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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 46: 12/15/2008   
Headlines

Obama Health Team to Include Daschle at HHS

Health Care High on Next Year's Agenda

HHS Issues Instruction for Tribes

Update on Foster Care to 21

Advocacy Day Provides Chance to Talk to New Congress and Administration

Holiday Blues: The Impact on Children and Families--This Week On the Line with CWLA

Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Obama Health Team to Include Daschle at HHS

At a December 11 press conference, President-Elect Barack Obama officially announced former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). As HHS Secretary, Daschle 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, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Social Services Block Grant, Head Start, child care, and many children's programs. Daschle will also head a newly created White House Office of Health Reform.

Daschle served in the Senate from 1987 to 2005 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1978 until 1987. As Senator, he served as both Majority and Minority Leader and was a key figure in the last extensive debate on national health care. Earlier this year, he published a new book, Critical: What we Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. Also of significance, as a Senator, Daschle sponsored legislation to allow tribal governments to apply for direct control of Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance programs. The new Fostering Connection Act (P.L. 110-351) includes provisions similar to what then-Senator Daschle had proposed, which bodes well for the tribal community as that new law is implemented and expanded.

Obama has also asked Jeanne Lambrew to serve as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Health Reform. Lambrew is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, and an Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. Lambrew served in the Clinton White House as Associate Director for Health at the Office of Management and Budget and as Senior Health Analyst at the National Economic Council. Lambrew played a central role in creating the State Children's Health Insurance Program and is an expert on Medicaid and the plight of the uninsured.

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Health Care High on Next Year's Agenda

When the 111th Congress and the new Administration begin early next year, health care, along with the economy, is expected to be high on the agenda. As part of the economic recovery package that will likely be first out of the gate, a temporary increase is possible for the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) 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 tough economic times, such as the current recession, when individuals lose jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid enrollment tends to increase. In response, states 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 FMAP. In September, the House passed an economic recovery package (H.R. 7110) that contained a temporary FMAP increase; the Senate attempted one then and again in mid-November (S. 3064, S. 3689). The nation's Governors recently requested $40 billion over two years for Medicaid. More details on the governors' suggested economic recovery plan is available from the National Governors' Association.

Also under consideration will be reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which covers approximately 6 million low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, and those who are either not offered or cannot afford private coverage. The 110th Congress passed two compromise bills (H.R. 976 and H.R. 3963) that would have reauthorized SCHIP for five years, improved on its initial successes, and provided coverage to millions more children, but President Bush vetoed both measures. Congress tried unsuccessfully to override those vetoes.

As a result of this gridlock, SCHIP was extended through March 31, 2009, with sufficient funding to maintain current enrollment and avoid shortfalls (P.L. 110-173). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she hopes SCHIP legislation is one of the first bills the 111th Congress hands to President Barack Obama for signature. Obama stated throughout his campaign that he wants to strengthen and expand SCHIP, so many are hopeful for its success.

National health reform is expected to take center stage at some point, and serious discussions already are under way. In late November, a bipartisan group of Senators met from the Finance and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees, which share jurisdiction over health matters. Senators left the meeting feeling a consensus on meaningful reform could be achieved. This meeting occurred days after Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) released a white paper on his vision for health reform in 2009.

President-elect Obama, in hopes of a transparent, involved government, is using the Internet as a means of collecting individuals' advice on various policy matters, including health care, via his transition website. CWLA has delivered its transition document to Obama's transition team, which includes short- and long-term recommendations on health care for vulnerable children and youth. We urge our members to visit the transition website to submit their ideas to improve the physical and mental well-being of children and youth in child welfare and foster care. This will help ensure the children, youth, and families we serve are part of the discussion.

Should you submit via the change.gov website, please also send your comments to Laura Weidner, CWLA Government Affairs Associate, at lweidner@cwla.org.

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HHS Issues Instruction for Tribes

On December 5, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued a program instruction (PI) that expands on ACF's call for a letter of intent by tribes interested in running their own Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance programs. Under the December 5 PI, tribes and tribal organizations and consortia are asked to submit a letter of intent by January 30, 2009. The original instruction had requested the letter by the earlier date of December 31, 2008.

Under the Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351), tribal governments will be able to run their own Title IV-E programs, starting in FY 2010, 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 help in the implementation of tribal plans. The ACF request is intended to calculate how to allocate the $3 million in technical assistance. Under the PI, tribes are asked to indicate the fiscal year the tribe plans on operating the program, a description of the service area, contact information, and whether the tribe will submit a request for a technical assistance grant. To download ACF's request for letters of intent, click here. Other resources related to the Fostering Connections can be found on CWLA's website.

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Update on Foster Care to 21

CWLA has also updated a table that describes states that extend foster care to age 21. The table, Extended Foster Care, will continue to be expanded as we solicit more details. In the table, you can learn 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, types of living arrangements, financial assistance, educational assistance, and other supports. Read the chart.

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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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Holiday Blues: The Impact on Children and Families--This Week On the Line with CWLA

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 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.

Coming Shows

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 44th President
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


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