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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 15: 4/20/2009   
Headlines

Congress Returns for Busy Spring

Budget Resolutions

Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary

Congress to Continue Health Reform Discussions

New Child Abuse Data Shows Decline, with a Footnote

Web-based Conference Call on ARRA Stimulus Funding for Housing in Child Welfare

More ARRA Stimulus: TANF

More ARRA Stimulus: Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care

CWLA Supports National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 7

On the Line with CWLA: Economic Impact on Public Agencies

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Returns for Busy Spring

With members of Congress returning for a long stretch of nearly six weeks, front and center will be agreement on a single budget resolution. In addition to the budget resolution, the key committees will start work on appropriations for federal fiscal year 2010, which starts on October 1. The Senate must also vote on the selection of Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). That vote, which is expected to result in an approval, will likely speed up the debate and possibly result in some early votes on comprehensive health care reform legislation. While these will be the primary issues, Congress will also be attempting to move forward on global warming and environmental legislation, education reforms, and several other less high-profile issues. Not forgotten is the fact that all of this work will be conducted against the backdrop of the struggling economy.

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Budget Resolutions

The House (H. Con. Res. 85) and Senate (S. Con. Res. 13) approved their budget resolutions just before congress's spring recess. The final votes in both houses were largely along party lines. The House bill is closer to the overall goals of President Obama than the Senate's. For FY 2010, the House resolution would allocate $7 billion less in discretionary spending than the President has asked for, while the Senate proposes $15 billion less. The key issue or difference between the two is the inclusion of reconciliation instructions. The House resolution provides for a reconciliation process to pass health care and education reform. The Senate bill does not include reconciliation instructions.

A bill passed under the reconciliations rules would limit the hours of debate and would prohibit senators from using the filibuster to stop passage. Republicans in the Senate are opposed to using reconciliation, saying health reform must be bipartisan. Some Democrats, including the chairs of the Budget and Finance Committees, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), respectively, have also voiced their concerns. It is possible that negotiators will create a window to allow health reform to be debated under the normal procedure and then set a limit to allow for reconciliation to be used if a bipartisan agreement can't be reached at some point in the fall.

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Kathleen Sebelius for HHS Secretary

The Senate sped up hearings on the approval of Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) just before the break. Senate leaders had hoped to give final approval but they needed unanimous support for such an action and at least one senator placed an anonymous hold, blocking a final vote. HHS is the last remaining cabinet position to be filled. During the hearings, most of the questions for Governor Sebelius were on health care and the administration's plans to enact reforms this year. Senator Daschle, who was nominated earlier for HHS Secretary but withdrew his name at a later date, was to occupy two positions--HHS Secretary and head of a new White House Office for Health Reform. Should Governor Sebelius be confirmed, she will be HHS Secretary, but Nancy-Ann DeParle will serve as head of the White House Office for Health Reform. DeParle served in the budget office during the Clinton Administration and later oversaw Medicare and Medicaid. President Obama signed an executive order creating the new White House office during the congressional break.

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Congress to Continue Health Reform Discussions

When Congress returns from recess, they will continue their conversations on potentially rehauling our nation's health care system. Key members such as Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), and Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Charles Rangel (D-NY) have been leading the discussions. Several hearings have been held in the various committees of jurisdiction on topics such as improving access to care, integrative care, improving quality, and shoring up the workforce. Some have indicated that they hope to have floor action on bills by the summer.

Also to be decided is whether the final budget bill will contain reconciliation instructions, which would impact how health reform proceeds in Congress. The House budget resolution contains reconciliation instructions, while the Senate does not. Reconciliation, as described above, requires only a simple majority of 51 votes rather than the typical 60 to shut off a filibuster in the Senate, likely enabling health reform legislation to move more quickly through the Congress.

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New Child Abuse Data Shows Decline, with a Footnote

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the latest child abuse and neglect data for 2007. The number of children who were maltreated declined between fiscal years 2006 and 2007, according to the annual report, from 904,000 victims in 2006 to an estimated 794,000 children in 2007. The decline in victims, however, was driven largely by a drop in substantiations in the state of Florida where the number of victims went from 134,567 in 2006 to 53,484 in 2007. In the annual report released through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Florida explains that beginning with the 2007 data: "all reports with a disposition of 'some indication' were mapped to the category of 'other.'" The state indicated that this resulted in a significant change in the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect. In commenting on the new data, the Acting Assistant Secretary Curtis L. Coy said, "While it is too early to say whether this year's decrease reflects a trend, we are encouraged by these numbers. We know preventing child abuse requires coordination between federal, state, and local agencies, and we will continue to work together to protect all children from maltreatment."

An estimated 3.2 million referrals of possible abuse and neglect cases were made to state child protective services (CPS) agencies in the United States, with less than two-thirds (or 1.97 million) of the referrals accepted by CPS resulting in an investigation or assessment. From there, an estimated 794,000 children were substantiated and found to be victims of child abuse and neglect. Of the substantiated reports, the majority (59%) involved neglect. The estimated number of children who died as a result of maltreatment rose by approximately 200 to 1760, a 15.5 percent increase over last year. The rate of children who were found to be victims has been decreasing for a number of years. Between 2003 and 2006, the rate fluctuated between 12.2 and 12.0 per 1,000 children compared to 10.6 per 1,000 children for 2007. Data for 2008 and 2009 will be closely monitored to determine if state changes in policy, programs, and procedures continue to result in similar trends.

