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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 20: 6/2/2008   
Headlines

Strong Votes Provide Momentum for Medicaid Moratorium

CWLA Joins in Calls for MEPA Reform

Grassley Holds Press Conference on Kinship Care-Adoption Bill

Congress Returns for Two Budget Debates

Celebration Honors Brazelton

House Parity Compromise Deletes DSM-IV Provision

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



Strong Votes Provide Momentum for Medicaid Moratorium

A moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations, including delays on the rehabilitative services and case management/targeted case management (CM/TCM) rules that CWLA and its members have been highly concerned about, has been included in both the House and Senate versions of the war supplemental spending bill. On May 15, with a vote of 256-166, the House added an amendment containing the Medicaid rules moratorium to its war supplemental package. Just a week later, on May 22, the Senate with a powerful, veto-proof majority of 75-22, added an amendment containing the Medicaid rules moratorium to its war supplemental. The Senate package will now be sent back to the House for further consideration and, once reconciled, sent to the White House.

President Bush has already issued veto threats on both the House and Senate versions of the supplemental for a variety of reasons. Despite this possibility, CWLA continues to urge that legislation delaying the controversial Medicaid rules be signed into law in a speedy manner, as some of the rules, including the CM/TCM services rule, are in effect already or simply are not under moratorium. Other rules' moratoria are about to expire, such as the moratorium on the rehabilitative services rule that expires June 30.

In reaction to the rules and their planned implementation dates, some state agencies and organizations that care for abused, neglected, and otherwise troubled youth already are eliminating effective services and programs, shutting treatment centers, or cutting caseworker positions, where severe shortages already exist. A moratorium signed into law would ensure such services are not prematurely ended and children and youth are not unduly harmed.

In these seemingly final hours in the push to secure a moratorium, urge your lawmakers to keep the Medicaid moratorium in the supplemental appropriations bill sent to the President.

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CWLA Joins in Calls for MEPA Reform

On May 27, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute released a new report, Finding Families for African American Children: The Role of Race and Law in Adoptions from Foster Care. The report calls for reforms in the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) to improve prospects for the adoption of children of color.

was Enacted in 1994, MEPA addressed a concern that children were being denied placements due to emphasis on placements that took into account the racial and ethnic makeup of the prospective adoptive family. MEPA prohibited states and entities from denying to any individual the opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent solely on the basis of the prospective parents' or children's race, color, or national origin. It also required states to diligently recruit foster and adoptive parents who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the children in the state who need foster and adoptive homes. Congress amended MEPA in 1996 to remove the word solely.

The Donaldson report includes recommendations that reforms be enacted, including reinstating the original language adopted in 1994 that provided that race was one factor but not the sole factor to be considered in adoption. First and foremost, however, the report emphasizes that adoption-related laws, policies, and practices reinforce that a child's best interest must be paramount.

Additionally the report calls on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to do a better job of enforcing provisions that call for greater recruitment of families with racially and ethnically diverse populations, build greater alliances with faith communities and minority placement agencies, provide greater support for adoption by relatives or where appropriate kinship placements, and provide greater post-adoption services to adoptive families, from placement through adolescense.

Donaldson Institute Executive Director Adam Pertman said he hoped the study, which has been described as the most thorough examination of the controversial issues relating to transracial adoptions, helps shape more effective policy and practice so every child has better prospects of growing up in a family and being ready for the world they live in.

The report is endorsed by CWLA, the North American Council for Adoptable Children, the Dave Thomas Foundation, the Adoption Exchange Association, the National Association of Black Social Workers, Voice for Adoption, and the Foster Care Alumni of America.

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Grassley Holds Press Conference on Kinship Care-Adoption Bill

On May 20, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, held a press conference to announce his introduction of the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008 (S. 3038).

CWLA has endorsed this legislation, which would reauthorizs the adoption incentive fund, eliminate the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility requirements for special-needs adoptions, and extend Title IV-E funding to kinship families in the child welfare system. The bill would allow states to draw Title IV-E federal funds for kinship placements as they do for eligible foster care and special-needs adoption placements. The bill would require states to apply the same licensing standards as they do for foster care. This is narrower than the two main kinship bills, S. 661 (Clinton-Snowe), and H.R. 2188 (Davis-Johnson).

The Grassley legislation, similar to these Senate and House bills, would require that reunification of the child with his or her family, and adoption, would have to be ruled out as appropriate options. Another feature of the Grassley bill, similar to S. 661 and H.R. 2188, is the requirement that states notify relatives when a child enters the state's child welfare system and that a special effort be made to notify current kinship families who may be currently receiving a child-only grant under a state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.

