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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 2: 1/18/2010   
Headlines

Resources to Support the People of Haiti

HHS Responds to Concerns, Revises Kinship Guidance

Health Care Negotiations Continue

CWLA's 2010 National Conference Set For Next Week!

House Back Last Week, Senate Back This Week

Stabenow Letter Garners Support from 20 Senators

SSI Changes Rule to Benefit Disabled Youth Leaving Foster Care

New Study Documents Pressure of Care Costs on Families

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Resources to Support the People of Haiti

CWLA expresses it great sympathy and support for the people of Haiti and all their families here in this country in this moment of great need and tragedy. The U.S. State Department has posted quick links if you are interested in helping or need information: Text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill; go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts; or visit InterAction to contribute. The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording).




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HHS Responds to Concerns, Revises Kinship Guidance

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will revise guidance issued on December 24, 2008 that had been viewed by CWLA, as well as other advocates and by some states, as overly restrictive in the application of the new Title IV-E kinship-subsidized guardianship option. Under the Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L. 110-351) states have an option to establish a kinship-guardianship program using Title IV-E federal funds. To establish the program the state must amend its state plan and submit it for approval to HHS. Under the 2008 guidance, only families and children meeting all the eligibility requirements placed into a guardianship arrangement after the state had amended its plan would be covered by the federal funding.

Some states, in particular the state of California, had pointed out that that there were some families already in state programs who had entered kinship care and had met all the requirements who should also be covered prospectively after a state implemented the new kinship program. According to reports, ACF has decided to reissue the Guardianship Assistance program instructions to allow some of the current cases to receive federal reimbursement.

CWLA had raised the issue several times on Capitol Hill and with new Assistant Secretary Carmen Nazario. Nazario expressed her concerns and sympathy on the issue at the CWLA Fostering Connections Roundtable held in New York City last December. There was also a great deal of congressional interest in the guidance issued under the previous administration. In December of last year, Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) along with Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) circulated a bipartisan California delegation letter calling for a revised guidance. Some of the key architects of the bill, including Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and other bipartisan supporters in both the Senate and House were also taking a closer look at the original guidance.

The state of California, other advocates in the state including the John Burton Foundation, the California Welfare Directors Association of California, and many others had been working in support of revising the guidelines. For the state the issue may have greater child welfare significance since advocates and some legislators there have been arguing that any savings generated from the new kinship program would be rolled into that state's child welfare program to extend foster care to age 21. That state option to extend care is also a part of the Fostering Connections to Success Act and it is available to states on October 1 of this year, at the beginning of fiscal year 2011.

The Children's Bureau has now approved amended state plans for Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee that will allow the states to utilize Title IV-E funds for kinship-guardianship programs. Ten other states along with the District of Columbia have also submitted state plan amendments.




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Health Care Negotiations Continue

The White House was the focus of continued negotiations over a final health care bill last week. On Wednesday, key committee members and leaders from both houses met for more than eight hours to settle their differences into one final bill. The President was directly involved with the negotiations as he oversaw the nation's relief efforts in Haiti. The negotiations over a final bill will not go through a formal Conference Committee; instead, once an agreement is reached, it would be voted on first by the House and then by the Senate. Such a process reduces the opportunities for a Senate filibuster.

There are important differences between the two bills. For details, see last week's article or download a comparison chart. Two key issues for CWLA are the inclusion of a home visiting program and language assuring the ability to use rehabilitative services under Medicaid for children in foster care. The two houses have some difference in both areas. See article below for more details.




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CWLA's 2010 National Conference Set For Next Week!

CWLA 2010 National Conference program is online. The conference will start with several policy institutes on Sunday along with meetings by various CWLA Advisory Committees. The 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. For Advocacy Day, on Tuesday, January 26, CWLA members will hear from several government officials including new Assistant Secretary Carmen Nazario and former Assistant Secretary Olivia Golden on how programs across departments and agencies can work together to address the needs of children and families in child welfare. In the afternoon members will go to Capitol Hill to sound off on the need for a new White House Conference on Children and Youth and the need for health care reform. That evening CWLA will honor Senator Edward M. Kennedy with a tribute and a lifetime achievement award. The conference runs January 24-27. Online registration has closed, but onsite registration is still welcome.




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House Back Last Week, Senate Back This Week

The House of Representatives returned to work last week just a few weeks after adjourning the first session of the 111th Congress. The Senate is scheduled to return tomorrow. Key House and Senate leaders have been negotiating the health care bills throughout the break. Once health care is resolved it is likely to be just as busy as last year. Immediate issues include continued work on a climate change bill, a jobs bill, and financial regulations, all of which were already passed by House). In addition to these major reform efforts, the budget comes out on February 2. That means that Congress will attempt to pass a budget resolution followed by debate over appropriations for FY 2011.




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Stabenow Letter Garners Support from 20 Senators

In last week's issue we reported that Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was circulating a letter in support of stronger health care language ensuring therapeutic foster care coverage through Medicaid. The final result was that 20 senators signed on, one-third of the Democratic caucus. One of the differences between the House and Senate bills on health care is that the House legislation includes language that protects the use of therapeutic foster care under Medicaid. The Senate version of health care that came out of the Finance Committee contained some of the same protections but when the two Senate bills were combined the Finance Committee language was not included. In addition to Stabenow, other members signing on to the letter include Senators Brown, Menendez, Kerry, Carey, Warner, Bayh, Wyden, Landrieu, Franken, Lautenberg, Hagen, Kirk, Merkley, McCaskill, Rockefeller, Cantwell, Schumer, Cardin, and Boxer. This should bode well for the provision.




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SSI Changes Rule to Benefit Disabled Youth Leaving Foster Care

The Social Security Administration has issued new rules that directly apply to disabled youth leaving foster care. Effective immediately, a disabled youth eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may file an SSI application up to 90 days before federal foster care payments are expected to end. This is an exception to the general rule of accepting an SSI application in the month before the month of eligibility. This policy will aid disabled youth in foster care to make the transition to adult life by helping to ensure that they have income and health benefits in place. The policy is available online.




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New Study Documents Pressure of Care Costs on Families

Care.com, in cooperation with the National Association for Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), recently released the second edition of the State of Care Index. The survey outlines the annual cost of child care and senior care and details families' efforts to save money on care arrangements. It also reports on the tie between employment and caregiving. Some of the key findings include: parents with young children spend, on average, $12,445 annually on child care; 14% of the average family's household income is devoted to child care; parents spend, on average, 45% more per hour on child care for children with special needs; and 82% of parents of young children and two-thirds of adults with elderly relatives solved a care crisis by missing work.




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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
January 19: Second session of 111th Congress starts for Senate
January 24-27: CWLA National Conference
January 26: Possible date for State of the Union
February 2: Release of Administration's FY 2011 budget
February 13: Presidents' Day break


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