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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 1: 1/5/2009   
Headlines

HHS Issues Guidance to States on Fostering Connections to Success Act

Back to Work on Economic Recovery Package

111th Congress Back for Long Haul

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

Reminders

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



HHS Issues Guidance to States on Fostering Connections to Success Act

On December 24, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued initial critical instructions (ACYF-CB-PI-08-007) to help states implement the kinship section of the new Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L 110-351). HHS's Administration for Children and Families also issued a preprinted plan states can use to amend their plans. Both documents are available on the "Fostering Connections to Success: Resources in Seven Key Areas" section of CWLA's website or on the Children's Bureau website.

Under the guidance, a state may submit a plan to operate the new kinship program as of the law's effective date, October 7, 2008, but actual claiming starts on the "first day of the quarter in which an approvable plan has been submitted to ACF." The first days of the four federal quarters are October 1, 2008; January 1, 2009; April 1, 2009; and July 1, 2009. This is an important distinction, since some people had interpreted the law to allow claims on October 7, 2008, whereas others had interpreted the law to say claims could not start until after a plan had been approved.

Tribes are eligible for the kinship provisions on October 1, 2009, when the overall tribal provisions commence. Any allowable claim for a state means the child and the relative guardian must meet eligibility requirements. This includes placement of a child for six consecutive months with a prospective relative guardian who is licensed or approved as meeting the licensing requirements as a foster family home. The program instruction (PI) points out that the act does not require that Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments have been paid on behalf of the child during the six-month timeframe preceding placement into kinship care, but that the child must meet all eligibility criteria under section 472 (a), (b), and (c) of the Title IV-E foster care law.

The PI also clarifies that kinship placements may, under certain conditions, be extended to age 21; however, these options will not be available until October 1, 2010, when the new option to extend foster care to age 21 is implemented. The instruction also allows for claiming short-term training costs at 75% for current or perspective foster parents and 55% for relatives who assume guardianship in federal fiscal year 2009. This percentage increases 5% each year until it reaches 75% in FY 2013.

The instruction does not go into great detail regard other training provisions but does indicate the updates on state training costs do not have to be made before June 30, 2009, and that additional instructions will come at a later date. The Fostering Connections Act expands training to private agencies and allows certain court personnel to be covered under Title IV-E training.

The PI does not answer all outstanding issues regarding the new law or the kinship provisions, including issues around notifying relatives when a child comes into care, but it does provide some much-needed first steps for states seeking to expand their kinship programs or seeking to draw down Title IV-E funds to support kinship care in the crisis-budget atmosphere many states now face.

The kinship care program is a state option, so determining which states may take the option is difficult. Many states have relied on the TANF cash assistance program as a way to at least partially fund kinship programs. If the stimulus package provides a temporary increase in Title IV-E programs as part of the Medicaid FMAP increases, as CWLA and others are seeking, it could provide an added incentive for states to take the kinship option.

For ongoing updates on the new law, visit CWLA's Resources in Seven Key Areas page frequently.

Back to Headlines

Back to Work on Economic Recovery Package

After a brief holiday break, advisers to President-Elect Barack Obama and key lawmakers are returning to their discussions working out details of an economic recovery package that will, hopefully, be passed around the time of Obama's swearing in on January 20. The package's total price tag has yet to be determined, but recent figures have been between $675 billion to nearly $1 trillion. Key goals for the package are for it to provide immediate assistance to states, rather than take months for dollars to be allocated and spent, to be temporary, and for it to create jobs.

As the nation's recession deepens, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates at least 44 states faced or are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this or next year. In real-world terms, this has translated to rising unemployment, increased need for food stamps, and severe cuts to health programs and education. A growing concern is that, as such stressors and poverty arise in family environments, children could be negatively affected and child neglect and abuse cases could increase.

Several groups, including CWLA, are supporting efforts to ensure money for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), Medicaid, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), and the Title IV-E program are included in the recovery package. SSBG funds 29 different social service programs and is the largest federal source of funds for state child protective services; much of the funding goes to nonprofit organizations.

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 of SSBG from its current $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion.

Medicaid is the joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to several vulnerable, low-income populations, including children in foster care. A recent report from Families USA states that, as a result of the recession, 19 states have enacted or proposed Medicaid or SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) cuts for FY 2009 or FY 2010. Many groups, including CWLA and the nation's governors, are advocating for a temporary increase to the federal share of the Medicaid program, known as FMAP, to help avoid further cuts to vital health services.

