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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 9: 3/2/2009   
Headlines

Advocacy Day a Success

President Follows Address to Congress with FY 2010 Budget Outline

Congress Works to Finish 2009 Budget

State Reductions in Foster Care Payments, Adoption Assistance Could Reduce Funding from Stimulus

President Releases FMAP Funding

House Passes Bill to Stop Child Abuse in Teen Residential Programs

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



Advocacy Day a Success

On February 24, hundreds of child advocates descended on Capitol Hill urging Senators and Representatives to support legislation to reestablish the White House Conference on Children and Youth (H.R. 618), authorize federal support for home visiting programs (S. 244), and maintain Medicaid coverage for children in foster care. The 2009 CWLA National Conference included inspiring remarks from Congressional Advocates of the Year Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Danny Davis (D-IL). Also speaking at the conference was former Representative Bill Sarpalius (D-TX), who, as a teenager, was placed at Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

Many more cosponsors of H.R. 618 are expected as a result of Advocacy Day. McDermott, Chair of the influential Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, became a cosponsor the very next day, bringing the total at that point to 38. National Conference attendees visited dozens of Senators and Representatives offices on February 25. The discussions indicated strong support for each of the legislative priorities above.

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President Follows Address to Congress with FY 2010 Budget Outline

On February 26, President Obama released his budget outline for FY 2010. The budget release was delayed due to the transition between presidential administrations. The President provided an outline of his budget priorities rather than a detailed plan, as has been the case with other incoming administrations. The document provides a view of where President Obama intends to take the country in the coming four years. The budget builds on some of the funding in the stimulus package (H.R. 1) and also includes some of the items he talked about in his 2008 campaign.

The President's budget assumes an unemployment rate of 8.1% this year, declining slightly to 7.9% in 2010, and reaching 5.2% in 2013. The budget proposes a health reserve fund of $630 billion over the next 10 years as a placeholder for funds that would help pay the cost of a national health insurance program that would help provide universal coverage. Some of that funding would come from reforms that would save health care costs, while other revenue would be generated from changes in Bush tax policies.

Other health initiatives include added funding and access for the Indian Health Service, and some funds targeted to address rural health care services. The budget proposes continued support for teen pregnancy prevention, including abstinence-based models that include providing medically accurate and age-appropriate information to youth who have already become sexually active.

The outline indicates the President will place high priority on young children and points out the stimulus includes $1.1 billion for Early Head Start and $1 billion to strengthen Head Start, as well as $2 billion for child care funding. Between 2001 and 2008, Head Start went from $6.2 billion to approximately $7 billion. Inflation would have increased it to at least $7.3 billion, so the increases are long overdue. For child care, the funding situation was worse: Although the first budget by President Bush included an increase to $2.1 billion, funding ended at just under that total in 2008.

President Obama proposes creating a nurse home-visiting program, with funding at more than $80 million in 2010 and growing to more than $500 million by 2013. The President's budget also indicates the administration will seek to make permanent the expansion of the Children's Tax Credit, which was extended to lower-income children in the stimulus package.

In a follow up to President Obama's campaign promise, the Administration, through the Education Department budget, recommends creation of his new "Promise Neighborhoods" proposal, which would create neighborhood initiatives modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone. The Harlem Children's Zone assists children and families, from early childhood through college, with extensive child and family supports along the way.

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Congress Works to Finish 2009 Budget

By a vote of 245-178, the House of Representatives has approved an omnibus budget for the remainder of FY 2009. The budget, H.R. 1105, combines funding for nine appropriations bills and would complete action on appropriations for this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2008, and ends September 30, 2009.

Last year, Congress enacted appropriations for the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, while the rest of the government received flat funding to March 6, 2009. H.R. 1105 would provide a total of $410 billion in discretionary spending--approximately $19 billion more than the Bush Administration had originally proposed for this year's budget.

