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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 27: 8/9/2010   
Headlines

Senate Breaks Impasse and Passes FMAP Extension

Major Proposal for Child Welfare Finance Reform Released

Senate Committee Releases Numbers on Appropriations for FY 2011

Senate Passes Child Nutrition

New HHS Initiative to Promote Medicaid/CHIP Enrollment

National Call-In Day to Protect Social Security for All Generations

HUD Awards Vouchers to Keep Families Together

Funding Announcements for PREP and Abstinence Funding

Upcoming Webinars for Tribes on Fostering Connections

Congress, Monitor Both on Recess

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Breaks Impasse and Passes FMAP Extension

Last week the Senate passed legislation that would provide states with $16.1 billion for six more months of increased Medicaid and title IV-E funding and $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. Securing the six-month extension of the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage, commonly known as FMAP has been a huge concern for most states that are cash-strapped and required by law to balance their budgets, which many feared would force them to cut jobs and social services. The $16.1 billion in aid to states would increase the federal contribution to States by 3.2 percentage points for the first quarter of 2011, and 1.2 percent for the second quarter.

Although the House had already begun their August Recess and with the Senate expected to do so after the close of business last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled that she planned to bring the House back next week in order to "save teachers' jobs and help seniors & children."

On Wednesday morning, the Senate voted 61-38, to surpass the 60-vote margin needed to cut off debate. On Thursday afternoon, the Senate passed the measure and it now goes to the House where they are expected to vote this week.

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Major Proposal for Child Welfare Finance Reform Released

Early last week the American Public Human Services Association released their proposal for reforming the federal financing of child welfare including title IV-E, the major source of federal revenue for foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship guardianship support. The proposal outlines recommendations to Congress for major restructuring of the system for federal child welfare financing and it does so in a way that achieves a number of important goals. The proposal calls for delinking eligibility to the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (AFDC), maintaining the entitlement structure of federal support and the federal role as a full partner in child welfare, including the federal investment of resources, and recovering federal finances that have eroded over the years due to the link to AFDC and other factors. Another goal of the proposal is to keep the impact on cost to a minimum.

The proposal comes at a time of increased attention and activity on Capitol Hill focused on this issue. As reported in last week's Monitor, a hearing was held recently by the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over Title IV-E at which this topic was discussed extensively. CWLA and many or our partners at the national level are actively engaged in developing recommendations for how to revamp and significantly improve child welfare financing. This is seen as the next major step of reform after enactment of the Fostering Connections to Success Act in 2008. Download CWLA's policy statement on financing reform.

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Senate Committee Releases Numbers on Appropriations for FY 2011

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released details about the legislation on fiscal year 2011 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS). CWLA has prepared a budget chart following the progress of federal appropriations. We encourage you to check back periodically as more information is included in the chart and the process moves forward.

The legislation calls for level funding from this year for most of the main child welfare programs. The bill includes an $11 million increase to the Title V Maternal Block Grant as requested by President Barack Obama. There is a $1 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and a $990.3 million increase for Head Start/Early Head Start, consistent with the President's budget proposal.

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Senate Passes Child Nutrition

Last Thursday the Senate reauthorized federal child nutrition programs by voice vote, including an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years. The bill (S. 3307) contains increased school lunch reimbursements, categorical eligibility for foster youth, and allowance for the Agriculture Department to set nutrition standards. In addition, there are some improvements in the Child and Adult Care Food Program around wellness promotion and paperwork reduction. Despite strong opposition, the new money was offset from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, food stamp) funding that had been included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, stimulus act). This would not take effect until late 2013, which provides time to advocate for an alternate funding mechanism or offset. The House has yet to schedule a final vote on their version of the child nutrition bill (H.R. 5504).

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New HHS Initiative to Promote Medicaid/CHIP Enrollment

There are roughly five million uninsured children in the United States who are currently eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has issued a call for everyone working with and on behalf of children to help find and enroll these children. In this regard HHS has launched the "Get Covered, Get in the Game" initiative in seven pilot states across the country. The initiative will bring together coaches, schools, and communities to educate families with children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP about the immediate availability of children's health coverage programs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will support events launching this initiative, outreach to news outlets across the pilot states, coaches' trainings, and the placement of promotional materials at select youth sports events to help direct families to enrollment assistance. For more information about enrolling in children's health insurance programs, visit www.InsureKidsNow.gov.

