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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 7: 2/16/2009   
Headlines

Final Recovery Package Increases Federal Match for Medicaid, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance

Medicaid Regs Addressed in Recovery Package, as Well as FMAP

Reps. McDermott, Davis to Speak at Advocacy Day

Child Abuse Legislation Passes Committee

Reintroduction of the Education Begins at Home Act

New Resources for Fostering Connections Act

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



Final Recovery Package Increases Federal Match for Medicaid, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance

On February 12, Congress approved a final version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA/H.R. 1). Negotiations moved quickly as members tried to find middle ground while making sure they could keep at least 60 votes in the Senate, the minimum needed for passage.

One item that was compromised but that remained in the package was temporary increased support for Medicaid and Title IV-E funding. Under the package, the federal match to states will increase by 6.2 percentage points in both Medicaid and Title IV-E. This was a compromise between the House and Senate.

States receive funding for their Medicaid and IV-E Foster Care/Adoption Assistance programs based on a match. That match is at least 50% (one federal dollar to one state dollar) to a federal match as high as 80% (four federal dollars to one state dollar). Under the bill, for example, a state that receives a 50% match will receive a match 56.2%. The increase will cover the period of October 1, 2008 (the start of FY 2009), through December 31, 2010. Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance and the new kinship guardianship assistance programs, like many other programs, are tied to the Medicaid rate. When a stimulus package was passed in the last recession in 2002, the increased match was provided only to Medicaid and not to Title IV-E or the other federal programs linked to the Medicaid rate.

Although the IV-E increase remained in the package, the $400 million increase in the Social Services Block Grant did not. The Senate had included a one-year increase of $400 million to be distributed within 60 days. The House had no such increase, and the Senate provision was dropped during negotiations. Child care and Head Start received increases: $2 billion for child care, $1.1 billion for Early Head Start, and $1 billion for Head Start.

Several organizations are analyzing the bill's impact by state, estimating how much will be provided to state budgets and to individuals. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has a very helpful paper at www.cbpp.org. For information on tax breaks by states, the Citizens for Tax Justice has an analysis at www.cbpp.org.


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Medicaid Regs Addressed in Recovery Package, as Well as FMAP

The final economic recovery bill contains many, but not all, health provisions from the earlier Senate- and House-passed versions. Very important to the well being of children in foster care, and other vulnerable populations who depend on Medicaid for health services, is a temporary increase to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for state-run Medicaid programs.

The final deal provides a 6.2% increase to all states and territories, with 65% of the additional funding distributed across the board, and 35% distributed based on states' unemployment numbers. The bill has a maintenance-of-effort requirement on eligibility that states must meet before receiving the FMAP increase.

Another priority for CWLA included in the final recovery package is extension of a moratorium on restrictive Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration. The rehabilitative Services and targeted case management (TCM) rules are currently under a moratorium until the end of March, but more time has been sought so that the Obama Administration can properly address them.

The recovery package will extend the TCM moratorium until June 30, 2009. Moratoria are also extended until the end of June for controversial Medicaid school-based services and provider tax rules, and a moratorium is added for the hospital outpatient services rule. Although the moratorium is not extended for the rehab rule and rules on Graduate Medical Education and intergovernmental transfers, the bill contains a "sense of the Congress" that HHS should not promulgate regulations concerning these three streams of care.

Also included is a nine-month 60% subsidy for eligible workers to continue COBRA health coverage. This was reduced slightly from the 65% COBRA subsidy included in the earlier House and Senate versions. A House provision whereby certain unemployed workers could receive federally subsidized Medicaid coverage was not included in the final bill. Transitional medical assistance will be extended through December 31, 2010, however.


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Reps. McDermott, Davis to Speak at Advocacy Day

February 24 is Advocacy Day during CWLA's National Conference in Washington, DC. The day will have an impressive start as conference attendees hear from two key Congressional advocates, Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Danny Davis (D-IL).

McDermott has been a great advocate on child welfare issues and chairs the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, which has direct jurisdiction over child welfare issues. Last year during the 2008 CWLA National Conference, McDermott held a hearing on the introduction of his legislation H.R. 5466, the Invest in KIDS Act. CWLA was represented at this hearing with testimony www.cwla.org/advocacy/adoption080227.htm presented by Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies in New York.

At that time, McDermott said the legislation outlined his goals for child welfare reform but that if it were not possible to pass his legislation in last year's Congress, he would work for bipartisan consensus. That is exactly what happened, with Congress passing the Fostering Connections Act (PL 110-351). Much of McDermott's Invest in KIDS Act was incorporated into the law. He has indicated he wants to pass the rest of it in this session of Congress.

Davis has also been a champion on child welfare issues. He was an early supporter of kinship care legislation, sponsoring bills in the last several congresses, including H.R. 2188 in the 110th Congress. Much of that kinship care legislation became law with the Fostering Connections Act. Davis will also be reintroducing the House version of the Education Begins at Home Act, which expands federal support for home visiting programs. The 110th Congress's bill (H.R. 2343) was passed by the House Education and Labor Committee last year. Davis has also advocated for greater support of youth in foster care. In the new 111th Congress, he has been appointed to the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support.

