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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 45: 12/14/2009   
Headlines

Assistant Secretary Nazario Caps Off CWLA-Casey Roundtables

Senate Negotiations on Health Reform Include Possible Deal to Reach 60

Small Omnibus Appropriations Bill Will Complete FY 2010 Budget Action

Child Welfare Workforce Legislation Introduced

January Jobs Bill Could Include State Relief

New Legislation Would Prevent Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

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

Combined Federal Campaign Ends Tuesday, December 15

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Assistant Secretary Nazario Caps Off CWLA-Casey Roundtables

On Tuesday, December 8, CWLA conducted the seventh in a series of regional roundtables on the implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L. 110-351) in New York City. As the lunchtime speaker, Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) Carmen Nazario told participants about her vision for ACF. The New York gathering included more than 90 CWLA members and nonmembers. Participants listened to the Assistant Secretary talk about the importance of the act and her priority for helping to see it implemented in an effective manner. She also spoke about her desire to address poverty in a more comprehensive way (including discussions on more than the traditional programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families which generally are the focal point of the poverty discussions). Nazario also expressed her willingness to have dialogue with attendees and with other key partners and groups.

The New York roundtable included a range of CWLA members from public and private agencies with leadership from both the city and state. In that respect, the New York event was similar to the roundtables in Chicago, Denver, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco, which all included a cross-section of state and local officials, judges, agency representatives from across the child welfare field including adoption, foster care, residential care and prevention, and other child advocates. The roundtables, funded by Casey Family Programs, began in early September and were intended to focus on key parts of the law. Each roundtable focused on three or four topics out of seven general areas that included kinship care, adoption, youth in transition, health care planning, education and workforce development through the use of Title IV-E training funds. The roundtables were day-long sessions with attendance ranging from 60 to more than 100 participants.

At each roundtable, participants outlined challenges to implementing the law while in the midst of a severe recession, but there was also significant discussion around how to improve practice in each of the areas. For example, the roundtables brought to light the need to do much more in regard to education access and the need to bring the education community to the table to discuss implementation of the part of the act that requires child welfare agencies to ensure that children can continue to attend their same school when they are placed in care. This mandate is on the child welfare agency, with no comparable requirement on education agencies. Through a series of panels that included an impressive number of young men and women who were current and former foster children, participants heard important insight into how the system works as well as how it could work better to serve the needs of children in care. CWLA will be building on the roundtables by continuing the effort next year with the next comprehensive discussion to take place at the National Conference starting on January 24 (see article below).

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Senate Negotiations on Health Reform Include Possible Deal to Reach 60

Last week, the Senate continued debating its comprehensive health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), and while debate and votes were taking place on the floor, behind the scenes senators--mainly Democrats--were working out possible ways to resolve their most significant disagreements. A breakthrough may have started to emerge late Tuesday when discussions between 10 senators resulted in a broad outline that would create an alternative to the much-discussed public option. The alternative would create two national health plans that could compete with other private insurance plans through state exchanges. The national plans would not be direct government-run plans, but would be overseen and negotiated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This is the same office that oversees federal health insurance, which provides federal government employees several health care choices to choose from and appears to have a great deal of popularity. As part of the deal there would also be an expansion of Medicare coverage by allowing people 55 through 64 to buy in to Medicare. Oftentimes, people in this age group may retire or be forced to retire early, and since Medicare is restricted to those 65 or older this population can be left without health insurance coverage.

Despite all the focus on issues such as the public option and the coverage or noncoverage of abortion services, much of the remaining provisions of the two bills would make significant strides in extending coverage to vulnerable populations, including children in the child welfare system and families touched by child welfare. Effective January 1, 2014, the Senate's health reform bill would expand the Medicaid program to cover all individuals below 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL), with the federal government wholly paying for newly eligible individuals from 2014 to 2016. The House bill includes a provision to extend Medicaid to 150 % of FPL. This means that a young person who ages out of care or leaves foster care because he or she became too old would be covered regardless of whether a state extends Medicaid to this "former foster youth" population. At press time the Senate bill does not extend funding provided for CHIP past its current expiration date of September 30, 2013, when children in stand-alone CHIP programs would begin receiving coverage through the newly created exchange. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has introduced an amendment that would fund CHIP through 2019, streamline enrollment, and provide $50 million in annual grants for outreach to enroll eligible children. A report would also have to be conducted by 2016 to determine whether CHIP children's benefits would remain as comprehensive in the exchange. That amendment was still being discussed at press time.

