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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 17: 5/17/2010   
Headlines

Effort to Extend FMAP Increase Grows

Lincoln, Kennedy Introduce Bill for Child Welfare Workforce Study

Internet Gambling Bill Could Boost Child Welfare Finance Reform

Progress on Grants for Home Visiting Program

Congressional Briefing on Best Practice in Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment

New Research Shows Lasting Problems from Poor Child Care

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Effort to Extend FMAP Increase Grows

House lawmakers, state legislatures, and advocates alike are urging House leaders to move quickly to extend an increase in federal Medicaid matching funds that is set to expire December 31. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), three House Republicans joined 216 House Democrats in reminding Congressional leadership that a six-month extension of the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) levels included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA; P.L. 111-5) is desperately needed. In fact many states have completed or are wrapping up work on their budgets with the assumption that the FMAP extension will come through. Without this funding assistance, states will undoubtedly be forced to make severe cuts to Medicaid providers and benefits, not to mention the consequences the budget constraints are posing for school funding and other essential state programs.

While extending the Medicaid match through June 30, 2011 has been a top priority for states, most of which already have been forced to close significant budget gaps, the outcome at this time is still unknown. With the majority of state fiscal years beginning July 1, states are imploring Congress to act fast. Both the House and the Senate already have passed bills that include the FMAP extension, a provision that the Obama administration's proposed FY 2011 budget said would cost $25.5 billion, but the chambers have yet to reconcile their differences and come up with a final package. In the meantime, Congress is continuing to negotiate a tax extenders bill, the Promoting American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213), which is expected to include the FMAP extension. The biggest issues to be resolved on this bill are the final price tag and the offsets that have yet to be found for the provisions that do not fall under emergency spending and therefore are not exempt from current pay-go rules, which impose strict budget limitations.

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Lincoln, Kennedy Introduce Bill for Child Welfare Workforce Study

On May 6, Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) introduced the Child Welfare Workforce Study Act (S. 3328/H.R. 5246). The legislation is identical to a part of a larger workforce bill (S. 2837) introduced by Lincoln earlier this Congress. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a national study on the child welfare workforce.

In conducting the study, the Academy would examine issues such as the makeup of the workforce, their education background, turnover rates, reasons for turnover and the impact that the workforce can have on children and families in the child welfare system. The legislation also calls for recommendations by the National Academy on proper staffing levels, education levels, and directs them to examine data collection practices, results and how such data is or is not related to child well-being outcomes.

CWLA has long argued for a national policy that will encourage a stronger child welfare workforce if children and families are to be effectively helped both in preventing abuse and in helping children in care. A 2003 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (GAO-03-357) documented problems in the child welfare workforce, finding that the child welfare system is seriously understaffed, undertrained, and undervalued. GAO found that these workforce problems limit states' ability to meet the goals established in the federally mandated Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs), and stated that the analysis of the CFSRs "corroborates caseworkers' experiences showing that staff shortages, high caseloads, and worker turnover were factors impeding progress toward the achievement of federal safety and permanency outcomes."
Kennedy has been working to get funding for the study in the FY 2011 appropriations. The combination of an appropriation along with passage of the bill would assure the study is conducted.

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Internet Gambling Bill Could Boost Child Welfare Finance Reform

On May 19, the Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on internet gambling and the possibility of both legalizing it and taxing it. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) has introduced legislation (H.R. 4976) that would do this and allow states to enact their own internet gambling tax. The expected revenue from the federal tax could be $40 billion. Part of that revenue, according to the McDermott bill, would be designated to children and youth in foster care. Such a source of revenue could jump-start any further discussions about how to reform child welfare financing.

Since the enactment of the Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351) key members of Congress including McDermott, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) have talked about how that act was one step toward a broader restructuring of the way child welfare is financed. Addressing the current structure, which provides limited federal funding for out-of-home placements and permanency and little support for preventing abuse and neglect and post-permanency support, is a high priority for many advocates, including CWLA. The idea to allow internet gambling and taxation of it is sure to draw opposition and some would see the new revenue stream as a source of funding for many other programs but the fact that the Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing and the fact that Rep. McDermott has singled out child welfare as a key program for such revenue opens up the possibilities in the last months of this Congress.

