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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 11: 3/17/2008   
Headlines

Senate Bill to Reestablish White House Conference on Children and Youth Introduced

Listen to Rep. Jim McDermott on His Bill and Workforce Issues

Second Chance Act Passes

Budget Process Move Forward, Long Spring Ahead for Congress

CWLA Calls on Appropriators to Restore Promoting Safe and Stable Families

CWLA Responds to Subcommittee Question on McDermott Bill

CWLA Submits Comments

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

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

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Bill to Reestablish White House Conference on Children and Youth Introduced

On March 13, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced a bill to reestablish a White House Conference on Children and Youth, S. 2771. The introduction of the bill means there is now a bill in the Senate and the House (HR 5461). The House bill now has 43 sponsors. The Landrieu bill is cosponsored by Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Robert Casey (D-PA), John Kerry (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Both bills direct the President to issue a call to hold a White House Conference on Children and Youth in 2010, with a series of meetings in 2009. The legislation creates a policy committee selected by both the President and the bipartisan leadership in Congress. The committee then oversees such key issues of holding meetings around the country in preparation, the number and selection of delegates, and an agenda, which is published in the Federal Register.

The first such conference was held in 1909, and one was held every 10 years through 1970. The only similar White House event is the White House Conference on Aging, which started in the 1960s and has taken place every 10 years since. In more recent Aging Conferences, such as the 1993-1994 event, approximately 900 separate state and local gatherings were held independent from the conference but recognized for their input and suggestions.

CWLA called for the restoration of the Conference on Children and Youth last fall and sees this an opportunity to focus community and national attention on the nation's most vulnerable children and, as a result, on the most critical issues facing children in the United States in the 21st Century.

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Listen to Rep. Jim McDermott on His Bill and Workforce Issues

CWLA Radio blog listeners heard Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, talk about his child welfare reform legislation (H.R. 5466) last week on the CWLA Blog Talk Radio. To listen to a rebroadcast of the interview with McDermott, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

The live radio broadcasts air every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. ET. This month, the radio blog is focusing on the child welfare workforce. Much of the discussion last week centered on Title III of the McDermott bill, which creates a $200 million block grant to help states strengthen the child welfare workforce. States apply for the funds to develop strategies that, among other things, would reduce caseloads for workers, strengthen training, and stabilize state workforces. An applying state would provide baseline data to track the progress of the strategy.

McDermott talked about the stresses on the child welfare workforce, noting many workers will leave after just two years after gaining the experience they need to make the critical decisions required by the job. McDermott also discussed the overall bill, which would make several changes to child welfare funding. He said, "The bill is the first attempt to do reform of the system in some 20 years."

Joining McDermott on the call was Tim Briceland-Betts, Codirector of Government Affairs for CWLA. He highlighted the workforce issue as a key concern for the organization and talked about two other important workforce provisions before Congress. One provision that is a part of the McDermott legislation is similar to legislation introduced by Representative Jerry Weller (R-IL), H.R. 2314 to extend current Title IV-E federal child welfare training funds to private agencies. CWLA has endorsed this bill, as well as the McDermott bill. The legislation would allow workers of private agencies recognized by the state to qualify for federally funded training.

A second issue Briceland-Betts talked about was in the House higher education reauthorization bill (H.R. 2669). Qualified social workers could receive loan forgiveness of $2,000 a year for each of the first five years they remained working. The bill is now in negotiation with the Senate over its version, which does not include the forgiveness.

McDermott indicated he was in discussion with House leadership on how to move forward on his bill. To read a fuller description of H.R. 5466, go to the February 25, edition of Children's Monitor.

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Second Chance Act Passes

On March 11, the Second Chance Act (H.R. 1593) passed the Senate, after having passed in the House last November. This legislation aims to reduce recidivism by helping former prisoners, both adults and juveniles, obtain housing, employment, education, and health care, and to strengthen family relationships as appropriate. It authorizes $362 million over fiscal 2008 and 2009 for Justice Department programs

H.R. 1593 includes many provisions aimed at maintaining the parent child relationship as appropriate to the safety, security, and well-being of the child. The bill provides children and family support for responsible parenting and healthy relationship skill training designed specifically to address the needs of incarcerated and transitioning fathers and mothers. It expands family-based drug treatment centers that offer family-based comprehensive treatment services for parents and their children as a complete family unit as appropriate to the safety security and well being of the family. It strengthens the family's capacity to function as a stable living situation during reentry and involves family members in the planning and implementation of the reentry process.

