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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 28: 7/28/2008   
Headlines

Senate Child Welfare Bill Still In Development, Call-In Day Today!

CWLA Holds Hill Briefings on White House Conference

Temporary FMAP Increase May Be Part of Second Stimulus Package

Congress Still Attempting to Address August 17 SCHIP Directive

CWLA Addresses Briefing on Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

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



Senate Child Welfare Bill Still In Development, Call-In Day Today!

The Senate Finance Committee is still in discussion over a possible child welfare bill that would be the companion to the McDermott-Weller bill, H.R. 6307. (See Children's Monitor, July 7, 2008.) The committee was expected to act last week, but it is engaged in debates over several issues. As a result, CWLA is joining in an effort to have a call-in day today, Monday July 28, to urge members of the Senate Finance Committee to act before the August Congressional break.

The states with Finance Committee members include Arizona (John Kyl-R), Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln-D), Colorado (Ken Salazar-D), Idaho (Mike Crapo-R), Iowa (Chuck Grassely-R, Ranking Republican), Kansas (Pat Roberts-R), Kentucky (Jim Bunning-R), Maine (Olympia Snowe-R), Massachusetts (John Kerry-D), Michigan (Debbie Strabenow-D), Montana (Max Baucus-D, Committee Chair), Nevada (John Ensign-R), New Hampshire (John Sununu-R), New Mexico (Jeff Bingaman-D), New York (Charles Schumer-D), North Dakota (Kent Conrad-D), Oregon (Gordon Smith-R and Ron Wyden-D), Utah (Orrin Hatch-R), Washington (Maria Cantwell-D), and West Virginia (Jay Rockefeller-D). Everyone in these states is urged to call their Senate members of the Finance Committee and ask their Senators to act now to reauthorize the Adoption Incentive Program and help support adoption and relative guardianship.

A toll-free number for the call-in effort is open Monday and Tuesday, July 28-29; call 1-888-686-8191. We urge everyone to call in on these days.

The Senate bill, like the bipartisan McDermott-Weller bill in the House, is expected to include several other key provisions. The McDermott-Weller bill includes provisions on kinship care, direct access to federal funds by tribal governments, expanded access to training funds for child welfare workers, and extended supports to foster youth and adoptive families, as well as strengthening health and education requirements.

The next critical step is for the Senate to act before the August recess, which would allow for any differences between the House and Senate to be negotiated during the August break.

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CWLA Holds Hill Briefings on White House Conference

On July 21, CWLA held House and Senate briefings on legislation (H.R. 5461 and S. 2771) to reestablish a White House Conference on Children and Youth. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who introduced H.R. 5461, spoke at the House briefing. Both Fattah and the chief cosponsor of the House bill, Representative Jon Porter (R-NV), sponsored the House briefing. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who introduced the Senate version of the legislation, along with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), sponsored the Senate briefing.

The panelists, moderated by CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown, painted a vivid picture of the need for the White House Conference and how it could have a significant impact on reform of the child welfare system. Panelist Bob Blancato, who served as Executive Director of the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, offered valuable expertise on how the two-year process of a White House Conference works and what will make a White House Conference on Children and Youth successful. Reverend Ken Fellenbaum spoke about his participation in the last White House Conference on Children and Youth in 1970. Fellenbaum is CEO of Boys & Girls Village, Milford, Connecticut, and has extensive experience in community-based social service programs.

Two former foster youth, Mikelle Wortman and Asia Moore, both members of CWLA's National Foster Youth Advisory Council, gave very personal accounts of the value and need for a White House Conference on Children and Youth. They spoke about the struggles and challenges they face and reminded the audience of Capitol Hill staff that, in fact, their success stories can be an inspiration to thousands of others in foster care. They are both committed to being a voice for children and youth in the foster care system.

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Temporary FMAP Increase May Be Part of Second Stimulus Package

Congress is considering a temporary increase in the percentage of federal matching funds states receive for their Medicaid programs, to help stimulate the nation's grim economic situation. The Center on Budget on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates 29 states are facing a budget shortfall of at least $48 billion in FY 2009.

Medicaid is a vital health program, insuring more than 57 million vulnerable Americans, including children in foster care, but the program places pressure on state budgets, especially in such tight economic times. Rather than states having to cut important services, a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) would serve to protect this safety net. Congress passed a similar increase in 2003 that included a 2.95% increase in FMAP rates for the last two quarters of 2003 and the first three quarters of 2004.

Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingell (D-MI) have introduced a bill in the House that would increase the FMAP temporarily by almost three percentage points (H.R. 5268). A similar bill is being championed in the Senate by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, S. 2620).

