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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 39: 10/26/2009   
Headlines

Examining Home Visiting's Effect on Domestic Violence

Grading Legal Representation for Children in Foster Care

Senate Finance Maintains Home Visiting

Report Says 'We Can Do Better'

Congress Passes Reauthorization of Ryan White Act

Samuels Awaiting Finance Committee Approval

Focusing On Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

Appropriation Bills Likely to Pass as Omnibus Bill

Register for CWLA's 2010 National Conference and Attend Advocacy Day!

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Examining Home Visiting's Effect on Domestic Violence

On Monday, October 19, CWLA's VP of Policy & Public Affairs Linda Spears was invited to facilitate a discussion on the intersection between home visiting and domestic violence. The event was hosted by the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund and brought together participants from the practice, research, and policy fields, including legislative staff, advocates, researchers, program evaluators, and home visitors, to discuss how to best meet the needs of at risk families who may be victims of domestic violence, or who are at risk of abuse and neglect.

What the research on home visiting as a deterrent of domestic violence has found is that many abusers were themselves once victims and/or witnesses to domestic violence. Barriers to combating the violence include the inability of many home visitors to address and combat domestic violence when they did find it occurring in the home. The need for further research on what works for at-risk families was a major concern for many panelists.

Hill staff were present to discuss some of the policy developments with regards to addressing home visitation and domestic violence. The current language in the health reform legislation before Congress includes funding for innovative and promising programs that may address domestic violence but may not meet some of the evidentiary standards that are found in the five national models of home visitation including Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), Parents as Teachers (PAT), Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP), and Healthy Families America (HFA).

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Grading Legal Representation for Children in Foster Care

On Thursday October 15, First Star and the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego (CAI) released the second edition of A Child's Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused and Neglected Children. Of the approximate 900,000 children that are substantiated as abused and neglected each year, many go through court proceedings that will ultimately determine their future living arrangements. What First Star and CAI found was that to the extent that children are even included in these critical hearings, their voices and or interests are often not represented.

Since the first edition of the report was published in 2007, 33% of states have adopted new legislation in the right to counsel arena. The focus of this edition of the report evaluated the extent to which each state's laws provide for the legal representation of abused and neglected children. The report finds that many states have made efforts towards legislative reform, litigation, and other advocacy to ensure that these children's voices are heard and their rights protected in court. The report also shows that some states have quite a way to go in improving their representation of children. The report concludes with a challenge to Congress to support and pass a national legislative reform.

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Senate Finance Maintains Home Visiting

On Monday, October 19, the Senate Finance Committee released the legislative language for S. 1796, the America's Healthy Future Act. The bill expands on the home visitation language that was included in the Chairman's Mark earlier this month. This bill would amend Title V, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, to provide federal assistance for maternal, infant, and early childhood home visiting programs. Grants would go to States, who would be required to conduct a needs assessment and identify at-risk communities and prioritize services accordingly. Similar to the America's Affordable Health Choices Act, H.R. 3200, the majority of funding is reserved for evidenced-based models that have demonstrated positive outcomes. The appropriations would allot $1.5 billion over 5 years to carry out the cost of strengthening and improving home visitation programs, and eligible entities are allowed to use up to 25% of the grant on promising and innovative programs.

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Report Says 'We Can Do Better'

Last week, Every Child Matters released a groundbreaking report, We Can Do Better: Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in the U.S. On October 21, they held a rally on Capitol Hill where child advocates gathered to discuss how to prevent abuse and neglect. Their campaign calls on federal lawmakers to partner with states and advocates to address and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Although the official number of children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect in 2007 is 1,760, the report explains that the actual number may be much higher. In part, the difference is due to varying definitions of abuse and neglect in the states, as well as insufficient record-keeping and data collection methodologies. The report also highlights the need for serious investments in the child protection workforce and programs targeting poverty and family economic self-sufficiency. Download the full report.

In addition to the rally on Capitol Hill, child protection workers, law enforcement, educators, policymakers and others gathered for a two-day summit which centered around discussions on how to identify the policies, barriers, and challenges, as well as the policies and resources needed, to reduce child abuse and neglect related fatalities. Policy recommendations were addressed and included funding for home visiting, CAPTA reauthorization, Promise Neighborhoods, and other legislative efforts that will provide federal funding to states to address child abuse and neglect.


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Congress Passes Reauthorization of Ryan White Act

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives gave final approval to a five-year reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act. The bill (S. 1793) will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature. It was passed in 1990 and named after Ryan White, who had been victimized in school because he had contracted AIDS through blood transfusions. He died that year as a teenager. The program provides support, funding, and treatment to thousands of AIDS patients and support to various organizations. It also provides training and assistance to medical providers in dealing with AIDS. The law was reauthorized in 1996, 2000, and 2006. The new reauthorization proposes funding of $2.3 billion rising to $2.7 billion in 2013. For FY 2010, the President has requested $2.292 billion. The House Appropriations bill includes that amount while the Senate proposes a total of $2.73 billion. In FY 2009, it was funded at $2.238 billion.