Advocacy Day begins with a morning plenary session and workshops. That afternoon, hundreds of conference attendees will go to Capitol Hill and ask their lawmakers to support the call for the White House Conference on Children and Youth. Advocacy Day features round trip bus rides to Capitol Hill and provides attendees one of the first opportunities to come to Washington under President Obama and the new 111th Congress. This will be the first Advocacy Day since the opening of the new Capitol Hill Visitors Center www.visitthecapitol.gov.

This will be an energizing conference and one of the most important advocacy events for child welfare in 2009. The dates of the National Conference are February 23-25. The conference hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park, is already full, and CWLA has secured rooms at the same rate at an overflow hotel, the Omni Shoreham. For more information, visit www.cwla.org/conferences/2009nationalhotel.htm.

For more information about Advocacy Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold at cfahrenthold@cwla.org

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Child Abuse Legislation Passes Committee

On February 11, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act (H.R. 911) by a vote of 32-10. This legislation would provide much-needed management over programs and facilities that have operated without adequate regulation or licensing by either state or federal law. The bill would protect teenagers attending residential treatment programs--including therapeutic boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness programs, and behavior modification facilities--from physical, mental, and sexual abuse, and it would increase transparency to help parents make safe choices for their children.

Representative George Miller (D-CA) is the original sponsor of this bill and is chair of the Education and Labor Committee. The bill is expected to be considered by the full House soon. No similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

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Reintroduction of the Education Begins at Home Act

Recently reintroduced by Senators Kit Bond (R-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) prior to her confirmation as Secretary of State, the Education Begins at Home Act (EBAH, S. 244) would establish the first dedicated federal funding stream solely for quality, voluntary home-visiting programs for parents with young children. The potential supports provided through EBAH would allow for a sound investment in our families and communities. As a result of the continued outreach and support, EBAH gained tremendous support during the 110th Congress, generating nearly 100 cosponsors and approval by the House Education and Labor Committee.

With the 111th Congress under way, efforts have begun anew for swift passage of this important legislation. To continue to demonstrate broad national support, the National Home Visiting Coalition is redistributing the updated sign-on letter that generated nearly 700 national, state, and local organizations in support of the legislation. Organizations can renew their commitment and lend their support by signing on to the letter for the 111th Congress. The letter and one page description is on CWLA's website at www.cwla.org/advocacy/homevisitation.htm.


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New Resources for Fostering Connections Act

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) represents the most significant federal reforms in more than a decade for abused and neglected children in foster care. CWLA, in collaboration with other child-serving organizations, is pleased to announce the release of New Help for Children Raised by Grandparents and Other Relatives: Questions and Answers About the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

The guide is intended to assist in full and prompt implementation of the improvements in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act for children being raised by grandparents and other relatives. In this guide, the collaborating organizations answer a number of questions posed by persons interested in implementing the new act. The guide will be particularly useful to those charged with implementing the improvements for children being raised by grandparents and other relatives.

A copy of the complete resource guide and additional resources and information on the Fostering Connections to Success Act are online at www.cwla.org/advocacy/adoptionhr6893.htm.

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

On the Line with CWLA is a thought-provoking, interactive, live Internet radio program focusing on subjects, stories, and strategies of special interest to child welfare policymakers, providers, and practitioners. The program, devoted solely to discussions about 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 weekly program broadcasts Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET. To listen to On the Line with CWLA, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio. The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Programming schedule subject to change.

This Week's Show

February 18
A Conversation with...Television's Divorce Court Judge, Lynn Toler

On the Line with CWLA features a conversation with Lynn Toler, presiding judge of the syndicated television series Divorce Court, who talks about her difficult childhood and the journey to judgeship and television star.

Toler's father was bipolar at a time when little was known about the disorder. His extreme emotions and the daily drama in their home were a constant source of stress for her family, but her mother's saving wisdom held the family together. Throughout her life, Toler has used her mother's insights as guiding principles. She chronicles her life as a child raised in the shadow of her father's mental illness in her book, My Mother's Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius, where she spells out 43 principles for managing emotions and taking control of any situation.

Toler will serve on CWLA's inaugural National Leadership Council, which will play an important role as collaborators and contributors to CWLA's efforts to develop and implement strategic approaches to increase public awareness, promote advocacy, and inspire actions to reform the nation's child welfare system.

Coming Shows

February 25
Rerun--A Conversation with Famous Foster Child…Victoria Rowell

March 4
Highlights from CWLA's National Conference (prerecorded)

For more information, 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 your 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.

To subscribe to Legislative Alerts, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/alerts.htm.

To subscribe to Children's Monitor, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline.htm.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

February 16: Deadline for completion of recovery legislation
February 16-20: Presidents Day break
February 23-25: CWLA National Conference
February 24: President to address joint session of Congress
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires
April 6-17: Spring Recess

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