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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 15: 5/3/2010   
Headlines

President Kicks Off Foster Care Month

Hearing Examines Foster Care Education Needs

Act for Early Learning in Honor of Mothers

IRS Shares Guidance on Health Care Coverage

5th Annual Awareness Day Promotes Children's Mental Health

SAMHSA Seeks Applications for Project LAUNCH Grants

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



President Kicks Off Foster Care Month

President Barack Obama kicked off National Foster Care Month by issuing a proclamation recognizing the promise and potential of youth in care. In his statement he highlighted some of the goals and accomplishments of his administration as they pertain to youth in care. The proclamation also celebrates the child welfare workforce and the foster parents who give so much to these youth. In addition to diligently working to implement the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, President Obama and his Administration provided more than $35 million in 2009 to the Adoption Incentives program in order to increase the number of children adopted from the foster care system, as well as funding for the IV-E adoption and foster care assistance program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The recent enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ensure Medicaid coverage for former foster youth beginning in 2014. President Obama ended his statement with a call to celebrate the triumphs of children and youth in care, as well as the commitment to continue to work to remove barriers to permanency.

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Hearing Examines Foster Care Education Needs

On Thursday, April 29, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held another in a series of hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This hearing focused on special populations including students in foster care, migrant and homeless students, and children with disabilities. Kayla VanDyke spoke as a representative of the foster care community and impressed a number of senators with her eloquence and accomplishments. She is a high school student who is in foster care and is attending school in Eagan, Minnesota. Kayla outlined the challenges and barriers she faced in getting an education as she moved from various placements. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced her as a guest from his state. He is also sponsoring the Fostering Success in Education Act, S. 2801. The bill would create a program similar to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program to encourage collaboration between schools and child welfare agencies to assure that children in care get access to needed education.

The Fostering Connections to Success Act (P.L. 110-351) requires child welfare agencies to make sure that a student in foster care be allowed to continue in his or her school of origin or, when in the child's best interest, be given immediate enrollment in a new school. Some child welfare agencies have not been able to get the cooperation they need from school districts, since the mandate is on the child welfare side only.

Despite being in 10 different schools and 7 placements, Kayla is successfully overcoming huge barriers to graduate and is planning to go on to college. Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) was impressed with her testimony and offered her high praise. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was also impressed; she congratulated Franken on his legislation and asked that she be added as a cosponsor. The HELP Committee is holding a series of hearings before they act on ESEA reauthorization.

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Act for Early Learning in Honor of Mothers

In celebration of Mother's Day, child care advocates across the country are engaging in actions this week to remind Congress of the importance of early learning programs. The administration's proposal to increase early learning funds would sustain and expand access to programs that keep parents working and offer young children a strong educational foundation: a fitting way to honor mothers and their valuable contribution as our children's first and most important caretakers, mentors, and teachers.

Call or e-mail your Congressional offices with the Mother's Day message theme: Keep families earning, and children learning, by supporting a $1.6 billion increase for child care, $989 million increase for Head Start/Early Head Start, and $1 billion increase for child nutrition programs. Join child care supporters across the country in visiting your local Congressional offices on Thursday, or anytime this week, and bring Mother's Day cards created by children in early childhood programs, providers, or parents with messages about what child care means to you. Explain that you are counting on Congress to increase funding for child care, Head Start/Early Head Start, and child nutrition. These are critical resources that encourage families' self-sufficiency and invest in children's potential.

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IRS Shares Guidance on Health Care Coverage

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued guidance on the tax treatment of health care coverage for dependent children. As a result of changes made by the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), health coverage provided for an employee's child(ren) under 27 years of age is now generally tax-free to the employee.

With the IRS announcement, employers with plans that allow employees to choose from a menu of tax-free benefit options and cash or taxable benefits can permit these employees to begin making pre-tax contributions to pay for this expanded benefit. This benefit applies to various workplace and retiree health plans. It also applies to self-employed individuals who qualify for the self-employed health insurance deduction on their federal income tax return.

Employees who have children who will not have reached age 27 by the end of the year are eligible for the new tax benefit from March 30, 2010 forward (if the children are already covered under the employer's plan or are added to the employer's plan at any time). For the purpose of this provision, a child includes a son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, or eligible foster child. This new age 27 standard replaces the lower age limits that applied under prior tax law, as well as the requirement that a child generally qualify as a dependent for tax purposes.

In addition to changing the tax rules as described above, the Affordable Care Act also requires plans that provide dependent coverage of children to continue to make the coverage available for an adult child until the child turns age 26. The extended coverage must be provided not later than plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010. The favorable tax treatment described in the notice applies to that extended coverage.

The full IRS Notice 2010-38 explains these changes and provides further guidance to employers, employees, health insurers and other interested taxpayers.

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5th Annual Awareness Day Promotes Children's Mental Health

On Thursday, May 6, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will host its 5th annual National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. For the first time the focus will be on early childhood. The Awareness Day Early Childhood Forum will include notable experts in the field of early childhood mental health. Awareness Day is a day for everyone to promote positive youth development, resilience, recovery, and the transformation of mental health services delivery for children and youth with serious mental health needs and their families. Awareness Day raises awareness of effective programs for children's mental health needs; demonstrates how children's mental health initiatives promote positive youth development, recovery, and resilience; and shows how children with mental health needs thrive in their communities. This year Awareness Day efforts will encourage the integration of mental health into every environment that impacts child development from birth, cultivation of the social and emotional well-being of children from birth, and discovery and discussion of milestones of a child's social and emotional development from birth.

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SAMHSA Seeks Applications for Project LAUNCH Grants

SAMHSA is currently soliciting applications for Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children's Health). Project LAUNCH is part of a collaborative federal partnership with other Department of Health and Human Services agencies including the Administration for Children and Families, the Health Resources and Services Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, designed to promote the physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral health of children birth to 8 years, and prevent substance abuse and mental illness.

A wide range of early childhood programs can be provided through Project LAUNCH grants including mental health consultation in child care, primary care, and early education settings; parenting skills training; and home visiting services. Project LAUNCH grants also support the expansion of evidence-based practices in prevention and wellness promotion for young children.

SAMHSA expects that approximately $19.5 million in funding will be available through Project LAUNCH to award up to six grants for up to five years. The maximum annual award amount for each grantee is $650,000.

Those interested in applying for Project LAUNCH grants can download the Request for Application announcement. Applicants are encouraged to apply online using www.grants.gov. Applications must be received by May 17 to be considered for review.

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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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