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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 31: 8/17/2009   
Headlines

Health Reform Resources Posted Online--Get Engaged!

Carmen Nazario, Other Nominations Wait Until Senate Returns

Letter Supporting Early Learning Fund Welcomes Local Organizations

Calling Former Foster Youth to Support White House Conference

CWLA Continues Survey on Prevention

See You in September

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Health Reform Resources Posted Online--Get Engaged!

CWLA has posted online resources to help our members and interested advocates learn more about the current debate on health care reform. These resources include CWLA's Principles and Recommendations for Health Reform, a sample Letter to the Editor that individuals are encouraged to use, and key resources from our partners including a comprehensive side-by-side from the Kaiser Family Foundation that compares the various health reform proposals. A link to Families USA's August Recess toolkit, which contains state-specific information and talking points to help respond to attacks on health reform, is provided as well.

CWLA encourages you to use these resources and become civilly engaged in the health reform debate. Members of Congress are back in their states and districts for the remainder of August and need to hear the importance of health reform for vulnerable children, youth, and families. Before leaving Washington for the recess, the three House Committees with jurisdiction over health reform each approved a bill (H.R. 3200) to overhaul our nation's health care system. Two committees in the Senate share jurisdiction over health reform. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has approved health reform legislation, but the Senate Finance Committee has yet to do so.

As the Kaiser Family Foundation's side-by-side comparison chart more clearly explains, each of the proposed health reform plans would build on the existing structure. If you like the health insurance you have, you can keep it. Employer-sponsored coverage would remain intact, with tax credits made available to assist small businesses. Sliding scale subsidies for lower-income individuals would help make health coverage affordable and the Medicaid program would be expanded. Home visiting funding is expected to be included in both the House and Senate versions, and the House bill includes protection for therapeutic foster care programs. The cost of inaction is great, so please reach out to your lawmakers to help ensure that no harm is done to children and children's coverage. This is a critical opportunity to provide uninsured and underinsured children better access to care and ensure that their coverage is comprehensive, guaranteeing preventive services, medical care, and oral and mental health benefits.

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Carmen Nazario, Other Nominations Wait Until Senate Returns

The approval of Carmen Nazario to head the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is still awaiting final approval by the full Senate despite being approved by the Senate Finance Committee in mid-July. Although the Senate approved 63 nominations by voice vote in the closing minutes of the Friday, August 7 session, dozens, more including Nazario's, did not make the cut. The Senate held a pro-forma session on Monday, August 10, which lasted for only a few minutes so that the Senate officially remains in session. This keeps the Senate from reaching a threshold of being out more than 30 days, which could have required all presidential nominations to be resubmitted.

Another critical Health and Human Services (HHS) nomination in the Senate Finance Committee awaiting a hearing date is Bryan Samuels, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the Administration on Children Youth and Families (ACYF). No one has been selected yet to head the Children's Bureau.

During the Bush Administration, the head of ACF was Wade Horn. He was able to get confirmed by July of President Bush's first year. Joan Ohl led ACYF and the head of the Children's Bureau was Susan Orr, before she was succeeded by Christine Calpin. ACF is the critical operating division in the department for child welfare and other vital children's programs. It includes not just ACYF and the Children's Bureau, but also the Office of Family Assistance (child care and TANF), the Administration for Native Americans (tribal issues), the Office of Child Support, the Office of Community Services (social services block grants), the Office of Head Start, and the 10 regional HHS offices. To view an organizational chart of ACF within HHS, visit the website.

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Letter Supporting Early Learning Fund Welcomes Local Organizations

The National Women's Law Center is circulating a sign-on letter in support of the Early Learning Challenge Fund. National groups, including CWLA, have signed on in support and now the Law Center has decided to open the letter to state and local organizations, as well as national groups. The deadline for signatures is August 28, and groups can sign on by filling out an online form.

The Fund is included in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, H.R. 3221, passed in mid-July by the House Committee on Education and Labor. The focus of the legislation is to reform the way college loans are provided and financed, but Title IV of the bill creates an Early Learning Challenge Fund. The fund would provide an early down payment on President Obama's efforts to better coordinate services and support to the birth to age five population. One part of that effort is the home visiting legislation that is being debated as part of health care reform but another important effort is better coordination and greater funding between Head Start, child care, and state pre-K programs. The new Early Learning Challenge Fund would provide competitive grants to states to coordinate services and standards for and between those early childhood programs. Coordination is actually required as part of the state application and planning process.

The overall goal of the new initiatives is to better early learning standards across programs, enhance program review and monitoring, provide comprehensive professional development, strengthen support for parents who may use or enroll their children in one or more of the programs and to improve outcomes for children participating in these early learning programs. The legislation also directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education to jointly administer the program. The funding is set at $1 billion a year from 2010 through 2019. Funds are raised through the changes that the overall bill makes to the college loan process.

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Calling Former Foster Youth to Support White House Conference

CWLA has launched a renewed effort to engage former foster youth in building support for a White House Conference on Children and Youth. The effort involves working with former foster youth from around the country through CWLA member agencies, FosterClub, the Orphan Foundation of America, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and other groups. Former foster youth are encouraged to speak out about their experiences, and talk to their members of Congress about the need to reestablish the conference, and for foster care reform, since as alumni of the system they have much to teach us all.

The White House Conference on Children was first instituted in 1909. Since then conferences were held every 10 years until 1970. The conferences led to the creation of the Children's Bureau, the establishment of new foster care standards, the first policies to regulate foster homes and much more. Nearly four decades have passed since the last conference, when the White House focused the nation on the state of our children. A White House Conference bill has been introduced in both houses of Congress but in order to gain momentum we need to get as many people involved as possible, including former foster youth.

If you know former foster youth who might be interested in getting involved please have them e-mail Lily Dorman-Colby, who is a former foster youth herself. CWLA welcomes former foster youth to sign on as supporters of the White House Conference or send e-mails to Congress through our Foster Youth Advocacy page.

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CWLA Continues Survey on Prevention

Last fall, CWLA posted a brief poll on our website asking what the White House Conference on Children and Youth should focus on. In the poll, individuals were asked to select three top issues. Prevention of child abuse and neglect was ranked by 16% of respondents as the number one priority--coming in ahead of other critical areas such as strengthening child protective services (14%) and youth transitioning out of foster care (11%). As a result and to continue the process, CWLA is going to use these survey findings to gather more information on each of the critical issues. We are asking you to take a new three-minute survey focused on prevention. Take the prevention survey and tell us what prevention services exist in your community. Are there waiting lists? How would you describe prevention?

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See You in September

Children's Monitor will be taking the next two weeks off from publication as Congress finishes its August recess. We will return with publication on the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8.

In the meantime, catch up with what's been happening on Capitol Hill with previous issues of the Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

August 1-September 7: House summer break
August 8-September 7: Senate summer break
October 1: Start of federal fiscal year 2010
October 15: Deadline for budget reconciliation instruction


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