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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 27: 7/18/2005   
Headlines

Senate Committee Approves FY 2006 HHS Appropriation

House Holds Hearing on Youth Development

Medicaid Commission Ready to Get to Work

Children's Safety Act Includes Background Checks for Foster Parents

Links Between Parent Methamphetamine Use and Foster Care Highlighted

Violence Against Women Act Introduced

Grassley, Clinton Release GAO Adoption Findings

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Committee Approves FY 2006 HHS Appropriation

The U.S. Senate moved quickly this week to adopt an FY 2006 appropriations bill that sets funding levels for the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Labor. The Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee voted July 12, and the full Appropriations Committee approved the bill July 14. The bill is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.

The committee's final decisions are expected to be similar to those set by the House in June. The House-passed HHS appropriations bill (HR 3010) mirrors President's recommendations to freeze key child welfare programs, including Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), at current levels. PSSF would be funded at $404 million, and CAPTA state grants would be funded at $27 million. The House bill also reduces child care funding by $11,000--total funding for that program is just under $2.1 billion.

The Senate was able to find more than $3 billion more for discretionary spending (spending that requires an annual appropriation for these Departments) than the House did for these agencies, with total discretionary funding of slightly more than $145 billion. Most of that increased funding was dedicated to heath research and education. These additional funds were created by using an accounting maneuver of moving some allocations from the Supplemental Security Income program to the following fiscal year.

View more information about funding decisions for key children programs.

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House Holds Hearing on Youth Development

The House Subcommittee on Select Education held a hearing on Coordination Among Federal Youth Development Programs on July 12, highlighting the Federal Youth Coordination Act, S. 409 and H.R. 856. This legislation would establish a federal council to coordinate and oversee all federal programs related to youth.

All witnesses made a strong, compelling case for this legislation. Michael J. O'Grady, Assistant HHS Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; Marguerite Sallee, President and CEO, America's Promise--The Alliance for Youth; Richard G. Moore, Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning Division, Iowa Department of Human Rights; Laura Shubilla, President, Philadelphia Youth Network; and Laurence Steinberg, Professor and Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, Temple University, testified in support of the legislation.

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Medicaid Commission Ready to Get to Work

As Congress is poised to make decisions about $10 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program, the new National Medicaid Advisory Commission is set to begin its deliberations. HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt announced his decisions about the commission's membership July 8. The commission will be chaired by former Tennessee Representative and Governor Don Sundquist (R) and is expected to hold its first open meeting July 27.

The commission is instructed to provide a full list of recommendations of measures to cut $10 billion from Medicaid to Congress by September 1. A second report, due December 31, 2006, will focus on securing Medicaid's long-term solvency while looking at long-term care, eligibility review, design of benefits, and delivery of the program.

View a complete list of the Medicaid Advisory Commission's members visit.

Congress is expected to begin legislative action on this matter early in September. Some of the proposals Congress is considering include the President's budget proposals for Medicaid, proposals put forth by the National Governors' Association, and recommendations from the newly formed Medicaid Commission.

As part of its No Caps on Kids! campaign, CWLA is working to ensure that, as Congress makes decisions about how to reduce federal spending for Medicaid, the changes do not harm the poorest and most vulnerable children and families in our country. CWLA wants to ensure Congress does not restrict or disallow use of Medicaid targeted case management (TCM) and rehabilitation services for children in the child welfare system, nor lower the federal matching rate for these Medicaid services. The White House budget released in January does include a restriction of services that TCM can provide, and a cap on the federal matching rate of 50%. Current reimbursement rates vary state by state to nearly 80%, and any revision without adequate replacement funding would mean a severe loss of support to a state's ability to provide TCM services.

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Children's Safety Act Includes Background Checks for Foster Parents

On June 30, Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced the Children's Safety Act of 2005 (H.R. 3132), proposing a variety of federal penalties and requirements involving crimes against children. Combining 15 recently introduced bills into one piece of legislation, the Children's Safety Act expands current sex offender registry programs, creates public Internet access to national registries, creates stricter guidelines for registering and monitoring offenders, expands use of DNA information in criminal investigations, and imposes harsher penalties on federal violent crimes against children.

