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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 14: 4/26/2010   
Headlines

House Committee Holds Hearing on Reforming Juvenile Justice

Senate Begins Work on FY 2011 Budget Resolution

House Subcommittee Focuses on Role of Education in TANF

Administration Begins Listening Sessions on Early Childhood Education

Arkansas Court Strikes Ban on Adoptions

Report Details State Child Care Efforts with ARRA Funds

Implementing Health Reform

Dr. Donald Berwick Nominated to Head CMS

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House Committee Holds Hearing on Reforming Juvenile Justice

On Wednesday the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on reforming juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. This marked the first hearing of the full committee on these issues in many years and gave a major boost to efforts to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) and to get the legislation done this year.

The Committee heard from a panel of expert witnesses including Michael Belton, Deputy Director of Juvenile Corrections, Ramsey County, Minnesota; Scott Burns, Executive Director National District Attorneys Association, Alexandria, Virginia; A. Hasan Davis, Deputy Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice; Tracy McClard, the mother of a child who committed suicide in an adult facility, from Jackson, Missouri; Judge Steven Teske, Juvenile Court, Clayton County, Georgia; and John Solberg, Executive Director, Rawhide Boys Ranch, New London, Wisconsin.

McClard described in heart-wrenching detail the trauma and abusive conditions that led to her son's suicide when he was in the adult jail. Other witnesses urged the committee to support strong provisions to reduce disproportionality in the juvenile justice system, increase the emphasis on and funding for prevention, and do much more to utilize evidence-based approaches.

There were many members of the committee in attendance who were engaged and participating fully in the hearing. The chair of the committee Rep. George Miller (D-CA) is expected to introduce legislation in the coming days or weeks. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed their version of the bill, S. 678, last year.

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Senate Begins Work on FY 2011 Budget Resolution

Under the leadership of Senate Budget Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND), the Senate began action on a budget resolution to shepherd through this year's fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills. The House has not decided if they will proceed with a resolution. Conrad's resolution would allocate $1.122 billion for discretionary spending which is $4 billion less than what the President has requested. Less than $500 billion of that total goes for nondefense and homeland security programs. Under the proposed Senate resolution the deficit would be lowered to $545 billion by 2015, which is also less than the President's proposal. If that figure holds the deficit would represent 3% of the gross domestic product in 2015 instead of the 4.3% represented in the Administration's budget. Some economists view anything under 3.9% as sustainable.

The budget would also allow for another reconciliation measure for the Senate Finance Committee covering programs and tax changes under their jurisdiction. Any such reconciliation would have to reduce the deficit by at least $2 billion. Potentially such a reconciliation could include reforms to child welfare, changes in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and in child care funding. The Senate may also act on tax provisions left over from the Bush Administration that have expired or set to expire. As was the case with health reform, a reconciliation measure would eliminate the Senate filibuster as a tool to stop a vote. The chief purpose of a budget resolution adopted by both houses is to set spending limits and allocations between the 12 appropriations committees. If the House decides against a budget resolution, the two houses would have to draw up their own spending instructions for the appropriations committees.

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House Subcommittee Focuses on Role of Education in TANF

On Thursday, April 22, the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held its second hearing on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization. This time the focus was on education and training within the block grant program. In his lead comments, Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA) indicated that he would like to see a greater emphasis on the two strategies as a way to more effectively move individuals from TANF assistance to work and out of poverty.

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) opened the witness testimony by outlining some of the key proposals she would like to see as part of the next TANF reauthorization. She also proposed that different measures beyond the current work rates be used to measure success, including measuring child well-being. Moore related her comments to her experience as a teen mother who at one time received Aid to Families with Dependent Children funds. She is proposing ways to adjust the work requirements so that people with disabilities and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can be better evaluated when state work requirement are calculated.

Julie Strawn from the Center for Law and Social Policy outlined her research, which provides some evidence that a combined strategy of job training and education can further an adult's chances to successfully move into gainful employment. On the other side was Lawrence Mead, New York University, who indicated he was opposed to expanding the work rules now currently mandated on states. He advocated for a continued heavy emphasis on work first and placing people in to jobs regardless of education. He argued that it is a more effective tool for moving people into permanent jobs.

Under TANF, states are required to have 50% of their adult TANF caseload meeting the work requirements. The law also outlines how work is defined and how many hours a person must be working to meeting the state work rates. There are also limits on how many hours and time spent on education can count toward meeting the work rates. The subcommittee also heard from a TANF recipient, Jacklynn Young who outlined her current struggles of trying to meet the TANF work requirements while also attempting to improve her jobs skills through education. The final two witnesses, Shauna King-Simms from Kentucky and Michelle Jackson from Oklahoma, testified on their state's programs that effectively use education to help people find permanent jobs.

