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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 36: 12/20/2010   
Headlines

Congress Poised to Pass Two-Month CR, Budget Battle to Resume Early in 2011

Congress Approves President's Tax Cut Compromise

Health Care Law Faces First Bump in the Road

Congress Finishes CAPTA

President Signs Child Nutrition Legislation

New Child Maltreatment Report Released

Register for CWLA National Conference and Attend Advocacy Day

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Poised to Pass Two-Month CR, Budget Battle to Resume Early in 2011

As of this writing, Congress was poised to pass an expected two-month continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government operating through mid-February, 2011. Passage of the two-month CR became necessary when the Senate failed to reach consensus on both a House-passed year-long CR and an omnibus appropriations bill offered by Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Failure to pass a year-long solution to the budget means that the battle over the fiscal year 2011 budget will resume early next year after the 112th Congress convenes.

The House had passed a long-term CR that would have funded government programs and agencies through the end of FY2011. Inouye's proposed omnibus spending bill would have added approximately $20 billion in funding above what the House passed, including increases of $840 million for Head Start (more than $500 million above the House-passed level), $681 million for child care (more than $300 million above the House-passed level), and a new $300 million Early Learning Challenge Fund.

However, in the face of unanimous opposition from the 42 Senate Republicans, the Senate was unable to corral the necessary 60 votes to pass either the House-passed CR or the Inouye proposal. In their place, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed passage of the two-month CR, which Democrats were ultimately forced to accept in order to prevent a government shutdown. The two-month CR will give Republicans more leverage in negotiations to finish the FY2011 budget because in January they will assume the majority in the House. It is expected that House Republicans will oppose most spending increases, placing funding increases for Head Start, child care, early learning, food stamps, and other programs in the House and Senate bills in jeopardy.

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Congress Approves President's Tax Cut Compromise

In a related budget matter, last week the House and Senate both passed an $858 billion tax package, a compromise worked out with President Barack Obama, which included a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for all income levels, a renewal of the estate tax and a decrease in its level to 35% with an exemption for the first $5 million in inheritance, a 2% payroll tax cut, and a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. The President is expected to sign the bill into law soon. In total, the bill will add nearly $1 trillion more to the federal deficit, heightening the urgency to address the issue of fiscal reform and reduction of the federal deficit.

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Health Care Law Faces First Bump in the Road

While judges in Michigan and Virginia had previously ruled that the provision in the Affordable Care Act that will require most individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014 was constitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson recently ruled that the provision is unconstitutional. Hudson's ruling explains that the mandate was an unprecedented expansion of federal power that could not be supported by Congress's power to regulate interstate trade. The ruling originated from a case filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), who was defending a state statute that made it illegal to require people to carry health insurance in Virginia. The statute's constitutionality will ultimately be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Officials from the Obama Administration doubt that the recent ruling will have any impact on the ongoing implementation of the health care law, largely because some of the key provisions don't take effect until 2014 and they expect all challenges to the law will have worked their way through the judicial system by then. However, this is just one of 25 legal challenges to the federal law across the country.

In addition, there are other provisions in the law that have recently come under attack from state officials, including the Medicaid expansion in 2014, which states have the option of taking up prior to the effective date, with some federal assistance available. The implementation of this provision will be largely contingent upon Congress approving the funding for the federal government's share of the costs.

It is imperative for all children in foster care to remain eligible for and obtain health care services through Medicaid. In light of the economy and the new more fiscally conservative Congressional leadership, advocacy efforts will need to be focused on maintaining federal Medicaid assistance in the new Congress. While some may propose alternatives to insuring vulnerable populations, at the current time there is no other resource available to these children, who tend to be at a higher risk for physical and mental health issues, not to mention those with severe and/or long-term health needs.

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Congress Finishes CAPTA

Earlier than expected, the Senate unanimously reauthorized the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, S. 3817), approving the House-passed version on Friday, December 10. The President is expected to sign the bill into law soon. CAPTA is the only federal legislation exclusively targeting prevention, assessment, identification, and treatment of child abuse and neglect. It was first passed in 1974 and last reauthorized in 2003. This latest legislative action will reauthorize CAPTA through 2015 and increase funding authorization levels by 10%. In addition to reauthorizing the foundational requirements for child protection, the bill improves child protection service systems, training programs, and cross-systems collaboration through new provisions regarding differential response, domestic violence, and substance abuse. CWLA has prepared a detailed account of changes to CAPTA.