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which Pallone chairs, held a hearing on this legislation on July 22. Pallone and others hope to include the FMAP increase in a second economic stimulus package Congress is considering. Committee markup and floor action on such a stimulus is not expected until September.

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Congress Still Attempting to Address August 17 SCHIP Directive

With less than a month to go before states are liable for a restrictive State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) policy issued by the Bush Administration last August, certain members of Congress are trying to voice their disapproval and delay the policy directive. SCHIP covers more than 6 million children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and those who either are not offered or cannot afford private coverage.

Recognizing that states are very differently situated--in terms of costs of living, for example--the federal government has long afforded states flexibility to uniquely tailor certain aspects of their programs, including the ability to set income eligibility limits.

In a sharp departure from that sound policy, however, the Administration's August 17, 2007, directive makes it next to impossible for state SCHIP programs that are already covering or desire to cover children in families who earn over 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to do so (250% of FPL is $53,000 for a family of four). For instance, under the directive, states must prove they have enrolled at least 95% of their children below 200% FPL who are eligible for either SCHIP or Medicaid before moving up the income eligibility ladder.

Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) recently introduced a resolution disapproving of the August 17 directive (S.J. Res. 44), which eventually could have nullified the directive. At press time, the resolution had gained significant momentum and 47 Senate cosponsors, including key Republicans. A markup of the resolution was postponed, however, after the Senate Parliamentarian pointed out the resolution had been filed too late and, as such, could not be considered in such a fast manner. After hearing the bad news, Baucus and Rockefeller issued a joint statement in which both vowed to continue trying to nullify the August 17 policy.

Both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) have found the August 17 policy violates the law. GAO and CRS, both independent bodies, have found the August 17 SCHIP letter constitutes a rule under the Congressional Review Act and, as such, must be submitted to Congress and the Comptroller General (which it was not) before it can take effect.

Two states have also sued the Bush Administration, alleging the August 17 policy is illegal. More information on the August 17 directive, including how it affects your state, is available online.

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CWLA Addresses Briefing on Young Adults with Serious Mental Illness

On July 25, CWLA Vice President for Public Policy and Communication Linda Spears addressed a briefing educating Capitol Hill about the plight of young adults with serious mental illness. CWLA has been working with other national organizations and members of Congress over the past several years on this issue. As part of this, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the needs of young adults with serious mental illness; the 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.

In reaction to the GAO report, Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) and Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) have introduced the Healthy Transition Act of 2008 (H.R. 6375, S. 3195), to help young adults ages 18-26 with serious mental illness receive needed services and successfully transition to adulthood The legislation would provide planning and implementation grants to states to develop statewide coordination plans to help adolescents and young adults with serious mental illness, and urge states to target specific populations, including those involved with the child protection and juvenile justice systems. The legislation would also establish a federal committee to coordinate service programs help young adults with mental illness and provide technical assistance to states.

In her statement at the briefing, Spears focused on the obstacles older youth in foster care face, including navigating different care systems to comprehensively address their serious physical and mental health needs. Spears also discussed the added pressures of aging out of the foster care system and attempting to locate health and other needed services when this population often lacks strong familial and community support. Spears expressed CWLA's sincere backing of the Healthy Transition Act, alongside other briefing panelists, including practitioners and foster youth.

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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.

Programming schedule subject to change.

This Week's Show

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.

View more information on the show.

Coming Shows

Wednesday, August 6
Multi-Ethnic Placement Act


Wednesday, August 13
Youth Communication/Represent Magazine

Launched in June 1993, Represent is a national bimonthly magazine written by and for kids in the foster care system.

Wednesday, August 20
A Conversation with Louis Henderson


Wednesday, August 27
Broken Families: The Impact of Immigration Raids on Children


Wednesday, September 3
A Conversation with Chris James-Brown


Wednesday, September 10
Teen Depression and Suicide

Eighteen-year-old Jordan Burham, who had been battling depression for some time, jumped from the ninth floor of his family's apartment building in a suicide attempt 10 months ago. Miraculously, he survived. In May, he testified at a congressional briefing, urging Congress to help young people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17
Substance Abuse as a Cause of Child Abuse


Wednesday, September 24
The Link Between Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare

Special guests: John Tuell, Director of CWLA's Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems Integration Initiative; and Janet Wiig, Director of CWLA's Juvenile Justice Division

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

  • August 9-September 7: Congressional summer recess
  • August 25-28: Democratic National Convention
  • September 1-4: Republican National Convention
  • September 26: House-scheduled end to 110th Congress
  • TBD: Senate-scheduled End to 110th Congress
  • November 4: Election Day


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