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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 2: 1/12/2009   
Headlines

First Action Expected on Economic Recovery Legislation this Week

Health Care High on Congress's Agenda

Confirmation Hearings Begin with Daschle

Teen Birth Rate Increases for First Time in 14 Years

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

Reminders

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



First Action Expected on Economic Recovery Legislation this Week

Votes in key House and Senate committees are expected this week on the ever-changing economic recovery package. The Senate bill already has a number (S. 1), with the actual language still taking shape. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee were expected to begin debating and voting on at least the measure's tax portions.

The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over any changes or program increases in Medicaid, Title IV-E child welfare, the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), unemployment compensation, and a few other programs that could play a role in the final bill. On the House side, the Ways and Means Committee has control of tax bills and is the starting point in Congress for tax changes. Ways and Means also has jurisdiction over many of the same programs as the Finance Committee, except Medicaid, which falls under the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The recovery plan will include a tax cut; funding that can create or maintain jobs quickly, such as highways and infrastructure; and state and local budget relief. Several groups, including CWLA, have been supporting efforts to ensure money for SSBG, Medicaid, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the Title IV-E program are also included in the recovery package. Funding 29 different social service programs, SSBG is the biggest federal source of funds for state child protective services, and much of that funding goes to nonprofit organizations.

A temporary increase in Medicaid seems almost certain to be in any final deal. 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 shows that as a result of the recession, 19 states have enacted or proposed Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) cuts for FY 2009 or FY 2010. CWLA, the nation's governors, and many others have been advocating for a temporary increase to the FMAP--the federal share of the Medicaid program--to help avoid further cuts to vital health services.

Although the hope had been to have a final bill to the new President around his inauguration on January 20, that timetable has slipped, but President-Elect Barack Obama says he needs the bill by early February.

The Finance and Ways and Means Committees will act this week, but several other committees have key roles in the construction of a final bill:
  • Transportation..........highway and infrastructure spending

  • Agriculture..........food stamps

  • Senate HELP, House Education and Labor..........child care and education

  • Senate Environment and Public Works, Senate Energy and Natural Resources, House Natural Resources..........environmental-friendly jobs and construction
Other committees, including the defense-related and Homeland Security committees could play a role if funding is provided to those elements of the bill.

In addition, appropriators have matching committees in most of the same areas. Based on comments from the President-Elect and congressional leaders, the package's total price tag over two years will be between $750 billion to over $1 trillion. Unemployment numbers and the budget deficit--pulling in opposite directions--likely will influence the price tag. The Congressional Budget Office has projected a deficit of $1.2 trillion, so far, for the 2009 fiscal year, which ends September 30. At the same time, unemployment numbers for December indicate a loss of more than 600,000 job. Both are historic numbers that no one would have predicted six months ago.

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Health Care High on Congress's Agenda

Three significant health care policy proposals are expected to be high on the 111th Congress's agenda. As discussed above, a temporary increase to FMAP (the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage) for state Medicaid programs is likely to be included in the economic recovery package being developed.

Also under consideration will be reauthorizing the SCHIP, which covers millions of low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and either are not offered or cannot afford private coverage. The 110th Congress passed two compromise bills 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 attempted but failed to override both of President Bush's vetoes. As a result of this gridlock, Congress extended SCHIP through March 31, 2009, with sufficient funding to maintain current enrollment and avoid shortfalls.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she hopes SCHIP legislation is one of the first bills the 111th Congress hands to President Obama for signature. Consideration of SCHIP legislation could occur as early as this week.

In addition, national health reform is expected to take center stage; serious discussions began late last year. In November, a bipartisan group of members of the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which share jurisdiction over health matters, met and left feeling consensus could be achieved on meaningful reform. This meeting occurred days after Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) released a white paper on his vision for health reform in 2009.

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Confirmation Hearings Begin with Daschle

On January 8, the Senate HELP Committee started the hearing process to confirm former Senator Thomas Daschle (D-SD) to become the 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The hearing was without controversy, as members focused much of their attention on health care issues. Daschle was introduced at the hearing by his former South Dakota colleague Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and former Senator and Republican Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS).

President-Elect Obama has indicated Daschle will be in charge of a new White House Office of Health Reform. As Senator, in 1993 and 1994 Daschle was a key leader in the congressional debates on major health care reform. Daschle indicated in his testimony three key elements of health care reform: expanding access, improving quality, and restraining cost.

In response to several questions, he spoke at length about the need to place greater emphasis on preventive health care and how the United States lacks a comprehensive approach toward prevention. Daschle assured Senators of how he intends to work Congress as the new Administration approaches reform. The confirmation hearing also served as a return to leadership for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who was absent for the later half of 2008 as he underwent treatment for cancer.

HHS has jurisdiction over a range of human service programs. Within HHS, the Administration for Children and Families oversees all child welfare programs, child care, Head Start, TANF, and several other programs. HHS also includes other critical departments and agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Administration on Aging, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indian Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Surgeon General's office. Due to the department's broad jurisdiction, the HHS Secretary of must go before both the Senate HELP and Finance Committees for approval.

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Teen Birth Rate Increases for First Time in 14 Years

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released final teen birth data for 2006, which indicated a 3% increase in teen births between 2005 and 2006--the first increase in the teen birth rate in 14 years. Although the national teen birth rate is still down 32% from 1991, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says the 2005-2006 increase should serve as a wake-up call that "our efforts to convince young people to delay pregnancy and parenthood need to be more intense, more creative, and based more on what we know works."

Twenty-six states experienced a significant increase in their teen birth rates, while the District of Columbia, New York, North Dakota, and Rhode Island experienced significant decreases. Teen birth rates increased for almost every age and racial/ethnic group except Asian/Pacific Islanders.

The National Campaign has developed a helpful analysis explaining the NCHS data and possible reasons why the teen birth rate is on the rise after so many years of continuous decline. The National Campaign says that although there is no single reason for the increase, significant factors include that the rate has increased across most racial and ethnic groups and that groups with higher fertility are "becoming a growing share of the teen population."

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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, 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.

Coming Shows



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.

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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.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

January 19: 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


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