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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 19: 5/19/2008   
Headlines

Special Note

Kinship Care Support Grows, Grassley to Introduce Bill

Update on Medicaid Rules Moratorium

House Committee Passes Boot Camp Legislation

House Holds Hearing on SCHIP Directive

Budget Update: Supplemental Slows, Budget Resolution Progresses

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



Special Note

In observance of Memorial Day, Children's Monitor will not be published the week of May 26. Look for the Monitor again on Monday June 2.

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Kinship Care Support Grows, Grassley to Introduce Bill

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, is expected to introduce a bill this week that will extend Title IV-E funding to kinship families in the child welfare system. The legislation will also include a reauthorization of the adoption incentives program, which is due to expire this year.

The bill will likely include some of the provisions that are a part of key proposals on kinship care that have been gaining support in both the Senate and House over the past two Congresses. This development comes less than two weeks after hundreds of grandparents and other relatives and their grandchildren and nieces and nephews gathered on Capitol Hill for the third national GrandRally. The families took the occasion to visit their legislators in support of the House and Senate bills.

Support for the House bill, H.R. 2188, sponsored by Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL), has grown to 74 cosponsors. Nine members of the House have joined on to the bill since the rally. The Senate bill, S. 611, is sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and has a total of 30 cosponsors. Of those, 6 are on the key Senate Finance Committee.

The Grassley legislation, similar to the Senate and House bills, would extend Title IV-E funding to kinship families who are part of the state's child welfare system. To be eligible, adoption or reunification of the child with his or her family would have to be ruled out. Another feature of the Grassley bill similar to the Senate and House bills is the requirement that states notify relatives when a child enters the state child welfare system.

The bill reauthorizes the adoption incentive program, which provides an adoption bonus to states if they exceed their highest number of adoptions from previous years. The bill follows recommendations similar to Bush Administration proposals to increase the incentive when states increase their adoptions of special-needs and older children waiting to be adopted from the child welfare system.

Some of the kinship and adoption incentive provisions can be found in a third bill introduced by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), HR 5466. Taken in total, with two bills in the Senate and two in the House containing key kinship care proposals, the chance of passage has increased significantly since the start of the 110th Congress. Congress is expected to attempt action on the adoption incentive program, since it is due for reauthorization. That bill may offer the best opportunity for action on child welfare in this Congress.

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Update on Medicaid Rules Moratorium

The House of Representative on May 15 took up its war supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 2642, voting 256-166 to add an amendment that contains a moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration, including delays on the rehabilitative services and case management/targeted case management (CM/TCM) rules.

On the same day, the Bush Administration issued a formal veto threat against the legislation, citing several points of issue with H.R. 2642, such as its timeline for troop withdrawal and overall funding level. The Administration also said it does not believe domestic spending should be part of a "bill focused on the emergency needs of our troops."

Also on May 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the war supplemental, which similarly contains amoratorium on the seven Medicaid regulations.

Members had hoped to have conference negotiations on the war supplemental between the House and Senate completed by Memorial Day recess, but both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have acknowledged they may not be ready to send the final bill to the President until mid-June.

Legislation delaying the Medicaid rules very much needs to be signed into law quickly, as some of the rules, including the CM/TCM rule, already are in effect or simply not under moratorium. Other rules' moratoria are about to expire, such as the moratorium on the rehabilitative services rule, which expires June 30.

For an informative conversation about the Medicaid rules' affect on states, as well as the child welfare and foster care systems and the vulnerable populations they serve, listen to CWLA's May 1 Internet radio program, "Policy Actions on Health Care Coverage for Foster Children."

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House Committee Passes Boot Camp Legislation

On May 14, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs Act, H.R. 5876. This legislation, introduced by Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA), aims to reduce the abuse of teenage children placed in facilities sometimes referred to as outdoor camps, wilderness camps, or boot camps. The bill would establish standards for these programs that are consistent with current child protection laws, create mechanisms for the monitoring and enforcement of these goals, and provide grants to states to assist in implementation.

H.R. 5876 would establish minimum standards for preventing child abuse and neglect at teen residential programs. It would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to inspect all programs nationwide at least once every two years and to issue penalties against programs that violate the new standards. The bill also calls for states, within three years, to take on the role of setting and enforcing standards for both private and public youth residential programs.

