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

   
   
Vol. 24, Issue 12: 4/11/2011   
Headlines

Shutdown Averted

House Budget Committee Approves FY2012 Budget

House Budget Committee Plan Makes Medicaid a Block Grant

These Cuts Won't Heal: Budget Webcast Today

Senate Caucuses Focused on Children Are Seeking Members

Arkansas Supreme Court Ends Unmarried Parent Adoption Ban

Funding Opportunities Announced

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Shutdown Averted

Late Friday night Congress and the Administration agreed to a last-minute compromise to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011 averting a shutdown. Lawmakers approved a short-term spending measure to keep the government running through Friday and said the final agreement should be approved this week. If that happens, the measure would cut $37.8 billion from the federal budget through the end of September. Updated information, including the impact on child welfare services, will be provided during the CWLA members-only These Cuts Won't Heal webinar today at 3 p.m. Eastern. More information on the webcast and a link to register is provided in an article below.

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House Budget Committee Approves FY2012 Budget

Last week House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his 2012 budget proposal. It was voted on and passed out of the House Budget Committee on a party-line vote, and will be voted on by the full House this week.

Specifically, Ryan's budget would cut non-security discretionary spending in 2012 by $100 billion below President Barack Obama's proposed budget, rolling non-security spending back to $360 billion, which is less than 2008 levels. These funding levels would then be frozen in place for five years. By comparison, defense spending, including costs of the ongoing wars, would be $692.5 billion in 2012. In addition, the plan includes $4.2 trillion in tax cuts for individuals and corporations over the next 10 years. In order to offset the lost revenue coming in to the government due to these tax cuts and to make headway on reducing the federal deficit, the Ryan budget calls for $5.8 trillion in cuts to federal spending over 10 years compared to current spending levels. These include almost $1.6 trillion in cuts to non-security discretionary spending, $771 billions in cuts to Medicaid, and $715 billion in cuts to other mandatory spending programs.

Under the House plan, Medicaid would not only be cut, but the program's status as an entitlement would end as it would be replaced with state block grants. Furthermore, the House budget repeals the health care reform law enacted last year and therefore eliminates the Medicaid expansion included in that bill. More information regarding the impact on Medicaid is provided below.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, would also be capped and made a block grant beginning in 2015. It would then be indexed only for inflation and population growth with no guarantees that it would keep up with demand. Finally, requirements for work and job training would be imposed on food stamp recipients. Similar requirements along with time limits for participation would also be placed on those who receive federal housing assistance and the housing voucher program's spending would also be capped.

The Ryan budget is expected to pass the House this week and would then be sent to the Senate. Senate Democratic leaders are expected to reject the steep cuts to Medicaid and other social safety net programs, and will likely craft their own budget proposal.

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House Budget Committee Plan Makes Medicaid a Block Grant

The budget plan approved by the House Budget Committee last week would have a devastating impact on Medicaid and other programs that serve vulnerable children and families. The proposal converts Medicaid into a block grant and repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under this proposed budget resolution, beginning in 2013 states would receive a fixed amount of funding from the federal government to operate Medicaid, indexed for inflation and population growth. States would be able to adopt their own program standards and rules for coverage, benefits, and enrollment.

Repealing the ACA not only jeopardizes the health care of the 30 million of children currently covered, but also the 8 million who remain uninsured. The Medicaid eligibility for former foster youth authorized under ACA would certainly be eliminated.

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These Cuts Won't Heal: Budget Webcast Today

As part of the CWLA budget campaign, These Cuts Won't Heal, the Government Affairs Division is hosting a series of members-only webcasts. Registration is open for the next webcast, which will be today at 3 p.m. Eastern. This webcast will include up-to-date information on the latest proposals including the plan approved by the House Budget Committee last week, and the implications of a government shutdown. There will also be a discussion of which members of Congress may be most in need of hearing from child welfare advocates.

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Senate Caucuses Focused on Children Are Seeking Members

Recently Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) formed the Senate Healthy Kids Caucus to facilitate a dialogue to promote awareness and interest in children's physical, developmental, and environmental health. It is CWLA's hope that this caucus will compliment the ongoing work of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, chaired by Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Both of these caucuses are currently seeking additional Senate members.

Lautenberg and Snowe hope to use the Healthy Kids Caucus as an educational tool to inform senators and others about the latest research and news related to children's health as well as to organize supporters around policy solutions. Notably, one of the primary focuses will also be child welfare issues. Thus far, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have joined as members. Considering the current debates around the future of the child welfare system, the structure and funding levels for Medicaid, and investment in early learning, among others, the caucus is being formed at a critical time. In addition, Grassley and Landrieu are committed to continuing the important work of the Caucus on Foster Youth. These caucuses will provide a powerful vehicle to address critical issues on Capitol Hill.

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Arkansas Supreme Court Ends Unmarried Parent Adoption Ban

On April 7th the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that struck down a law banning unmarried, cohabitating partners from being foster or adoptive parents. Cole v. Arkansas was originally initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Arkansas on behalf of families who were affected by the law, with support of CWLA through an amicus brief. A 2009 Children's Voice article gives more details about the families' personal stories and the former Arkansas law, referred to as Act 1, that negatively affected them.

In upholding the previous Pulaski County Circuit Court ruling striking down the law, the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed that the law violates the state's Constitutional guarantee of a right to privacy. The court found that the law forced people to decide between their fundamental right to private sexual intimacy and the privilege of having children by adopting or fostering. Furthermore, they found that such a categorical ban removes the ability of the state to individually assess prospective foster and adoptive parents who could qualify and be entirely suitable parents. CWLA filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs' case and in defense of the more than 1,600 children currently in need of forever families in the state Arkansas.

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Funding Opportunities Announced

The Administration for Children Youth and Families (ACYF) has released a funding opportunity announcement for part of the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention discretionary grants that are authorized under Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This announcement refers to the 1% of funds that are designated for child abuse prevention programs for tribes, tribal organizations, and migrant programs. It anticipates an even division of the set-aside amongst the designated populations resulting in three awards of $138,963. Applications are due by July 5, 2011.

ACYF has also released an announcement for Tribal Title IV-E Plan Development Grants that provide one-time funding for the development of a plan to implement a Title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance and, at the option of the tribe, a guardianship assistance program. This grant deadline is also July 5, 2011.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Mental Health Services has released a funding announcement for planning grants for public entities, including states, tribes, territories, and government units, to expand their Systems of Care (SOC) strategies. SOC is a comprehensive community mental health service approach serving children and youth with emotional challenges and their families. It is anticipated that 46, one-year grants between the amounts $300,000 and $800,000 each will be awarded for a total distribution of $14 million.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- April 18 to 29: Spring recess.
- May 16 to 20: House recess.
- May 30 to June 3: Senate recess.

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