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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 22: 6/16/2008   
Headlines

Education Begins at Home Act Focus Of House Hearing

Discussion Continues on Supplemental Appropriations; Strong Support for Continuing Medicaid Regs Moratorium

House Subcommittee Examines Best Practices in Addressing Gangs

SSBG Cuts in New Administration Proposal

Kids Count Briefing a Map for Juvenile Justice Reform

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



Education Begins at Home Act Focus Of House Hearing

On June 11, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the Education Begins at Home Act (H.R. 2343). The bill would provide federal funding to states to support home visitation programs. CWLA has backed the legislation through several sessions of Congress. The hearing last week signals the possibility the House will act on the bill soon.

Witnesses included Laura A. Ditka, Deputy District Attorney from the Child Abuse Unit, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; William Estrada, Home School Legal Defense Association, Virginia; Mekeda London, Healthy Families America; Heather Weiss, Harvard Family Research Project; and Julie Fenley, a participant in the Parents as Teachers Home Visitation Program at the Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia. They discussed the research and positive effects visitation programs have had on communities and families.

Perhaps the most powerful testimony came from Fenley, who, accompanied by her husband and two small children, talked about the program's effect on her family when they first moved to the Norfolk base. She discussed the relationship she had with the woman who made regular visits to her house, how it strengthened her bond with her children, and how it had strengthened her family.

Visitation programs serve an estimated 400,000 children per year nationwide. The models target different families, from expectant mothers to families with children as old as 5. Research has demonstrated the positive effect on both children and parents and the potential for reducing child abuse and neglect. Although states may employ several of the home visitation models depending on their needs, there is no specific funding source at the federal or state level.

Some states may use a range of different federal funds, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Social Services Block Grant, Child Welfare Services, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Many of these federal funding sources are used for a variety of other programs, however, and have been cut or frozen at the federal level for the past several years.

CWLA submitted testimony for the hearing. The committee's complete testimony is available online. Read CWLA's testimony

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Discussion Continues on Supplemental Appropriations; Strong Support for Continuing Medicaid Regs Moratorium

Congressional leaders in both houses last week continued to hold discussions with the White House over what will ultimately be included in a war supplemental bill. It is clear approximately $170 billion will be included to provide funding for Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the Bush Administration and into the start of the new President's Administration. What is not clear is what else the bill will include.

Although the House leadership has indicated a willingness to reduce the Medicaid moratorium from a freeze on all seven regulations to just four, Senate leaders have said this would unacceptable, with Senators arguing for a freeze on all seven regulations, including the regulation that would reduce the states ability to use targeted case management (TCM) for children in foster acre. Senate leaders also insist an extension of unemployment benefits be included. The White House is committed to funding the war with as few other items included as possible.

The effort to freeze all seven Medicaid regulations has been strong to this point. 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 vote of 75-22, added a similar amendment containing the Medicaid rules moratorium to its war supplemental. Whatever the House approves will have to go back to the Senate again for its approval.

President Bush has already issued veto threats on the earlier 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 adopted in a speedy manner, as some of the rules, including the case management/TCM services rule, are currently 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.

In reaction to the rules and their planned implementation dates, some state agencies and organizations that care for abused, neglected, and otherwise troubled youth are already beginning to eliminate effective services and programs, shut down treatment centers, or cut 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, please urge your lawmakers to keep the Medicaid moratorium in the supplemental appropriations bill to be sent to the President.

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House Subcommittee Examines Best Practices in Addressing Gangs

On June 10, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on "Addressing Gangs: What's Effective? What's Not?" In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) stressed the "get tough" approach is ineffective in addressing gangs because it does not examine the underlying causes of gang activity.

The hearing highlighted Scott's Youth Promise Act (H.R. 3846), which emphasizes the importance of evidence-based prevention and intervention practices in both deterring gang membership and reducing recidivism. The Youth Promise Act currently has 83 cosponsors.

Others at the hearing agreed with Scott that get-tough policies of the past were ineffective in reducing and deterring gang membership. Charles Ogletree, Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, presented his report, No More Children Left Behind Bars. Ogletree said, "Suppression and expanded law enforcement will likely target youth of color, disproportionate shares of whom lack economic opportunity and live in distressed communities." He also emphasized that public dollars spent on education and prevention are "far more effective on stemming violence and discouraging gang affiliation than the stiffening of criminal penalties."

Other panelists echoed these sentiments, stressing that investing in prevention and intervention programs would result in less spending than increasing the penalties for gang-related crimes, especially for youth younger than 18. Robert Macy, Executive Director of the Boston Children's Foundation, testified on the effects of trauma on children and emphasized the importance of social capital and gang membership. Macy said many youth who join gangs are simply searching for relationships. He asserted that "children born into poverty and underserved areas learn defense mechanisms, one of which may be the joining or forming of gangs."

The full testimony presented from this hearing is available online.

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SSBG Cuts in New Administration Proposal

In the ongoing battle between Congress and President Bush over what is to be included in a war supplemental, the White House has once again called for additional cuts to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The White House offered a cut of $260 million as a way to offset or cover the cost of increased spending in the supplemental. Although the White House is not seeking ways to offset the cost of the war, it is insisting on covering the cost of other spending increases.

If the Administration proposal were followed, SSBG would be reduced to less than $1 billion. The current budget request from the Administration seeks to cut SSBG from its present level of $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion. This new proposal would reduce it to $939 million. Two weeks ago, Congress adopted a budget resolution that rejected the proposed reduction from $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion. In fact, Congress has rejected this White House proposal for the past three years. Nonetheless, the Administration is suggesting the additional cut.

Several groups that comprise the SSBG Coalition have sent Capitol Hill letters restating their opposition to the new Administration offer.

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Kids Count Briefing a Map for Juvenile Justice Reform

On June 12, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) held a briefing on the 2008 Kids Count Data Book essay, A Road Map for Juvenile Justice. AECF President Douglas W. Nelson's opening remarks emphasized the link between child welfare and juvenile justice, the disproportionate number of minorities in the juvenile justice system, and the importance of alternatives to incarceration for youth.

Nelson said far too much taxpayer money is spent to keep youth incarcerated. As evidence, he used the Kids Count data, which indicate "two-thirds of the children in juvenile justice facilities are there for nonviolent crimes and would benefit more so from alternative sentencing as opposed to incarceration." Nelson stressed the importance of ensuring juveniles be treated and sentenced differently than adults, and he called on the federal government to take a stronger stance against charging and sentencing of youths as adults.

Many others at the briefing commented on the dangers of sentencing youth. Reginald Dwayne Betts, a former incarcerated youth, recounted his trial: "The judge told me that since it was my first offense, and I was an honors student, that he didn't want to sentence me as an adult. But the law said he had no choice." Betts was sentenced, at 16, as an adult. He spent nine years in adult prisons. "The sight and sound separation only lasted one week," he recounted, "and then they figured it was more economical to put me in with the adults."

His recollection of the abuses he endured and witnessed during his incarceration were echoed by Grace Bauer, a parent advocate whose son was incarcerated in a juvenile facility at age 13. She and other panelists emphasized the importance of alternative sentencing, maintaining, "The abuses--physical, emotional, and sexual--are not just one-time occurrences. They result in a lifetime of trauma."

Juan Sanchez, Executive Director of Southwest Keys, echoed the support for alternative sentencing: "These alternatives to incarceration can give hope to the child and to the family; it tells them they have a future."

In addition to the panelists, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), sponsor of Promise Act (H.R. 3846), also offered comments, condemning the "expensive cradle-to-prison pipeline," and stressing the need for policy reform.

For more information on the report, go to www.aecf.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

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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