The President is expected to sign the legislation into law. The next step is for Congress to make appropriations available to carry out the new initiatives.

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Budget Process Move Forward, Long Spring Ahead for Congress

Both the House and Senate were finishing their work on budget resolutions as last week came to an end. Congress is headed for a two-week break, but when it returns March 31, it will likely face the longest uninterrupted congressional work session of the year, stretching to the end of May.

The break will give House and Senate negotiators the chance to iron out differences between the two budget resolutions. The resulting joint resolution sets overall spending allocations between programs and does not have to be signed by the President. Both resolutions provide higher spending levels than the President has requested, but there are some differences between the two with the House bill providing slightly more funding.

Under the President's budget plan, cuts to many human service programs are almost certain because most of the increase in his budget is for the non-war costs of the Defense budget and homeland security. The key differences between the two resolutions is whether there will be a reconciliation process, which is a parliamentary procedure designed to reduce overall spending. The most significant impact of the reconciliation process is that it cannot be filibustered by the Senate.

A second issue is whether there will be another economic stimulus package. Some congressional members are calling for a second package, which would be more targeted toward relief through programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. Another issue is whether a change in the Alternate Minimum Tax (AMT) will be paid for. The AMT is an alternate way to pay income taxes that is covering more and more middle-income taxpayers. Congress has been passing amendments year by year that have generally cost $50 billion per year. Generally, Republicans argue it should not be paid for since it is a tax change.

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CWLA Calls on Appropriators to Restore Promoting Safe and Stable Families

CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown has written to Senate and House Appropriators to restore discretionary funding under the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) to $100 million, highlighting one of CWLA's key appropriations concerns. This funding level represents the highest it has received over the past five years, but this is still not the program's fully funded level.

In her letter, James-Brown said, "For FY 2008, PSSF was cut drastically, with discretionary funding reduced from the 2007 level of $89 million to $63 million. As we indicated, states are required to spend at least 20% of their funds on each of four services, families in need of adoption services, families in need of reunification services, families being targeted for intense preservation services, and services targeted to support families." The letter also highlighted some examples of state initiatives. Read a copy of the letter.


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CWLA Responds to Subcommittee Question on McDermott Bill

On March 12, Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies in New York, responded on behalf of CWLA to a series of questions submitted by subcommittee members as a follow up to his testimony on February 27. On that date, Purcell testified on behalf of CWLA on the Invest in KIDS Act (H.R. 5466), introduced by Representative Jim McDermott.

The follow-up questions focused on the cost of the bill, possible duplication with other federal programs, and the potential impact of kinship families in foster care. Read a copy of the questions and answers.

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CWLA Submits Comments

On March 11, CWLA submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on its proposed rule on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).The proposed rule was issued January 11, with comments due last week. CWLA expressed support for the attempt in the rules to move data collection toward longitudinal data. This will allow greater detail and information on children in the system and can help shape decision-making and practice. Much of current data is based on a point in time such as the annual figures of more than 500,000 in foster care, which is actually the number in care at the end of the federal fiscal year.

Much of the rule, however, left CWLA state members challenged in regard to how certain data requirements would be implemented and how data systems might have to be restructured. The comments also highlighted a concern about how these possibly dramatic increases in data collection would effect caseworkers, who are ultimately the people tasked with carrying out the new requirements.

CWLA also raised concerns about the shortened time frame to submit data, from the current 45 days to 15, and the use of penalties. CWLA repeated its position that a system of penalties that requires fines to be reinvested into the child welfare system, similar to the way the U.S Department of Agriculture carries out penalties under the food stamp program, would be a more effective strategy. Read the comments.

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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

March 19
Third in a four-part series focused on the child welfare workforce throughout March--National Professional Social Work Month.

3/26/2008 Part 4: Child Welfare Workers: Overworked and Underpaid

The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

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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

  • March15-30: Congressional Spring Break
  • April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • April 15: Target date to pass Congressional budget resolution
  • April 25: Children's Memorial Flag Day
  • May 15: Target date for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills
  • June 27: Target date for House to complete work on appropriations


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