Other significant changes in policy include changing the way in which adoption incentives are awarded by basing them on the rate of adoptions rather than a specific number, as in current law. This change may result in some states continuing to be eligible for an incentive while seeing a decrease in their foster care population. Additionally, the bill would provide a greater incentive for special-needs and older-child adoptions, defined as children age 9 and older. The legislation would also create a limited incentive for kinship placements.

Grassley's bill is the fourth major child welfare bill to propose extending Title IV-E funds to kinship placements. In addition to S. 661 and H.R. 2188, there is also a bill sponsored by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), H.R. 5466.

Support for H.R. 2188, has grown to 78 cosponsors. This legislation was introduced by Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL). The Senate bill, S. 611, was introduced sponsored by Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and has a 30 cosponsors, 6 of whom are on the key Senate Finance Committee.

The adoption incentives program was created as part of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (PL 98-02). It provides an incentive of $4,000 for every adoption above the number of adoptions a state placed in the last highest year. Five years ago, Congress increased this incentive in the case of special-needs adoptions and older-child adoptions. In the initial years after ASFA, adoptions increased from approximately 28,000 in 1996 to 51,000 in 2000. Since 2000, the national numbers have remained in the range of 51,000. Older children remain the largest numbers of children waiting to be adopted. Of the more than 114,000 waiting to be adopted in 2005, more than 60% were age 6 or older; the median age was 8.4 years.

The Grassley bill would also expand eligibility for special-needs adoptions. Currently, eligibility for both foster care and special-needs adoption incentives require states to determine income eligibility based on the July 1996 eligibility requirements from the now non-existent AFDC program. The Grassley bill would eliminate that link for special-needs adoptions. A similar provision is included in two other bills, S.1462, introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and H.R. 4091, introduced by Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN). The Senate bill has 3 cosponsors, and the House bill has 22.

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Congress Returns for Two Budget Debates

Congress returns from its Memorial Day break this week, and June is shaping up as a time to focus on budgets. Time is running out for this Congress--with a July 4 break in less than a month, and the traditional August break, Congress is likely to have less than three months left for legislative work this year. Added to time constraints is the role the Presidential campaign will play in how both parties act and set their agendas.

The war supplemental bill will eventually have to go to the President's desk in some form; the Pentagon is talking about money running out sometime this month. While it works on a supplemental, Congress will attempt to deal with an FY 2009 budget resolution. Progress picked up after a deal was reached with House "Blue Dog Democrats," a group of fiscally conservative Democrats. 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, but as incomes have increased, it has affected more and more middle-income taxpayers in recent years, so Congress has been passing one-year changes that exempt certain taxpayers. The cost of the changes is approximately $55 billion-$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 be passed without an 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 the most spending, including money for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would be left for the new President to decide after November, and perhaps as late as next January.

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Celebration Honors Brazelton

Advocates and legislators came together on May 22 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Dr. T Berry Brazelton. CWLA joined 20 other advocacy groups in sponsoring the event, which featured comments the guest of honor and a number of key members of Congress, including Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Nita Lowey (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

Miller, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, recounted the first time Brazelton appeared before the committee 25 years earlier and how he held the attention of members of both parties in his explanation on the importance of child development in infants. Brazelton has been one of the early and foremost experts on child development. His work has advanced the understanding of the importance of the early years toward a child's development. He has written dozens of books and influenced several generations of parents in how they raised their children. In Washington, DC, he is perhaps best known for advancing understanding among policymakers and advocates of child and brain development. He has appeared many times before House and Senate committees in support of parental and medical leave bills, child care, early learning and child development, and Head Start and Early Head Start.

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House Parity Compromise Deletes DSM-IV Provision

The House of Representatives has deleted a provision from its mental health parity bill that brings it further in line with the Senate companion bill. The Senate passed its Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S. 558) by unanimous consent last September, and the House passed its measure, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 (H.R. 1424) on March 5 of this year. Both bills would erase longstanding discriminatory limitations by requiring group health plans with 50 or more enrollees who choose to offer mental health benefits to provide them on the same terms as other medical conditions.

In an attempt to reconcile differences, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Pete Domenici (R-NM)--two of parity's champions--in mid-March offered a compromise proposal that, among other changes, deleted House language requiring employers to cover all conditions listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV). Although the business community has for quite some time backed S. 558, this particular House provision had been of concern to them. On May 20, the Senate received a counteroffer from the House that similarly deleteed the DSM-IV provision. Other issues, such as how the bill would be paid for, still need to be worked out, but this concession breathes new life into possible passage.