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Samuels Awaiting Finance Committee Approval

Although he testified and received a positive welcome from the chair and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Bryan Samuels is still waiting for a final okay from the committee. The hearing took place on October 15, but there was limited attendance and as a result the vote and the questioning were left open. It is unclear when Samuels will be cleared by the committee and then by the full Senate. When and if Samuels is approved, he will take over the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF), which sits beneath the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and oversees two bureaus--the Children's Bureau and the Family & Youth Bureau. ACYF administers the major federal programs supporting social services that promote the positive growth and development of children and youth and their families; protective services and shelter for children and youth in at-risk situations; and adoption for children with special needs. Amongst other previous positions, Samuels was director of Illinois's Department of Children & Family Services.

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Focusing On Girls in the Juvenile Justice System

On Tuesday, October 20, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on girls in the juvenile justice system. Prior to the witnesses' testimonies, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) expressed his disappointment toward members of the House Committee on Education and Labor for not acting yet on the Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Chairman Conyers also voiced concern that acting head of Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention (OJJDP), Jeff Slowikoski, was not present at the hearing.

In July 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on its review of OJJDP's Girls Study Group. Eileen R. Larence, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues for the GAO, testified that "The study group found that few girls' delinquency programs had been studied and that the available studies lacked conclusive evidence of effective programs." Larence continued, "however, OJJDP could better address its girls' delinquency goals by more fully developing plans for supporting such evaluations."

Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, Director of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Center for Girls and Young Women, provided statistics on the prevalence of incarcerated girls with histories of abuse and trauma. Committee members were clearly troubled by Ravoira's report of girls who are victimized while incarcerated, or emotionally victimized when forced into physical restraints, or asked to disrobe in front of male guards. Ravoira called for "equitable treatment of girls--for a fair and balanced juvenile justice system that holds girls accountable for their behaviors balanced with a commitment to addressing the critical needs that drive girls into the system."

There is much work to be done when JJDPA is reauthorized. The hearing highlighted the need for stronger language regarding the safety and well-being of girls involved in the juvenile justice system. The House Education and Labor Committee, chaired by Representative George Miller (D-CA), has jurisdiction over the reauthorization of JJDPA. Miller has expressed his intention to finish reauthorization in this Congress.

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Appropriation Bills Likely to Pass as Omnibus Bill

With only four of the 12 annual appropriations bills having been completed through the conference report process, it is looking more likely that Congress will wrap several of the remaining appropriations bills into one final package for President Obama to sign. Congressional leadership indicated they want to wrap up the process by early December at the latest, but that will be difficult with the health care debate looming.

With regard to the Senate and House versions of the Labor-HHS bill, there are not large differences in funding (http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/FY2010_Budget.pdf). Overall, the Labor-HHS bills spend between $160 and $163 billion in discretionary dollars. The bills also provide $567 billion in mandatory funding, most of which applies to HHS and represents mandatory funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Part of the mandatory funding is for entitlements under Title IV-E foster care, adoptions assistance and subsidized guardianships. Title IV-E is expected to total $7.2 billion, an increase of $146 million from 2009. According to budget projections, $4.6 billion will be spent on foster care including administrative costs, $2.4 billion will be spent on adoption assistance along with administration costs, and $49 million will be spent on the new subsidized guardianship program (kinship care). Adoption assistance is the fastest growing of the three, and the guardianship program is still in its start-up phase. All the cost projections (which are the same in both bills) for the Title IV-E programs are just projections since claims could increase or decrease according to need and the number of eligible children.

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Register for CWLA's 2010 National Conference and Attend Advocacy Day!

Registration is open for CWLA's 2010 national conference, Children 2010: Leading a New Era. The national conference is a month earlier this year--January 24-27, 2009--so it is important to register soon! At the conference, more than 120 child and family experts will report on timely and important topics like adoption, foster care, technology, executive leadership, early childhood and mental health, juvenile justice, and residential services.

Advocacy Day will be held in the middle of the national conference, on Tuesday, January 26. CWLA's Advocacy Day is the largest national advocacy event of the year for child welfare advocates and CWLA encourages all conference attendees to go to Capitol Hill and carry the message for the children, youth, and families you serve. Learn more about Advocacy Day, and register for the national conference now--early-bird rates are still available through November 30 on the Conferences page.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

October 31: Continuing Resolution Expires
November 11: Veterans Day
December 11: Hanukkah Begins
December 25: Christmas Day

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