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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 17: 5/5/2008   
Headlines

Medicaid Bill Hits Obstacle in Senate; Other Vehicles Considered

GrandRally, May 7: A Time To Support Grandparents and Other Relatives

CWLA Supports National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 8

Clinton Introduces Child Welfare Workforce Improvement Act

Higher Education Reauthorization Talks Continue While Law Extended

Budget Deal Close, but War Supplemental Still Debated

New Report on State Secrecy and Child Deaths

CWLA Radio, 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



Medicaid Bill Hits Obstacle in Senate; Other Vehicles Considered

After the House passed the Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008 (H.R. 5613) with a strong veto-proof vote of 349-62, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked a procedural rule that permitted the bill to come directly to the Senate floor, bypassing the committee of jurisdiction, Senate Finance.

On April 29, Reid asked for unanimous consent on H.R. 5613, but Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected, thus placing a major roadblock to the legislation's forward movement. For the bill to proceed, Reid would now have to file a cloture petition and take up a significant amount of floor time, which is seemingly always hard to come by. As an alternative, Congressional leaders are considering moving the bill by attaching it to other pieces of legislation, such as the war supplemental bill the House may consider as early as this week.

H.R. 5613 would place a one-year moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration, including the rule on rehabilitative services and case management/targeted case management (TCM) CWLA is extremely concerned about. CWLA, working with other affected communities, managed to secure a moratorium on the rehab rule until June 30, but would like to see this moratorium extended and a moratorium placed on the TCM rule and the series of other questionable rules. The moratoria would give Congress time to determine whether the rules are in line with Congressional intent and whether they are the best policy decisions for Medicaid beneficiaries.

CWLA urges its members to call their legislators in both the House and Senate and urge them to support moratoria on all seven Medicaid regulations, as passed by the House of Representatives in H.R. 5613. Letters supposedly are circulating in the Senate in opposition to the bill, instead suggesting delaying only two of the rules. When calling your Senators, therefore, additionally urge them to not sign such a letter.

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GrandRally, May 7: A Time To Support Grandparents and Other Relatives

On May 7, hundreds of grandparents and other relatives raising children will gather at the U.S. Capitol for a GrandRally to highlight their important role in raising children and the help they need from family, friends, their communities, states, national organizations and agencies, and elected officials.

The GrandRally is an historic gathering of grandparents and other relative caregivers from across the country that brings attention to the needs of children and kinship care families. It's an important opportunity to educate Members of Congress and their staffs about the supports and services kinship families need. The GrandRally also offers caregivers, advocates, and Members of Congress the chance to recognize and celebrate the essential role that grandparents and other relative caregivers play in keeping children safe and in stable families.

More than 850 grandparents and other relatives raising children, from 28 states and the District of Columbia, attended the first national GrandRally in October 2003. The second GrandRally grew to include 1,000 grandparents, relative caregivers, and advocates from 41 states and DC. This year's GrandRally is sponsored by AARP, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), CWLA, Generations United (GU), GrandFamilies of America, and the National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights (NCGCR).

The rally will take place on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. on the West Grassy Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. View more information.

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CWLA Supports National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 8

CWLA is proud to join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a supporter of its Third Annual National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on May 8. Awareness Day is an opportunity for SAMHSA, SAMHSA-funded communities, and partner organizations such as CWLA to promote positive youth development, resilience, recovery, and the transformation of mental health services delivery for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families.

The theme for this year's Awareness Day is Thriving in the Community, highlighting that high school youth who receive the services they need are more likely to have positive outcomes such as better grades and higher rates of education, and are less likely to have negative outcomes such as involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Moderate to severe mental health and behavioral problems affect 50%-80% of children in out-of-home care. Despite the disproportionate need, some estimate only about 25% of children in foster care receive mental health services at any given time. Consequently, CWLA and our members have long been committed to better addressing the mental health care needs of children and youth in the child welfare system and to the system of care philosophy in child mental health services.

CWLA has several resources available, including the September/October 2007 special issue of Child Welfare Journal focusing on effectively addressing mental health in child welfare practice and the CWLA Standards of Excellence for Health Care Services for Children in Out-of-Home Care. CWLA is also actively involved in several pressing children's mental health policy issues, including preserving access to vital Medicaid services through the Rehabilitative Services option and achieving mental health parity.

For more information about what your community and organization can do to support National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on May 8, visit SAMHSA's website. A video of Dr. Gary Blau, Chief of the Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch, Centers for Mental Health Services, discussing the importance of Awareness Day is available online.

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Clinton Introduces Child Welfare Workforce Improvement Act

On April 30, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced S. 2944, a bill amending the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act to fund a National Academy of Sciences study on the child welfare workforce, and expand access to training funds through Title IV-E.

The national study would assess various characteristics of the child welfare workforce and make recommendations regarding appropriate levels of caseloads and workloads, training, and supervision. The bill directs the academy to make recommendations for linking workforce data to data on child outcomes, and would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a system for collecting child welfare workforce data and linking that information to data on child outcomes.