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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 June

For its first three shows in June, On the Line focuses on incarcerated parents and their children in a series of timely, provocative discussions.

Wednesday, June 4

A Conversation with the Real American Gangster's Daughter, Francine Lucas-Sinclair


Francine Lucas-Sinclair shares her soul-stirring story of early childhood memories of the luxurious life and traumatizing turn of events that led to a life of loneliness, shame, and hiding the history of her incarcerated parents.

To Francine, Frank Lucas was Daddy, but to the rest of the world he was the notorious Harlem drug kingpin portrayed by Denzel Washington in the film, American Gangster. For 30 years Francine concealed who she was--the daughter of one of the nation's biggest drug lords. She never wanted anyone to know about the arrests and incarcerations of her infamous father and her mother.

Since the movie, she has broken her years of silence to bring national attention and a voice to the plight of the more than 2 million children in the United State who have a father or mother in prison. She has established Yellow Brick Roads, an organization to mentor and support children with parents in prison, and she is completing work on a Daddy Be Good, a book for children ages 4-7 years that explains parental incarceration in a nonintimidating, compassionate way.

Wednesday, June 11

Action on the Hill: Second Chances for Parents after Incarceration


Nearly 700,000 inmates are released from prison to communities each year. An estimated two-thirds will be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years of release. Such high recidivism rates translate into thousands of new crimes each year, at least half of which could be averted through improved prisoner reentry efforts.

On April 9, 2008, President Bush signed the Second Chance Act of 2007. The Second Chance Act will help the thousands of inmates released from prisons every year break the cycle of crime and incarceration and become law-abiding citizens and contributing members of their communities.

On the Line with CWLA talks with Imani Walker, Cofounder and Director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, and Darla Bardine, Associate Policy Director and Family Treatment Coordinator for the Rebecca Project, a national organization that advocates for public policy reform, justice, and dignity for vulnerable families. The Rebecca Project has been a leading advocate for the Second Chance Act, which will fund vital programs and support services, like comprehensive family treatment that will offer help and hope to ex-offenders.

Wednesday, June 18

Fragile Family Ties: Children with Parents in Prison


More than 6 million children have parents under some form of correctional supervision in the criminal justice system, either in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole. That figure includes 2 million children with a father or mother in prison. Since women are usually the primary and sometimes sole caregivers of their children before incarceration, the escalating numbers of children with mothers in prison is becoming a mounting challenge for the child welfare system.

On the Line with CWLA engages three leading activists in a moving discussion about the needs and emotional experiences of children with incarcerated parents:

Reverend Wilson Goode, the son of an incarcerated father, and National Director of the acclaimed Amachi Program, a national faith-based mentoring model for children of incarcerated parents; Ann Adalist-Estrin, a nationally renowned and respected expert on the children and families of prisoners, and Director of the National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated for the Family Corrections Network; and Hakim Ali, a cast member of Holding Up: A Prison Legacy, a riveting theatrical production of TOVA Artistic Projects for Social Change, which features his true-to-life story as an incarcerated father of 14 children and the effect of nearly 40 years of imprisonment in federal and state correctional institutions.

Wednesday, June 25

Teen Talk: Are Adults Making the Grade?


June marks the end of school, graduation, and final grades. For its last program of the month, On the Line looks at the annual UCAN (Ulrich Children's Advantage Network) Teen Report Card on Adults, which provides an opportunity for teens to turn the tables and grade the adults who are typically grading them.

UCAN conducts the annual nationwide survey of more than 1,000 teens nationwide, ages 12-19, asking them to grade the adults in their lives--A through F--in 20 key areas, such as providing a quality education for young people, creating job opportunities for the future, teaching positive values, leading by example, running the government, spending time with their families, keeping schools safe from violence and crime, really listening to and understanding young people, and helping young people cope with the challenges of the teenage years.

Grades and teen focus group recommendations are released at the close of the school year--the same time millions teens are receiving their own school report cards.

Teens surveyed in the 2007 Teen Report Card gave an average overall grade of C to adults. The annual Teen Report Card is intended to serve as a catalyst to inspire dialogue between adults and youth about the problems that affect teens in our society, and a public voice to the ideas and opinions of teens about the adults who influence their lives.

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

  • June 27: Target Date for House to Complete Work on Appropriations
  • June 29-July 6: July 4th Congressional Break
  • July 16: 12 years since Foster Care/Adoption Assistance eligibility frozen
  • August 9: Start of Summer Recess
  • November 4: Election Day


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