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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 30: 8/11/2008   
Headlines

Congress on Recess Until After Political Conventions

Update on Mental Health and Addiction Parity

August 17 SCHIP Directive Not Yet Remedied

CWLA Testimony on Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare

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 on Recess Until After Political Conventions

Members of the House and Senate left for their annual August break on Friday, August 1. They are scheduled to return September 8, the first Monday after the Republican convention finishes in Minnesota. Democrats meet the week before that in Colorado.

The growing expectation is that the 110th Congress will attempt to finish its work by the end of September, with passage of a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government from the start of the fiscal year, on October 1, through the start of the next administration on January 20, 2009. Those plans could change based on election results.

When Congress returns in September, it will have a list of items to consider, including appropriations. Most importantly to the field of child welfare is completion of Congress's work on a major child welfare reform bill, H.R. 6307, the Fostering Connections to Success Act, passed by the House, and S. 3038, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act of 2008, under consideration in the Senate.

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Update on Mental Health and Addiction Parity

Before Congress adjourned for August recess, compromise mental health and addiction parity legislation was added to a Senate tax and energy bill (S. 3335). Further consideration of the legislation was thwarted, however, when a vote on overcoming a filibuster fell nine votes short. Full 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.

With S. 3335 not yet progressing, the means to get mental health and addiction parity passed is unclear. Parity's lead champions, including Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), and Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), are committed to getting parity done this year. Significant advances have been made. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of comprehensive mental health and substance abuse parity (S. 558 and H.R. 1424). The Senate passed S. 558 last September by unanimous consent; the House passed H.R. 1424 in March. Both bills would require group health plans with 50 or more enrollees who choose to offer mental health and addiction benefits to provide them on the same terms as other medical conditions.

Since that time, the chambers have negotiated differences and finalized policy content for parity legislation, but lawmakers still need to find a way to pay for it. CWLA urges everyone to call to their members' offices and urge that they enact mental health and addiction parity legislation this year.

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August 17 SCHIP Directive Not Yet Remedied

Congress has not yet been able to delay or stop the Bush Administration's restrictive State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) policy, due to take effect August 17, despite numerous aggressive efforts. The August 17 directive, issued in the form of a letter to state health officials, stated that affected states had 12 months to amend their SCHIP state plans or 1115 demonstrations, indicating that states are liable under the directive's requirements as of this August 17.

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. This would make it next to impossible for state CHIP 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).

SCHIP covers more than 6 million children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, and those who are either not offered or cannot afford private coverage. Recognizing 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.

Families USA has issued an issue brief that walks through how states are attempting to deal with the August 17 directive and how some, in light of the directive's stringent requirements, are forging ahead through alternative routes to cover children.

Members of Congress who are opposed to the August 17 directive have attempted to delay or stop it through many different means. For instance, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) have introduced legislation that would nullify the directive (H.R. 3555/S. 2049). Numerous hearings and congressional briefings have been held over the past year on the destructive nature of the directive.

Most recently, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a resolution disapproving of the August 17 directive (S.J. Res. 44) that eventually could have led to its nullification. This effort could not proceed, however, because the Senate Parliamentarian found the resolution was not filed in a timely manner. Although Congress is out on August recess, many members have vowed to continue working to delay or block the August 17 directive when they return.

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CWLA Testimony on Racial Disproportionality in Child Welfare

You can now read the testimony CWLA provided for the July 31 hearing on racial disproportionality before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support.

Witnesses included Kay Brown, Assistant Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security in the Government Accountability Office; 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.

All testimony is online.

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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 13
Frankly Speaking: National Magazine Features The True Life Stories Of Foster Teens


Represent is the only national magazine written by and for teens in care. About 40 teens in foster care in New York and across the country work on the bimonthly magazine as writers and illustrators, offering an inside look at life in the system through personal narratives and reported stories, and providing a way for youth in foster care to share their experiences, encourage one another, and educate others about the stigma that still surrounds youth in care.

Host Tony Regusters talks with guests Laura Longhine, Represent's Editor and Editorial Director at Youth Communications, which publishes Represent, and student writers Pauline Gordon and Natasha Santos.

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.

View more information on the show.

Coming Shows

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

  • August 25-28: Democratic National Convention
  • September 1-4: Republican National Convention
  • September 8: Congress Reconvenes
  • September 26: House-Scheduled End to 110th Congress
  • TBD: Senate-Scheduled End to 110th Congress
  • November 4: Election Day


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