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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 3: 1/16/2006   
Headlines

CWLA Members United in Fight Against Foster Care Cuts

Budget Bill Includes Some New Spending for Child Welfare

CWLA Member Agency Releases New Teen Pregnancy Report on Capitol Hill

2007 Budget: More Entitlement and Discretionary Program Cuts Expected

Federal Deficits Increase; Yet Children's Programs Have Not Benefited

Child Care Tax Credit Campaign Begins

Senate Holds Federal Youth Coordination Act Briefing

CWLA's Legislative Alerts Now Available to Subscribers

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



CWLA Members United in Fight Against Foster Care Cuts

CWLA members from across the country joined Shay Bilchik, President and CEO, on a national conference call denouncing the upcoming Congressional vote on a budget reconciliation bill that reduces federal support for abused and neglected children. "We refuse to stand by and let Congress force the abused and neglected children of the country to stand by themselves," Bilchik noted in the January 12 call.

CWLA members used the call to coordinate final strategies and messages in continued efforts to inform members of Congress about the impact of these proposed cuts. This conference call galvanized months of efforts by CWLA staff and members to ensure that Congress does not reduce support for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. In coming weeks, prior to the February 1 vote, CWLA will continue strategy calls and outreach to members to coordinate actions regarding key members of Congress. CWLA encourages all readers to contact their U.S. Representatives to voice their opposition to the bill.

The budget reconciliation bill that the House is about to vote on (S. 1932) cuts nearly $600 million in federal foster care assistance for abused and neglected children being cared for by grandparents and other relatives. The House previously approved this measure by a vote of 212 to 206 shortly before 6:00 a.m. on December 19 after an all-night session. Sixteen members of Congress failed to make the early morning vote.

Subsequently, the Senate approved the bill on December 21, however, the Senate made a few technical changes, which means the House must vote again. As the House cannot make any amendments to the bill, this will be the final vote. If the bill passes the House on February 1, it will go to the President for final approval.

In addition to cuts to foster care, the bill includes changes to Medicaid by decreasing the level of services for many low-income individuals and families and imposing new costs for those who can least afford health care. The bill also includes the reauthorization of the TANF and Child Care programs which fails to recognize the great need for additional child care funding, and reduces federal support for child support enforcement collections, resulting in $2.9 billion in child support going uncollected over the next five years, and $8.4 billion going uncollected over the next 10 years. A $12.7 billion cut in student loan supports is also included.

CWLA will be working in conjunction with many state and local advocates against passage of this legislation. To learn how you can get involved, sign up for CWLA's Legislative Alerts (see below), or contact CWLA directly at 202/638-2952

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Budget Bill Includes Some New Spending for Child Welfare

The budget reconciliation bill the House is about to vote on does provide funding for two new grant programs aimed at strengthening the performance of the courts on behalf of children who have been abused and neglected. The bill appropriates $100 million for these grants over five years. The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care originally included these grants as part of their recommendations in 2004. The bill also contains a $40 million, one-year increase in guaranteed funding for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program.

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CWLA Member Agency Releases New Teen Pregnancy Report on Capitol Hill

CWLA member agency Ulich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy released findings from the first phase of their new study concerning teen pregnancy and youth in foster care. Based on focus groups and service provider surveys, the 2005 study is one of the first to specifically assess the relationship and effects of teen pregnancy for youth in foster care. The focus groups took place in the Chicago area in early 2005, and were comprised of foster children and foster parents.

Preliminary results reveal that children in foster care lack some meaningful relationships and face increased pressure to engage in sexual activity. Although information concerning sex and pregnancy is offered to children in foster care, often it is not offered in a timely manner. The report also found that many foster youth see great benefits in having children at an early age because this gives them the opportunity to prove they can be better parents than what they knew. Close relationships between foster youth, case managers, and foster parents are critical in preventing foster youth from engaging in risky sexual activity.

This is the first in a series of studies conducted by the partnering agencies. To read the full report, visit: www.teenpregnancy.org.

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2007 Budget: More Entitlement and Discretionary Program Cuts Expected

On February 6, the President will send Congress his budget proposal for fiscal year 2007, which begins on October 1, 2006. Some Washington officials indicate the proposed budget will include more cuts to entitlements and discretionary programs. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the new budget "is going to call for sacrifices, no doubt about it. The rate of growth will be slowed. There will be some outright reductions." Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) also highlighted the need to slow the rate of growth in entitlements that total approximately 60% of the federal budget, or about $1.3 trillion.

Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance programs are entitlement programs, which means they will again be swept up in this debate to reduce federal spending on entitlement programs. Entitlement programs do not require Congress to vote each year on the level of funding. Rather, their annual funding levels are automatically set at the level required to fund the services authorized for eligible persons.

