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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 16: 5/10/2010   
Headlines

Grants Available for Promise Neighborhoods

Fate of FY 2011 Budget Resolution Still Uncertain

Obey Retirement Means New Appropriations Chair in 2011

Congress Seeks Clarification of Mental Health Parity Rules

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Day

GAO Reports on Decline in Child Care Subsidies

Help VFA Launch Adoptive Family Portrait Project

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Grants Available for Promise Neighborhoods

On May 5, The U.S. Department of Education published the notice for applications for the Promise Neighborhood program, the first federal initiative to put education at the center of comprehensive efforts to fight poverty in urban and rural areas. The $10 million available in fiscal 2010 will support up to 20 organizations with one year of funding to plan for the implementation of cradle-to-career services designed to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed neighborhoods. The deadline for notice of intent to apply is May 21, 2010.

The Promise Neighborhoods program is based on the experience of programs such as the Harlem Children's Zone, which serves a nearly 100-block area in New York City with parenting classes, early learning centers, and health and social service programs and has boosted students' academic outcomes dramatically. Under the Promise Neighborhood program, nonprofits and institutions of higher education will be eligible for one-year grants supporting the design of comprehensive community programs. The programs must have the specific goal of preparing students for success in college and careers. As part of the planning process, applicants must focus their efforts on schools in the neighborhood and build services for students in those schools from birth through college to career.

The Department plans to make up to 20 planning grants, ranging between $400,000 and $500,000. It is inviting applications from projects serving urban neighborhoods, rural areas and tribal communities. Applications will be due on June 25. Officials from the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement will conduct several webinars on the application for potential applicants. All webinars require participants to register in advance.

Back to Headlines

Fate of FY 2011 Budget Resolution Still Uncertain

House leadership continued to discuss what a possible House budget resolution might look like last week. The Senate completed action on a resolution last month. Debate within the House is over the budget targets, and possible deficit reduction targets, and what that might mean for certain spending programs. The Senate passed resolution would allocate $1.122 trillion for discretionary spending, which is $4 billion less than what the President has requested. Less than $500 billion of that total goes for non-defense and homeland security programs. Under the proposed Senate resolution the deficit would be lowered to $545 billion by 2015, which is also a lower total (and greater reduction) 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 measure would have to reduce the deficit by at least $2 billion, and could potentially include reforms to child welfare, changes in TANF and in child care funding. If the House decides against a budget resolution, the two houses would have to draw up their own spending instructions for the appropriations committees.

Back to Headlines

Obey Retirement Means New Appropriations Chair in 2011

On Wednesday, May 5, Representative David Obey (D-WI) announced that he would retire after this legislative session. David Obey's term began in 1969 when he won a special election to fill a vacancy when Congressman Melvin Laird (R-WI) left that year to become Secretary of Defense under President Richard Nixon.

Obey is the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and has held that position since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007. Obey had also had the dual role of chairing the full committee and the subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS). With his departure it is possible that Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) would be the chair next year if the Democrats maintain control of the House. Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA) has expressed an interest in making a bid if the leadership bypasses the seniority requirements. If the Republicans gain control, the next chair is less clear. The Republicans have imposed six-year term limits, which would mean Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA) will not be able to move back into the chairmanship he held before the Democratic turnover. After Lewis, the next most senior Republican is Representative Bill Young (R-FL) who has also term-limited out of the chairmanship.

The Obey retirement also means a new head of the vital Labor-HHS subcommittee. On the Democratic side the next in line would be either Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) or Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), co-chair of the House Baby Caucus. The next in line Republican could be Representative Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) also co-chair of the Baby Caucus.

Back to Headlines

Congress Seeks Clarification of Mental Health Parity Rules

On May 4, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means, Education and Labor, and Energy and Commerce Committees, along with a few of their colleagues, sent a letter to the federal departments with jurisdiction over mental health parity regulations urging them to clarify important provisions in the final regulations of the recent Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). In the letter to the heads of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, the lawmakers said their concerns "illustrate the complexity of the issues surrounding MHPAEA and the current wide lack of awareness of the new law by health plans and participants." They suggested that the regulations implementing the 2008 mental health parity law should be further strengthened to ensure they are clear and adhere to congressional intent. The lawmakers commended the departments for issuing "timely and clear" interim final rules (IFR) but insisted that further clarification is needed on issues such as treatment limitations and service parity in order to successfully implement the law.

The IFR required group health plans that offer mental health or substance use disorder benefits to treat those benefits in the same way as medical and surgical benefits in terms of costs and access to care. The IFR also stated that a plan that covers both medical/surgical and mental health care may not apply financial requirements or treatment limitations for mental health care that are more restrictive than the predominant financial requirement or treatment limitation applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits in the same classification.