The home visiting provision remained in the Senate bill. Unfortunately, the therapeutic foster care provision included in the House health reform bill and in the Senate Finance Committee bill was dropped, but efforts are being made to re-insert it. There are also a number of important other elements in one or both of the bills that could end up in a final law, such as funding to expand the use of medical homes that can help track the medical records and treatment of certain populations such as children in foster care, funding to target and expand community collaboration on the provision of health care services, and greater authority to encourage innovation in reimbursement polices in the provision of Medicare and Medicaid. The House passed its health reform bill (H.R. 3962) on November 7. Several differences exist between the House and Senate bills; a side-by-side comparison chart may be viewed online. One important difference is that the House bill would extend the Medicaid and IV-E FMAP increase included in the recovery package for two quarters--through June 30, 2011, but the Senate currently contains no such provision.

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Small Omnibus Appropriations Bill Will Complete FY 2010 Budget Action

At press time the Senate was to complete action on a House bill that would wrap up the appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS) as part of an omnibus appropriations bill. The omnibus bill would include funding for Labor-HHS as well as Commerce and the Justice Departments, the Financial Services bill, Military Construction, Foreign Operations and the State Department, and the Transportation budget. That would leave only the popular Defense Department Appropriations bill, which is expected to also include some language to extend unemployment benefits and other supports for people suffering as a result of the recession.

With regard to the Senate and House versions of the Labor-HHS bill, there are not large differences in funding. 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. The differences between the House and Senate version of the Labor-HHS bills were not great and so major changes were not expected.

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Child Welfare Workforce Legislation Introduced

Late last week Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced the Child Welfare Workforce Improvement Act, S. 2837, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) signed on as an original cosponsor. This legislation makes improvements in a number of areas. It calls for the national Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study of child welfare staff including compensation, academic degrees held, education and training received, and factors contributing to turnover. The study would examine and make recommendations regarding caseloads and workloads, education levels and training requirements. In addition the study would examine methods and kinds of data that is reported and make recommendations on how states might improve data collection.

The bill calls on the Academy to consult with tribes regarding any aspect of the study that will address tribal specific uses, concerns, or special circumstances with respect to Indian children and their families.

The legislation removes links to AFDC eligibility criteria in providing training to child welfare staff. It would treat all expenditures for training activities by a state without regard to whether individuals participating in the training are providing services or treatment to children who are eligible based on the AFDC eligibility criteria. Further it removes the prohibition on funding the state share of the cost of training from private sources.

Another section of the bill creates a demonstration program to help facilitate a comprehensive workforce improvement program. This program would be planned, implemented, and evaluated in order to propose further improvements. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.


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January Jobs Bill Could Include State Relief

The Congress is likely to use the Defense bill to also pass some extensions for unemployment compensation benefits for high unemployment states and possibly an extension of COBRA health care coverage for the unemployed along with a few other must-pass items, but it will not include a job package. The President has called for a reinvestment of some of the TARP relief funds into job creation proposals. He has also raised the possibility of state relief. The President's call has coincided with congressional discussions on how to have a more direct impact on job creation. It looks as if Congress will make a jobs bill one of their very first items when they return to work in mid-January.

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New Legislation Would Prevent Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

On Wednesday Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, H.R. 4247. This legislation establishes minimum standards regulating the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. It calls on schools to prohibit imposing physical restrain and seclusion solely for the purpose of discipline or convenience.

The legislation establishes federal safety standards in schools, similar to the protections already in place in other community-based facilities, including child welfare facilities. It limits physical restraint and locked seclusion, allowing these interventions only when there is imminent danger of injury, and only when imposed by trained staff. Mechanical restraints, such as strapping children to chairs, and restraints that restrict breathing would be outlawed. Schools would be required to notify parents after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used. The bill calls on states, within two years of enactment, to establish their own policies, procedures, monitoring and enforcement systems to meet these minimum standards. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate soon.


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

CWLA has posted its 2010 National Conference registration program online. As the program indicates, CWLA's 2010 national conference features more than 120 child and family experts reporting on timely and important topics like adoption, foster care, technology, executive leadership, early childhood and mental health, juvenile justice, and residential services. The national conference is a month earlier this year--January 24-27, 2009--so it is important to register soon! Register online.

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.

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Combined Federal Campaign Ends Tuesday, December 15

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and the Combined Federal Campaign will end on December 15. During this annual campaign, federal employees can designate a nonprofit to receive donations. CWLA's CFC number is 11125. Please consider making a contribution. We depend on the generosity of friends and family to sustain the important work we do.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

December 18: Second continuing resolution expires
December 18: Tentative adjournment for House of Representatives
December 25: Christmas Day
January 12: Second session of 111th Congress starts for House
January 18: Martin Luther King Day
January 19: Second session of 111th Congress starts for Senate
January 24-27: CWLA National Conference
January 26: Projected date for State of the Union
February 2: Release of Administration's FY 2011 budget
February 13: Presidents' Day break

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