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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 21: 6/21/2010   
Headlines

Senate Continues to Ponder Cuts to Emergency Relief

Home Visiting Webcast Provides Details on Initial Funding Announcement

House Subcommittee Evaluates Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on State Parent Locator Service

Sign-On to Support Child Care and Early Learning

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Continues to Ponder Cuts to Emergency Relief

After a week of disheartening votes, the Senate left town without being able to pass H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010. At press time the FMAP provision was still very much in jeopardy of being scaled back in order to bring down the total cost. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and 11 other members of the Democratic caucus voted against a procedural motion on Wednesday that prevented the larger version of the bill (including a six-month FMAP extension) from going to the floor for final vote. As a result, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) had to make a number of changes to the bill that evening.

Baucus reduced the cost of the bill from $140 billion to $118 billion by shrinking unemployment checks and shortening to 6 months from 19 months a provision that would prevent a deep cut in Medicare reimbursement rates to doctors. The bill would still revive expired tax breaks, spend $1 billion on a summer jobs program, and extend aid to states for Medicaid costs.

Late Thursday, after yet another failed vote, Senate Democrats started contemplating plans to trim the provision that would extend FMAP assistance to states through June 2011, as it was the last major provision in the bill that was not offset. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report detailing the various programs that states planned to cut or eliminate in the event that additional FMAP funds were not authorized by Congress.

Last week underscored the tremendous effort of all the advocates, providers, governors, and state legislatures to persuade the Senate to get serious about keeping their commitment to assist states so that they would not have to cut programs and services to their most vulnerable populations.


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Home Visiting Webcast Provides Details on Initial Funding Announcement

After releasing a joint funding announcement for the new home visiting grant program established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) conducted a webcast on implementation. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Grant Program authorizes $1.5 billion over 5 years for states to provide home visiting services. The presentation clarified many concerns of potential grantees and advocates as it pertained to the initial funding announcement that was sent out on June 10. The application for the initial funding announcement is due from all states by July 9 if they wish to receive their FY 2011 Maternal and Child Health Block Grant allocation. In addition, a needs assessment, due by September 1, 2010, is a prerequisite for receiving grant funds.

In the coming weeks states can expect to be informed of the criteria for evidence of effectiveness that will be published for public comment. The FY 2010 funding process is broken down into three parts. In mid-July states will receive $500,000 to begin the needs assessment process as well as facilitation of the planning and/or implementation activities associated with the establishment of early childhood home visiting programs. Regardless of the entity or entities designated by the governor, the state's application must contain letters of support from 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.


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House Subcommittee Evaluates Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives

The House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing late last week to evaluate the effectiveness of responsible fatherhood programs. Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ranking Member John Linder (R-GA) provided opening remarks asserting the importance of fathers' role in assuring child well-being through emotional and financial support. McDermott addressed the limitations of the federal system of safety-net services in overlooking noncustodial parents despite the similar barriers they face meeting parental responsibilities. Linder spoke about the dearth of job opportunities in the private sector contributing to an historic crisis of joblessness among young men and fathers. Committee member Artur Davis (D-AL), a longtime leader on fatherhood issues, further framed the discussion by highlighting the poor child outcomes resulting from absent fathers.

David Hansell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at ACF, offered the first testimony and outlined federal efforts to provide resources to support parental involvement. Building on previous legislation dating to the Family Support Act of 1988 that first addressed noncustodial parents in family policy, the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act established Responsible Fatherhood grants primarily focused on improving parenting skills. Hansell described some of the resulting programs as promising practices but underscored the need for investment in continued development and research to ensure better outcomes for children and their families. On that note, he described the administration's proposed Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Innovation Fund that is intended to address weaknesses in the current approach by funding more comprehensive, integrated programs that leverage community-based partnerships and incorporate rigorous evaluation.

The second panel was comprised of leaders in practice and scholarship, including Honorable Milton C. Lee, Jr., Magistrate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Dr. Ronald Mincy, Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at Columbia University; Dr. Kirk E. Harris, National Fatherhood Leaders Group Facilitator; Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Nathan Rauschendorfer, Parenting Services Program Manager with Catholic Charities; and Dr. Mark J. Perry, Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Overall, testimony confirmed the important role fathers play in ensuring child well-being and the predominating desire of fathers to be engaged. Several panelists described programs that are successfully addressing barriers to engagement. Panelists also pointed to the larger problems resulting from the recent economic downturn and particularly its disproportionate effect on male employment. Testimony from the entire hearing will inform next steps in advance of the expiration of the federal Healthy Families and Responsible Fatherhood funding at the end of September and the Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Innovation Fund currently proposed by the administration for the FY 2011 budget.


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Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on State Parent Locator Service

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that reformed the nation's federal welfare program in part addressed child support enforcement in an effort to better integrate services for children and their families. A related final rule was published in 2008 regarding access to the child support enforcement state parent locator services system and the safeguarding of confidential information therein. A recent proposed rule announced June 7 revises the 2008 final rule by prohibiting the release of confidential information to private collection agencies, but expanding access to child welfare and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance programs.

Passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCSIAA) occurred days after publication of the 2008 final rule. Important provisions of that act requires states to have a system of relative notification when a child comes in contact with child welfare and to make reasonable efforts to place siblings together in out-of-home care. In this regard, the safeguarding rule will support the intention of FCSIAA, by authorizing disclosure of information in the federal and state child support parent locator services to child welfare agencies to enable the state's fulfillment of due diligence to notify relatives and locate siblings.

Comments on this proposed rule are being accepted until August 5 in electronic form or by mail. For more information, download the notice of proposed rulemaking on the Federal Register.


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Sign-On to Support Child Care and Early Learning

MomsRising is circulating a petition urging Congress to support families in the economic downturn by increasing funding for key early childhood programs. The administration proposed a $1.6 billion increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant to continue the new investments made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus legislation. So far, more than 15,000 organizations and individuals have signed on to support this critical measure that enables parents to work and provides their children quality early learning opportunities. Many signatures of support are a powerful statement that investment in this dual work support and early education initiative is necessary for both short-term economic recovery and long-term strength. Organizations wishing to sign on to the letter have until Monday, June 21.


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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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