The lawmakers also highlighted a number of other areas for which they seek greater clarity in the final rule, such as how medical/surgical benefits should be comparable to mental health benefits across the six categories laid out in the regulation (inpatient, in-network; inpatient, out-of-network; outpatient, in-network; outpatient, out-of-network; emergency care; and prescription drugs). Among their other key issues, the lawmakers argued that the IFR should clarify that Medicaid managed care organizations are subject to MHPAEA and the IFR, and asked that the departments specify the manner in which health insurers must make information available to beneficiaries about coverage denials.

Back to Headlines

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Day

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Day, Mental Health America and partner organizations convened a briefing to discuss initiatives, programs, and policies that will aid in the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders. The importance of mental health for children can best be illustrated by some stark statistics: 1 in 5 children has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and 1 in 10 with a severe emotional or behavioral disorder which causes significant impaired functioning at home, at school, or in the community, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, between one-half and three-fourths of the children entering foster care exhibit behavior or social competency problems that warrant mental health care, a majority of foster care youth (about 80%) are estimated to have an emotional disorder and/or a substance abuse problem, and 70% or more of youth who are securely detained in a juvenile justice facility may suffer with mental health and related disorders.

Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) have introduced a resolution designating May 2010 as Mental Health Month. At the briefing, Napolitano spoke to the importance of removing the stigma associated with mental illness, recognizing that children and families don't exist in silos, and building partnerships, all as means to addressing and treating mental health. Kathryn Power, Director for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), described the success of many of the programs that housed at CMHS that serve vulnerable children and families who are in need of mental health services. Dr. Janice Cooper from the National Center for Children in Poverty highlighted some of the research she has conducted around systems of care with respect to military families, cultural competency, disparities in access, and children in the child welfare system.

All of the panelists maintained the significance of working together with families, communities, local and state agencies and entities, as well as the federal and executive branches of government to ensure a continuum of care that is effective and supportive of the needs of those seeking treatment. Research continues to insist that preventing and treating mental illness in its earliest stages will not only save money for the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, but will ultimately produce better outcomes for children, youth, and society.

Back to Headlines

GAO Reports on Decline in Child Care Subsidies

In order to inform reauthorization of the laws providing funding for the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied trends in child care subsidy use. Following several years of stability, an estimated 10% decline in the number of children served nationally was found. The related finding of a concurrent decline in the proportion of eligible children who receive services indicates that this trend should not necessarily be interpreted as a diminishing need for child care assistance. Potential suggested factors contributing to the decline, in varying degrees and combinations across states, include state policy changes in funding streams, provider payments, and provider regulations; changes in the supply of providers; and economic factors that alter parents' child care decisions or eligibility.


The GAO report
points out that though flexibility in state design and funding of child care subsidies enable adjustments for state conditions and priorities, it also makes finding patterns driving any change in service provision a difficult proposition. In fact, despite the national decline in subsidy use, 19 states increased the number of children receiving subsidies. Yet even in the states in which subsidy use increased, no clear patterns of related policy, provider, or economic changes emerged. The report concludes with a synthesis of recent research revealing that the use of subsidies increases the likelihood of low income mothers' employment.

The Department of Health and Human Services was satisfied with the report's findings, but did include a comment more conclusively relating subsidy declines to the declining value of CCDF due to inflation and increasing child care and subsidy costs. Consistent with this analysis, the administration has requested a $1.6 billion increase split between the discretionary and mandatory federal funding streams for CCDF.

Back to Headlines

Help VFA Launch Adoptive Family Portrait Project

Voice for Adoption's (VFA) portrait project is an effort to show Congress the personal face of adoption and how adopting from foster care has touched the lives of some of their constituents. Stories of families with an adoptive youth from foster care will be shared by inviting members of Congress to post the family's picture and story in their office throughout Adoption Month in November. In its sixth year, the project is recognizing older youth in foster care with the theme, "It's Not Too Late - Families for Older Youth." Currently, VFA is seeking support to identify adoptive families to feature and encourage members of Congress to participate. To offer assistance, contact Nicole Dobbins at voiceforadoption@gmail.com or 202-210-8118.

Back to Headlines

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


Back to Headlines

Click here to see the list of previous issues

If you know of others who would like their names added to this list, please have them visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm. To remove yourself from this list, send an e-mail to monitor@cwla.org with "Remove from Monitor Online List" in the subject line.

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of this publication may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.