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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 33: 11/22/2010   
Headlines

Lame Duck Takes Break, Will Return with Long To-Do List

Senate Subcommittee Examines State of the American Child

CWLA Seeks Frontline Worker Input

Capitol Hill Celebrates National Adoption Month

Family Unification Program Marks 20 Years

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Lame Duck Takes Break, Will Return with Long To-Do List

The lame duck session of Congress has adjourned for the week of Thanksgiving and will reconvene Nov. 29. It is expected they will focus on tax cuts and passing a federal budget when they return. It's possible there will be action on child welfare related legislation including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), child nutrition, child care, and the Title IV-E waiver bill, but there were few signs of progress on these bills last week. On Thursday the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee was scheduled to hold a markup of CAPTA but the session was postponed. Once Congress returns it's possible they will remain in session for up to three weeks in an effort to make final decisions over many contentious issues including spending, gays in the military, immigration, and nuclear arms policy.

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Senate Subcommittee Examines State of the American Child

On Thursday the Subcommittee on Children and Families of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the State of the American Child. It was the last hearing chaired by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), who is retiring from the Senate after serving five terms. Dodd is a longtime champion for children in the child welfare system and a previous CWLA award winner. He thanked all the senators who will be following in his footsteps in the next Congress for their commitment to improving the lives of America's children and said he looked forward to continuing to be involved, though not as a sitting senator.

The hearing is the last in a series of four by the subcommittee focusing on children. Witnesses included Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, and her husband Peter Edelman, former senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services and Faculty Director, Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy at Georgetown University. Also testifying at the hearing was Jennifer Garner, award winning actor and an Artist Ambassador for Save the Children.

The discussion at the hearing focused on the rise in poverty among children during the current recession, and the growing support in Congress for cutting spending for efforts to combat poverty despite the negative impact it has on children.

Also at the hearing, Dodd announced he and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) would soon be introducing new legislation, the Children's Act of 2010. This legislation establishes a National Council on Children which will annually assess the performance of the United States in ensuring the well-being of children. In addition, the Council will develop a set of national goals to improve the lives of youth, and make recommendations to advance children's well-being. It is expected this bill will need to be reintroduced in the next Congress before any action will be taken.

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CWLA Seeks Frontline Worker Input

As discussions continue in Washington on reforming federal refinancing of the child welfare system, CWLA has launched an initiative to ensure that the voice of frontline workers is in the mix. It is critically important to hear from all stakeholders, and frontline workers are uniquely positioned to enrich the discussion. Their direct work with children and families is enhanced or constrained by their relative time and access to resources. They are experts on the strengths and weaknesses of the service delivery system at the point it reaches vulnerable children and families or fails to support them.

If you are a frontline worker or direct supervisor, please consider taking an hour of your time to share your perspective. If you know of frontline workers who might be interested please share this information with them. Learn more about the project and register to participate, or contact Suzanne Ayer, CWLA Government Affairs Associate, with questions.

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Capitol Hill Celebrates National Adoption Month

Voice for Adoption's annual Adoptive Family Portrait Project kick-off reception on Capitol Hill was held on Monday. Many senators and representatives including Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Scott Brown (R-MA), and Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) are participating in the project. They will feature constituent family photos and adoption stories in their Washington, DC offices through November for National Adoption Month. The primary goal of the project is to raise awareness among members of Congress about the real experiences and needs of families that have adopted children who were in the foster care system.

On Wednesday the House passed a resolution (H. Res. 1648) supporting the goals and ideals of National Adoption Day and National Adoption Month. These events are designed to promote national awareness of adoption and the children in foster care awaiting families and encouraging people in the United States to seek improved safety, permanency, and well-being for all children. This year the National Adoption Day Coalition was expecting 4,500 foster care children to be adopted on National Adoption Day, which was this past Saturday, November 20.

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Family Unification Program Marks 20 Years

On Monday, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) held a conference entitled Keeping Families Together and Safe. At their reception that evening, they celebrated the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Family Unification Program (FUP) and honored a handful of leading children's advocates who were instrumental in its creation and who continue to provide strong support. Among the awardees was CWLA CEO Christine James-Brown, who spoke on the importance of programs like the local housing authorities and child welfare agencies working together to ensure the safety and permanence of children and families. Another awardee was Robert McKay, a former Director of Housing at CWLA and a key leader in the push to create FUP. President George H.W. Bush signed the Cranston-Gonzalez Affordable Housing Act of 1990 into law and created FUP, which is the only national housing program aimed at preventing family separation due to homelessness. It also supports the housing needs and assists in the transition to adulthood for youth aging out of foster care.

The 20th anniversary celebration focused largely on the many achievements made in the lives of children and families who have benefited from FUP. In fact, one former foster youth spoke to the role that a FUP voucher played in her transition to adulthood after aging out of the foster care system in Denver, Colorado. To date, HUD has provided FUP assistance to over 200,000 children and families in or at-risk of entering the child welfare system. HUD recently announced the availability of approximately $15 million in funding for the FY 2010 FUP Program. Public Housing Agencies have until December 1st to submit their application.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- November 29: Congress reconvenes for lame duck session.
- December 3: Continuing resolution on the federal budget expires.
- January 5: First day of the 112th Congress.

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