CAPTA includes a funding stream for community-based prevention services. Title IV-E funds include foster care, adoption assistance, and, under the new Fostering Connections Act, kinship care. Title IV-E, like Medicaid, is a federal-state matching-fund program. The reimbursement states receive for foster care and adoption assistance is based on the FMAP rate. In the last recession earlier this decade, Congress temporarily increased the FMAP rate for Medicaid, but not Title IV-E programs.

Democratic leaders' goal, again, is to have the package ready for President Obama's signature around his inauguration so the money would start flowing into programs shortly thereafter. Last week, however, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) both called for intensive vetting of the economic recovery package to ensure government money is spent wisely, which could possibly slow down consideration of any bill.

Back to Headlines

111th Congress Back for Long Haul

Technically, the new Congress began January 3, when old terms ended, but because January 3 was a Saturday, the new Congress will gather for the first time on January 6. Unlike past years, when the first day would have resulted in much ceremony and a break for the first few weeks of January, this Congress will be very different.

In addition to welcoming a new President on Inauguration Day, January 20, the new Congressional leadership hopes to deliver to President Obama a significant stimulus package shortly after he is sworn in. As a result, the new 111th Congress will be hard at work this week. In addition to the urgent economic crisis, the new Congress hopes to begin quick approval of Obama's new Cabinet. The incoming president selected his Cabinet members well before Christmas.

The initial calendar for this session indicates both houses will be in session almost all of January and through February 13. The only breaks are for short Democratic and Republican House retreats for a few days in January, and Martin Luther King's birthday January 19. After the President's Day break in February, Congress is expected to work from February 23 to April 3 for the Passover and Easter Spring breaks. The House also assumes it will remain in session through the end of October. Generally, congressional calendars in recent years have assumed an October 1 departure.

The make up of the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress will include 257 Democrats, up from 236 in the last Congress's. Conversely Republicans will hold 178 seats, down from 198. Final numbers still have not been determined in the Senate, with races in two states still unsettled. Minnesota is still counting votes for the seat held by Senator Norm Coleman (R). Challenger Al Franken (D-MN) had a slight lead at the end of December, as the two sides fight over the outcome of some 1,200 remaining absentee ballots.

In addition, controversy remains over the Illinois Senate seat vacated by Obama. Illinois Governor Ray Blagojevich (D) has appointed someone against the advice of both parties and the Senate leadership. As things stand, this week the Senate has 55 Democrats, with two independents expecting to caucus with the Democrats, bringing that total to 57. If Democrats hold the Illinois seat by election or appointment, and if they hold onto Minnesota their total could be as high as 59, but final decisions could be several weeks away. Last year, Democrats held 49 seats with two independents, bringing their majority to 51.

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, January 7
New Years Message with Special Guest CWLA President/CEO Christine James Brown


Coming Shows

Wednesday, January 14
How Placements Affect The Well-being of Children in Foster Care


Our guest, Dr. David Rubin, is conducting the nation's first longitudinal study of children in foster care. The study aims to determine which factors have the most impact on placement stability and the well-being of children in foster care and how the frequency of changes in placement affects children in foster care.

Wednesday, January 21
The Integration of Child Welfare and Mental Health Services for Foster Youth


Wednesday, January 28
The Resilience of Youth


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

Reminders

Advocacy Day February 24

CWLA's National Conference, Children 2009: Children Today ...America's Future, February 23-25, will provide one of the first opportunities to come to Washington under the new 111th Congress and the new President. Advocacy Day, Tuesday February 24, gives attendees the opportunity to promote CWLA's 2009 priorities, including CWLA's call to reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth and following up on the implementation of the new Fostering Connections to Success Act.

Be sure to register online. For more information about Advocacy Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold at cfahrenthold@cwla.org.

White House Conference on Children and Youth

CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish an important policymaking tradition--a White House Conference on Children and Youth to 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.

The time to act is now. To support this effort, go to www.cwla.org/advocacy/whitehouseconf10.htm to let your members of Congress know of your support, complete a survey about what areas you would like to see 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!

Subscribe to CWLA 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 16: Martin Luther King Day
January 20: Barack Obama sworn in as 44th President
February 2: FY 2010 Budget Released
February 16-20: Presidents Day Break
February 23-25: CWLA National Conference
February 24: Advocacy Day
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires
April 6-17: Spring recess


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.