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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 29: 8/4/2008   
Headlines

Senate Finance Committee Postpones Adoption of Child Welfare Bill

Higher Education Act Reauthorized with New Loan Forgiveness Included

Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Strong Juvenile Justice Legislation

Stark and Becerra Introduce Bill to Protect Immigrant Foster Children

House Subcommittee Examines Racial Disproportionality in Foster Care

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 Finance Committee Postpones Adoption of Child Welfare Bill

The scheduled Senate Finance Committee action on a major child welfare financing bill was abruptly postponed August 1 when Senators agreed to wrap up their summer session Thursday night, July 31. Although they remained in formal session last Friday, there were no votes and few members around.

The Senate Finance Committee was set to adopt S. 3038, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008, at the mark up session. The legislation, which represents the work of chief sponsors Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), takes the original Grassley bill introduced last May and adds several provisions similar to the House companion bill, the Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307) sponsored by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL).

Both bills include significant improvements in child welfare. They are crafted with bipartisan support and are both paid for. Each of the bills would reauthorize the adoption incentives program, provide for Title IV-E funding of kinship placements, and require states to have agreements in place that will allow foster children to remain in school or, if that is not possible, get immediate enrollment in a new school.

The Baucus-Grassley bill includes a phased-in delink for adoption assistance. By 2011, all special-needs adoptions would be eligible for federal support. Currently, eligibility is linked to the now defunct-AFDC cash assistance program--eligibility as it existed 12 years ago. The phase-in covers older children in special-needs adoption in the first years. The McDermott-Weller bill does not include an adoption delink. The Baucus-Grassley bill would allow states to extend foster care to age 21 at state option, but this provision would not take effect until fiscal year 2011 (October 1, 2010). The McDermott-Weller bill would allow states the option in the first year. The Baucus-Grassley bill would allow tribal governments to apply for direct access to federal foster care, adoption, and kinship funding, but the requirements are more stringent than the provisions in the McDermott-Weller bill.

The Baucus-Grassley bill includes a few other provisions not in the House bill, such as creation of a new resource center for tribes, some limited funding for state-tribal collaborations, a kinship incentive program, and a 10-state demonstration grant allowing states to suspend foster care licensing requirements in regard to bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage for kinship families. The demonstrations would last for three years, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services required to report back within one year on the effect of state efforts. Two items not included in the Senate bill but in the McDermott-Weller bill are the expansion of Title IV-E training to private agencies, a CWLA legislative agenda item and an important workforce improvement strategy, and health planning requirements for children in care.

The Senate Finance Committee could take up the bill on September 10, when it returns for the fall session. Depending on the pace of Senate action, the goal would be to negotiate the differences in language and programs between the House and Senate versions and come up with a final bill that could pass through the politically charged atmosphere in September. If Congress can do it, this would be a significant accomplishment not just for Congress and CWLA members, but for thousands of children and families.

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Higher Education Act Reauthorized with New Loan Forgiveness Included

Last week, Congress gave final approval to legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The bill (S. 1642) is the first reauthorization of higher education since 1998; most significantly for child welfare, it includes a new program to allow loan forgiveness for social workers who work for public or private child welfare agencies.

The provision must be funded now, but its inclusion in the law is the first significant step in child welfare workforce development in many years. The provision actually addresses several areas of workforce need, including certain teaching specialties, Head Start and Child Care teachers, and social workers in child welfare. Once enacted, it would allow up to $2,000 in loan forgiveness for each year a social worker remains with an agency, to a maximum of five years and $10,000.

Several more steps are necessary before the program is in effect, including regulations and appropriating funds. CWLA will continue to monitor its development; look for additional information in coming weeks.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Strong Juvenile Justice Legislation

On July 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote legislation (S. 3155) to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. This bill includes many provisions to strengthen federal policy governing juvenile justice strategies directed at youth who come in contact with law enforcement, and to significantly expand prevention efforts for youth who are at risk for doing so.

The bill calls on states to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and phase out incarceration of status offenders. In addition, it strengthens the provisions in current law regarding protecting youth who are incarcerated and reducing the number of youth in jails.