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National Call-In Day to Protect Social Security for All Generations

Monday, September 13 is the National Call-in Day to contact Congress with a message to protect Social Security for all generations. CWLA is working with other organizations to generate calls on September 13 to raise awareness about this issue. Social Security provides vital financial security not only to our nation's retirees, but also to children through Survivors, Disability, and Supplemental Security Insurance benefits. The message that Social Security benefits Americans of all ages is needed now more than ever. Members of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform have made clear that they intend to recommend cuts to Social Security.

We invite you and your networks to participate on September 13 to ensure members of Congress hear about the importance of Social Security for all generations. To learn more about how you can be involved in addition to the call-in day, contact Melissa Ness at mness@gu.org or 202-289-3979.

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HUD Awards Vouchers to Keep Families Together

On Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $20 million in funding to local housing authorities to help more than 2,500 families stay together, a much-needed support for the thousands of children in or at risk of being placed in the foster care system simply because their parents cannot afford housing, as well as the thousands of youth who age out of care each year who are at risk of becoming homeless. HUD anticipates that the funding will provide over $100 million in savings to the foster care system.

HUD's Family Unification Program (FUP) Housing Choice Vouchers will be available for families whose inadequate housing is the primary cause of their separation or near separation from their children. In addition, 20% of these vouchers will provide stable housing for youth (ages 18-22) who are aging out of the foster care system, to prevent them from becoming homeless.

The funding is awarded to local public housing authorities that work closely with local child welfare agencies to identify families with children in foster care or who are at risk of being placed in foster care and youth at risk of homelessness. These vouchers, like regular Housing Choice Vouchers, allow families to rent housing from private landlords and generally pay 30% of the family's monthly adjusted gross income towards rent and utilities.

According to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, the average annual cost of providing foster care for one family's children is $56,892. By contrast, it costs approximately $13,193 a year to provide rental assistance and supportive services for that same family. Cost savings are also considerable for young people aging out of foster care. The average annual FUP costs for young adults is $5,600, just a tenth of the estimated costs associated with homelessness, incarceration, and residential treatment.

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Funding Announcements for PREP and Abstinence Funding

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released funding opportunity announcements for the state Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) and the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program. These separate programs represent approximately $105 million annually in formula funds for states. Both initiatives were authorized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The PREP initiative is a new grant program, while State Abstinence Education Grant Program will be restored through 2014, after having expired in June 2009.

The PREP funding will provide grants to states for programs that prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and target and at-risk youth ages 10-19, including those who may be homeless, in foster care, teen parents, youth with HIV, and other vulnerable persons. States are required to incorporate elements of programs that are evidence-based and must also add three "pre-adulthood education" components, such as financial literacy, parent-child communication, healthy relationships education, and more. The abstinence funding will provide grants to states for abstinence education programs and mentoring, counseling, or adult supervision programs to promote abstinence. States are encouraged to consider research-based programs and strategies when developing their plans, and to focus on populations of youth where the need is greatest, including youth in care.

States will have until August 30 to submit separate letters of intent on whether they will be applying for funds from each program. States will then have until December 10 to submit applications for the Abstinence Education Grant Program and until February 1, 2011 for PREP program.

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Upcoming Webinars for Tribes on Fostering Connections

The Fostering Connections Resource Center is holding two webinars this week for tribes to learn more about their opportunities under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. "Using Title IV-E Tools for Tribes to Take Advantage of Opportunities Under Fostering Connections" will be held Tuesday, August 10 from 1 to 2:30 pm. "Supporting Tribal Child Welfare through a Better Understanding of the Opportunities Under Fostering Connections" will be held Thursday, August 12 from 3:30 to 5 pm. The Fostering Connections Resource Center is a comprehensive website dedicated to informing and connecting stakeholders implementing the Fostering Connections Act.

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Congress, Monitor Both on Recess

CWLA does not plan to publish new issues of Children's Monitor while Congress is on recess, from now through early September. Review recent issues online, and keep in touch with the Advocacy team. If you haven't already done so, follow CWLA through Twitter or Facebook.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

August 9-September 10: Summer recess.
October 8: Target adjournment for the House. Senate date is to be determined.
November 2: Election Day.

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