The bill would alter Title IV-E by eliminating the 1996 AFDC "look-back" for accessing IV-E training dollars. The legislation would permit private, nonprofit educational institutions to contribute the state share of funds when university-partnership training programs are claimed under IV-E. Title IV-E training dollars would for the first time be available to staff providing support, preservation, or reunification services. Access to the training funds would also be available to staff providing foster care or adoption services and other child welfare staff employed by private, nonprofit child welfare agencies.

CWLA has long advocated for these reforms and has been a part of the Child Welfare Workforce Policy Group, spearheaded by the Children's Defense Fund and Children's Rights, which has included a call for a national study as part of the recommendations to strengthen the child welfare workforce.

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Higher Education Reauthorization Talks Continue While Law Extended

Congress has extended the Higher Education Act until the end of May as Senate and House negotiators continue discussions over legislation to reauthorize the act. Of particular interest to the child welfare community is the provision on loan forgiveness for service in areas of national need.

One of the 13 categories of need is child welfare workers, defined as a person who has obtained a degree in social work or related field with a focus on serving children and families and is employed in public or private child welfare services. If a person fits this definition, he or she can receive up to $2,000 per year for each of the first five years if he or she continues to work for such an agency.

The Senate bill does not contain this provision. If Congress agrees to the House language, it would still require an annual appropriation.

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Budget Deal Close, but War Supplemental Still Debated

Congressional leaders appear close to a budget agreement that would allow for passage of a budget resolution. The budget resolution outlines and limits overall spending for the fiscal year. It can also call for a reconciliation process, which allows for cuts and sometimes increases in mandatory spending. Such a reconciliation provision can help block a Senate filibuster.

The deal reached with the House "Blue Dog Democrats" (a group of conservative Democrats who promote fiscal conservatism and accountability) would not include reconciliation as the Blue Dogs had wanted but would require a Senate point of order on spending over $10 billion if it is not paid for.

One of the major points of contention is the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT was designed to ensure wealthy taxpayers paid an income tax. Designed in 1969, it is affecting more and more middle-income taxpayers, so Congress has been passing one-year "patches" or fixes that exempt certain taxpayers for one year; the cost is approximately $70 billion per year. Blue Dog Democrats have insisted that such a patch be paid for. Many Senate Republicans and some Democrats do not want to offset the cost and instead feel it should be extended.

The required Senate point of order would mean 60 Senate votes would be necessary to pass such an AMT fix. In an election year, the AMT fix would likely have enough votes to pass without being offset. Such a point of order would also make it unlikely any other spending would be enacted without cuts in other areas or changes in the tax code to raise revenue. To get a budget resolution passed would speed up some of the appropriations debates, but the likelihood is that only a few appropriations bills will be passed this year and most spending, including money for the Department of Health and Human Services, would be left for the new President to decide after November, and perhaps as late as next January.

Negotiations on a war supplemental bill continues. The supplemental would provide an addition $108 billion in funding for the war to cover costs this fiscal year. This would be in addition to the approximately $80 billion already been approved and spent. The President is all but certain to get the additional $108 billion in funds, but the debate in Congress is whether to include additional domestic spending, including an antirecession package of relief measures, and how the supplemental would be voted on. Congress also could attach the moratorium on Medicaid regulation to the supplemental, since it is considered must-pass legislation.

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New Report on State Secrecy and Child Deaths

On April 29, First Star and Children's Advocacy Institute (CAI) held a briefing on Capitol Hill to announce the release of their new report, State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S. The report surveys all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine if each state has a policy for public disclosure of child deaths, if the state's policy is codified in statute, if there's ease of access to the information, the scope of information, and whether the state has open verses closed abuse/neglect proceedings. The report uses letter grades for each state from A to F based on these factors. Ten states received an F, 28 received a C+ or lower, and 6 states received an A or A-. For more information, visit www.firststar.org.

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CWLA Radio, 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 call-in number is 347/326-9411.

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

May is National Foster Care Month. During May, On the Line with CWLA presents a series of programs to raise awareness about the needs of children in foster care and inspire people to actions that will make a difference.

Wednesday, May 7
Traumatized Children: Foster Children Have More Mental Health Needs


More than a half million children and youth live in foster care--and the number is rising. Youth in foster care have a much higher prevalence of mental health problems compared with children in the general population.

Foster children are at high risk for mental health problems as a result of the traumatic experiences that brought them into the foster care system, the separation from their homes and families, and the multiple placements that cause continual disruptions in their daily lives. Despite these conditions, many of the children and youth in foster care are not receiving much-needed mental health services.

May 8 is National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. On the Line with CWLA's guests will share important insights on strategies and solutions to adequately meet the mental health needs of children in foster care.

Wednesday, May 14
In Their Words: The Perspectives of Adolescents Aging Out of Foster Care


What happens to foster youth when they grow up and "age out" of the foster care system? Approximately 20,000 youth age out of foster care system each year, exiting the child welfare system when they reach age 18.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be difficult time for youth, but it's even more challenging for youth aging out of foster care--suddenly on their own at 18 without the safety net of a permanent family. On the Line with CWLA features adolescents currently in foster care and young adult alumni of the foster care system who will express their personal thoughts and feelings about aging out.

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

  • May 1: Start of National Foster Care Month
  • May 7: Third National Grand Rally on Capitol Hill
  • May 8: Mental Health Awareness 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
  • June 29-July 6: July 4th Congressional Break


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