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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 37: 10/6/2008   
Headlines

Next Steps on Child Welfare Bill

Congress Approves CR Providing Funding Until March 6, 2009

Parity Added to Financial Bailout Plan

Chances of FMAP Increase Dwindle

Congress May Not Be Finished for Year

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



Next Steps on Child Welfare Bill

At press time, President Bush was expected to sign H.R. 6893, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act) in the next few days.
Because the President will sign the bill after the start of the 2009 federal fiscal year (which began October 1), much of the legislation will apply to payments to states made at the start of the second fiscal quarter, which begins on January 1, 2009. Certain sections have phased-in or delayed effective dates. Other sections that do not have specific start up dates take effect on the first day of the start of the next fiscal quarter.

Some provisions begin according to the way the section is written. Provisions in the law pertaining to tribes begin at the start of federal fiscal year 2010 (October 1, 2009), whereas the provisions allowing states to extend foster care to age 21 begin at the start of FY 2011 (October 1, 2010). The delink of adoption assistance from the AFDC program allows children 16 and older to be covered starting in FY 2010 (October 1, 2009), with the age of coverage reduced by two years each fiscal year. Coverage for children age 14 and older begins in FY 2011, age 12 and older FY 2012, and so on until eligibility for all children is delinked from the AFDC eligibility requirements by 2018. This provision also includes exceptions for children in foster care for 60 months, and certain siblings.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not issued any general guidance yet since the bill has not yet become law. The department can't act until that final step is taken. Also, a number of issues will have to be resolved regarding implementation of such issues as state plans, case plan changes, and new requirements, including the required notice to relatives when a child comes in to care. Some sections will also require at least some regulation, such as those dealing with the tribal IV-E programs.

Key questions that CWLA member agencies may wish to consider for their states are online.


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Congress Approves CR Providing Funding Until March 6, 2009

Last week, the President signed H.R. 2638, a continuing resolution (CR) that will provide funding for most of the federal government through March 6, 2009, nearly half of the federal fiscal year. The spending package provides a full year of funding for military construction and the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security.

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 is also a vehicle for some additional priority items, such as an initial $7.5 billion for federal loans for U.S. auto manufacturers.

All other funding was maintained at FY 2008 levels. The next President and Congress will make final decisions on spending increases for FY 2009 sometime in January or February.

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Parity Added to Financial Bailout Plan

Late on October 1, the Senate passed a financial bailout plan by a vote of 74-25. The bill included previously passed mental health and addiction parity language, as well as tax extenders language. At press time, the fate of parity depended on House action on the financial bailout bill.

This was the latest in a long series of aggressive maneuvers by the 110th Congress to enact comprehensive parity legislation. The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-204) started to level the playing field between physical and mental health benefits, but several parity champions, including Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Representatives Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), have worked tirelessly this year to close existing loopholes and erase longstanding discrimination against mental health conditions and addiction.

The House and Senate had passed versions of parity (H.R. 1424and S. 558) that differed significantly in some respects. The chambers then compromised on substance, and the compromise received support from mental health advocates, including CWLA, business groups, and insurance companies. On September 23, the House passed the compromise language as a stand-alone measure (H.R. 6983), by a vote of 376-47, and the Senate passed parity as part of a larger tax package (H.R. 6049), by a vote of 93-2.

Adding parity and the tax provisions may sway some House Republicans who voted against their bailout package earlier in the week. At press time, the House was expected to vote on the financial package sometime Friday.

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Chances of FMAP Increase Dwindle

On September 26, the House passed an economic stimulus measure (H.R. 7110) that included $14.4 billion for a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid match (Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, or FMAP) to help states avoid having to cut critical health services in tight financial times. That same day, the Senate fell 8 votes short of the 60 necessary to consider its stimulus package, the Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The Senate would have provided $19.6 billion in federal funds over 15 months to state Medicaid programs. Thirty-four Senators, led by Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), encouraged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a letter to include such a temporary FMAP increase.

Although the House was victorious, that a broad stimulus package would be signed into law appears highly unlikely, as the White House issued a veto threat against both the Senate and House stimulus proposals. In its Statements of Administration Policy, the White House specifically cited disapproval of temporarily increasing the FMAP as a means to influence short-term economic developments, among other points of contention. In 2003, during similarly tough economic times, however, the federal government did provide a temporary boost to the FMAP, and it was met with great success.

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Congress May Not Be Finished for Year

Congress has not officially adjourned for the year, meaning the 110th Congress could come back after the November elections. Last week saw some discussion of a possible return in mid-November. Such a session could allow for further debate and effort on a stimulus package. Such a package may depend on the desires of the President-Elect.

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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 8
Latina Victims of Domestic Violence


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

Coming Shows

Wednesday October 15
A Conversation with Victor Rivers


October 22
Online Training Around Domestic Violence and Child Welfare


October 29
Gay Adoption


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

  • November 4: Election Day
  • January 3, 2009: Start of 111th Congress
  • January 20, 2009: New President sworn in
  • March 6, 2009: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


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