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Progress on Grants for Home Visiting Program

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) recently released a joint letter on their efforts to implement a new grant program under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The grant program will award over $1.5 billion in mandatory money over five years ($100 million in fiscal year 2010, $250 million in FY 2011, $350 million in FY 2012, and $400 million in both FY 2013 and FY 2014) to states and other eligible entities to administer home visiting programs in their states.

The agencies are preparing to develop and issue a funding opportunity announcement to address the needs assessment required by the statute. HRSA and ACF are also charged with developing evidence-based criteria for identifying home visiting models that have been demonstrated to improve outcomes for families. In addition, the program models states choose to implement must also be linked to benchmark areas of improvement at the state level. In the meantime, states should be conducting needs assessments, which are due no later than September 23, 2010.

The letter clarified that States are expected to ensure collaboration among child-serving entities and programs as they prepare for and develop home visiting service systems. Eligible entities with questions, concerns, or comments are encouraged to contact to Audrey Yowell of HRSA and Moushumi Beltangady of ACF.

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Congressional Briefing on Best Practice in Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment

On Thursday the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) held a briefing on the intersection of policy and practice by highlighting successful models of foster and adoptive parent recruitment for federal legislators and staff. Presentations on foster care outcomes data by Emilie Stoltzfus of the Congressional Research Service and Joe Kroll of the North American Council on Adoptable Children set the stage for a panel of foster care and adoptive parent recruitment program directors. Stoltzfus reported that entries into care remain stable, the number of children in care is declining, length of foster care stays are declining, adoptions from care are increasing, but that the rate of children aging out is increasing. Kroll connected these trends to federal policy by describing fiscal incentives for adoption in the Fostering Connections to Success Act that expands federal adoption and kinship care assistance investments. He further discussed improvements to the adoption tax credit recently enact through health reform that increase the credit and makes it refundable for 2010 and 2011. Kroll concluded by urging state advocacy for adoption savings to be reinvested in post-adoption services.

Rita Sorenen with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption spoke about their Wendy's Wonderful Kids Program that targets children at-risk for aging out of foster care through an aggressive parent recruitment model. This program includes a rigorous evaluation strategy and boasts 1,508 children adopted to date.

Kelly Rosati described Focus on the Family's new initiative holding adoption parent recruitment events at churches. While in the preliminary stages of data collection, this program, leveraging many thousands of churches in America as an outlet to find parents for children in foster care that are available for adoption, is showing success through 940 families who recently entered the adoption process. Last year Children's Voice published a story about churches promoting adoption in rural communities.

Lisa Guillette of the Rhode Island Foster Parent Association, a CWLA member agency, described Real Connections, a successful mentoring to permanency program. Through comprehensive searches of foster youth's network and resources that initiate relational contacts, the program lays the groundwork for developing long-term and ideally permanent relationships. Real Connections attributed several critical program elements to You Gotta Believe!, the service provider and movement for permanency for older youth. Highlighting the staggering numbers of homeless adults who report involvement in foster care as children, Pat O'Brien spoke about his organization's successful practices of recruiting foster parents from children's networks, "deputizing" all the child's advocates to look for parents, and bringing awareness of the need for adoptive parents to the wider community.

Finally, Terry Baugh of Kidsave presented her organization's model, employing case mining to identify weekend host families as a means to initiate life-long connections and ideally permanent families for foster youth.

These reports of model programs provided inspiring accounts of successful approaches at ensuring permanency for youth in foster care, and provided important lessons in practice barriers and public attitudes that need to be targeted to ensure effective policy.

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New Research Shows Lasting Problems from Poor Child Care

In a report released Friday, new research shows low-quality care in the first few years of life can have a small but long-lasting impact on a child's learning and behavior. The study has been tracking more than one thousand children since the early 1990's and found that obedience and academic problems among those who received low-quality care in their first 4 and a half years persisted through their 15th birthdays. The research is being conducted in several states through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and is reported in the latest issue of the journal Child Development.

Key findings included that children who received high-quality care scored better on tests measuring math, reading, and other cognitive skills throughout elementary school. Teenagers who had received higher quality child care were less likely to report problem behaviors, and scored higher on cognitive and academic achievement tests. The endurance of these disparities was surprising to researchers. The lingering aspect of the impact suggested to researchers the potential for life-long difficulties. These findings underscore the need for local, state, and federal governments, and employers to improve access to high-quality child care.

For more details on the study and perspectives from researchers and other experts, see a recent Washington Post article.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

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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