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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 44: 11/24/2008   
Headlines

Special Notice

Tom Daschle to Head HHS

Waxman to Chair House Energy, Commerce Committee

CWLA Posts Resources for Fostering Connection Act

National Governors Association Webcast on Fostering Connections

Stimulus with FMAP Will Have to Wait for New President and Congress

CWLA's Spears Addresses Senate Staff on Child Health and CRC

Capitol Hill Stars Come Out for Celebration of Fostering Connections Act

Possible January Finish to 2009 Appropriations

Senate Lays Groundwork for Health Care Reform

Advocacy Day Will Provide Chance to Talk to New Congress and Administration

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



Special Notice

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Children's Monitor will not publish on Monday December 1. The Monitor will return Monday December 8.

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Tom Daschle to Head HHS

Former U.S Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) was named unofficially last week to the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the new Obama Administration. Daschle served in the Senate from 1987 to 2005, where he spent time as both the Majority Leader and Minority Leader for Senate Democrats. Before his election to the Senate, Daschle served in the House of Representatives from 1978 until 1987. As a Senator, he was a key figure the last time Congress had an extensive debate on national health care. In 1993-1994, he served on the Senate Finance Committee and as Democratic Whip.

When Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME) retired in 1994, Daschle was elected the new leader of the Senate Democrats at the very time they reached minority status. While in his role of Minority Leader in 1995-1996, he sponsored, along with Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and John Breaux (D-LA), the Democrat's alternative to the welfare reform bill of that period. In 1996, Congress agreed to what would later become Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Senate bills placed a higher priority on child care funding increases as a counter to the House welfare reform bills. Also of great significance, Daschle sponsored legislation to allow tribal governments to apply for direct control of Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance programs. Significantly, the new Fostering Connection Act (P.L. 110-351) includes provisions very similar to what then-Senator Daschle had proposed--something that bodes well for the tribal community as that new law is implemented and expanded.

As Majority and Minority Leader, Daschle introduced many key bills on behalf of Senate Democrats, including legislation to expand child care funding. In his earlier years in the 1990s, he had introduced several bills that would have expanded Medicaid coverage for pregnant mothers with substance abuse problems. In more recent years, Daschle has had an increased focus on health care. Earlier this year, he published a new book, Critical: What we Can Do About the Healthcare Crisis.

Daschle has advocated creating a national board to oversee health care, similar to how the Federal Reserve regulates finance. As HHS Secretary, he will have oversight of Medicare, Medicaid, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Administration on Children and Families and all of its programs, including child welfare, TANF, SSBG, child care, Head Start, and many children's programs. Daschle was an early and key supporter of candidate Obama. His appointment is widely viewed as a signal that President-Elect Obama is going to give national health insurance reform top billing in his new administration.

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Waxman to Chair House Energy, Commerce Committee

The House Democratic Caucus on November 20 voted to pass the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee from Representative John Dingell (D-MI) to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). This secret-ballot vote came after Waxman, the committee's second-ranking Democrat, prompted a challenge to Dingell's seat. The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over a range of issues, including Medicaid, public health, mental health, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, food and drugs, national energy policy, and environmental protection.

Having replaced his father in the House of Representatives in 1955, Dingell is the longest-serving member in the House and has chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee for a total of 16 years. Dingell played an instrumental role over the years in several historic policy decisions, including the creation and protection of Medicaid, creation of SCHIP, passage of the Clean Air Act, and passage of the Endangered Species Act. Waxman is a long public servant as well, having been elected to the House in 1975. Waxman has continuously advocated for universal health insurance and has also worked aggressively to protect Medicaid and its beneficiaries.

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CWLA Posts Resources for Fostering Connection Act

To better coordinate CWLA resources as they relate to the new Fostering Connections Act, CWLA has created a new resource page on its website that outlines the new law in seven broad categories of improvements: kinship care, youth in transition, tribal improvements, workforce development, adoption, health care, and education. Under each section are links to CWLA resources and services, as well as some resources from other sources. CWLA will update the information regularly.

