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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 23: 6/23/2008   
Headlines

McDermott-Weller Child Welfare Bill Introduced

Speaker, Urban-Rural Caucus Hear from James-Brown, Other Child Welfare Advocates

House War Supplemental Passes with Delays on Medicaid Regs, White House Signals Support

Home Visiting Bill Passes Education-Labor Committee

Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Legislation Introduced

Briefing Focuses on Family Treatment

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



McDermott-Weller Child Welfare Bill Introduced

On June 19, Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL), the Chair and Ranking member, respectively, of the House Subcommittee on Income Support and Family Security, introduced the Fostering Connections to Success Act, H.R. 6307. The legislation draws from an earlier bill McDermott had introduced, the Invest in KIDS Act, H.R 5466. (See Children's Monitor, February 25, 2008.)

The new bill would extend support for kinship care, provide a state option to extend foster care to age 21, extend access to federal training funds to private agencies, give tribes direct access to Title IV-E funds, require greater health planning by states for children in foster care, require greater coordination of ongoing education by state and local education agencies for foster children, and reauthorize the adoption incentives program. (CWLA Member agencies can access a full description of the legislation at www.cwla.org/membersonly/?GTP=fosteringconnectionsact.)

The goal is to have the House vote on the bill perhaps as soon as this week. When substantial agreement on legislation exits, the House can consider it on suspension of the rules, which puts the bill on a fast track. Fostering Connections to Success is significant for several reasons. McDermott has indicated on several occasions he would seek bipartisan agreement over common issues of support if Congress did not pass the Invest in KIDS Act. The new bill was introduced with the cosponsorship of Weller, the highest ranking Republican on the subcommittee, with the goal of finding offsets or ways to pay for the various provisions, which could assist in overcoming one major hurdle to final passage and adoption by the entire Congress. The bill also includes the reauthorization of the adoption incentives program, a popular program viewed as must-pass this year by many members of Congress.

In addition, many believe cross-party discussions are taking place in the Senate. Last month, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008 (S. 3038). This bill is his version of the adoption incentive reauthorization and includes a kinship care extension of Title IV-E funds, as well as several other provisions on adoption. (CWLA Member agencies can access a full description of this legislation at www.cwla.org/membersonly/?GTP=s3038.)

The two actions could mean that both houses could act on a significant child welfare bill in the remaining months of this Congress, with a genuine chance of some bipartisan agreement. In a year in which some critics claim Congress has not been able to move other bills in other areas of concern, this would be a big victory for advocates for child welfare reform. The window, however, is narrow, with Congress scheduled to leave after this week for its July 4 break. Congress will return for the rest of the month of July and the first week of August, then break for the summer until after the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions.

For updates, watch for CWLA Legislative Alerts for possible action this week. Not receiving our legislative alerts? Sign up at www.cwla.org/advocacy/alerts.htm.

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Speaker, Urban-Rural Caucus Hear from James-Brown, Other Child Welfare Advocates

On June 19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) convened a special gathering of members of Congress to focus on the issue of child welfare. The "Urban Caucus and Rural Working Group Joint Symposium on Child Welfare Reform" featured a panel of six experts, including CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown. Members of Congress made introductory remarks, heard from the panel, and participated in a discussion of the challenges for child welfare, with a special focus on how the issues play out in urban settings as opposed to rural settings.

Pelosi opened the session by reinforcing what she has said is her top three priorities when she became speaker: "Children, children, and children." She talked about her belief that all our challenges revolve around children and the need to keep them safe and healthy. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Chair of the Urban Caucus and sponsor of the bill to reestablish a White House Conference on Children and Youth (H.R. 5461), moderated the session. He was joined by a number of prominent congressional leaders who either chair key posts or are sponsoring important child welfare measures.

Other members participating in the discussion included Representatives Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) and Bob Etheridge (D-NC), both cochairs of the Rural Working Group. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), sponsor of new child welfare legislation, weighed in on the challenges of the child welfare workforce. Representative George Miller (D-CA), Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, which had just passed home-visiting legislation the day before, talked about his earlier involvement in the creation of Title IV-E in 1980 and his disappointment about the nation not doing enough to address child welfare since that point.

Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), talked about the significance of early childhood development and shared her concerns based on family members who experienced the foster care system directly. Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) discussed his long running concerns about the failures in the system, and Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA) discussed the need for greater focus on cultural issues and the overrepresentation of Hispanic populations in some parts of the country.

James-Brown focused her remarks on urban and rural differences. She noted some of the differences between some rural and urban children in care but also some of the common challenges that called for different approaches based on those settings. Deb Bowman from South Dakota discussed her experience in that state as a child welfare director and the unique challenges for such a large, sparely populated state.

The forum also included CherRita Jones, a former foster youth who discussed her experiences and how she has been able to move toward college and eventually a successful transition despite the barriers she experienced.

For more information, link to www.cwla.org/advocacy/briefings.htm, and look for more material and pictures in the near future.

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House War Supplemental Passes with Delays on Medicaid Regs, White House Signals Support

On June 19, the House, with two separate votes, passed the war supplemental appropriations bill, which includes delays on six restrictive Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration. The bill was approved 268-155, and a vote on a second amendment, which included the Medicaid delays was approved 416-12.

CWLA has been working with its members and other national organizations for months to delay seven Medicaid regulations; for unknown reasons, in the final deal struck, the delay on the hospital outpatient services rule was dropped. The supplemental will place a moratorium. until April 1, 2009--when a new Administration is in office--on the rehabilitative services and targeted case management (TCM) rules that directly and negatively affect the child welfare and foster care systems.

