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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 47: 12/22/2008   
Headlines

Happy Holidays!

Recovery Package Discussion Continues

SSBG Coalition Calls for $2.8 Billion as Part of Recovery Package

Report Examines Impact of Recession on Health Safety Net Programs

Key House Committee Taking Shape

Advocacy Day February 24

On the Line with CWLA, Speaking for America's Children

Join the Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

Sign Up to Receive CWLA's Legislative Alerts

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! This is the final edition of Children's Monitor for 2008. The Monitor will not publish next Monday, December 29. Look for the Monitor again Monday January 5.

Back to Headlines

Recovery Package Discussion Continues

The discussion of what President-elect Barack Obama's recovery package should include continues throughout the holiday season. Various numbers have been suggested-- from a few hundred billion dollars to $600 billion. Two elements seem likely: a temporary increase in Medicaid funding by adjusting the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate and a block of federal funding to continue or renew infrastructure projects, such as highways, mass transit, and school repairs.

Key goals for the package include for it to provide immediate assistance to states, rather than take months for dollars to be allocated and spent; that it be temporary; and for it to create jobs. Several groups, including CWLA, have been supporting efforts to ensure that the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) and the Title IV-E program are also included in the recovery package.

SSBG funds 29 different social service programs. It is the largest federal source of funds for state child protective services, and much of the funding goes to nonprofit organizations. CAPTA includes funds to community-based prevention services. Title IV-E funds include foster care, adoption assistance, and, under the new Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351), kinship care. Title IV-E, like Medicaid, is a federal-state matching fund program. The level of reimbursement a state gets for foster care and adoption assistance is based on FMAP. In the last recession earlier this decade, Congress temporarily increased the FMAP rate for Medicaid, but not for Title IV-E programs.

At a meeting in November with President-elect Obama, the nation's governors and governors-elect reiterated their support for an economic recovery package that contains temporary additional federal funds for Medicaid. The governors also asked for funding for road projects. For a detailed description of the governors' suggested plan for an economic recovery package, including dollar amounts, read the National Governors' Association's paper, Economic Recovery: A Federal-State Partnership.

A comprehensive economic recovery package likely will be considered soon after the 111th Congress convenes early in January. Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has asked President Bush to consider passing a small package containing Medicaid and aid to food banks before he leaves office.

Back to Headlines

SSBG Coalition Calls for $2.8 Billion as Part of Recovery Package

On December 18, the SSBG Coalition, chaired by CWLA, Generations United, and the American Public Human Services Association, sent a letter to Capitol Hill calling for an increase in SSBG from its current $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion as part of the economic recovery package. states:
During these challenging times, the need for services provided with SSBG funds is growing. In surveys conducted by members of the SSBG Coalition:
  • over 70% of the local agencies of some charitable organizations reported experiencing increased requests for mortgage, rental, or temporary housing assistance;
  • 77% recorded an increase in requests for food assistance; and
  • 85% of states are experiencing increased requests for transportation services and home delivered meals, according to some reports.
As the recession continues, so will the demand for these services.
The letter notes that a recent projection by Paul C. Light, New York University Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service and a noted expert on the nonprofit community, indicates perhaps as many as 100,000 nonprofits and charities would close their doors during this recession. Reports last week about the Wall Street-Bernard Madoff scandal included stories of some charities forced to close their doors because of the loss of investment funds.

SSBG funds a range of human services and provides approximately 12% of federal child welfare funds. It is the largest federal funding stream for child protective services, as well as a chief funder of adult protective services, disability services, and many senior services, including congregate and home-delivered meals. Due to its block grant nature and flexibility, it is invisible to much of the public and providers that rely on it as a chief source of funding--but nonetheless extremely important.

The coalition letter also notes that although states may be cutting back on key human services as a way to address state budget shortfalls, the demand for these services are already increasing. In addition to the numbers cited in the letter, a December 17 Washington Post article notes that states are seeing some of their first significant increases in TANF cash assistance caseloads since TANF's creation in 1996. This, too, will have an effect on child welfare, since, as recently as two years ago, TANF funds were providing approximately 20% of child welfare funding and more than 40% of federal child care funding. If states have to put TANF funds back into cash assistance, it will means fewer funds available for both child welfare and child care.