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National Governors Association Webcast on Fostering Connections

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, in partnership with Casey Family Programs, is holding the second in a series of webcasts related to safely reducing the number of children in foster care. The webcast, The Fostering Connections Act: State Choices and Challenges, will bring together experts from a national research organization and states to discuss the Fostering Connections Act and how to approach implementation from a state perspective.

The webcast takes place today, Monday November 24, 3:00 p.m.-4:15 p.m. EST. To view webcast go to www.nga.org/webcast. For more information, contact Jody Grutza at jgrutza@nga.org.

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Stimulus with FMAP Will Have to Wait for New President and Congress

Congress decided not to take up a stimulus package last week. Lacking sufficient votes to approve a bill, Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) did not bring legislation to a vote, likely putting off until next year consideration of a second economic stimulus package. The draft package included temporary additional federal money for state-run Medicaid programs. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to several vulnerable low-income populations, including children in foster care. In tight economic times such as our nation now faces--when individuals lose jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance--Medicaid enrollment tends to increase. States, while their Medicaid spending is increasing, must balance their budgets—which can force them to cut vital health care services.

For more information, download State Fiscal Conditions and Medicaid from the Kaiser Foundation.

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CWLA's Spears Addresses Senate Staff on Child Health and CRC

On November 20, Linda Spears, CWLA Vice President for Policy and Public Affairs, joined representatives from the American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics to speak at a Senate staff briefing on children's health issues and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is the world's most ratified international human rights treaty, drafted with the specific purpose of ensuring the well-being of all children, regardless of national boundaries. Although the U.S. was an active participant in the decade-long drafting process, we, along with Somalia, are the only two UN members who have not ratified the CRC. CWLA officially endorsed the CRC in 1992 and is a strong partner of the Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC, the Senate briefing's main sponsor.

The briefing examined the current status of children's physical and mental wellbeing in the United States, and considered how ratification of the CRC would establish a useful framework for creating and implementing policies and programs that best address the comprehensive health needs of children and their families. For more information regarding the CRC and the Senate briefing, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/crc.htm.

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Capitol Hill Stars Come Out for Celebration of Fostering Connections Act

On November 19, more than a dozen national organizations, including CWLA, and spearheaded by the PEW Charitable Trusts, celebrated passage of the Fostering Connections Act to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351). The turnout was impressive, as key members of Congress dropped by to give comments and accept the gratitude and applause from many of the groups, youth, and families directly affected and helped by the new law.

Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) led off with a talk about his deep commitment to the issue and his ongoing commitment to pursue further reforms in the area. Later in the evening, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) echoed those comments and reflected on Congress's ability to come together over the issue despite the difficult political environment. Also making appearances were important bill supporters and leaders on child welfare, including Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Senator-Elect Tom Udall (D-CO), and Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), and Jerry Weller (R-IL).

Weller was a key supporter of access to training by private agencies. He is wrapping up his career in the House, having announced his retirement earlier this year. Weller was introduced by CWLA member and head of the Child Care Association of Illinois Marge Berglind. Joining Berglind in presentations were Daryle Conquering Bear, Rob Johnson, Julia Charles, and Schylar Canfield, all formerly in foster care. CWLA hopes to post video highlights in the near future.

Throughout the event, members of Congress also paid tribute to key Capitol Hill staff who played such a vital role in crafting a final bill, and to advocates in the field who kept pushing for meaningful reform.

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Possible January Finish to 2009 Appropriations

Early indications are that the new Congress will work quickly in early January to finish the 2009 appropriations. Most of the funding outside of defense, homeland security, veterans affairs, and military construction are being funded at 2008 levels through March 6. The new Congress will start January 3, and some have suggested that appropriators would move each bill individually and package the appropriations into an omnibus bill that President Obama could sign shortly after he takes office on January 20. The 2009 appropriations are unlikely to see significant increases, but Congress will likely be working at the same time on a major stimulus bill. In addition to that, the new Congress will also have to focus on the appropriations for the2010 fiscal year. That process generally starts with the release of the President's budget in the first week of February.

