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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 43: 11/7/2005   
Headlines

Take Action: Capitol Hill Call-In Day on Budget Cuts

Senate Approves Budget Reconciliation Bill

White House Still Pursuing Further Medicaid Cuts to Medicaid Rehabilitation and Targeted Case Management Services for Children in Foster Care

Laura Bush Hosts Conference on Helping America's Youth

Hurricane Emergency Funds Include SSBG and Head Start

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Take Action: Capitol Hill Call-In Day on Budget Cuts

Child advocates from around the country will participate with others to flood members of Congress with messages to vote against the House budget reconciliation bill. Advocates can use a toll-free number, 800/426-8073, to call their U.S. Representative this week, urging them to vote no on the pending budget reconciliation bill.

The House budget reconciliation bill would reduce federal supports for children in foster care and for grandparents and other relatives caring for children by at least $600 million. This cut comes at a time when the overall child welfare system is struggling to address the needs of more than 800,000 children in need.

The House bill does this by repealing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Rosales v. Thompson, that has allowed more abused and neglected children living with relatives to receive Title IV-E federal foster care support. As a result, it is estimated that tens of thousands of children living with relatives are now eligible for federal foster care assistance in the nine states and two territories directly impacted by the Ninth Circuit's decision (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Mariana Islands). Ultimately, this ruling may also affect children in other states.
Repealing the court determination would deny federal foster care benefits to these children. In California alone, over 5,000 children would lose federal support. Repealing the court decision would also impact some children's ability to receive federal adoption assistance, as decided by a recent court ruling in Georgia.

The second House proposal in the House bill implements a White House proposal initially offered in 2001 that was blocked due to protests from child advocates. This proposal would also limit federal foster care assistance for children who are at imminent risk of entering foster care. The bill reduces funding for services to kids who are considered likely "candidates" for foster care -- in other words, kids who could be prevented from going into foster care. The bill also limits funding for services to children leaving a non-child welfare facility, such as a hospital, psychiatric center, crisis center, or juvenile facility, and being transferred into foster care.

These proposals to reduce federal funding for services to kids living with their grandparents and other relatives represents a reversal of longstanding federal policy to encourage the placement of children with relatives whenever possible.

The House bill estimates a cut of at least $600 million in foster care funding if these two changes are implemented. Cost estimates done by the White House earlier this year projected cuts of over $450 million for the provisions affecting foster care candidates and nearly $400 million for the overturning of the Rosales decision.

In addition to reducing federal support for child welfare, the House bill includes a five-year reauthorization of the TANF and child care block programs. The version of these two reauthorizations in the budget reconciliation bill is similar to previous House-passed versions, including increased work requirements for TANF recipients. The most significant difference in this bill, compared to bills previously considered in the House, is the level of child care funding. The funding provided in the House budget reconciliation bill is even less than the one-time 4% increase in child care funding provided in earlier child care reauthorization bills.

The House budget reconciliation bill also includes cuts to funding for the administration of state child support systems. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the child support cuts will result in $24 billion less in child support collections over the next 10 years. The House bill also includes a cut in food stamps, expected to remove 300,000 people from the programs.

Now that the House Budget Committee has tied all the various budget cuts together in one legislative or reconciliation bill, the package will go to the House Rules Committee to determine the number of amendments that can be offered on the House floor. The committee could also change provisions in the bill if such changes would result in garnering enough votes for passage. The Republican leadership is not counting on the support of any House Democrats to support the bill. That means that for the bill to pass, no more than 12 to 14 Republicans can vote against the measure. At least one House Republican has made her opposition clear. Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) stated her opposition to the House budget bill when talking about the proposal to repeal the Rosales court decision stating, "Why would you want to do anything to discourage a family member from taking in a child who has been abandoned or neglected by his birth family?"

For a detailed description of the House child welfare provisions, go to http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/fostercare051027.htm

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Senate Approves Budget Reconciliation Bill

On November 4, the Senate adopted a budget reconciliation bill (S. 1932) by a vote of 52 to 47. The legislation results in a net reduction in federal spending for mandatory programs by $35 billion. The bill actually cuts spending by more than $70 billion, but it also allocates some new funding for hurricane relief, agriculture, and a few other programs.