Medicaid Rehabilitative Services work to reduce physical and mental disabilities many children in care experience as a result of abuse, neglect, or similar trauma, and restore them to optimal functioning level. Often, these services are used to support therapeutic foster care programs that permit seriously emotionally disturbed children to stay in the community, rather than be placed in more restrictive, expensive settings. TCM is used to ensure that children in foster care receive comprehensive and coordinated care, which is necessary given the vulnerability and complex needs of children in foster care. The rules affecting rehab services and TCM established ambiguous tests that would have provided little guidance, and retracted significant federal Medicaid funds, which likely would have impeded access and possibly decreased quality of services.

CWLA, in collaboration with its members and other affected national organizations, has been advocating for delays on the rehabilitative services and TCM rules for several months. Last December, with large credit to our concerned and active grassroots, this coalition was successful in getting signed into law a six-month moratorium on the rehab rule, but that moratorium expires on June 30. Other significant progress was seen, such as a veto-proof vote in the House on H.R. 5613 that would have delayed seven Medicaid regulations, including rehab and TCM.

his latest action of including moratoria on the rehab, TCM, and four other Medicaid rules in the war supplemental, however, stands out because the White House was involved in its discussions and, as such, has indicated support for the bill. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, and it will then go to the White House for signature.

CWLA sincerely thanks its members and other concerned parties for their continued support on this matter. Because of your efforts, Medicaid rehab and TCM services will remain strong streams of care for vulnerable children and youth.

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Home Visiting Bill Passes Education-Labor Committee

On June 18, the House Education and Labor Committee passed by voice vote 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. Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA) introduced a modified version of the bill that changed the funding level to $150 million in the first year and such sums as necessary in the remaining five years of the bill. The substitute would also increase the research and evaluation requirements outlined in the bill and removed provisions dealing with Early Head Start.

Overall support for the legislation was strong and bipartisan, although there was contentious debate over an amendment by Representative Randy Kuhl (R-NY) over requiring proof of citizenship before a parent and child could receive services. The proposal was seen by bill supporters as difficult to administer in such programs and was defeated by a party-line vote. Another rejected amendment, offered by Representative Mark Souder (R-IN), would have required an income test, also a concern for bill supporters due to the nature of the way home visitation programs work and the difficulty in implementing such a requirement. The bill language does require planning and coordination of services by the state on how they will target home visitation programs if they receive these state grants.

Several different home visitation programs exist throughout the country, serving an estimated 400,000 children per year. The models may target different families, from expectant mothers to families with children as old as 5. Research has demonstrated the positive effect of such program on both children and parents and the potential for reducing instances of 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.

For more information see the chapter on home visitation in CWLA's 2008 Legislative agenda.

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Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Legislation Introduced

On June 18, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Herbert Kohl (D-WI) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), S. 3155. This much anticipated bill would reform and strengthen juvenile justice in a number of areas, including in cases of youth who come in contact with law enforcement and who have histories of abuse or neglect.

The bill urges states to make key improvements to juvenile justice systems, would prioritize and fund mental health and drug treatment for juvenile offenders, and encourages states to further address the overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. The legislation supports the efforts of states that attempt to comply with the core requirements of JJDPA by making funds available through improvement grants to help bring states into compliance with the law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take up this legislation soon after the July 4 break. When a companion bill will be introduced in the House is not clear.

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Briefing Focuses on Family Treatment

On June 17, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights held a briefing entitled "Crisis in the Family: Meth, Addiction, and Treatment & Recovery." Rebecca Project Executive Director Malika Saada provided opening remarks and stressed the importance of a holistic, family-focused approach in treating addiction, especially in female-headed households.

She pointed out that although the use of methamphetamine and subsequent addiction has increased, little has been done to effectively treat women with children. Saada said family treatment comprises less than 5% of treatment programs nationwide. Instead, programs have focused on parents, offering no opportunities for both parent and child to heal jointly. Additionally, programs do not address the underlying reasons for self-medication within women, such as histories of domestic violence and sexual abuse. This in turn leads many women toward incarceration and involvement with the child welfare system.

Lorna Hogan, a mother of four in recovery from crack addiction for seven years, testified to the strength of family-based treatment and her experience with addiction. Hogan said her story is not unique and while in jail she encountered many women in need of treatment, most with children. No treatment was offered, however, within jail, nor referrals provided after release.

"I was not getting help for the mental trauma I kept suppressed by using drugs," Hogan said. Like other mothers, she did not know where her children were placed. It wasn't until a referral to an 18-month family treatment program that Hogan and her family received proper treatment. "As part of my treatment process, my children and I reunified, and each of my children received therapeutic services at the family treatment program."

Hogan's 14-year-old daughter Tiana Harley also spoke at the briefing and said, "The family treatment helped us. My brothers and I had individual therapy to help us understand my mom's addiction."

Shields for Families is a model program that was highlighted at the event. It operates in California and has enhanced the lives of many women and children. Approximately 65% of participants have children, and 85% reunify with their children.

For more information on the Rebecca Project for Human Rights and Shields for Families in California, go to www.rebeccaproject.org and www.shieldsforfamilies.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.

This Week's Show

Wednesday, June 25
Emancipated Entertainers: Foster Care Alumni Sing About Life In The System


Schedule change note: The topic of this week's program has changed:

Three members of Uhlich Voices, a rising group of four rappers and rhymers who grew up in foster care, join host Tony Regusters for an inspiring discussion about their personal trials and tribulations in foster care and their songs of survival that are gaining national attention and giving hope to young people everywhere.

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 4 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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