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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 24: 7/19/2010   
Headlines

Berwick Takes Helm at CMS

Fostering Connections Guidance Released

Committee Approves Child Nutrition Legislation

First Focus Releases Annual Children's Budget

New Funding Available Under Health Reform Law

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Berwick Takes Helm at CMS

President Barack Obama used his executive power to announce the recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick, who was sworn in July 7. In April, President Obama nominated Berwick to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where there has not been a permanent administrator in place since Mark McClellan left in 2006. By the Fourth of July recess, the Senate Finance Committee had yet to schedule a confirmation hearing for Berwick. As the head of CMS, Berwick will oversee the programs that insure the nation's elderly, poor, and disabled.

While Senate Republicans have called on Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to summon Berwick before the committee to answer a series of questions, White House officials have said that the recess appointment was necessary to put him in place to implement the new health care law. Berwick can only serve as a recess appointment until the end of 2011.

In his role as CMS administrator, Berwick will be tasked with figuring out how to pay for and deliver care to the millions of people currently covered under Medicaid, as well as all of those newly eligible under the new health reform law, including former foster youth, and families with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

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Fostering Connections Guidance Released

The Children's Bureau has released guidance on the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Similar to federal regulation, guidance is the administration's clarification of law but without a formal comment period. The new guidance includes strong specifications and addresses many of the major provisions of the 2008 act, including extension of IV-E Foster Care to age 18 and older, the Guardianship Assistance Plan, educational stability, health care oversight and many others. CWLA is engaged with many other organizations to review and assess the guidance as we seek to enhance the implementation of the legislation. Initial assessment points to areas that call for more detailed review, including the flexibility afforded in limiting the extension of the IV-E entitlement to subsets of older youth, an unconventional judicial role in the oversight of older youth, calculating adoption assistance savings, and narrow requirements for ensuring school stability. As the review is underway, CWLA is eager to facilitate and contribute to communication among all stakeholders to ensure the best policy that furthers children's safety, permanence, and well-being.

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Committee Approves Child Nutrition Legislation

On July 14 the House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by Representative George Miller (D-CA), convened for final consideration of the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act (H.R 5504). Miller's opening remarks highlighted both the importance of this bill as well as some of its benefits and beneficiaries. The legislation will implement and fund federal child nutrition programs, monitor the minimum standards and nutritional value of foods, increase the number of eligible children, and provide year round meal services for children, including during holidays and school breaks. This bill will also increase the reimbursement rate for lunches by six cents to meet the demands of those schools finding it difficult to fund healthier meals. At the committee session an amendment from Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI) was adopted that extends eligibility for nutrition programs to Native American children in foster care under the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The committee reconvened on July 15 to consider one last amendment and to vote on final passage. The amendment, from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), was approved and entails setting a national standard for school nutritional personnel by both regulation and access to training. At the conclusion of roll call votes on amendments the committee approved the bill 32 to 12. The legislation must now be approved by the full House. A similar bill has passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and awaits action on the Senate floor.

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First Focus Releases Annual Children's Budget

On July 14 First Focus released their Children's Budget, an annual guide to all federal spending on children. The guide highlights a recent spike in children's funding resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. First Focus points out, however, that future prospects are less promising considering the temporary nature of the ARRA investment and a proposed non-defense discretionary freeze amidst calls for deficit reduction. The guide also provides useful tools and strategies to better prioritize child policy.

Another report, Kids Share, was also released by First Focus at the same time. This report - by Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution and C. Eugene Steuerle, Stephanie Rennane, and Jennifer Macomber, all of the Urban Institute - is an analysis of the share of the federal budget focused on children. The report shows that over the longer term, 10-year projections reveal an overall decline in federal spending on children. The report explains that if current law continues unchanged, the federal budget will grow as a whole, but a smaller share of the budget will be directed to children.

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New Funding Available Under Health Reform Law

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the availability of funds under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The announcement of funds to support pregnant and parenting teens and women has been released and these grants are available for states on a competitive basis. The first application due date is August 2. ACA appropriates $25 million for FY 2010 through 2019 and authorizes the Secretary of HHS, in collaboration and coordination with the Secretary of Education, to establish and administer a Pregnancy Assistance Fund. It is anticipated that up to 25 grants in the amounts of $500,000 to $2,000,000 per year will be awarded. Grants are not to exceed three years and funding for years 2-3 is subject to the availability of funds.

The Administration for Children and Families' (ACF), Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) is now accepting applications from states and territories for the development and implementation of the Personal Responsibility Education Program. The purpose of this program is to educate youth between the ages of 10 and 19 on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. This grant was also made available under the ACA and would extend the State Abstinence Grant Program through June 2014. At press time, ACF had yet to release guidance but the anticipated application due date is September 14, and funding for FY 2010 is estimated at $55 million.

ACF modified the announcement of the ACA Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Grant Program to reflect its new due date. The original due date was July 26, and the new due date is July 28.

In addition the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration amended the funding announcement for the early childhood home visitation grant to reflect clarifications that were made to the initial maintenance of effort requirement, specifically defining home visiting for the purposes of fulfilling the MOE.

Two other funding announcements from ACF include grants to support family violence prevention. The first grant is for the Family Violence Prevention & Services/Expanding Services for Children and Youth and would support three cooperative agreements for approximately $150,000 each, for three years to expand and enhance responses to and local services available for children exposed to domestic violence across a selected State or tribe. The grant opportunity is open to tribal coalitions, state domestic violence coalitions, or other nonprofit entities with expertise in domestic violence programs and the capacity to conduct a project across a state or tribe. Applications are due by July 30, 2010.

The second grant is for the Family Violence Prevention & Services/Technical Assistance and Resource Development to Expand Services for Children and Youth. Funding would support efforts to gather and disseminate information on promising practices and available technical assistance for programs serving children exposed to domestic violence, and provide technical and evaluation support for the Expanding Services for Children and Youth Grants. Eligible entities are private, nonprofit organizations with a documented history of successful work addressing domestic violence or children exposed to domestic violence and the capacity to provide national scope training and technical assistance to state and tribal domestic violence coalitions and other nonprofit entities with expertise in domestic violence. Applications are due by July 30, 2010.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

August 7: Target date for Senate to pass all 12 appropriations bills
August 9-September 10: Summer recess
October 8: Target adjournment for the House. Senate date is to be determined.

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