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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 36: 9/29/2008   
Headlines

Historic Child Welfare Legislation Sent to President

Congress Works on Appropriations Funding Bill Through Next March

Parity Passes House and Senate, Moves Another Step Closer to Victory

House Briefing on Immigration Raids Effect on Children

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



Historic Child Welfare Legislation Sent to President

On September 22, the U.S. Senate gave final approval to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (H.R. 6893) sending the bill to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law, enacting what may be the most significant child welfare legislation since Title IV-E was created in 1980.

It will take time for the legislation's full effect to be realized, but when all is said and done, kinship families will receive significantly expanded federal support; more children in tribal communities will be covered by federal foster care, kinship care, and adoption funding; more child welfare workers will benefit from training; more families will adopt special-needs children; and many of the 24,000 young people aging out of foster care each year will be eligible for considerably increased benefits. In addition, when the new health and education planning requirements are implemented, children in care will be helped with their health and education needs.

The bill comes at a time when many where expecting the final month of the 110th Congress to be unproductive coming as it does shortly before a tight presidential election. It's also a time of increased focus on the public's dissatisfaction with Washington. The new child welfare legislation, however, seems to contradict such general assumptions. Both houses of Congress and both parties came together to craft a bill comprising various parts of other legislation introduced both in this 110th Congress and earlier Congresses.

Over the last 10 years, bills have passed to reauthorize programs like the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, and the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). Each of those actions made important reforms, but the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act includes a number of provisions CWLA and many other child welfare advocates have promoted for several years.

Since ASFA, numerous bills have been introduced to extend Title IV-E eligibility to kinship families, provide access to Native American communities, increase the age of coverage for foster care, open access to federal training funds to private agencies, and eliminate the AFDC link to special-needs adoptions. H.R. 6893 does all of this, although some of the changes will be phased in over time. For a more detailed description, as well as key questions for state and local child welfare advocates interested in implementation of this legislation, visit our website.

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Congress Works on Appropriations Funding Bill Through Next March

At press time, the Congressional leadership was working on a large spending package that would fund the federal government through March 6, nearly a half year into the 2009 fiscal year, and well after the start of the next administration. Congress failed to debate and pass the dozen regular appropriations bills; instead it adopted a continuing resolution (CR), which was included in a substitute bill passed earlier (H.R. 2638) and will provide a full year of funding for the Department of Defense, military construction, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. For the rest of the departments, funding expires March 6.

The defense budget will increase to $488 billion, a 6% increase, but still $4 billion below President Bush's last request. The funding does not address the cost of the two wars, which is funded separately. Veterans Affairs receives a $9 billion increase, which is more than $5 billion above the President's budget. The bill also acts as a vehicle for some other additional priority items, such as an initial $7.5 billion for federal loans for U.S. auto manufacturers. The CR represents one of the many moving parts Congress was working on late into the weekend. Other parts include a fiscal stimulus, tax deduction extenders, mental health parity, and the dominant issue of a financial bailout bill.

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Parity Passes House and Senate, Moves Another Step Closer to Victory

On September 23, the House and Senate independently passed comprehensive mental health and addiction parity legislation. These bills would require group health plans with 50 or more enrollees that choose to offer mental health and addiction benefits to provide them on the same terms as other medical conditions, erasing longstanding discrimination between physical health conditions and mental health and substance abuse disorders. The House passed H.R. 6983 as a stand-alone measure by a vote of 376-47; the Senate passed parity as part of a larger tax package (H.R. 6049), by a vote of 93-2.

In the last year, both the House and Senate had passed versions of parity (S. 558 and H.R. 1424) that differed significantly in some respects. Since that time, however, the chambers compromised, and the compromise received support from mental health advocates including CWLA, business groups, and insurance companies. The policy language is now identical, but the mechanism by which each chamber pays for the legislation still differs.

At press time, exactly how Congress would proceed was unclear--specifically what the cost offset would be--and whether it would finalize the parity bill. With Congress likely not adjourning for another couple of days, many members remained optimistic these issues would be resolved and a bill would be sent to the President for signature. The White House has indicated it supports the mental health and addiction parity provisions as passed by the Senate.

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House Briefing on Immigration Raids Effect on Children

A policy forum on the effect on children from immigration raids was held on Capitol Hill September 23r. Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA) presided at the forum and spoke about the devastating effects raids have had on children and families. Linda Spears, CWLA Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs, also spoke at the forum. She explained when children are separated from parents they face short- and long-term psychological damage. Immigration raids cause sudden and traumatic separation. This can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, feelings of abandonment, and suicidal thoughts.

Her comments focused on challenges faced by immigrant children and families served in the child welfare system. She spoke about the special needs of children who are placed in foster care as a result of a raid; the lack of culturally relevant services, such as parenting classes and drug treatment programs; the lack of reliable data on the number of immigrant children and families in the child welfare system, resulting in a lack of good data to support effective planning and service delivery; and the need for increasing federal funding for child welfare services to better serve this population.

The briefing was the result of a raid in Pottsville, Iowa, where hundreds of children and families were affected. Solis introduced the Families First Enforcement Act (H.R. 3980) last year. That bill would ensure humane treatment of individuals during and after immigrant raids, allow them access to social services, and require Immigration and Customs Enforcemen to provide relatives with information on detainees' whereabouts.

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On the Line with CWLA, Speaking for America's Children

On the Line with CWLA is a thought-provoking, interactive radio program focusing on subjects, stories, and strategies of special interest to child welfare policymakers, providers, and practitioners. The program, devoted solely to 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.

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 October 1
The Messages Project


Carolyn LeCroy is an award-winning film and video producer with her own company, Women in Transition. She was recently featured on CNN as a "CNN Hero" for her "Messages Project, which she established in 1999. The Messages Project visits six state prisons in Virginia three times a year to create videotapes from incarcerated parents to children. The tapes are mailed to children and families, often with a book or poems and messages that have been recorded on the tape.

For more information on the show, visit www.cwla.org/newsevents/cwlaradio.htm.

Coming Shows

Wednesday October 8
Latina Victims of Domestic Violence


Wednesday October 15
A Conversation with Victor Rivers


For more information on the show, visit www.cwla.org/newsevents/cwlaradio.htm.

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

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. CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish this important policymaking tradition. The time to act is now. Your support and involvement are crucial.

You can support this effort by going to www.cwla.org/advocacy/whitehouseconf10.htm. There, you can sign on to support CWLA's call for a White House Conference in 2010, let you members of Congress know of your support, complete a survey about what areas you would like to see such a White House Conference focus on, see which members of Congress are cosponsoring the authorizing legislation for a White House Conference, learn how to get your board to pass a resolution supporting this effort, and more!

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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

  • October 1: Start of Federal Fiscal Year 2009
  • November 4: Election Day
  • January 3, 2009: Start of 111th Congress
  • January 20, 2009: New President sworn in


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