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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 45: 12/8/2008   
Headlines

Governors Request $40 Billion for Medicaid

Orszag Chosen to Head OMB

Fiscal Year HHS Spending Still Needs Completion by New Congress

Fostering Connection Act Update: Request to Tribes, Foster Care to 21

CWLA Posts Summaries of New Parity Law, Medicaid Services Restoration Act

Youth Violence Prevention Summit Held on Capitol Hill

Advocacy Day Provides 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



Governors Request $40 Billion for Medicaid

At a meeting last week in Philadelphia between President-elect Barack Obama and the nation's governors and governors-elect, many governors reiterated their plea for an economic recovery package that contains temporary additional federal funds for state Medicaid programs. Medicaid is the 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, in response, sometimes are forced to cut vital health care services because most have to balance their budgets. For more information, click here. Many members of Congress and advocates, including CWLA, have been seeking a temporary influx to states' Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP).

At the end of September, the House passed an economic stimulus package (H.R. 7110) that contained a temporary FMAP increase. The Senate also attempted one then, and again in mid-November (S. 3064, S. 3689). At last week's meeting, the governors asked Obama for at least $40 billion over two years for their Medicaid programs. The governors are also asking for an economic recovery package to include money for ready-to-go infrastructure programs that will create jobs, and an extension of unemployment benefits.

For a detailed description of the governors' suggested plan for an economic recovery package, including dollar amounts, read their paper, Economic Recovery: A Federal-State Partnership. A comprehensive economic recovery package will likely not be considered until early next year, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has asked President Bush to consider passing a small one containing Medicaid and aid to food banks before he leaves office.

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Orszag Chosen to Head OMB

President-elect Barack Obama has selected Peter Orszag to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB evaluates program efficiency and effectiveness, assists the President in overseeing formulation of the federal budget, supervises the way in which Executive branch agencies administer the budget, and ensures agency reports, proposed legislation, and regulations are consistent with the budget. Orszag has been Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) since January 2007 and previously held posts at the Brookings Institution and in the Clinton Administration.

During his tenure at CBO, Orszag was well received by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for providing independent, well-supported analyses and testimony on economic trends and program effectiveness. Particularly vocal in the area of health care, Orszag has testified before Congressional committees that the "most important factor influencing the federal government's long-term fiscal balance is the rate of growth in health care costs" and that the efficiency with which health care in America is delivered must be improved.

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Fiscal Year HHS Spending Still Needs Completion by New Congress

Beyond dealing with a stimulus package, the new OMB Director will also be grappling with two fiscal year budgets at once. The new budget proposal for FY 2010 is scheduled for a February release. At the same time, funding for much of FY 2009 runs out March 6. Only Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs has approved appropriations for all of 2009. These three bills cover more than half of all annual discretionary spending--but none of the important human services spending, which is even more critical in a time of economic recession.

The new Congress is expected to work very early in January to complete action on the FY 2009 appropriations. This past summer, the Senate Appropriations Committee acted on its version of a budget for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The House Appropriations Committee never passed a Labor-HHS bill--it was stalled over political maneuvering on oil drilling. The House committee did have a proposal however. The Senate-passed bill and the House proposal are expected to serve as the basis for what should be quick negotiations.

Last week, CWLA sent a letter outlining its priorities in various key children's-related programs, using the Senate and House proposals as the basis for future decisions. In most of these areas, the outgoing Bush Administration had proposed cuts or freezes. Read a comparison of the outgoing Administration's proposed spending levels and the Senate and House proposals.

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Fostering Connection Act Update: Request to Tribes, Foster Care to 21

On November 24, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued a call through the Federal Register to tribal governments and consortia to send a letter of intent to OMB by December 31, indicating whether they intend to apply to run Title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship care programs directly. Under the Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351), tribal governments, starting in FY 2010, will be able to run their own Title IV-E programs if they meet the requirements of the new law. The bill also provides $3 million a year in technical assistance, with grants as large as $300,000, to assist in the implementation of such tribal plans.

Although the letter of intent is requested by December 31, tribes are not prohibited from applying for Title IV-E control if they fail to send the letter. The ACF request is intended as a way to calculate how to allocate the $3 million in technical assistance. ACF's request is posted on CWLA's website.

CWLA has also posted a table describing states that extend foster care to age 21. We will continue to update and expand this chart as we solicit more details. The table shows how states implement their foster care programs for youth ages 18-21 in seven areas: age limits, court or legal arrangements, reentry after leaving care, living arrangements, financial assistance, and educational and other supports.

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CWLA Posts Summaries of New Parity Law, Medicaid Services Restoration Act

CWLA has posted summaries of the new mental health and addiction parity law and a bill introduced at the end of September by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to protect Medicaid services for vulnerable populations, including children in foster care.

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, that choose to offer mental health and addiction benefits, to provide those benefits on the same terms as other medical conditions. The law prohibits insurers from setting more-restrictive financial requirements or treatment limitations on mental and addiction illnesses, requires any out-of-network benefits to be at parity, and permits stronger state laws to stand. An estimated 113 million individuals will receive more comprehensive coverage as a result of this legislation, an outcome that will undoubtedly make American families healthier.

