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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 13: 4/19/2010   
Headlines

White House Conference Campaign Continues

Children's Memorial Flag Day Is April 23

Teen Birthrate on the Decline

HHS Adds New Regional Directors

Education and Children in Care

Appropriations May Proceed Without Budget Resolution

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



White House Conference Campaign Continues

April is Prevent Child Abuse Month. To recognize this, CWLA is building the momentum to reconvene the White House Conference on Children and Youth by asking CWLA members to join us in an ongoing campaign throughout the month. Each week is designated with a specific action step. Today begins Week 3.

Week 3: URGE your state legislature to pass a state resolution in support of a White House Conference on Children and Youth
Week 4: CALL your two U.S. Senators

For the White House Conference on Children and Youth to become a reality the President and Congress will have to act on legislation, H.R. 618 and S. 938. See if your members of Congress are cosponsors of the White House Conference. If you missed the first two weeks of the campaign, there's still time to participate: during the first week we asked supporters to call their representative in the House, and for Week 2 we encouraged everyone to send a White House Conference postcard to the President. Remember, the first 25 postcards are free for CWLA members.

Don't forget to do your part by signing on to the call for the White House Conference on Children and Youth as an agency -- joining more than 800 other organizations -- or as an individual. Not all CWLA agencies have signed on, so if you have yet to do so, join us today!

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Children's Memorial Flag Day Is April 23

This week marks the 12th anniversary of CWLA launching a public awareness campaign to direct attention to the tragedy of violent child deaths as part of a national initiative to reduce child mortality. This year, the focus of the initiative will be on supporting the White House Conference on Children and Youth as an effective way to accomplish this goal.

The centerpiece is simple -- a red flag depicting blue, paper doll-like figures of children holding hands. In the center, the white chalk outline of a missing child symbolizes the thousands of children lost to violence. Created by a 16-year-old student in Alameda County, California, and flown on the fourth Friday in April, the Children's Memorial Flag honors each lost child and raises public awareness about the continuing problem of violence against children.

For the past three years, all 50 governors have united in an impressive bipartisan effort by flying the flag, issuing proclamations, or participating in ceremonies to memorialize children. National and local publicity has been terrific, and the Children's Memorial Flag has become an increasingly recognizable symbol of the need to improve our efforts to protect children. The Children's Memorial Flag has also received support from mayors, directors of social service agencies and hospitals, schools, district attorneys, police chiefs, and others.

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Teen Birthrate on the Decline

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently released preliminary data on birthrates and selected maternal and infant health characteristics for the United States in 2008. According to the data, the national teen birthrate declined 2% in 2008. After declining every year between 1991 and 2005, the teen birthrate increased 5% between 2005 and 2007, and is now on the decline again. The teen birthrate in the United States now stands at 41.5 births per 1,000 girls age 15-19. Declines were seen in all groups of teens except those 10-14 years old, where the birthrate held steady. The biggest decline was 4% among the oldest teens, ages 18 to 19. In addition, the teen birthrate fell for all racial/ ethnic groups, with the largest declines being seen among Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released the following statement in response to the new data: "Declines in the nation's teen birthrate are, of course, welcome news," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign. "Lower rates of teen childbearing mean more high school graduates, lower rates of child poverty, and a lighter burden on taxpayers."

Currently, 3 in 10 girls in the United States get pregnant by age 20 and there are more than 400,000 teen births annually, putting the United States in the unlikely position of having the highest rates of teen pregnancy and childbearing in the industrialized world. The Obama Administration and Congress has made $185 million available this year for proven efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and childbearing.

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HHS Adds New Regional Directors

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced the appointment of five new regional directors of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As HHS regional directors, the appointees will serve as key representatives of Secretary Sebelius in working with federal, state, local, and tribal officials on a wide range of health and social service issues. They will also play a first-hand role in the implementation of the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The directors are listed below by region:

Christie Hager, Region I: Boston (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT)
Jaime R. Torres, Region II: New York City (NY, NJ, PR, VI)
Joanne Grossi, Region III: Philadelphia (PA, DE, DC, MD, VA, WV)
Marguerite Salazar, Region VIII: Denver (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY)
Herb K. Schultz, Region IX: San Francisco (AZ, CA, HI, NV, Guam, PI, AS)

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Education and Children in Care

Education returns to the spotlight as the deadline for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly No Child Left Behind) approaches. While the subject is on the Congressional agenda, it is critical to include educational stability for children in foster care in the national discussion. The Fostering Connections to Success Act created an important foundation by requiring state child welfare agencies to assure coordination with appropriate educational agencies in order to maintain school of origin enrollment or, if in the best interest of the child, a swift transition to a new school. However, there is a continued need to fully implement practice strategies, necessarily enabled by bringing local education agencies into the effort. CWLA is committed to advocating for policy that addresses school stability, defines cross-system logistics, and grants foster youth agencies input in education-related decisionmaking.

Casey Family Programs just released their latest child welfare quality improvement report, Improving Educational Continuity and School Stability for Children in Out-of-Home Care. Making use of the "breakthrough series collaborative" model, the report discusses successful practice changes developed out of rapidly implemented strategy projects carried out in nine jurisdictions from 2006 to 2008. Framed within a commitment to improving communication, coordination of resources, and exchange of information between child welfare, education, and court systems, this report is a useful guide for practitioners, administrators and policymakers to learn common challenges and successful policy solutions to address educational stability for foster youth.

CWLA has developed principles for national legislation. In anticipation of ESEA reauthorization, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and House Education and Labor Committees have been holding series of hearings on education-related topics.

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Appropriations May Proceed Without Budget Resolution

Congressional leadership was still uncertain about whether there would be a budget resolution this year. The budget resolution outlines limits on overall spending and allocates those funds between categories. It can also create a reconciliation process that allows members to avoid a Senate filibuster. If there is no budget resolution, then levels are set through individual house action. Congress has passed the deadline for a resolution and appropriators can and likely will start to move bills in the next month. The total budget for 2011 is expected to reach $3.8 trillion, and includes a more than $1.26 trillion deficit, compared to the current year's deficit, projected to be at $1.55 trillion. Of the $3.8 trillion budget, $1.3 trillion is discretionary (annually appropriated) with the remainder being mandatory and entitlement funding. The three largest entitlements are Social Security ($730 billion), Medicare ($492 billion) and Medicaid ($271 billion). There has been some indication that this year's budget deficit may actually end up lower than projections from earlier this year. Overall, proposed funding for child welfare programs were level. Adoption Opportunities will increase by $13 million to $39 million but that anticipates the program taking over the funding from the Adoption Awareness program. Some of the biggest increases in human services would come through child care funding both on the mandatory and discretionary side.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

May 15: House may begin passing regular appropriations bills
May 31-June 4: Memorial Day recess
July 3: Target date for House to pass all 12 appropriations bills
July 4-9: Independence Day break
August 7: Target date for senate to pass all 12 appropriations bills
August 9-September 10: Summer recess

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