The act also requires complete background checks on any prospective foster or adoptive parent. Originally included in a bill (H.R. 3129) sponsored by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), these background checks would be required regardless of whether foster care maintenance payments or adoption assistance payments are to be made on behalf of the child. The bill would require that states check any child abuse and neglect registry on any prospective parent or adult living in the home before final placement approval. Current law allows a state to opt out of the requirement if it conflicts with its own state policy, but this bill would eliminate this opt-out. The legislation would also ensure that child welfare agencies have access to national crime information databases.

Three hearings were held in June addressing several of the bills included in the Children's Safety Act. No further hearings or a vote have been scheduled.

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Links Between Parent Methamphetamine Use and Foster Care Highlighted

The growing national epidemic of methamphetamine use is gaining increased attention among federal lawmakers. A recent congressional luncheon featured the most recent research from the U.S. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other leading researchers, detailing the effects of methamphetamines on the brain and showcasing effective treatments. The research showed that methamphetamines can be five times more potent than cocaine and that effective treatment can take 24 months.

A June 28 field hearing in Minnesota was the eighth hearing by House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resource since 2001 to focus solely on methamphetamine use. Testimony from that hearing noted that 16,000 labs were seized nationwide in 2003, and an additional 8,100 pounds of methamphetamines were recovered. Several lawmakers have introduced legislation that targets methamphetamine production and clean-up efforts.

On July 5, the National Association of Counties (NACO) released a report that included a survey of child welfare agencies Of responding child welfare officials, 40% reported an increase in out-of-home placements due to methamphetamines within the last year. The New York Times highlighted this survey in a July 11 front-page article that documented the heightened strain child welfare agencies are facing as foster care caseloads increase due to the increase in parental methamphetamine use. According to the article, Oklahoma reported a 16% rise in its care for children over last year; Kentucky had a 12% jump in foster caseloads; Tennessee officials said the number of children entering foster care directly related to methamphetamine use rose from 400 to 700 in one year; and Oregon officials reported their foster care population could be cut in half if methamphetamines were not a problem.

View the NACO survey.

View the New York Times article.

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Violence Against Women Act Introduced

Bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been introduced in both the House and Senate.

In the Senate, S. 1197 was introduced by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Arlen Specter (R-PA); in the House H.R. 2876 was introduced by Representatives Mark Green (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI). House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is expected to introduce a Judiciary-only version of the bill within the next week.

Both S. 1197 and H.R. 2876 contain provisions to reauthorize and expand existing programs related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These efforts, typically focused on adults, would, for the first time, be accessible to youth and children ages 12-24.

The legislation also includes authorization for several small new programs, including funding for home visitation programs, money to facilitate cross-training and collaboration at the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare, and authorization for prevention programs in middle and high schools. Both S. 1197 and H.R. 2876 would authorize approximately $4.5 billion over five years, a $1.2 billion increase from the last reauthorization in 2000, with most of funding supporting law enforcement efforts.

CWLA strongly supports the effort to expand VAWA services to children and youth and maintains that it is crucial to more effectively address issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for July 19.

More information.

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Grassley, Clinton Release GAO Adoption Findings

On July 14, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sponsored a congressional briefing by Voice for Adoption that included findings from a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on federal adoption programs. Both Grassley and Clinton expressed their desire to ensure that programs such as Title IV-E Adoption Assistance and the adoption incentive program work more effectively to help families who have adopted special-needs children.

The report, Better Data and Evaluation Could Improve Process and Programs for Adopting Children with Special Needs (GAO-05-292), is critical of efforts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data and evaluate the impact of federal adoption assistance programs. The GAO report indicates that families who adopt could use greater support and services and that these families are frequently underserved.

The report also highlights the problem with the current income eligibility standard in the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program. Eligibility for this assistance is limited because it is still tied to the standards of the now non-existent AFDC cash assistance program. CWLA has advocated for a change to this eligibility standard since 1996. The report also criticizes HHS for not having adequate data to determine how much it would cost to update or eliminate the current Title IV-E income eligibility requirements. The report also found a lack of information to assess problems or possible delays involving interstate adoptive placements.

View the report online.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

July 30-September 5: Summer Congressional Recess

September 16: Deadline for assigned committees to adopt $35 billion in cuts to mandatory programs for budget reconciliation bill

September 23: Deadline for tax-writing committees to adopt tax cuts of $70 billion

October 1: Start of federal fiscal year


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