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Senate Lays Groundwork for Health Care Reform

A week after Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled his Call to Action detailing specific goals and policy options for comprehensive health reform in 2009, he called a hearing on November 19 entitled "Health Care Reform: An Economic Perspective." In his opening statement, Baucus underscored that the country is in a recession and that reforming health care will cost money, but urged that the "costs of inaction, both in human terms and financial terms, are greater than the costs of reform." Baucus also referenced the three central goals of his Call to Action: health coverage for all Americans, improving health care quality and value, and achieving greater efficiency and sustainable health care financing.

The hearing panel featured Uwe Reinhardt, Professor of Political Economy from Princeton University, who discussed the cost of health care that is increasing far quicker than gross wages, sending many American families into a "perfect storm" and out of employment-based health care. The likely deterioration of the employment-based system for low-wage employees, Reinhardt continued, is significant impetus for moving toward universal coverage.

Later that day, a bipartisan group of Senators from both the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions met, agreed to work together on health care reform, and ironed out jurisdictional boundaries, as both committees have an important stake in health care. Although tight economic times loom heavy, many committee members emerged from the meeting optimistic that meaningful health care reform could occur in 2009.

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Advocacy Day Will Provide Chance to Talk to New Congress and Administration

Come to Washington to see the new Congress and President in action! CWLA's National Conference on public policy, Children 2009: Children Today...America's Future, February 23-25, will provide attendees with one of the first opportunities to come to Washington under the new 111th Congress and the new President. CWLA encourages early registration and payment in advance. If registering on site, registration must be accompanied by a check, credit card, or signed purchase order authorizing conference registration payment.

Advocacy Day, held on the second day of the conference, gives attendees the opportunity to actively promote CWLA's 2009 priorities, which is sure to build on the progress made so far on CWLA's call to reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth. It will also be critical for members to attend because a new Administration will be following up on the implementation of the new Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L. 110-351). Other issues Congress and the new Administration may be discussing include the elements of an economic recovery plan in light of the growing recession, the completion of the 2009 federal budget, and the need to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Advocacy Day focuses on meeting with Members of Congress and their staff and the new Administration on the issues impacting children, youth, and families. Advocacy Day begins on the Tuesday of the conference with presentations by leaders in Congress on their priorities for 2009, and briefings by the CWLA Government Affairs staff. At lunchtime, participants go to specific state and regional caucuses to discuss the issues, talking points, advocacy tips, and more general information. In the afternoon, Advocacy Day participants take buses to Capitol Hill to meet with their Representatives and Senators.

We encourage everyone attending the conference to schedule meetings with their members of Congress for Advocacy Day, beginning in January, after the new 111th Congress convenes. Stay tuned for contact information and tips on arranging visits. In addition to the great opportunities on Advocacy Day, attendees will be able to attend a range of programs and policy sessions.

This will be an energizing conference and one of the most important advocacy events for child welfare in 2009! Don't forget to register online.

For more information about Advocacy Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold, at cfahrenthold@cwla.org.

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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

November 26
National Brand Embraces Adoption: Wendy's Works to Find Adoptive Families for Children in Foster Care

Join this enlightening discussion about the work of Wendy's Wonderful Kids, a signature program sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption that was created to provide for full-time adoption recruiters in cities throughout the United States and Canada to facilitate quickly moving thousands of children from foster care into loving, permanent homes.

Coming Shows

Wednesday December 3
Bright from the Start: Infant Brain Development


Wednesday December 10
A Conversation with Susan Taylor


Wednesday December 17
Holiday Blues: The Impact on Families


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

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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