The legislation would also help ensure that parents have the information about teen residential programs they need to make safe choices for their children. When the bill will go to the full House for consideration is unclear. The legislation has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

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House Holds Hearing on SCHIP Directive

On May 15, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on a policy directive issued by the Bush Administration that restricts states' abilities to cover children in families with income above 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL; 250% of FPL is $51,625 for a family of four) in their State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIPs).

Purporting to clarify procedures used by states to prevent crowd out of private insurance, the directive issued August 17, 2007, requires states to prove they have enrolled at least 95% of their children below 200% FPL who are eligible for either SCHIP or Medicaid before moving up the income eligibility ladder. Under this directive, states would also have to prove the beneficiaries--in this case, children--have been uninsured for at least an entire year before they could enroll them in an SCHIP program. States were given a year to come into compliance with the directive.

In a second instructive letter issued May 7, 2008, the Centers for Medicaid and Mediare Services (CMS) elaborated on its initial August 17 guidance. In the most recent letter, CMS said the August 17 directive only applies to new enrollees above 250% FPL and does not apply to unborn children. CMS further indicated states need only apply the 12-month uninsurance requirement to enrollees over 250% FPL (but they can apply it to children in families below 250%), and that a state may submit justifications to receive an exception to the uninsurance requirement.

About the requirement that states enroll at least 95% of children below 200% FPL, CMS explained that various data can be used in support, and it believe "a number of states have already reached this goal."

At the hearing, Subcommittee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) took issue with both the substance of the directive and the process in which it came to be. The August 17 directive's requirements, Pallone said, are "not only impossible to achieve but make little, if any, sense." He continued that in regard to process, simply, the "Bush Administration broke the law." Supporting that point were witnesses from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), both independent bodies that have deemed the August 17 directive to be a rule under the Congressional Review Act. As such, GAO and CRS representatives testified, the August 17 directive must be submitted to Congress and the Comptroller General before it can take effect--which it was not.

Pallone, along with Representative Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), has introduced H.R. 5998, legislation that would nullify the August 17 directive and subsequent guidance based on that letter. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) has legislation in the Senate (S. 2819) that would delay the August 17 directive.

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Budget Update: Supplemental Slows, Budget Resolution Progresses

Although looking more likely that the war supplemental may not reach the President's desk until after the Memorial Day break, progress on a final budget resolution seems to have picked up momentum. Plans are to finish work on the resolution this week. After a deal was reached with House "Blue-Dog Democrats," a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, progress picked up. The resolution 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 that wealthy taxpayers paid an income tax. Designed in 1969, it is now effecting 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 $55 billion to $70 billion per year.

The required Senate point of order would mean there would have to be 60 Senate votes 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 that most spending, including money for the Department of Health and Human Services, will be left for the new President to decide after November, and perhaps as late as next January.

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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 for May

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 21
Happy Endings: Foster Family Success Stories


Our country has an ongoing need for foster parents. Unfortunately, foster parenting is often misunderstood and maligned by the negative portrayals of foster families in newspapers, movies, and television, which stigmatize both foster parents and foster children and severely hinder efforts to recruit qualified foster parents.

Contrary to these negative images, there are many stories about foster children who have grown up to become productive, successful adults because of the love and guiding influence of their foster parents. In a effort to dispel the misguided perceptions, On the Line with CWLA salutes foster families--unsung heroes who are making a difference in the lives of foster children.

Wednesday, May 28
A Conversation with Victoria Rowell


An estimated 12 million alumni from the foster care system live in the United States, representing all walks of life. Although a high percentage of youth leave foster care with many troubles and end up homeless, in mental health hospitals, or in prison, many former foster children have triumphed and become successful adults.

On the Line with CWLA engages in a one-on-one discussion with actress Victoria Rowell, who spent 18 years in foster care. Rowell is an award-winning actress of theatre, daytime soap operas (Drucilla Winters on The Young and the Restless), primetime television (Dr. Amanda Bentley on Diagnosis: Murder), and feature films, and a dedicated champion for foster children in America.

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 15: Target date for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills
  • May 26: Memorial Day Break
  • June 27: Target date for House to complete work on Appropriations
  • June 29-July 6: July 4th Congressional Break


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