Most discretionary funds (annually appropriated) go for Homeland Security and the Defense Department, and the Bush Administration had been offering significant increases in these areas while freezing spending in most of the rest of federal appropriations. Congress rejected that approach, with the Department of Health and Human Services receiving a 4% increase and the Department of Education a 7% increase.

For the most part, program funding for 2009 did not increase significantly, but some programs received some slight increases: Child care received a boost of $65 million, going to $2.1 billion; Head Start increased to $7.1 billion, an increase of $235 million. Any funding increases are in addition to funding included in the economic recovery package (H.R. 1), passed in February.

The House Republican leadership announced its opposition to the omnibus bill and instead argued for a freeze in funding. The bill passed the House along party lines. Although most Senate Republicans were expressing views similar to their House counterparts, some, such as Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, indicated he would support the bill. The Senate is expected to take up the bill this week. The appropriations committees are expected to focus on the new FY 2010 budget as soon as the 2009 plan is finalized.

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State Reductions in Foster Care Payments, Adoption Assistance Could Reduce Funding from Stimulus

With reports that several states are considering cuts to their foster care maintenance payments to foster parents, and adoption assistance payments to families who adopt special-needs children, the effect of the temporary increase in Title IV-E funding could be reduced. Congress provided a temporary increase in the federal matching rate for foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship care in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5.)

The 6.2% increase, which was actually provided when Congress increased the match for Medicaid, means a state that has a 50% match (one state dollar yields one federal dollar) would instead receive a match of 56.2% (100 state dollars would bring in $106). Similarly, a state receiving a federal match of 75% will now receive a federal match of 81%. But the increased match only applies to the foster care maintenance, adoption assistance, and kinship care assistance payments. Administrative costs continue to be matched at the 50% administrative match.

A growing number of reports suggest states are considering reductions to their foster care and adoption payments. It could, in fact, mean states miss an opportunity to leverage more federal dollars. CWLA has projected the increased match would yield at least a half billion dollars in additional IV-E funds, but those projections are based on state patterns from either 2006 or 2007. The increased Title IV-E match like the Medicaid match is retroactive to October 1, 2008, and runs until the end of 2010.

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President Releases FMAP Funding

President Obama announced last week that states would have access to the first two quarters of Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments available to them through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5), beginning February 25. This could account for more than $15 billion of the total $87 billion invested in the recovery package toward state Medicaid programs.

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to several vulnerable low-income populations, including children and youth in foster care. In tight economic times, such as our nation now faces, when individuals lose jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid enrollment tends to increase. States, while their Medicaid spending is increasing, must balance their budgets, which can force them to cut vital health care services. Money was included in the recovery package for Medicaid to help relieve states and ensure health services remain available.

The FMAP increase in the recovery package provides a 6.2% increase to all states and territories, with 65% of the funding distributed across the board, and an additional 35% available and 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. For more details on the recovery package's FMAP provisions, and a state breakdown of anticipated funds, visit www.cbpp.org/2-13-09sfp.htm.

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House Passes Bill to Stop Child Abuse in Teen Residential Programs

On February 24, the House of Representatives passed the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act (H.R. 911) by a vote of 295-102. The legislation would provide much-needed oversight of programs and facilities that have operated without adequate state or federal regulation. 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), the original sponsor of this bill, chairs the Education and Labor Committee. The strong bipartisan vote included support from the committee's ranking Republican, Representative Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA). Some Republicans opposed the measure on the grounds the bill did not provide enough parental authority over the use of medications, while some expressed concern over the federal government's role in overseeing such facilities. The lone Democrat to oppose the bill was Representative Walter Minnick (D-ID). No similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

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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

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


Coming Shows

Wednesday, March 11
Raising Him Alone Campaign: More Support For Single Mothers Raising Boys


Wednesday, March 18
Program TBA


Wednesday, March 25
Social Work: The Past, the Present, and What's Needed for the Future

Special guest: Katherine Briar-Lawson, State University of New York School of Social Welfare

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

March 3: Federal agencies begin reporting use of recovery package funds
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires
April 6-17: Spring recess


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