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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 38: 10/13/2008   
Headlines

President Signs Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act into Law

Parity Signed into Law

CWLA Signs on to Agenda for Quality Child Care

Congress Might 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



President Signs Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act into Law

On October 7, President Bush signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, (P.L. 110-351, Fostering Connections Act) into law. In a press release issued shortly after the bill was signed, CWLA President and CEO Christine James-Brown praised the President and said, "This is an historic moment for foster children and families. Not since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 has this country had a bill that speaks directly to the needs of the more than 513,000 children in foster care. This bill further advances the mission of CWLA to promote the well-being of children, youth, and their families."

Because the bill was signed after the start of the new 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.

Certain sections have phased-in or delayed effective dates. 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).

Delinking 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 after that. Coverage for those ages 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.

Enactment of such a major initiative means CWLA's focus in the new Congress and next Administration will initially be in two areas: advancing the rest of child welfare finance reform and passage and implementation of legislation to reestablish a White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Because the Fostering Connections Act will be phased in and requires changes in many areas during a time of economic recession, the White House Conference becomes an important implementation tool, since much of the first year to year and a half leading up to the actual White House Conference will yield numerous meetings and miniconferences nationwide. Some of these will be part of the official process, others will be unofficial meetings held to influence the White House Conference.

CWLA has urged local and state members to seize the opportunity to organize community and state events that could focus on the unique and most challenging problems in such areas as the coordination of needed services, including child care and prevention efforts; issues that can contribute to neglect, such as housing, lack of access to mental health, substance abuse, and other health related barriers; and issues associated with poverty. The local events could also serve as a way to create key partnerships with important stakeholders, such as the education community and workforce development leaders.

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Parity Signed into Law

On October 3, the President signed into law historic legislation that significantly advances the rights and wellness of individuals with mental health and substance use conditions. The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, as contained in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (H.R.1424, P.L. 110-343), requires 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. The law prohibits such insurers from setting higher copayments or lower limits on treatment for mental and addiction illnesses, and requires equal out-of-network benefits, all the while permitting stronger state laws to remain in tact.

A 1996 parity law initiated progress to erase longstanding discrimination against mental health conditions. The newly enacted 2008 law builds on this foundation and is named for two mental health champions--Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), who is retiring from the Senate this year, and the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN), who lost his life in a 2002 plane crash.

Wellstone's son, David Wellstone, has continued his father's quest for full mental health parity and played a significant role in keeping parity at the top of the 110th Congress's agenda.

An estimated 113 million individuals will receive more comprehensive coverage as a result of this legislation, which will undoubtedly make American families healthier. CWLA thanks and congratulates the diverse group of stakeholders who never stopped fighting for full mental health and addiction parity

CWLA particularly acknowledges the valiant efforts of several members of Congress who saw parity across the finish line, including but not limited to Domenici, Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Representatives Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI).

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CWLA Signs on to Agenda for Quality Child Care

Last week, CWLA endorsed the call for improving the nation's child care system. The agenda, drafted by a coalition led by key groups, including the National Women's Law Center, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Center on Law and Social Policy, and many other child care groups, is designed to set the agenda for child care in the next Congress and Administration.

The document focuses on improving the quality and accessibility of care, improving infant and toddler care, and increasing the level of research and technical assistance, and more. Among the many key issues addressed is a call for stronger reimbursement rates for child care, set at 75% of the market rate of child care based on annual surveys, a key concern for CWLA members.

To read the agenda, or to sign on in support, go to Developing America's Potential: An Agenda for Affordable, High-Quality Child Care. You can also sign up to be a part of a webinar and hear more about the agenda on Oct. 27 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Register now for the webinar.

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Congress Might Not Be Finished for Year

Unofficially, the House and Senate are not in session, but the Senate does hold brief pro forma sessions, in part to preempt the President's authority to make temporary recess appointments of federal officials without congressional approval. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated the Senate will be in session November 17. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has also indicated the House will return and possibly take up a new stimulus package that would include state relief, unemployment benefits, and perhaps an additional round of tax rebates.

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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

October 15
A Conversation with Victor Rivers

As a veteran actor, Victor Rivers has starred in numerous films and has created a host of memorable roles on stage and television. Currently, he can be seen as Jack Reese on NBC'S acclaimed series, Life. He is best known for such film classics as Blood In/Bood Out (as Magic Mike), The Mask of Zorro, and as Eddie Murphy's sidekick in The Distinguished Gentleman. In 1999, Rivers became a leading activist in the cause of preventing violence against women and children. As the national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, he uses his own harrowing story of surviving a home where abuse took place on the level of torture to raise awareness about what he considers our greatest yet most curable social disease. Rivers's memoir, A Private Family Matter, was published recently by Atria Books.

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

Coming Shows

October 22
Web-Based Learning: A New Tool for Training Child Welfare Workers

Child welfare systems nationwide are under tremendous scrutiny regarding the qualifications and training of its workforce. Agencies struggle to provide relevant, quality training experiences for its workers and are looking for ways to meet training demands with limited resources. Many have turned to e-learning courses that staff can take anytime, anywhere, on either home or office computers. This week's show features discussion on domestic violence and other child welfare training Our guests: Andy Reitz, Senior Consultant, CWLA, and Lorraine Watson, President and COO, Essential Learning.

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
March 6, 2009: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


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