The full report, "Child Maltreatment 2007," is available online.

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Web-based Conference Call on ARRA Stimulus Funding for Housing in Child Welfare

CWLA, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, American Public Human Services Association, Corporation for Supportive Housing, National Alliance to End Homelessness, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, are pleased to announce a web-based conference call: Using the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) in Child Welfare Agencies.

HPRP provides $1.5 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to help individuals and families retain housing or to provide re-housing assistance to people experiencing homelessness or whose housing cannot be sustained. This conference call will include a discussion of how HPRP can be used for child welfare-involved families and youth aging out of care to promote better housing programs and perhaps reduce foster care placements.

Featured speakers will include Marc Cherna, Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, who will describe the impact of housing-based interventions the agency adopted in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, that can be supported by HPRP funding in other localities.

The call will take place on Thursday, April 23 at 3 p.m. EST. No RSVP is necessary. On the day of the call visit this link to join the webcast and access supporting materials.

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More ARRA Stimulus: TANF

On Monday April 6, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the potential state allocations of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Congress included $5 billion over two years in TANF funds as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The release of funds requires a state to experience an increase in its TANF assistance caseload, an increase in the cost of providing recipients with one-time emergency help, or an increase in the cost of subsidized TANF-related employment costs. The funds will be available until the end of 2010. More information is available online.

Funding would be at an 80%-matching rate, requiring states to match some of the funding. No state will be able to exceed a total of 50% of its annual federal TANF grant (SFAG) and the new funds cannot be transferred to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) or child care block grant. It is possible to spend the TANF funds on some of these same services, as long as they are used to address at least one of the four TANF purposes. In a survey conducted by Child Trends and released in December 2008, states indicated that 19% of child welfare spending came from the TANF block grant.

A second TANF-related funding source was included in the ARRA. Congress extended the TANF Supplemental Grant to 17 states. When TANF was enacted in 1996, these states were provided funds above the original formula allocation because they faced high levels of poverty or high rates of population growth. The 17 states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. While the continuation of the supplemental is not an increase in TANF funding for these 17 states, it may represent more TANF funds than governors and state legislators had anticipated before ARRA was passed. Learn your state allocations in TANF and other categories online.

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More ARRA Stimulus: Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care

On April 2, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Head Start and Early Head Start programs will receive funding and be eligible to apply for grants worth $2.1 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Head Start will receive $1 billion, while $1.1 billion will benefit Early Head Start. Head Start will also benefit from a separate $235 million increase in funding for fiscal year 2009, bringing the total funding increase for Head Start and Early Head Start to more than $2.3 billion. The grants will allow current Head Start grantees to serve an additional 16,600 children and families, and will support Early Head Start expansion to serve more than 55,000 pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and their families, which will essentially double the number of Early Head Start participants. In addition, the increased number of children and families served by these grants will create new jobs at Head Start and Early Head Start centers because additional staff will be required to handle increased enrollment.

ARRA funds will help improve staff compensation and training, upgrade Head Start centers and classrooms, increase hours of operation, and enhance transportation services. Additional ARRA funds and fiscal year 2009 appropriation funds will be used to award all Head Start and Early Head Start grantees a nearly 5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and to bolster training and technical assistance activities. Quality funds and COLAs will be once grantees submit requests.

The ARRA will also strengthen coordination between Head Start, Early Head Start, and state-run early childhood care and education programs by providing grants to states to establish advisory councils on early childhood education and care. Funds for expansion and advisory councils will be available as guidance is issued in the coming weeks.

Read the press release and get additional figures and a breakdown of the Head Start and Early Head Start funding.

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CWLA Supports National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, May 7

CWLA is joining with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support the fourth annual National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on May 7. Awareness Day is an opportunity for SAMHSA, SAMHSA-funded communities, and partner organizations such as CWLA to raise awareness of effective programs for children's mental health needs and promote positive youth development, recovery, and resilience.

The theme for this year's Awareness Day is Thriving in the Community, highlighting that high school youth who receive the services they need are more likely to have positive outcomes, such as better grades and higher rates of education, and less likely to have negative outcomes, such as involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Moderate to severe mental health and behavioral problems affect 50-80% of children in out-of-home care. Despite the disproportionate need, some estimate only about 25% of children in foster care receive mental health services at any given time. Consequently, CWLA and our members have long been committed to better addressing the mental health care needs of children and youth in the child welfare system and to the system of care philosophy in child mental health services.

For more information about what your community and organization can do to support National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on May 7, visit the website.

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On the Line with CWLA: Economic Impact on Public Agencies

On the Line with CWLA broadcasts Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET. To listen, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio. The call-in number is 347-326-9411. The programming schedule is subject to change.

This week's show

April 22: The Impact of the Exonomic Downturn on the Delivery of Services: The Perspective of Public Agency Commissioners (one-hour special)

Upcoming shows

April 29: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Delivery of Services: The Perspective of Private Agency CEOs (one-hour special)

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month

April 24: Children's Memorial Flag Day

May 3: Federal agencies begin reporting on allocations of entitlement funds under recovery plan

May 15: Detailed agency financial reports under recovery plan released

May 15: Target date for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills

May 20: Competitive grants and contracts under recovery plan available

May 23-31: Memorial Day congressional break

June 27: Target date for House to complete work on appropriations

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