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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 25: 7/7/2008   
Headlines

Congress Returns for Final Summer Push

Significant Victory with TCM, Rehab Moratorium

Senate Begins Discussion of CAPTA Reauthorization

Appropriations Short Circuit, Post Election Decisions Likely

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



Congress Returns for Final Summer Push

Congress returns this week for what will be one of the last remaining continuous sessions of the 110th Congress. It will meet through the first week of August, when members take their summer break, and will return after the Republican national convention the first week of September. After that, Congress is likely to meet through September and break as early as possible to hit the campaign trail in October.

The third and last period would be a possible lame-duck session after the election. This is not certain, but since Congress will not have completed action on a budget, it will likely have to come back in November to pass a continuing resolution or perhaps an omnibus bill that would address all appropriations and any remaining bills on which there is agreement.

In July, CWLA is looking for significant action on a number of child welfare fronts. On June 24, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote the Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307.) Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL), respectively the Chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Income Support and Family Security, had 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 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, provide tribal governments direct access to Title IV-E funds, require greater health planning by states for children in foster care, require greater coordination of ongoing education for foster children by state and local education agencies, and reauthorize the adoption incentives program. (CWLA Member agencies can access a full description of the legislation in our Members Center.) The legislation is significant because it contains significant child welfare policy reforms, it has bipartisan support, and it is paid for.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will be referred to the Senate Finance Committee. In May, 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 in our Members Center.) Senators might use this as a vehicle for a counter proposal to the McDermott-Weller bill, or they could take up McDermott-Weller.

Other issues Congress could possibly deal with include completion of the Higher Education Act reauthorization (H.R. 4137 and S. 1642), which is now in conference between the House and Senate. This contains an important provision on loan forgiveness for social workers working in child welfare agencies.

In addition, House and Senate negotiators have announced they have reached agreement on policy content for mental health parity legislation (S. 558 and H.R. 1424), but are still negotiating how to pay for the bill. Advocates, including CWLA, have been pushing for mental health parity 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.

CWLA is also working for passage of legislation to establish a White House Conference on Children and Youth (H.R. 5461 and S. 2771.) It has 52 sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate.

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Significant Victory with TCM, Rehab Moratorium

On June 30, the President signed into law the war supplemental bill (H.R. 2642, P.L. 110-252), which included a delay on six restrictive Medicaid regulations issued by the Administration.

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 negatively impacted the child welfare and foster care systems, will be delayed until April 1, 2009, when a new Administration is in office. The moratorium had wide bipartisan support; with the freeze enacted, it will be up to the new President to determine how best to provide these services to children in foster care and other populations affected by the proposed changes.

CWLA sincerely thanks Congress for taking this opportunity to ward off destructive cuts to the Medicaid program, and 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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Senate Begins Discussion of CAPTA Reauthorization

On June 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA.) Subcommittee Chair Chris Dodd offered his own testimony and heard from several experts, including Tanya Long, a mother and former drug addict who attributed her rehabilitation to a CAPTA-funded program called Parents Anonymous.

CAPTA was originally enacted in 1974. Over the past 34 years, CAPTA has been reauthorized and changed to adapt to emerging trends and needs in specific areas of child welfare. CAPTA also includes the Adoption Opportunities grants and the Abandoned Infants program.

At the hearing, Dodd commented that "other issues to be addressed include the role of domestic violence in child abuse and neglect cases, and the role of fathers and men in these cases." Cheryl Anne Boyce, Director of the Child Abuse and Neglect Program at the National Institute of Mental Health, testified that a comprehensive research program focused on understanding and addressing the underlying issues triggering abuse is necessary. Research suggests child abuse and neglect have adverse effects on children's academic, intellectual, and occupational functioning, which are likely to affect later development. A comprehensive approach to solving or, better yet, preventing these problems, therefore, is important to preserving the physical, emotional, and mental health of maltreated children.

Caren Kaplan, Director of Child Protection Reform at the American Humane Association, testified about the necessity of improving the child protection and differential response systems. Kaplan briefly discussed the commonly tight link between animal maltreatment and child abuse, testifying that "88% of 57 families being treated for incidents of child maltreatment also abused animals in the home."

Additionally, Karen Foley-Schain, Executive Director of Connecticut Children's Trust Fund, called for the reauthorization and reform of CAPTA and gave evidence of Connecticut's success in helping to improve the lives of children and families statewide through CAPTA.

CAPTA is due for reauthorization this year, but whether Congress will have enough time to complete the task is unclear. If not, Congress will probably extend current law. The House Committee on Education and Labor has not held a hearing on the act. One of the major challenges is funding. CAPTA state grants are now limited to $27 million for all 50 states, although authorized funding is significantly higher.

Read CWLA's testimony on CAPTA.

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Appropriations Short Circuit, Post Election Decisions Likely

The growing expectation is that most of the FY 2009 appropriations will be dealt with by a lame-duck Congress after the November elections. In all likelihood, a continuing resolution will fund most of the government for the start of the federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1. That would mean that, ultimately, the President-elect will have some significant say on what will happen in such a post-election session of Congress.

On June 26, the House Appropriations Committee attempted to vote on its version of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor-HHS), bill but that session was short-circuited when Republican members tried to substitute funding for the Interior appropriations bill to highlight their desires to move on that bill. The Labor-HHS bill was pulled from consideration. Earlier, House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WA) announced he intended to take up all 12 appropriations bills in July. Whether the House will get that far is unclear. The Senate also debated a version of the Labor-HHS bill.

The Senate and House appear to be close in their funding levels, with the House at a slightly higher total of $153 billion in discretionary spending. Both Labor-HHS 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.

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.

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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.

This Week's Show

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.

Coming Shows

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

  • 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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