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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 5: 1/30/2006   
Headlines

Final Budget Vote Set for Wednesday, February 1

President to Deliver State of the Union Address January 31

Increased Recognition of Dangers Related to Children and Meth

CWLA's Legislative Alerts Now Available to Subscribers

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress:



Final Budget Vote Set for Wednesday, February 1

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the budget reconciliation bill February 1. This final vote is likely to be close. If all members vote, it will take 217 votes to pass or defeat the bill. Last week, Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT) was the first to indicate that while he had previously supported the bill, he will vote against its final passage. If only a handful of members of Congress who originally voted for the bill decide to now vote against it, the bill will be defeated.

CWLA members are continuing their efforts to ensure that members of Congress are aware of the bill's impact and the $600 million in cuts to federal foster care assistance, which primarily impacts the ability of grandparents and other relatives to care for abused and neglected children. CWLA has coordinated its efforts with over 100 national organizations in an attempt to defeat the bill.

While the final budget bill cuts federal foster care funding by $1.3 billion over 10 years, the bill has now been changed to prevent the insurance industry from absorbing $22 billion in reduced Medicare reimbursements over 10 years. The bill includes changes to Medicaid that will decrease the level of services for many low-income individuals and families and impose new costs for those who can least afford health care. The bill also clarifies the use of Medicaid targeted case management (T M) services for children in the child welfare system. Since it is unclear how HHS will interpret these clarifications in regulations, TCM services for children in the child welfare system could potentially be reduced and costs to states could increase.

Also included in the bill is a five-year reauthorization of the TANF program that imposes hefty new work requirements on recipients and fails to recognize the supports needed for child care. The bill also reduces federal support for child support enforcement collections, resulting in $2.9 billion in child support going uncollected over the next 5 years and $8.4 billion going uncollected over the next 10 years, as well as $12.7 billion in cuts to student loan supports.

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President to Deliver State of the Union Address January 31

President Bush will address a joint session of Congress to present the annual State of the Union Address January 31. On February 6, the President will submit his FY 2007 budget to Congress, providing further details of his recommendations.

The President is again likely to call for "fiscal constraint" by further reducing federal spending for entitlement programs. Entitlement programs commit the federal government to reimbursing benefits based on meeting certain eligibility criteria. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) seems to be specifically targeted for these cuts. SSBG provides approximately 12% of federal child welfare spending nationally. Funding for SSBG has remained stable at $1.7 billion through this decade, but funding was increased by $500 million in 2005 to provide support to selected states affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The President's budget is also likely to target more domestic programs for budget cuts or elimination. If the President calls for freezing or funding these programs below the rate of inflation, the impact will be hard. Many human services programs have not received any increases in federal funding in five years.

The President is expected to call for more spending for defense and homeland security. In recent years, spending for these purposes have been exempted from cuts or freezes, leaving little financial room to reduce additional federal spending because the two areas represent nearly 85% of all discretionary spending. The remaining 15% of federal discretionary spending includes several programs that provide services to children, including Promoting Safe and Stable Families, Child Welfare services, Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), child care, Head Start, all education funding, some health care funding outside Medicare and Medicaid, and a range of other community services, including law enforcement, the environment, and agriculture. The President is also expected to call for more tax deductions for health care costs, and more energy legislation, including another call for drilling in Alaska.

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Increased Recognition of Dangers Related to Children and Meth

With an increasing amount of state legislatures following through on measures that control the amount of pseudophedrine individuals can purchase, the initial results have decreased the amount of meth labs, but not the level of use. Over 35 state legislatures have enacted some form of legislation intended to stop the mass production of home cooked meth and prevent the bulk purchasing of pseudoephedrine. As the New York Times reported January 23, states are now confronting increased rates of crystal meth imported from Mexico, resulting in additional health risks and increased crime rates.

Crystal meth, largely produced in Mexican super labs, is a purer and more addictive form of meth than that of the powdered, homecooked method state legislation has focused on. While communities are witnessing a decline in meth lab seizure rates, the increased use of crystal meth has resulted in greater risk of overdose, and, since crystal costs more, higher rates of theft have occurred as former cooks are now forced to buy the product.

The National Association of Counties (NACO) also released a survey last week that examined the impact of meth on hospital emergency rooms and challenges for meth treatment. Of responding hospitals, 47% reported meth is the top illicit drug requiring medical treatment, and 73% have witnessed increases in emergency room visits due to meth over the last five years. NACO also reports that communities are ill prepared to handle meth addiction treatment. Sixty-three percent of responding health officials believe they do not have sufficient capacity to effectively support a meth treatment program. Research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and others reveals that meth treatment is much more intense than other drugs and takes substantially longer for treatment to be effective. This survey follows a 2005 NACO survey revealing that 40% of all responding child welfare officials report an increase in out-of-home placements due to methamphetamines within the last year

On January 12, staff from the Congressional Meth Caucus noted during CWLA's final teleconference session on the impact of meth and the child welfare system that the Meth Caucus plans to focus more on treatment and prevention efforts in 2006. The Combat Meth Act (S. 103, H.R. 314) was added late last year to the reauthorization of the Patriot Act and is scheduled to gain Congressional approval when the vote takes place in February. The legislation is the most comprehensive meth bill to date and creates a federal standard limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine one can purchase.

To access the full NACO report, visit their website.

To obtain transcripts or CDs of past CWLA teleconferences, call 202/638-2952.

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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 of legislative battles. Previously, CWLA only sent alerts to its members.

In an effort to broaden our advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort complements the availability of CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, Children's Monitor, which is also available to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass the information on to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Sign up on our website.

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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 best to 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:

President's State of the Union Address: January 31

House of Representatives vote on budget reconciliation: February 1

House of Representatives to vote for new House Majority Leader: February 2

Release of President's FY 2007 budget: February 6

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures: February 27-March 1

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