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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 47: 12/12/2005   
Headlines

Negotiations Intensify on Budget Reconciliation

Action Steps for This Week: Attend Community Events, Continue Calling

NGA Endorses Eliminating Foster Care Cuts

Congressional Research Service Reports on Negative Impact of House Reconciliation Provisions on Child Welfare

CWLA Joins Effort in Calling for Increased Federal Support for Mental Health

New Funding Provided for Housing for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Negotiations Intensify on Budget Reconciliation

Negotiations on a final budget reconciliation package intensified last week as the House of Representatives came back into session after Thanksgiving. The Senate is scheduled to return today. Staff members of various committees have engaged in heated negotiations and are reported to be making progress towards a compromise. The status of foster care program cuts is unclear.

The next step is for a conference committee of House and Senate members to be named. This committee, together with Congressional leadership and the White House, will take up final negotiations and send the package to both houses for passage, if and when the package is completed.

Many differences between the House and Senate bills need to be resolved. Since the House bill cuts foster care by $600 million and the Senate bill does not contain these cuts, this differen e will be an item the conference committee will consider when crafting a final reconciliation bill. Other issues to be resolved include cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, child care, and child support enforcement. The House bill cuts Medicaid by nearly $12 billion while the Senate bill reduces federal spending for Medicaid by just under $5 billion. The Senate bill includes cuts to Medicare by eliminating a subsidy available with the new prescription drug program, but the House bill does not include any changes to Medicare. The House bill cuts food stamps and child support, while the Senate bill makes no changes to those programs. Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill includes a reauthorization of the TANF and Child Care programs.

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Action Steps for This Week: Attend Community Events, Continue Calling

Congress is facing mounting opposition to cutting funds for programs, particularly those in need such as victims of abuse and neglect, while at the same time approving measures to cut taxes, mostly for the affluent.
This week, activity is planned in cities across the country to call on Congress to oppose any budget legislation that includes these cuts. Activities include meetings with members of Congress, press conferences, prayer vigils, and other events. CWLA urges child advocates to participate and to join other concerned citizens in their communities to continue building opposition to cuts.

For information about events in your community and how you can participate, call CWLA at 202/942-0256.
Advocates are also continuing to generate calls to their Senators and Representatives. Tens of thousands of calls have been made in recent weeks. Advocates will generate many more calls this week. A toll free number, generously provided by the American Friends Service Committee, is again available to make these calls. The number is 800/426-8073.

The CWLA No Caps on Kids! campaign can provide more information about these events, calls, and other activities, as well as provide talking points, summaries and other analysis of legislation. Contact the No Caps on Kids! campaign at the phone number above, or visit our website.

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NGA Endorses Eliminating Foster Care Cuts

In a December 5 letter to Senate and House leaders, the bipartisan National Governors Association (NGA) urged Congressional leaders not to include the $600 million Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance program cuts in the final budget reconciliation bill.

NGA states that they "have serious concerns with provisions in the House package that would limit IV-E eligibility for children placed with relative caregivers and urge conferees to strike these provisions from the final conference agreement. In particular, governors believe that placements with suitable relatives, which proved greater permanency and stability for children who would otherwise be IV-E eligible, should not be restricted by the federal government."

In addition to calling for eliminating the foster care cuts, NGA also urged Congressional leaders to limit impact on states from Medicaid changes, to minimize cuts to child support, food stamps, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and increase relief funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina. NGA also expressed concerns about including the TANF reauthorization without full Congressional debate on the issue.

Visit www.nga.org to read the full NGA letter.

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Congressional Research Service Reports on Negative Impact of House Reconciliation Provisions on Child Welfare

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research agency used by members of Congress, has issued a report on the impact of the House and Senate reconciliation bills on the child welfare community. The report states the repeal of the Rosales v. Thompson decision included in the House budget reconciliation bill would mean that many children eligible for federal foster care assistance would no longer be eligible.

The report also features information on a HHS Administration for Children and Families survey indicting the changed eligibility guidelines for foster care candidates included in the House bill would cost states $200,000 to $79 million.

CRS also comments on the provision included in both the House and Senate budget reconciliation bills that further clarifies the use of Targeted Case Management (TCM) services for children in the child welfare system. FY 2002 data shows TCM services benefited 165,265 children in foster care. The budget reconciliation bills clarifies what services can be billed as Medicaid-supported TCM, with CRS reporting that "the effect of this legislative proposal is uncertain, but is believed…to reduce access to Medicaid TCM claims for a range of populations, including particularly Medicaid-eligible foster children."

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CWLA Joins Effort in Calling for Increased Federal Support for Mental Health

With final negotiations underway on the FY 2006 legislation that will set funding levels for programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CWLA joined other organization members of the Mental Health Liaison Group to send a letter to Congress calling for an increase in funding for mental health services, supports, and research.

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New Funding Provided for Housing for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children

For the first time in history, Congress has approved $4 million to provide housing for grandparents and other relatives raising children. The Transportation, Treasury, Housing, and Urban Development annual appropriations bill, signed into law November 30, included funding for these LEGACY Housing Demonstrations. The LEGACY funds will give the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) necessary resources to help local organizations develop housing specifically for grandparent and other relative headed households that care for 6 million of the nation's children.

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Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Preparations are underway for CWLA's 2006 National Conference: Securing Brighter Futures, February 27- March 1. CWLA will bring together leading child welfare practitioners, teachers, researchers, and advocates to Washington, DC, for three days of learning and sharing about how best to meet the needs of children in foster care.

CWLA's annual Hill Day gives conference attendees the opportunity to meet with members of Congress about the issues that affect the children, youth, and families we serve. Hill Day participants will learn about key children's issues facing Congress from leaders in the field, CWLA staff, and key policymakers. Members of Congress need to hear what their votes will mean for the children, youth, and families in your state and local community. Make your voice heard at Hill Day 2006! Last March, CWLA's voices were heard as part of the No Caps on Kids! campaign that prevented stronger measures in Congress to block grant the foster care program.
For more information about the 2006 conference, visit CWLA's website.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

December 12: Senate reconvenes

December 17: FY 2006 Continuing Resolution ends

Before Christmas: Target adjournment for First Session of 109th Congress


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