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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 20: 6/14/2010   
Headlines

Congress Still Struggling to Deliver Relief for the Vulnerable

HELP Committee Examines 'State of the American Child'

First National Reunification Day Set for June 19

HHS Announces Funds for Child and Family Programs

Interagency Working Group Promotes Youth Services Strategy

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Still Struggling to Deliver Relief for the Vulnerable

As anticipated, the Senate returned from the Memorial Day recess and got to work on H.R. 4213, The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. They immediately began making changes to the House-passed version of the bill with the goal of extending relief to cash-strapped states to prevent cuts to Medicaid, social services and programs, and jobs.

However, Senate Democrats did not make much progress last week in terms of finding the votes needed to pass the bill. As a result, Democrats will spend much of this week trying to finalize amendments and get the bill to the floor for a vote. At risk are various provisions including nearly $25 billion in Medicaid matching funds, known as FMAP. Governors and advocates across the country have been pleading with Congress to ensure that states will receive this much needed fiscal relief, which was nixed from the house version of the bill. Also at risk is a provision that would extend COBRA health insurance subsidies for jobless workers, which was also cut from the House bill.

While the future of the final product is still unclear, benefits for many vulnerable Americans have expired and as governors and state legislatures are faced with balancing their budgets, many are threatening to cut services and programs that children and families desperately need. Congress must find a way to finish the work they started and ultimately restore the 6-month extension of the enhanced FMAP through June 2011.

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HELP Committee Examines 'State of the American Child'

On June 7, the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, chaired by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), held the first in a series of hearings entitled "The State of the American Child." The series focuses on the challenges facing children and families in the United States, and the resources they will need to grow and succeed in today's society. Witnesses at this hearing included Alma Powell, Chair of the America's Promise Alliance; Jack Lund, President and CEO of YMCA of Greater New York; Harry Holzer, professor and economist at Georgetown University; and Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children.

In his opening remarks, Dodd announced plans to establish a national commission on children, charged with examining the needs of children and recommending concrete steps to meet them. During the hearing, the strong correlation between adult and child poverty was discussed, as well as the important role that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has played in creating jobs and keeping afloat many vital government assistance programs that serve families. Panelists made a number of recommendations for addressing issues currently facing children and families, including increasing social service programs in times of high unemployment, creating jobs, providing work supports like child care subsidies, offering greater access to GED and job training programs, and opening additional community centers to provide needed services and engage low-income communities. Panelists discussed a number of successful programs currently serving children and families, including the Food and Fitness Consortium and the Harlem Children's Zone. These and other similar initiatives could serve as potential models for a larger scale intervention.

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First National Reunification Day Set for June 19

The first National Reunification Day will be held on June 19. The goal of National Reunification Day is to celebrate families and communities coming together, to raise awareness about the importance of family reunification to children in foster care, and to catalyze continued recognitions and celebrations. Since the majority of children leave the foster care system by returning home to their families, it is time to formally recognize and celebrate reunification and all that goes into helping families and children reunite. While June 19, 2010 is the official day, a number of jurisdictions are celebrating on different days and weeks. To learn more or to register an event you are planning, visit the Reunification Day webpage. This provides tools and tips for planning a reunification day celebration, descriptions of what some jurisdictions are doing to celebrate reunifications, and research and information related to reunification.

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HHS Announces Funds for Child and Family Programs

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has recently released announcements for funding opportunities for various child and family programs, including child welfare programs. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of HHS is calling for proposals (1) to reduce long term foster care, for information see the Initiatives to Reduce Long-Term Foster Care program (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2010-ACF-ACYF-CT-0022) and (2) to increase foster family recruitment, for information go to the Diligent Recruitment of Families and Children in the Foster Care System (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2010-ACF-ACYF-CO-0012).

ACF is also looking to fund a National Resource Center to provide training and technical assistance to carry out the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-505). View the grant for more details (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/view/HHS-2010-ACF-ACYF-CB-0026).

In addition, ACF and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) have released the first Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (http://www.hrsa.gov) for the new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. This FOA is in keeping with the timeline established by the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and provides instructions for states to submit an application for 2010 funding. It includes instructions for states in assessing the availability of data for completing the needs assessment, identifying additional information needing to be collected, specifying how the state plans to go about conducting the needs assessment over all, and meeting requirements for a Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant. Approximately $90 million will be awarded this summer to fund this new grant program. Of that amount, all but $500,000 of the state's allocation will be restricted and unavailable for expenditure until the state submits an approvable needs assessment, updated state plan, and application for a home visiting program grant. The unrestricted funds, however, may be used for planning or implementation activities associated with establishing an early childhood home visiting program. The state's application must be approved as a condition of the state receiving any funding under this grant program. At this time, the anticipated award date award is July 15, 2010.

State governors are responsible for designating which entity or group of entities will apply for and administer home visiting program funds on behalf of the state. However, the state's application must include the written concurrence of the Director of the State's Title V agency; Director of the State's agency for Title II of CAPTA; Director of the State's Single State Agency for Substance Abuse Services; and Director of the State's Head Start State Collaboration Office.

Information regarding funding available to Indian tribes, consortia of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations will be announced later this summer.

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Interagency Working Group Promotes Youth Services Strategy

Eleven federal administrative offices make up an Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs that was created in response to Executive Order 13459, "Improving Coordination and Effectiveness of Youth Programs" and the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act. This working group is charged with creating a strategic plan for federal youth policy by promoting collaboration across government levels and disseminating information on effective youth-serving practices to the public. In so doing, they have created FindYouthInfo.gov to share their findings and strategic plan for youth. The site provides users with the ability to search for federal youth-focused resources and evidence-based programs addressing specific risk and protective factors. In addition, it offers funding information and data, highlights current relevant youth topics and government announcements, and solicits public feedback. The interagency working group is also focused on providing responsive technical assistance by creating common language for grant announcements, engaging organizational and youth representatives, and facilitating and encouraging information-sharing and collaboration.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

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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