The coalition letter also pointed out one final factor hitting human services that has gained little attention: the fact that many of the same nonprofits that provide these human services rely not just on state and local funds, but also on foundation and corporate charitable contributions. As banks and businesses fail, or under new rules, such as for Washington-based Freddie Mac, these same funders may stop, reduce, or put on hold further charitable contributions.

Back to Headlines

Report Examines Impact of Recession on Health Safety Net Programs

Families USA, an organization dedicated to achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans, has released a comprehensive report detailing the impact of the recession on our nation's health care safety-net programs, namely Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP). Medicaid and SCHIP provide health coverage to many millions of vulnerable adults and approximately 30 million children, including children and youth in the foster care system.

During tough economic times, when many people are losing jobs or experiencing decreased wages, enrollment tends to increase (because eligibility in these programs is largely based on income), in turn escalating program cost. At the same time, however, state revenues are plummeting and, because most states must balance their budgets, they are forced to cut many vital areas, including education, state workforces, and health care.

The Families USA report says that, as a result of the recession, 19 states have enacted or proposed Medicaid or SCHIP cuts for FY 2009 or FY 2010. These cuts come in the form of restrictions on eligibility and enrollment, lowered benefits, increases in cost sharing, and, very often, reductions in provider reimbursement rates, which can cause providers to decline participation in Medicaid and SCHIP. The report continues that because of cuts in eight states, at least one million people are in danger of completely losing their Medicaid or SCHIP health coverage.

To help slow down or reverse this alarming real-world impact, the report urges two actions by the federal government, both of which CWLA strongly supports. First, Congress should temporarily increase the federal share of the Medicaid program, the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), in any economic recovery legislation. Table 3 within the Families USA report provides a helpful analysis of how each state would benefit in terms of new business activity, jobs, and wages, should nearly $40 billion additional federal money over two years be placed towards Medicaid. This is the amount included in S. 3689, introduced by Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), and also close to what the nation's governors have requested.

The report also urges Congress to reauthorize SCHIP for five years, with significantly more funding. 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. As a result, SCHIP was extended, at current funding, only through the end of March 2009. To have a significant positive effect on states and help them avoid further cuts, SCHIP must be reauthorized quickly, possibly as part of any economic recovery package.

Back to Headlines

Key House Committee Taking Shape

At least four new Democrats were named to the important House Ways and Means Committee last week: Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Brian Higgins (D-NY), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) will join the committee as a result of the November election results.

Davis has a strong record of support for reforms in the nation's child welfare system. He was the chief sponsor of House kinship care legislation (H.R. 2188) in the last two congresses, is the chief sponsor of the house version of the Education Begins at Home Act (H.R. 2343), and has worked on several other initiatives on child welfare. Yarmuth was a key supporter of the loan forgiveness provision included in this year's reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (P.L. 110-315).

On the Republican side, members decided to select Representative David Camp (R-MI) to serve as the Republican's ranking member on the full Ways and Means Committee, passing over the more senior Representative Wally Herger (R-CA).

Although the Senate named some of its committee chairs, much still remains undecided in both houses as the final numbers and sizes of the committees are still being worked out. In addition, the Senate has the challenge of now filling three of four vacancies or potential vacancies (Colorado, Illinois, and New York) due to the November election and recent cabinet selections; and one more seat, Minnesota, still remains undecided.

Back to Headlines

Advocacy Day February 24

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.

Advocacy Day, held 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).

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.

Back to Headlines

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 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.

Coming Shows

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.

Back to Headlines

Join the 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!

Back to Headlines

Sign Up to Receive CWLA's Legislative Alerts

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.

Back to Headlines

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

January 6: 111th Congress Convenes
January 20: Barack Obama sworn in as 44th President
February 23-25: CWLA National Conference
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires


Back to Headlines

Click here to see the list of previous issues

If you know of others who would like their names added to this list, please have them visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm. To remove yourself from this list, send an e-mail to monitor@cwla.org with "Remove from Monitor Online List" in the subject line.

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of this publication may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.