The legislation also includes new language to enhance coordination and integration between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In particular, the bill encourages state and local juvenile justice and child welfare agencies to develop coordinated dependence and delinquency system plans, and to compile data reflecting information on juveniles entering the juvenile justice system with a prior reported history as victims of child abuse or neglect. The legislation calls on states to plan to use such data to provide necessary services for the treatment of victims of child abuse and neglect.

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Stark and Becerra Introduce Bill to Protect Immigrant Foster Children

On July 29, Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-CA) and Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6649, the Foster Children Opportunity Act. The legislation would ensure abused and neglected immigrant children in the foster care system are able to take advantage of the law that allows them to adjust their immigration status.

The federal government has a responsibility to ensure abused and neglected children have every opportunity to succeed. Tragically, many abused and neglected immigrant children age out of the foster care system or are adopted without having obtained legal immigrant status, to which they are entitled to under current law. Once out of the child welfare system, they may lose their one and only opportunity to gain legal status, which is often critical in successfully transitioning to adulthood.

Abused and neglected immigrant children in the child welfare system are eligible to become legal permanent residents under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) provisions of immigration law. Once a child turns 21 or is adopted, that child is no longer eligible to adjust his or her status under SIJS. If SIJS is not obtained, youth face the threat of deportation, cannot work legally, and are vulnerable to exploitation.

The Foster Children Opportunity Act aims to correct this terrible situation by requiring all children in the foster care system be screened for SIJS eligibility and assisted through the legal process to obtain SIJS and eventually legal permanent resident status. The bill would provide technical assistance to help child welfare agencies better understand this problem and provide resources to train judges, attorneys, and other legal workers in a complex area of law.

This legislation would not change any aspect of current immigration law, nor would it result in adults, who have engaged in illegal behavior, gaining legal status. View more information.

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House Subcommittee Examines Racial Disproportionality in Foster Care

The House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing July 31 to examine racial disproportionality in the foster care system. A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in July 2007 found African American children nationwide were more than twice as likely to enter foster care compared with white children in, and these children remained in foster care roughly nine months longer.

Witnesses included Kay Brown, Assistant Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at GAO; Marian Harris of the Washington State Racial Disproportionality Advisory Committee; Terry Solomon from the Illinois African American Family Commission; Oronde Miller, Director of Systems Improvement Methodologies at Casey Family Programs; and Daryle Conquering Bear, a former foster youth in a Native American community.

Recent data show that although African American children make up 15% of the child population, 32% of children in foster care are African American. Children from Native American populations make up 2% of the children in foster care, but they are only 1% of the general child population. These data show a tremendous racial disparity in foster care settings. Although the solutions are varied, the goal is to work toward permanence for children and less time in the foster care system.

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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, August 6
The Color-Blind Challenge: The Case for Changing The Multiethnic Placement Act


Although 15% of American children are African American, black children comprise 32% of the 510,000 children in foster care, and they have consistently lower rates of adoption. On average, black children stay in foster care nine months longer than white children.

The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and the Interethnic Placement Act (IEPA), passed in 1994 and 1996 respectively, were enacted to prevent children from languishing in out-of-home care while child welfare agencies found foster or adoptive parents. The law specifically prohibits public child welfare agencies from delaying or denying a child's foster or adoptive placement on the basis of race, color, or national origin. In other words, the laws prevent matching a child's race with that of his or her foster parent.

MEPA has not removed barriers to permanency for African American children, however, and interpretations of MEPA that have served as the basis for its enforcement run counter to widely accepted best practices in adoption.

Ruth McRoy, senior fellow at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and coauthor of Finding Families for African American Children: The Role of Race and Law in Adoption from Foster Care, will be our guest. The report argues that race should be a factor in adoption placement, and that agencies should be allowed to screen non-black families who want to adopt black children for their ability to teach self-esteem, to defense against racism, and their level of interaction with other African Americans.

View more information on the show.

Coming Shows

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

Our guest is Chief Executive of the National Association of Former Foster Care Children of America, and a former foster child.

Wednesday, August 27
Painful Separations: Immigration Raids Leave Many Children Behind

According to a report by the Urban Institute and the National Council of La Raza, approximately 5 million children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent, and for every two immigrants apprehended in raids, one child is left behind. Host Tony Regusters and his guests call attention to the harmful effects of sweeping immigration raids and expound on the urgent need for a more humane immigration policy that focuses on protecting children and keeping families united while still enforcing the law.

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

  • Early August-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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