The majority of federal entitlement spending is spent on Medicare and Medicaid, and now the new Medicare prescription drug program that went into effect January 1. Originally, this new drug benefit was slated to cost $534 billion over a five or six year period, but early last year the White House administration indicated this cost will actually rise to $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance represents less than $7 billion of the annual $1.3 trillion total federal entitlement spending.

TANF and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) programs, as well as part of the Child Care and Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) programs, could also be exposed to scrutiny in the upcoming budget.

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Federal Deficits Increase; Yet Children's Programs Have Not Benefited

While budget deficits have swelled from surpluses to deficits since 2002, many children's programs have not had any funding increases during that time and have not benefited from growth in government spending in other areas.

In 2002, deficits reappeared at $158 billion, rising in 2003 and 2004, and then dipping to $319 billion in 2005. Some projections put deficits back up to $365 billion in 2006. At the same time the deficit was increasing by 57% between 2002 and 2006, many children's programs were frozen or reduced. Funding for Head Start increased by less than 5% in this same time period, with funding cut in 2006. Funding for Title IV-B Child Welfare Services, a discretionary block grant, was reduced by 1% during this time period. The Child Abuse and Treatment Program funding did increase by 19% during this time period, but funding for the state grant program has always been small in scope. FY 2006 funding for all states under the CAPTA state grant program was $27 million.

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Child Care Tax Credit Campaign Begins

The National Women's Law Center is collaborating with state child care advocates to conduct a Tax Credits Outreach Campaign for the 2006 tax-filing season. The Campaign is designed to inform families about the tax benefits they are entitled to claim when they file their 2005 tax returns in early 2006, with a special emphasis on reaching families through child care services networks. The Center has developed a toolkit designed to assist the child care community in conducting tax credits outreach.

Materials for the campaign include fliers to inform families about federal tax credits, how much they may be worth, and state-specific fliers for states with their own child and dependent care tax provision or earned income tax credit, showing how much these credits may be worth, and other state-specific campaign materials, fact sheets, payroll or envelope stuffers on federal tax credits, sample scripts for public service announcements, and a template press release for the campaign kick-off. All products are produced in several languages to meet the needs of all eligible populations.

This campaign is focused on the child care tax credits. To join the Tax Credits Outreach Campaign, or for more information on state-specific materials, contact Amy Meek at 202/588-5180, or visit: http://www.nwlc.org/details.cfm?id=2493§ion=tax. To access information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, visit: http://www.cbpp.org/eic2006/.

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Senate Holds Federal Youth Coordination Act Briefing

Senate staff gained a greater understanding of the aspects and benefits of the Federal Youth Coordination Act (S. 409) at a Senate briefing January 11. Senate sponsors of the briefing included Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Mike DeWine (R-OH), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). CWLA has supported this legislation, which seeks to combine and unite the efforts of federal agencies providing youth-targeted services.

Along with Congressional staff and local elected officials, Terry Harrack, a founding member of CWLA's National Foster Youth Advisory Council, spoke about the need to better coordinate youth services.

The bill allows the President to appoint a Federal Youth Development Council comprised of 16 federal agency secretaries, youth, and other representatives from youth-serving nonprofit organizations. The Councilís goal will be to work toward a greater coordination of federal agency efforts, and to produce an annual report assessing the needs and well being of youth. This will also include recommendations for a better integration and coordination of federal, state, and local policies affecting youth, and a report on the Council's work to facilitate interagency collaboration.

The legislation (H.R. 856) passed the House November 15 by a vote of 353-62. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill soon.

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CWLA's Legislative Alerts Now Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important, timely details about legislative work. In an effort to broaden our advocacy network on behalf of children, CWLA has opened subscription to this information to the general public. Previously, alerts were sent to CWLA members only.

This effort compliments the availability of CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, Children's Monitor, which is also available to any subscriber. We encourage you to register online to receive these items directly, and to pass the information on to other colleagues, family, and friends.

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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 leading child welfare practitioners, teachers, researchers, and advocates together in Washington, DC, to learn and share how to best meet the needs of children in foster care.

CWLA's annual Hill Day gives conference attendees an 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 directly from policymakers. Members of Congress need to hear what their votes will mean for children, youth, and families in your state and local community. Make your voice heard at Hill Day 2006!

For more information and to register, visit our website

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

Second Session of 109th Congress begins: Senate, January 18; House, January 31

President's State of the Union Address: January 31

Election of New House Majority Leader and Other Positions:
February 2

Expected House Vote on Budget Reconciliation: February 1

Release of President's FY 2007 budget: February 6

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