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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 24: 6/30/2008   
Headlines

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Extend Kinship, Foster Care

TCM, Rehab Moratorium Clear Senate

Boot Camp Bill Passes House

GAO Report and Legislation to Help Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

Parity Agreement Reached, But Paying for It Remains an Issue

Senate, House Take Steps on Labor-HHS Appropriations

On the Line with CWLA, 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



House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Extend Kinship, Foster Care

On June 24, the House of Representatives passed the Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307) by a voice vote. Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL), the chair and ranking members, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Income Support and Family Security, introduced the bipartisan bill the week before.

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.) CWLA has endorsed both bills.

The new legislation extends support for kinship care, provides a state option to extend foster care to age 21, extends access to federal training funds to private agencies, provides tribes governments direct access to Title IV-E funds, requires greater health planning by states for children in foster care, requires greater coordination of ongoing education by the state and local education agency for foster children, and reauthorizes the adoption incentives program. (CWLA Member agencies can access a full description of the legislation.)

The legislation is significant for at least three reasons: It contains significant child welfare policy reforms, it is bipartisan, and it is paid for. McDermott had indicated on several occasions he would seek bipartisan agreement over common issues of support if Congress did not pass his earlier comprehensive Invest in KIDS Act. All items are included in the CWLA 2008 Legislative Agenda.

The floor debate demonstrated broad bipartisan support. McDermott said, "I think there are children out there right now who are going to benefit from this," and Weller indicated, "Members of this body stand in the place where the parents of children in foster care belong. That is a serious responsibility, and this legislation accepts that responsibility and makes solid, bipartisan improvements."

The bill, if enacted, could make significant advances in support for kinship care, foster youth, and tribal populations and would strengthen access to training for the child welfare workforce. Perhaps equally important, the bill is paid for by including what are referred to as offsets. These offsets, or changes in programs or cuts in other areas, generate federal revenue and mean the federal deficit would not worsen as a result of the bill's passage. The two offsets are to allow the IRS the ability to collect or recover unemployment compensation collected through fraud, and to allow the U.S. Treasury greater flexibility in investing federal funds.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee. 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 program 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.)

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TCM, Rehab Moratorium Clear Senate

On June 26, the Senate in two separate votes passed the war supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 2642), which includes delays on six restrictive Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration. The second vote contained the Medicaid delays as well as other domestic provisions, which were approved 92-6. The House had passed a similar domestic priority amendment to the war supplemental the previous week by a vote of 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. Both the rehabilitative services and targeted case management (TCM) rules, which would have directly and negatively affected the child welfare and foster care systems, will be delayed until April 1, 2009, when a new Administration is in office. With the Senate having cleared the bill, it is now being sent to the President for his signature. The moratorium has wide bipartisan support, and the White House was involved in its negotiations, so the President is expected to sign it.

CWLA sincerely thanks Congress for taking this opportunity to ward off destructive cuts to the Medicaid program, and it thanks its members and other concerned parties for their continued support on this matter. Because of these collective efforts, Medicaid rehab and TCM services will remain strong streams of care for vulnerable children and youth.

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Boot Camp Bill Passes House

On June 25 the House passed the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens Act of 2008 (H.R. 6358) by a vote of 318-103. This legislation would better regulate boot camps and other "alternative placement facilities" and bring transparency to the policies and practices of such programs.

The legislation is a response to numerous studies documenting the ineffectiveness of these programs and, in several instances, the tragic deaths as a result of child abuse and neglect as reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in October 2007. GAO issued a new report in April examining selected cases of abuse, death, and deceptive marketing.

H.R. 6358 provides much-needed management over programs and facilities that have for too long operated without adequate regulation or licensing by state or federal law. The legislation would prevent corporal punishment, physical abuse, and mental abuse. Programs would be prohibited from using disciplinary techniques that involve withholding essential food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. Programs could physically restrain children only if necessary for their safety or for the safety of others, and they would have to provide children with reasonable access to a telephone, and train staff in what constitutes child abuse and neglect and how to report it.

The legislation requires programs to disclose to parents the qualifications and responsibilities of all current staff and notify parents of any onsite investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect, or violations of health and safety laws.

The bill includes an increase in authorized funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act from $120 million to $235 million for states to institute these initiatives, and a separate authorization of $15 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out the law. Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

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GAO Report and Legislation to Help Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

On June 23, the GAO released a report on the needs of young adults with serious mental illness, the current barriers they face when attempting to access services (particularly as they transition to adulthood), and what certain states and federal programs are doing to better the situation.

The GAO report is in response to a request by Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), both of whom have long been champions on children's issues and mental health.

GAO estimates that in 2006, at least 2.4 million young adults age 18-26 had serious mental illnesses, acknowledging this is likely a low estimate due to GAO's inability to comprehensively track those who are homeless, institutionalized, or incarcerated. Difficulties discussed in the report include services often not being appropriately tailored to this age group's needs, drastically different eligibility criteria between child and adult systems, and the very complex and overwhelming nature of navigating through various support systems. GAO conducted site visits and reviewed existing structures in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Mississippi to help young adults with serious mental illness, and reviewed federal supports such as SAMHSA and Education's previous Partnerships for Youth in Transition program.