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President Signs Child Nutrition Legislation

On Monday, December 13, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law (P.L. 111-296). As a result of this bill foster youth are now categorically eligible for school lunch. School lunch and breakfast, afterschool and child care meals, as well as the Women, Infants, and Children program are all encompassed in this reauthorization. Many new provisions will improve access and quality for the nation's children.

An afterschool meal pilot will be expanded to all 50 states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged to set scientifically informed nutrition standards and reevaluate these standards at least every 10 years. There are also new nutrition standards and physical activity requirements for participating child care settings. Communities will have new access to nutrition education and obesity prevention resources. Nutrition improvements will reach school lunch through the elimination of junk food from school vending machines, an increased federal reimbursement of 6 cents per meal when schools meet improved nutrition standards, and a requirement for the availability of free water. There will also be new investments in school gardens and local farm-to-school programs. Summer food programs will offer enhanced access to vulnerable populations and improved outreach and capacity building through program coordination with school lunch programs. New funds will be available for hunger research. Furthermore, certain administrative burdens will be lifted for the school lunch and child and adult care food programs, reducing paperwork and extending the program subsidies to all children in communities of high poverty.

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New Child Maltreatment Report Released

An early Child Maltreatment report release provides analysis of the federal FY2009 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). The report shows the victimization rate of children decreased from 10.3 children per 1,000 in the population in 2008 to 10.1 children in 2009. While the rate has decreased, the report indicates that the actual number of victims has increased. CWLA will be conducting further analysis on the shift in substantiations and rates of victimizations in the coming days and will report on the findings.

In a press release regarding the report, David A. Hansell, Health and Human Services acting assistant secretary for children and families said, "We are pleased to see a steady decrease in the rate of abused and neglected children, however we also know even one child abused is one too many.... The more we support and implement evidenced-based programs and services to prevent child maltreatment and promote healthy families and communities, the sooner we can ensure children are able to have the safe, happy, and healthy childhood they deserve."

Indeed, the need for systemic improvement is evident in that the number of child victims who did not receive any services increased from 2008 to 2009. Furthermore, the youngest children continue to have the highest victimization rate at 20.6 per 1,000 children in the population. Also consistent, more than two-thirds of all victims of maltreatment suffered neglect. Tragically, an estimated 1,770 children died as a result of maltreatment in 2009; four-fifths of those children were younger than 4 years.

Each year the Children's Bureau releases the Child Maltreatment report, an analysis of data collected by child protective services agencies. All 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico voluntarily submitted the data for the 2009 report. Usually released in Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, this 20th edition initiates a new release schedule for the full report in December, followed by a mid-year update in April.

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Register for CWLA National Conference and Attend Advocacy Day

Add your voice to CWLA's at our next national conference, March 27-30, 2011. Registration is now open, with "early bird" rates available through January 30. This year's theme is The State of Children and Families: Building an Effective National Voice. The conference features a full day of in-depth professional institutes, more than 60 focused workshops, a revitalized Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, convenient PRIDE trainings, and a new town hall session to share the challenges and celebrate the successes of today's child welfare field. New this year is a special spouse rate for husbands or wives who don't want to miss DC at its loveliest during cherry blossom season.

Advocacy Day will be held in the middle of the national conference, on Tuesday, March 29. CWLA's Advocacy Day is the largest national advocacy event of the year for child welfare advocates and CWLA encourages all conference attendees to go to Capitol Hill and carry the message for the children, youth, and families you serve. Another new feature this year is a special reception on Capitol Hill to hear from key Congressional leaders on priorities for children and families policies in the new Congress.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- December 22: Lame duck session expected to adjourn.
- January 5: First day of the 112th Congress.
- February 1: State of the Union address.
- February 7: President releases proposed budget for FY2012.
- February 18: Continuing resolution on FY2011 expires.

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