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

   
   
Vol. 24, Issue 21: 6/27/2011   
Headlines

Children’s Bureau Releases Report on Kinship Licensing Standards Waivers

Conference Builds Connections for Prevention and Well-Being

Biden's Negotiations Dealt a Setback

New Ally on Key Committee

These Cuts Won't Heal: Budget Webcast Today

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Children’s Bureau Releases Report on Kinship Licensing Standards Waivers

This week the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth, and Families released a report on state usage of waivers of nonsafety licensing standards in kinship care authorized in the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. The 2008 law allowed child welfare agencies to waive licensing standards not related to safety for kinship arrangements when needed in an effort to make placements with relatives easier when a child is removed from their home. It also required follow-up analysis of state usage of the waivers, which was the subject of this report.

Information tracked for the report includes fiscal year 2009 data on: (1) the number of children in both licensed and unlicensed relative foster homes; (2) the frequency of waiver usage and which standards were waived; (3) an assessment of how waivers have impacted the safety, permanence, and well-being of children in care; and (4) an analysis of the remaining obstacles to kinship placements and potential regulatory and legislative solutions. Unfortunately, in 2009 a number of states did not yet track licensed versus unlicensed placements, while others did not track waivers sought by private agencies. Those issues coupled with the lack of uniformity in state definitions of licensed and unlicensed placements made it hard to provide national estimates on licensed and unlicensed kinship care arrangements.

Still, the report provides an important glimpse into the use of kinship care placements and nonsafety licensing standard waiver usage around the country. Perhaps more importantly, it also highlighted the continuing obstacles to kinship care placements, including the difficult and time-consuming licensing process itself, a desire to avoid the child welfare system, privacy concerns around personal information required to be shared including background checks, and conflicting state laws, among others. Finally, a number of potential solutions were put forward—including early identification of kin and simplification of the process for relatives, providing foster parent training to relative caregivers, addressing language barriers, increasing caseworker awareness of the importance of kinship, de-linking federal foster care payments from the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children income standards, and providing further financial incentives to states to increase both licensed and unlicensed kinship placements.

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Conference Builds Connections for Prevention and Well-Being

The Office of Child Abuse and Neglect and the FRIENDS National Resource Center held a two-day conference on June 21st and 22nd. With the titled purpose of strengthening the "Network for Action" to prevent maltreatment and promote well-being, stakeholders gathered in Alexandria, Virginia to develop a shared vision, engage in shared action, and strengthen networks at the state and federal level. Grantees under Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act joined parents, service providers, and advocates to learn about opportunities for collaboration.

The emphasis on connections was leveraged through break-out strategic projects and state-specific discussion sessions. CWLA led one of the 12 strategic projects. CWLA’s project was about defining child abuse and neglect maltreatment for a new edition of our Standards of Excellence on prevention services. Participants will continue in an advisory role as this publication continues to develop.

Several federal leaders joined the conference to talk about ongoing work towards collaboration, both at the federal level and within their work to enable collaboration at the state and local levels. Represented agencies included the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, FRIENDS National Resource Center, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, Head Start, Family and Youth Services, Maternal and Child Health, Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, Administration on Children Youth and Families’ Commissioner Bryan Samuels gave a keynote address. He delivered a call to action for greater collaboration across the continuum of child welfare services to tend to the social and emotional well-being by increasing protective factors for all children before risk, at-risk, and after maltreatment.


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Biden's Negotiations Dealt a Setback

The Congressional negotiations being led by Vice President Joseph Biden have now been put on hold as two Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Jon Kyl, announced Thursday that they were withdrawing from the talks until President Barack Obama involves himself directly in the debate over taxes. Republicans have been adamant that no tax increases be included in any deficit reduction deal while Democrats have insisted that revenue enhancements must be a part of any agreement. Whether the closure of tax loopholes and the elimination of certain tax credits constitute tax increases has been a continued point of contention. Cantor’s and Kyl’s possibility of returning to the table is unclear, leaving the future of the negotiations being led by Biden uncertain. Going forward House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama may both need to play a more direct role in guiding the parties toward a solution.

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New Ally on Key Committee

Following Representative Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) resignation, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) has reported that Florida Democrat Kathy Castor is set to take the vacated committee seat. Castor served on the panel in the last Congress, but lost her seat when Republicans took over the House following the 2010 midterm elections. While only in her third term, Castor has already proven herself to be a supporter of children’s access to quality, affordable healthcare. In the 111th Congress, she sponsored legislation to improve children’s access to health care coverage under the Medicaid Program and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Advocates have much to be optimistic about following this recent development.

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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. Tune in today at 3 p.m. Eastern. The focus of today's webinar will be on the proposed caps on federal spending and the impact on child welfare spending. There will also be an update on efforts to institute a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. Registration for the webcast series, open to CWLA members only, is ongoing.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- June 27 to July 5: House recess
- July 1 to July 11: Senate recess

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