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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 6: 2/11/2008   
Headlines

New CWLA Radio Blog, "Speaking for America's Children"

President's Budget Offers More Cuts or Freezes to Domestic Programs, Tax Cuts, Defense Spending

Child Welfare, Child Care, and Other Key Programs Frozen in 2009

SSBG Would Be Eliminated by 2010

Reid, Baucus Ask HHS to Rescind or Delay TCM Services Rule

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

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



New CWLA Radio Blog, "Speaking for America's Children"

On the Line with CWLA is a thought-provoking, interactive, live Internet radio program focusing on subjects, stories, and strategies of special interest to child welfare policymakers, providers, and practitioners. The program, devoted solely to discussions about the welfare of America's vulnerable children, features a forum where numerous points of view and voices of experience within the child welfare universe can be heard. To listen to On the Line with CWLA, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

The live program, hosted by broadcasting veteran Tony Regusters, is a production of CWLA that will provide a platform for CWLA member organizations, their staffs, its partners, and concerned citizens in the national community to share ideas and thoughts about critical issues that affect child welfare agencies, vulnerable children and teens, and their families.

The weekly subject-oriented, solutions-driven program will broadcast Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET and feature indepth, timely discussions with leading child welfare experts, agents, and advocates; leadership and representatives from CWLA's member agencies; and local and national political figures working to improve child welfare and give a voice to child welfare professionals, providers, and practitioners nationwide.

Upcoming Shows

Wednesday February 13
Bush 2009 Budget Cuts Will Sharply Shortchange Kids

Wednesday February 20
Homeland Security: Making America's Children a National Priority

Tuesday February 26 (Note special day, to coincide with CWLA's Advocacy Day)
Heading for the Hill: Calling on Congress to Endorse a National Conference on Children and Youth

Remember, the shows broadcast 2:00-2:30 pm ET. The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

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President's Budget Offers More Cuts or Freezes to Domestic Programs, Tax Cuts, Defense Spending

On February 4, the President released his formal budget request for federal fiscal year 2009. For the first time, the budget will exceed $3 trillion. The total includes approximately $1 trillion in discretionary (annually appropriated) funds, with more than half, $515 billion, designated for defense spending. The defense total does not include a major portion of war funding for 2009. The President will also continue to pursue additional funding for the war.

The budget would increase defense spending 5%, along with increases in homeland security spending. All other discretionary spending would increase approximately 1%. To accomplish this, the President's budget seeks to cut human service programs, including a half billion dollar cut in the Social Service Block Grant, reductions in health care and health research, an SCHIP proposal that would result in a loss in coverage for children, and no significant increase in priorities CWLA for which has advocated.

After discretionary spending, the remainder of the budget comprises entitlements and mandatory spending. The largest of these entitlement and mandatory programs is Social Security ($694 billion,) Medicare ($407 billion), and Medicaid ($215 billion). By comparison, the entitlement under Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance totals a projected cost of just under $7 billion.

The President targets Medicare and Medicaid for significant cuts totaling $217 billion. The proposed budget also includes more than $260 billion in interest payments on the national debt and a projected deficit of more than $400 billion in 2009. Despite the increasing deficits and restrictions on domestic programs, the President also calls for an extension of his tax cuts, some of which are scheduled to expire in the next administration.

For a more detailed analysis of the FY 2009 budget, and to view a chart of proposed spending, go to our website.

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Child Welfare, Child Care, and Other Key Programs Frozen in 2009

The President's proposed FY 2009 budget offers little in the way of increases for programs like Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA), and child care. All of them remain at the same level. In the FY 2008 budget, Congress reduced funding for PSSF by $25 million, decreasing funding for the four core services from $394 million to $368 million. The FY 2009 budget also maintains child care discretionary spending at the same level of $2.062 billion. Funding for discretionary child care funding topped out in 2001, when it reached $2.1 billion. In the FY 2009 budget, the Administration projects a loss of 200,000 child care slots between t 2007 and 2009. Head Start receives an increase of $149 million, bringing it to $7.026 billion, but after a cut of $11 million, Head Start is projected to lose 13,000 slots.

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SSBG Would Be Eliminated by 2010

The President's FY 2009 budget once again calls for a half billion dollar cut in the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). His budget also calls for SSBG's elimination after 2009.

In a statement issued to the press on February 4, CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown said, "It is unfortunate that the President failed to use his last budget as a way to fortify services for children who have been abused and neglected and instead is compounding cuts enacted last year. We call on Congress to reject the President's budget and in particular the unconscionable elimination of the SSBG program."

View Brown's full statement.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a budget briefing document, which describes block grants in two ways. In the first instance it states, "...provide states with the option to receive...funding as a flexible grant over five years to support a continuum of services for families in crisis and children at risk." The second description says ,"...provides flexible grants to states for the provision of social services ranging from child care to residential treatment."

