Congress did provide $70 billion in war funds for the current fiscal year, but the Administration wants $200 billion. The new budget will likely include an additional war funding request for 2009, beyond that $200 billion. In addition, the President will likely once again call for, and Congress will oppose, cuts and freezes for certain domestic programs.

Aside from budget differences, the battle over the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is expected to continue. Congress is expected to reconsider a reauthorization of CHIP. Last month, Congress extended the life of the program through March 2009 after two presidential vetoes of a bipartisan compromise bill. Congress is expected to take up a five-year extension at some point this year, otherwise the entire issue will be front and center for the new President.

Congress will consider other issues that affect child welfare. The Higher Education Act is scheduled for reauthorization, with the possibility that Congress will include a new loan forgiveness provision for child welfare workers, social workers, and child care workers. Other legislation to be considered is the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act, the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act, and the Adoption Incentives program.

Additionally, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) is expected to consider a child welfare reform bill in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, which he chairs. If a bill does emerge, it will likely address key issues, including kinship care, youth aging out of care, and access to health care for some of these youth.

The Kinship Caregiver Support Act also may be considered, as it continues to gather cosponsors in both Houses. The Senate bill, S. 661, with Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as the chief sponsors, now has 22 cosponsors; the House version, H.R. 2188, with Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) and Timothy Johnson (R-IL) as chief sponsors, now has 33 cosponsors.

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Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

Holding a White House Conference on Children will bring together a cross-section of policymakers, advocates, professionals (including the courts), and families and children directly affected by the child welfare system to create recommendations for policy and change. Much positive change has come from previous White House conferences for children, the last one being held in 1970. CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish this important policymaking tradition, and the time to act is NOW.

Your support and involvement with this effort is crucial to its success. As experts in the field, we look to you for your leadership in asking Congress and others to support this important campaign for children.

Sign On in Support

CWLA is calling on members and supporters to sign on in support of a White House Conference on Children in 2010.

Pass a Board Resolution

If your organization requires you to pass a board resolution to officially support such an effort, CWLA has created a sample resolution to assist you in this effort.

Let Congress Know of Your Support

The League encourages you to send your resolutions and letters of support to your Congressional delegation. Without their support, a White House conference is not possible.

In keeping with CWLA's tradition of nonpartisanship, the letter has been sent to all presidential candidates in the two major parties. View the website, read the letter, and sign on to support the campaign.

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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

  • January 15: Start of Second Session of 110th Congress; House Returns
  • January 22: Senate Returns
  • January 28: President's State of the Union Address
  • February 4: President's Proposed Budget for FY 2009 submitted to Congress
  • February 25-27: CWLA National Conference

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