Due to the efforts of CWLA members and other advocates, the Senate bill does not include the White House proposal to cap funding for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. The Senate bill also does not contain the cuts in child welfare that are in the House bill described above.

The bill also makes changes to the Medicaid and Medicare program that results in over $10 billion in cuts. Much of the Medicare savings come from the elimination of a subsidy program for the new prescription drug program. The legislation does include some restrictions in the use of targeted case management (TCM) for children in the child welfare system, but it does not appear to adopt the White House proposal that would have virtually eliminated the use of TCM for children in the child welfare system. There is great concern, however, that the TCM language in the Senate bill could allow the Administration to impose severe restrictions on how states use TCM for children in foster care The TCM provisions are calculated to reduce Medicaid spending by $1.1 billion over five years. If TCM were no longer available, estimates also indicate that states would increasingly use Title IV-E to provide these services. This shift would result in states drawing down an estimated additional $350 million over five years in Title IV-E. During the Senate consideration of the budget reconciliation bill, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) offered an amendment to delete the TCM language from the bill. That amendment failed by a vote of 46 to 52.

Once the House votes on their final version of the budget reconciliation bill, then a Senate-House conference committee that includes members of Congress from at least six different committees will have to meet to reconcile the range of differences between the two bills. This timetable will largely depend on when the House votes on their version of the bill and how large the differences are between the total amounts of cuts in the two bills.

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White House Still Pursuing Further Medicaid Cuts to Medicaid Rehabilitation and Targeted Case Management Services for Children in Foster Care

On November 1, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) that indicated its support for the Senate budget reconciliation bill (S. 1932), but outlined areas where programs should be cut further.

The SAP includes a veto threat if the final bill includes the elimination or cuts to the Medicare subsidy. If these cuts are rejected, as the White House proposes, then Congress will have to cut several billion dollars from other programs. This might include further cuts to TCM and rehabilitative services for children in the child welfare system. The SAP points out that the bill does not include Administration proposals that "would ensure the integrity of the Medicaid program." Consistent with their August legislative proposal, the SAP specifically urges Congress to further clarify the use of rehabilitation and case management services. The SAP also urges Congress to reduce the federal matching rate for case management services and limit Medicaid administrative costs.

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Laura Bush Hosts Conference on Helping America's Youth

On October 27, the White House sponsored a Conference on Helping America's Youth. First Lady Laura Bush opened the conference to discuss the issues facing America's youth, as well as tangible solutions. The conference focused on three themes in ameliorating the problems associated with at-risk youth: importance of family, importance of school, and importance of community.

Discussion concerning the importance of family revolved around single parent households, primarily absentee fathers, and programs that help develop parenting skills. School issues centered on identifying early risk factors, classroom behavior management styles, and the role of the educator. Community was the third focus. Implementing partnerships emerged as the solution for creating a community conducive to supporting at-risk youth.

Transcripts from the conference are available at: http://www.helpingyouthconference.org/.

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Hurricane Emergency Funds Include SSBG and Head Start

On October 28, the White House recommended Congress transfer up to $17 billion in hurricane relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and allocate the funding to specific programs for hurricane relief. The recommendations include an additional $500 million for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The funding would target hurricane victims. Though it is an emergency measure, it would be the highest level of federal funding for SSBG in more than five years. States can use their SSBG funds for 29 different human service programs.

Another recommendation is to transfer $90 million to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families to provide Head Start services to children displaced by the hurricane and to address the cost of renovating Head Start facilities effected by the hurricane, including the nonprofit facilities that are ineligible for some small business assistance and also unable to tap into the annual funding that the Head Start program provides.

FEMA still has $17 billion to transfer because it has not spent the entire $62 billion in emergency funding Congress approved earlier. FEMA has funded much of the relief effort so far, but this reallocation will place the relief funding directly in the hands of the federal departments and agencies that oversee specific programs.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

November: Senate Finance Committee scheduled to vote on $70 billion Tax Cut Reconciliation Bill

Week of November 7: House scheduled to vote on House Reconciliation Bill

November: House scheduled to vote on $70 Billion Tax Cut Reconciliation Bill

November 18: FY 2006 Continuing Resolution ends

Thanksgiving: Target adjournment for first session of 109th Congress


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