These are two almost interchangeable descriptions of block grants, except that in the first case the Administration is advocating for a proposal to convert the Title IV-E foster care entitlement funding into a block grant. In the second instance, the Administration is describing the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the reason it wants to eliminate SSBG.

For the sixth consecutive budget request, the Administration has advanced, as its major child welfare reform proposal, an option for states to convert entitlement funding under foster care into a block grant. It has argued this will give states needed flexibility to invest in up-front preventive services. Juxtaposed against that position is a proposal it has now offered for three consecutive budgets to cut SSBG by half a billion dollars.

This year, the Administration goes even further by proposing funding be eliminated altogether in 2010. It argues, "The broad array of social services funded through SSBG often overlap with other federal programs. The FY 2009 request acknowledges these weaknesses and proposes to phase out this program since it cannot demonstrate results."

SSBG was originally an open-ended entitlement and enacted as Title XX of the Social Security Act. In 1981, it was converted from an open-ended entitlement funding source to a fixed block grant entitlement to the states known as SSBG. States could spend the dollars more freely to help families and keep people in their communities without the need to create various eligibility standards and requirements.

Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, SSBG's funding peaked at $2.8 billion. It was reduced as part of the 1996 welfare reform/TANF law to $2.3 billion but was to be restored to $2.8 billion after five years. It never was restored, however, and in fact was reduced again, this time to $1.7 billion, as part of an offset for the 1998 transportation reauthorization legislation.

Funding has been set at $1.7 billion throughout this decade. Now the Administration argues for the program's elimination because it overlaps with other federal and state programs. In fact, states use SSBG funds to subsidize shortfalls in some of the other federal programs such as child protective services, child welfare prevention services like home visiting, and many programs outside the child welfare field, such as home-delivered meals for senior citizens.

According to a 2004 survey by the Urban Institute, SSBG was providing approximately 11% of federal child welfare funding nationwide. In the words of the Administration, it can be said of the SSBG block grant it "provides states with the option to...support a continuum of services for families in crisis and children at risk." Eliminating or cutting a half billion dollars in SSBG funds would mean at least a difficult challenge for states to maintain this 11% in child welfare funding, especially if state budgets are also coping with an economic recession.

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Reid, Baucus Ask HHS to Rescind or Delay TCM Services Rule

With the public comment period on an interim final rule affecting Medicaid Case Management and Targeted Case Management Services (CM/TCM) closing last Monday, CWLA and numerous other national and state and local organizations have weighed in with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asking the agency to take quick action and either significantly amend or entirely rescind the rule. CWLA's comments submitted to CMS may be viewed here.

As part of this effort to protect case management services, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) championed a letter to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt similarly requesting him to "rescind or delay the interim final rule and replace it with a policy that more accurately reflects the congressional intent of Section 6052 [of the DRA]." Baucus's statement specifically mentions his concern that the rule would prevent at-risk beneficiaries such as children in foster care from accessing necessary medical, social, educational, and other case management services.

Although Congress clarified the scope of the Medicaid CM/TCM benefit through Section 6052 of the Deficit Reduction Act (P.L. 109-171), as the letter by Reid and Baucus indicates, CMS's regulation appears to go far beyond the statutory provisions specifically authorized by Congress, in turn threatening valuable case management services for several vulnerable populations, including children and youth in the child welfare and foster care systems. For instance, the regulation vaguely disallows Medicaid reimbursement for CM/TCM services that are deemed "integral to" the administration of another nonmedical program, such as child welfare and child protective services.

CMS alludes this exclusion could extend to case management services furnished by contractors to state child welfare and child protection agencies, even if they are otherwise qualified Medicaid providers. The senators' letter also takes issue with the rule's prohibition of bundled or capitated payment methodologies related to TCM and its requirement that case management services be furnished by a single Medicaid case management provider.

CWLA sincerely hopes CMS will heed the public's and Congress's concerns and at a bare minimum temporarily stop the regulation from going into effect to ensure that congressional intent is upheld. Alternatively, legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and House to impose a moratorium on all administrative action surrounding the regulation until April 1, 2009. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced the House bill (H.R. 5173), and Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led the Senate bill (S. 2578). Both bills are garnering significant, bipartisan support, and we urge you to call your members of Congress and ask them to join the movement to protect Medicaid and its vulnerable beneficiaries by cosponsoring this legislation.

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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

  • February 13: CWLA Radio Blog, Capitol Punishment: Bush 2009 Budget Cuts Will Sharply Shortchange Kids: SSBG.
  • February 18-24: President's Day Break
  • February 25-27: CWLA National Conference
  • March15-30: Congressional Spring break
  • April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • April 15: Target date to pass Congressional budget resolution
  • May 15: Target for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills
  • June 27: Target for House to complete work on appropriations


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