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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 9: 3/15/2010   
Headlines

Senate Moves Second Jobs Bill with Medicaid Relief

Health Care Reform Debate Continues

House Subcommittee Reviews TANF Block Grant

Capitol Hill Briefing on Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Help Make Sure Every Child Is Counted in the Census

CWLA Technology Transition May Affect Monitor

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Moves Second Jobs Bill with Medicaid Relief

On Wednesday, March 10, with 62 votes, the Senate approved H.R. 4213, the second piece of that chamber's jobs legislation. The bill provides some tax credits for employers that hire new employees; extends a number of expiring investment tax credits; and includes a continuation of state relief through Medicaid. The measure now goes back to the House.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided states with a 6.2% increase in their federal Medicaid funding and Title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship care funding. That increased match runs through December 31, 2010 and this new jobs bill would extend that an addition six months through June 2011. As a condition of receiving the higher reimbursement, states may not reduce their Medicaid coverage.

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Health Care Reform Debate Continues

The debate over health care reform continues, with President Obama calling on the House to vote to move health reform forward as early as this week. The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Senate legislation would cut the federal deficit by $118 billion over 10 years. In addition, it would provide coverage to 31 million people who are currently uninsured; expand Medicaid to 133% of the federal poverty level, which will cover many youth aging out of care; protect the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2019 with funding through 2015; allow children to stay on their parents' coverage until age 26; and provide mandatory funding for home visitation programs. Stay tuned for future developments, including possible requests to call Congress to urge them to vote for final passage of health care reform.

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House Subcommittee Reviews TANF Block Grant

On Thursday, March 11, the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held its first hearing on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant program. The TANF program replaced AFDC in 1996 and is due to be reauthorized at the end of this fiscal year. Subcommittee Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA) opened the hearing by saying that he wanted the subcommittee to start a new conversation about the role TANF plays in assisting struggling families. McDermott went on to say, "Do poor children deserve our help as their parents struggle to find or prepare themselves for work? ... It may comes as unwelcome news ... that only 22% of poor children receive assistance from TANF." McDermott talked about the need to provide some immediate relief to states by extending some TANF emergency funds. CWLA submitted its testimony (http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/2010TANFhearing.pdf) for the record.

The hearing began with testimony by Assistant Commissioner Carmen Nazario (ACF) who outlined the Administration's one-year proposed TANF extension and its request for more child care funding. Kay Brown from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) offered the GAO's analysis of trends in TANF since it was created and since the recession. Brown pointed out that one of the greatest influences on the lower cash assistance caseloads is that a much smaller percentage of families are enrolled even though they are eligible. In 1995 85% of eligible families participated or were on AFDC but that number had declined to 40% by 2005.

Russell Sykes, from New York state, testifying on behalf of the National Association of State TANF Directors outlined the states' position on a reauthorized TANF. Among their key positions are an increase in the TANF block grant to address the impact of inflation, a restoration of some of the more flexible work requirements allowed before the last reauthorization, new performance measures that could be used as part of the work outcomes, and changes to TANF law to encourage collaboration between TANF and child welfare. The hearing was abbreviated due to being scheduled between a health care meeting and floor votes so the last two witnesses--Peter Edelman, Georgetown University Law Center, and Robert Rector, of the Heritage Foundation--had only a few minutes to speak. Rector did bring his newest figures on how much is spent on means-tested anti-poverty programs. According to the Heritage Foundation, $714 billion in 2008 was spent in federal and state dollars on these programs. Chairman McDermott did challenge him, however, pointing out that much of that figure includes Medicaid, a health insurance program.

The argument made by Rector is often made by critics of government spending on human service programs, their point being that too much is spent on anti-poverty programs. However, some of the programs included in the list may not actually be about reducing poverty. For example, a review of the 2008 report shows that of the federal dollars spent in that year, more than $200 billion was for Medicaid. While Medicaid is targeted to the poor, treating someone for a heart attack could hardly be seen as an anti-poverty effort. In addition, Medicaid is the single biggest payer of long-term care services, especially for the elderly. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid covered 43% of nursing home costs in 2004. There are also other programs in the list of $714 billion, such as child care, which is much broader in coverage than the poor. States can set their eligibility for child care up to 85% of a state's median income. Child care is also seen as an important component of early childhood education.

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Capitol Hill Briefing on Every Child Deserves a Family Act

Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) sponsored a briefing on Thursday, March 11, on his legislation, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act. The bill, H.R. 4806, prohibits states from discriminating in the placement of foster and adoptive children on the basis of sexual preference and allows federal funding to be cut off if such discriminatory practices are in place.

As part of the briefing, participants heard from several panelists including Martin Gill, an adoptive parent, who along with his partner of more than eight years has been raising two foster children since 2004. In 2008 a Florida court granted the adoption after hearing that it would be in the two children's best interest. The state of Florida went to court to challenge the adoption and Gill is currently involved in a lawsuit against Florida's law that automatically denies adoption by gays and lesbians. Gill was featured in the November/December edition of CWLA's Children's Voice magazine. Currently Florida is the only state with a statutory prohibition on adoptions by lesbian and gay parents. Gill told how the state had asked to place two foster children in his care six years ago in an emergency. The court case is scheduled for a late August hearing in an appeals court with the case expected to land in the Florida Supreme Court. CWLA weighed in on the earlier case through the filing of an amicus brief.

In addition to Gill, the panel included Leslie Cooper from the American Civil Liberties Union, who has been involved in the suit; Charlotte J. Patterson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia; Gary J. Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law; and Uma Ahluwalia, director of the Department of Health and Human Services for Montgomery County, Maryland. Ahluwalia talked about the practice in both Montgomery County and the state of Maryland where such discrimination is not practiced. The other panelists refuted some claims that there is psychological and other forms of harm to children placed with gay or lesbian couples, and used research to argue that there is a potentially large pool of prospective adoptive parents available among couples who are gay or lesbian if discrimination is not practiced. Through the end of FY 2007 there were 133,000 children in the foster care system nationally awaiting placement in an adoptive home.

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Help Make Sure Every Child Is Counted in the Census

The results of the decennial census are used to establish funding formulas for a multitude of social support programs. In fact, the census data is used as the basis for distributing more than $400 billion in federal funds each year. Children, especially children under age six, are more likely than any other group to be undercounted. In the 2000 census, more than one million children under the age of 10 were not counted. Minority children and children in hard-to-count neighborhoods are most frequently undercounted. Because approximately 20% of children live in hard-to-count areas, this results in reduced funding for needy families.

The Census Bureau has partnered with Nickelodeon in an effort to use Dora the Explorer to help spread the word and explain the importance of counting each child. The Census Bureau flyer is available in English and Spanish. You can help make sure that children are counted by posting the flyer on community bulletin boards and spreading it throughout your networks.

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CWLA Technology Transition May Affect Monitor

CWLA is in the process of changing e-newsletter service providers, and as a result we may have some distribution challenges in the next few weeks. If you do not find Children's Monitor in your inbox next Monday, we encourage you to visit the publication's webpage for the current issue.

This is also a great opportunity to connect with us via Facebook or Twitter for daily updates. Become a fan on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Sorry for any inconvenience, and thank you for bearing with us!

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

March 28-April 11: Spring break for Congress
April 15: Deadline to adopt budget resolution
May 15: House may begin passing regular appropriations bills
July 3: Target date for House to pass all 12 appropriations bills
August 7: Target date for Senate to pass all 12 appropriations bills

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