In response to the GAO report, Stark and Smith, along with Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), introduced the Healthy Transition Act of 2008 (H.R. 6375 and S. 3195), to help young adults age 18-26 with serious mental illness receive needed services and successfully transition to adulthood. This legislation would provide planning and implementation grants to states to develop statewide coordination plans to help adolescents and young adults with serious mental illness. States would be urged to target specific populations, including but not limited to those involved with the child protection and juvenile justice systems. The legislation would establish a federal committee to coordinate service programs helping young adults with mental illness, and provide technical assistance to states.

CWLA thanks Stark, Smith, and Dodd for their attention to this important population and looks forward to helping them move the legislation.

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Parity Agreement Reached, But Paying for It Remains an Issue

House and Senate negotiators have announced they have reached agreement on policy content for mental health parity legislation, but they are still negotiating how to pay for the bill. Full mental health parity has been pushed by advocates, including CWLA, for more than a decade. Enacting the legislation would be an enormous victory and do much to end longstanding discrimination between physical health conditions and mental health and substance abuse disorders.

In the 110th Congress, both the House and Senate passed versions of mental health parity (S. 558 and H.R. 1424). Both bills would require 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. The Senate passed S. 558 last September by unanimous consent; the House passed H.R. 1424 in March. Since then, bicameral and bipartisan negotiations have been taking place. Under the current agreement, stronger state parity laws would remain in place, there would be no language requiring all conditions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual to be covered, and strong out-of-network coverage would exist to provide consumers with greater protections.

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Senate, House Take Steps on Labor-HHS Appropriations

House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WA) announced last week that he intends to take up all 12 appropriations bills when Congress returns from its 4th of July break. At the end of last week, both the House and Senate were working on their versions of the Labor-Health and Human Service-Education (Labor-HHS) bills. The Senate and House are expected to be close in their funding levels, with the House at a slightly higher total of $153 billion in discretionary spending. Although both bills exceed the President's proposal by approximately $8 billion, the President has proposed a freeze in spending for the three departments, which would ensure cuts in several programs. House action was stalled when a partisan debate stopped the hearing early.

As part of the budget resolution, and as confirmed by the two appropriations committees, Congress has rejected the President's original proposal to cut the Social Services Block Grant by $500 million, lowering the total to $1.2 billion. The House originates all appropriations, and bills are generally always passed there first, so it is unclear when the full Senate will take action, with only the months of July and September left to act before the start of the fiscal year October 1. These circumstances have led many observers to expect the FY 2009 budget to be dealt with after the November election.

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On the Line with CWLA, 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.

Coming Next Week

Wednesday, July 2
Advise & Consent: Ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the US


In 1979, the United Nations begin developing an inclusive, legally binding human rights treaty for all the world's children. Ten years later, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly and instituted as international law in 1990. The United States was an active and prominent participant in the decade-long drafting process. Nearly all the UN's member states have ratified this celebrated agreement, except one of the richest--the United States of America--and one of the poorest, Somalia. U.S. ratification of the CRC would establish a useful framework from which our leaders could create cost-effective, comprehensive policies and programs that address the imperative needs of children and families.

CWLA spearheaded the formation of a national coalition of child advocates in 2003 that launched the national Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC. Today, the campaign has grown to encompass child advocates from 160 organizations and 40 academic institutions.

Two leading experts and a student activist talk about the national campaign to bring about the ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the United States.

Marty Scherr has nearly 40 years of experience in community organization and is cofounder of the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC.

Elisabeth Lean, advocacy and research consultant for Covenant House Headquarters in New York, and campaign coordinator for U.S. Ratification of the CRC.

Heather McCormick is studying social policy and political science at University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and serving an internship at CWLA. She worked on the CRC with the Commissioner for Children and Youth in Northern Ireland.

Coming Shows

Wednesday, July 9
A Conversation with Celebrity Publicist Terrie Williams


Williams talks openly about her long-term daily struggles with clinical depression and her efforts through her Stay Strong Foundation.

Wednesday, July 16
Dwindling Dollars: Eroding Foster Care Eligibility Standards


On the 12th anniversary of Congress's decision that eligibility for federal foster care assistance would be based on rules and income requirements in the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (AFDC), join us for a timely discussion on the long, steady, and significant decline in federal support for children in foster care, recommendations to modernize and update the eroding eligibility standards, and news about recent action by Congress to address some of the eligibility problems.

Wednesday, July 23
Indian Child Welfare: Meeting the Challenges in Tribal Communities


Two regarded Indian child welfare activists discuss the concerns, the challenges, and the efforts to improve policies and increase funding for services for American Indian and Alaskan Native children and their families.

Terry Cross, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, is the founder and Executive Director of NICWA.

David E. Simmons, NICWA's Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy, has 19 years of professional experience in child welfare services, primarily focused on Indian child welfare services and public policy affecting Indian children and families.

Wednesday, July 30
Disproportionality: A Disturbing Reality of Foster Care


Join us as we explore the issues of racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in foster care with Khatib Waheed, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), who will provide an overview of promising state and local strategies to address the inequities in the child welfare system. Waheed leads CSSP's involvement with the Casey-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, established to develop and implement a national, multiyear campaign to address racial disparities and reduce the disproportionate representation of children from certain racial or ethnic communities in the nation's child welfare system.

The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

On the Line with CWLA is a production of the Child Welfare League of America, Arlington, Virginia. Programming schedule subject to change.

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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 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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