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Administration Begins Listening Sessions on Early Childhood Education

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) are jointly holding public meetings on early learning led by Jacqueline Jones, Senior ED Advisor on Early Learning, and Joan Lombardi, Deputy Assistant HHS Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families. The meetings will feature ED and HHS statements, a panel of experts in the field, and an opportunity for public speakers to contribute to the discussion. Covering a range of early learning topics and scheduled across the country, this listening and learning tour is intended to inform ED and HHS work on early learning. The four dates, locations, and corresponding topics are:

April 23, Washington, DC, "Understanding Preschool to Grade 3 Structures"
April 26, Denver, CO, "Workforce and Professional Development"
May 4, Orlando, FL, "Family Engagement"
May 11, Chicago, IL, "Standards and Assessments"

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Arkansas Court Strikes Ban on Adoptions

In Arkansas, a circuit court judge ruled a state law banning unmarried couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents is unconstitutional. The law that effectively prohibited lesbian and gay couples from adopting or becoming foster parents was approved by a public vote in November 2009 after a previous Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board policy, similarly prohibiting lesbian and gay couples from being foster parents, was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2006. While the application process for adoptions and foster parenting has already been expanded to reflect the ruling, actual placement of children will continue in accordance with the 2009 law until a decision is made in an impending appeal. CWLA filed a brief in support of the challenge to the law. An April 2009 article from our Children's Voice magazine goes into further detail about the history of this issue in Arkansas. Linda Spears, CWLA Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs, called the ruling an example of "success in our work on adoption by LGBT families as we continue to work to participate in amicus briefs in this area."

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Report Details State Child Care Efforts with ARRA Funds

The National Women's Law Center has released a report detailing how states are using child care funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a part of the ARRA economic stimulus legislation, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) received an additional $2 billion. CCDBG assists low-income, working families in obtaining child care so they can maintain employment or attend training or education programs to gain employment.

The report reveals that the ARRA funds were helpful in ensuring continued access to the program in many states and in necessary quality improvements in others. In terms of access, states made use of the funds to continue covering children receiving services; to keep up with the increasing numbers of eligible children; to cover, reduce, or delay waitlists; and even to expand eligibility. Quality improvements included creating or enhancing quality rating and improvement systems, professional development for child care staff, educational material and facility equipment grants, social service connections, and infant and toddler care. To see how your state spent the ARRA child care funds, download the report.

Consistent with the intention of the stimulus act, ARRA child care funds saved and created jobs for working parents, child care providers, and the trainers and specialists employed to improve accessibility and quality. However, it is important to keep in mind the substantial budget strain that most states continue to face. Even with the ARRA funds, some states cut child care funding in 2010, and others will require further federal investment to sustain and build on the progress made in 2010.

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Implementing Health Reform

As the country prepares for the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Obama Administration is working to ease barriers to implementation by working with consumers, insurers, state governments and other parties. Recently HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a letter to governors and independent insurance commissioners asking them to express their interest in participating in the high-risk pool program which will be available by the end of June. Although the law's provisions allowing young people to remain on their parents' coverage until their 26th birthday won't take effect until September 23, major health insurers including United Healthcare, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, WellPoint, and BlueCross BlueShield have said they will act sooner and will help prevent a lapse in coverage for students graduating this spring and summer. Currently, plans have required adult children stay in school to keep dependent coverage, and age cutoffs vary by state.

HHS is also taking a major step forward in the health reform implementation process by establishing an Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight charged with developing and implementing major reforms affecting the private insurance market. The new office will design and administer the temporary high-risk pools, establish new rules on medical loss ratios and oversee the state-based health insurance exchanges. In addition, some 4 million small businesses and tax-exempt groups will soon receive postcard notices from the Internal Revenue Service reminding them about the availability of the new health care tax credit that takes effect this year.

On April 19, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a proposed regulation to make several miscellaneous changes to enrollment rules and benefit plan offerings under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP; 75 Fed. Reg. 20314). OPM added that FEHBP enrollees who meet the criteria for low-income child health care assistance under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2009 (Pub. L. No. 111-3) can receive state subsidies to help pay FEHBP premiums. Currently, the regulations allow enrollees who lose FEHBP coverage or another group health plan such as Medicaid or CHIP to enroll or change enrollment from self only to self and family between 31 days before loss of coverage and 60 days after loss of coverage. The reauthorization act now allows that change at the time a federal employee or dependent becomes eligible for CHIP assistance, as long as the request for the change is made within 60 days after the determination of eligibility. The law, OPM said, also provides that employees can make the change from "self only" to "self and family" regardless of whether they pay premiums on a pretax basis. Stay tuned for more information on the implementation of this historic new law.

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Dr. Donald Berwick Nominated to Head CMS

On Monday April 19, 2010 President Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which serves nearly one-third of all Americans. His nomination is timely considering that CMS will be responsible for overseeing the Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP provisions in the new health law, including the expansion of Medicaid for many vulnerable children and families. CMS will be charged with issuing much needed guidance as states and insurers work to comply with the new law. Dr. Berwick's nomination is also timely because CMS has lacked a permanent chief since 2006. Currently, Dr. Berwick serves as President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and is a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He is also a pediatrician and a consultant in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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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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