The Medicaid Services Restoration Act (S. 3611) is aimed at protecting legitimate vital rehabilitative and targeted case management (TCM) services for vulnerable populations, including children in the child welfare and foster care systems. S. 3611 was introduced partly in response to two restrictive regulations, issued in 2007 by the Bush Administration on these optional streams of care, that are currently under a moratorium until April 1, 2009 (P.L. 110-252). The bill would, among other provisions, permit states to continue drawing Medicaid funds for the use of rehab and TCM services in nonmedical programs, including child welfare and foster care; use reasonable and efficient payment methodologies for both rehab and TCM services; and use multiple case managers. The act also would create a new medical assistance category under Medicaid, by which therapeutic foster care services could be reimbursed.

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Youth Violence Prevention Summit Held on Capitol Hill

On December 3, a Youth Violence Prevention Summit was held on Capitol Hill under the leadership of the Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). The focus of the summit was the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (Youth PROMISE) Act (H.R.3846). The bill would provide resources to communities for evidence-based, comprehensive prevention and intervention approaches to youth violence on a local level.

Unlike the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, which passed the Senate last year and includes new crimes and tougher federal penalties, the Youth PROMISE Act is grounded in evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies that would be sustained by local communities and are cost-effective.

A number of children's advocacy, juvenile justice, and civil liberties organizations have expressed support for the Youth PROMISE Act and participated in the summit. Several of these groups were represented on three panels at the summit that informed attendees on the bleak state of current youth violence-related federal policy, existing successful evidence-based intervention and prevention efforts, and the cost-effectiveness of these efforts.

Tim Briceland-Betts, CWLA Codirector of Government Affairs, moderated the Comparative Benefits of Effective Crime Prevention Panel. Former CWLA CEO Shay Bilchik was a panelist on Law Enforcement/Judicial Perspective on the Need for Prevention. They, along with other panelists, including Miriam Krinsky, lecturer at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Frank Straub, Commissioner of Public Safety, White Plains, New York, urged Congress to continue moving toward community-based prevention and intervention efforts begun earlier this year with passage of the Fostering Connection to Success Act. Krinsky, a long-time children's advocate, pointed to special challenges facing foster youth who age out of care and face increased vulnerability to homelessness, incarceration, and delinquent behavior.

After the panel discussions, youth from GiNGA (Gang Intervention Nationwide Guiding Adolescents), an organization working with at-risk youth nationwide, performed a Capoeira dance a spirited, athletic form of expression created by enslaved Africans brought to Brazil centuries ago.

For more information on H.R. 3846, the Youth PROMISE Act, visit Representative Scott's website.

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Advocacy Day Provides 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

Wednesday December 10
A Conversation With Magazine Publishing Pioneer Susan Taylor

Join us for a one-on-one conversation with Susan L. Taylor, magazine publishing icon and the driving force behind Essence Magazine. Inspired by her vision about the value of mentoring as a weapon against the forces that are devastating the lives of young African Americans, she left Essence in January 2008 after 37 years to devote her full-time energies to mobilizing mentors from government agencies, corporations, community groups, and faith-based organizations.

Taylor talks about the National CARES Mentoring Movement, a nationwide call-to-action campaign she founded in 2006 as Essence Cares. The National CARES Mentoring Movement is a monumental campaign to recruit 1 million adults to mentor vulnerable African American children and youth who are in crisis and losing ground. The movement's goals are to increase high school graduation rates among African American students, end youth violence in black communities, and reduce the high rates of incarceration among young African Americans.

Taylor is serving on CWLA's National Leadership Council, which will play an important role in CWLA's efforts to develop strategic approaches to increase public awareness, promote advocacy, and inspire systematic reform of America's child welfare system.

Coming Shows

Wednesday December 17
Holiday Blues: The Impact on Children and Families


The Christmas holiday season is typically a time of joy, gift giving, festive gatherings with family and friends, and aspirations for the New Year. For many, however, it's a struggle to get through the holiday season.

Our guests will discuss the reasons why the holidays can bring on overwhelming feelings that can be hard to shake, and they will offer practical advice on remedies to relieve holiday blues. Stuart Loeb will focus on the effect of economic stress on children during the holiday season, and Susan S. Stepleton, President and CEO of the Parents as Teachers National Center will address the challenges for children in military families.

Wednesday, December 24
Emancipated Entertainers: Foster Care Alumni Sing About Life in the System

This week, On the Line with CWLA replays a program originally broadcast in June featuring three members of Uhlich Voices, a rising group of four rappers and rhymers who sing about their trials and tribulations growing up in foster care.

Wednesday, December 31

A Conversation with Former Foster Child Ashley Rhodes Courter

This replay of a program first broadcast in August features Ashley Rhodes Courter, a former foster child with an incredible story of strength and triumph over the horrific conditions she experienced while in foster care.

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 6: 111th Congress convenes
January 20: Barack Obama sworn in as President
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


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