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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 46: 12/21/2009   
Headlines

Senate Establishes Foster Care Caucus

California Delegation Circulates Letter to Clarify Kinship/Guardianship Option

Senate Still Working on 60 Votes

Final Omnibus Complete HHS FY 2010 Budget

House Sends Over Jobs Bill with State Fiscal Relief for January Action

Senate Judiciary Approves Juvenile Justice Legislation

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

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Establishes Foster Care Caucus

On Thursday, December 17, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) announced the formation of a Senate Caucus on foster youth. He will chair the new caucus along with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-IA). In a press conference announcing the creation of the caucus Senator Grassley said, "the purpose of the caucus is to focus attention on the needs of older kids who remain in foster care and young adults who have just aged out...of foster care--and then are disconnected from support and stability of a permanent family that they had in foster care." Members of the Senate and House frequently form caucuses, with the goal of bringing together like-minded members of Congress around a specific issue. The caucuses stay in place from one Congress to the next with members from both parties joining on. Grassley indicated that the caucus will help to organize and facilitate briefings for senators by think-tank experts, foster care coalitions, and other groups as well as young people who are in foster care or were earlier in their lives. Caucuses can also be an important and rapid way to gain names for letters or for sponsorship of legislation. The formal announcement of the caucus took place at a Capitol Hill event reviewing the 10-year anniversary of the John H. Chaffee Independent Living Act.






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California Delegation Circulates Letter to Clarify Kinship/Guardianship Option

Members of the California delegation are circulating a sign-on letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for clarification of guidance on how states can use the new Title IV-E kinship/guardianship option to cover current children and kin families already in state funded programs. The bipartisan letter circulated by Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA) and Ken Calvert (R-CA) is addressed to Assistant Secretary Carmen Nazario and calls into question guidance issued one year ago this week (CB-PI-08-007). The Program Instruction allows states to claim federal funds for children who are newly placed with guardians or who are in foster care and who exit foster care with a new guardianship agreement. The interpretation restricts states, like California, with existing kinship programs that had been funded by state, local or even some federal block grant dollars. Many states could cover some of these children and their kin if they met all the requirements of the law. Earlier this year several state organizations called on HHS to reissue the guidance. The final California letter has not been sent and the two members are still seeking more sign-ons. The letters can be downloaded from CWLA's website: letter to Californian colleagues and letter to HHS.






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Senate Still Working on 60 Votes

At press time, Senate leaders were still attempting to gather 60 votes on a health care bill that will have to get through two or three legislative hurdles. Last week, the Senate continued debating the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590), while Senate Democrats were working out possible ways to resolve their most significant disagreements. The breakthrough compromise that emerged the week before fell apart when Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced on national television his opposition to allowing a buy in to Medicare by young patients, which had been a key part of the deal. In fact several other Democrats, including more liberal members of the caucus, had also called this proposal into question. A final deal will likely include a compromise that would create an alternative to the public option that 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). One of the last roadblocks appeared to be restrictions on abortion with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) being the chief negotiator in opposition to current bill language. If a deal can be reached the Senate will have to get 60 votes to overcome filibusters on two or three possible procedural votes. After each vote the opposition (Republican minority) can insist on 30 hours of debate before moving on to the next step. The House passed its health reform bill (H.R. 3962) on November 7. A comparison side-by-side chart is available online.






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Final Omnibus Complete HHS FY 2010 Budget

On Sunday, December 13, the Senate gave final approval to H.R. 3288, Conference Report 111-366. The legislation wraps up all remaining appropriations for this fiscal year with the lone exception of the Defense Appropriations which will be dealt with just before Congress leaves. The appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Haman Services (HHS) and Education, known together as Labor-HHS, were included among the six bills. Minor changes were made but for the most part funding was what was passed by congressional committees last summer. In Labor-HHS, appropriators did eliminate the $13 million provided for home visiting through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Appropriators pointed out that new home visiting legislation should be included in a final health care bill. To read a list of various child welfare and child related spending, review CWLA's budget analysis.






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House Sends Over Jobs Bill with State Fiscal Relief for January Action

Last week the House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate the Main Street Act of 2010, H.R. 2847. The bill is intended to create jobs more directly and places dollars into infrastructure, public services jobs, and state fiscal relief. The $150 billion redirects some of the TARP funding that had gone unspent or has been returned to the treasury toward the three areas of need. The bill would extend the increased match to Medicaid via the increase state match (which also covers Title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance and kinship care) from the current expiration date of December 2010 to June 2011. The match, or FMAP, defines the federal share of the total money spent, so an 80% match means the federal government contributes 80% and the state contributes 20%. The increase raises the FMAP by 6.2%. The Senate will not have time to act in the last few days of 2009 but they are returning a few weeks after they complete action on health care.






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Senate Judiciary Approves Juvenile Justice Legislation

On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, S. 678. The vote was 12 to 7. This legislation updates and improves the national juvenile justice activities and helps state and local governments reduce crime and curb recidivism rates among juveniles by authorizing federal funding of prevention, intervention, and treatment programs for youths.

Included in the new version is language that strengthens the coordination and integration of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The new JJDPA provides for the compilation of data on juveniles entering the juvenile justice system with a prior history as victims of child abuse or neglect, an analysis of necessary services for the prevention and treatment for these youth, and a plan for providing such services. When these factors are in place, improved outcomes for the children, youth, and families served by the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are achieved.

S. 678 makes many other significant improvements that expand several of the core protections and other areas contained in the law including reducing disproportionate minority contact and extending the jail removal requirements to keep youth awaiting trial in criminal court out of adult lock-up. In addition the legislation authorizes federal grants for mental health and drug treatment programs focusing on youth offenders.






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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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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

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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