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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 6: 2/6/2006   
Headlines

Congress Cuts Foster Care

Budget Cuts Allow for Even Larger Tax Cuts

President Indicates More Cuts in Budget to Be Released February 6

Olympic Medallist Joins Efforts Against Childhood Obesity

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available Free to Subscribers

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Cuts Foster Care

On February 1, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a 216-214 vote, narrowly gave final congressional approval to a budget reconciliation bill that cuts nearly $40 billion from federal spending. Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance faces a $600 million loss that will mainly target the supports for grandparents and other relatives caring for abused and neglected children. The five-year budget plan calls for substantial cuts to child support, Medicaid, and student loans, and reauthorizes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), while adding stringent new work requirements that provide almost no funding increase for child care.

Thirteen Republicans joined all House Democrats in voting against the bill; those 13 Republicans include Representatives Jim Gerlach (PA), Tim Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), Steve LaTourette (OH), Jim Leach (IA), John McHugh (NY), Rob Ney (OH), Ron Paul (TX), Jim Ramstad (MN), Rob Simmons (CT), Chris Smith (NJ), John Sweeney (NY), and Heather Wilson (NM). The final vote is available online.

The bill's fate was uncertain leading up to the vote, as advocates nationwide jammed the telephone lines of key moderate Republicans urging them to vote no. The House originally passed the measure on December 19, by a vote of 212-206. Because the Senate added a small technical change when voting on December 21, the bill had to go back to the House for final approval. The Senate vote was 50-50, with Vice President Chaney providing the tie-breaking vote. See how your Senator voted.

CWLA, along with a national advocacy network of more than 100 organizations, has continued to voice its opposition to the budget bill and has repeatedly noted the dangers it contains for abused and neglected children and all American families. CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik remarked that Wednesday's vote "indicates that our nation is stepping away from our responsibility for all children, especially the 3 million children reported abused and neglected. Our federal government has turned its back on their state partners in working to protect these children. The members of Congress who supported this bill couldn't be clearer that children are not our nation's priority."

The final legislation repeals a Ninth Circuit Judicial ruling, Rosales v. Thompson, that allowed for greater foster care assistance to grandparents and other relatives caring for children who have been removed from their homes. It also imposes restrictions on how Title IV-E Administrative funds are used in placing a child in kinship or foster care.

While cutting foster care funding, the bill also provides two $10 million grants to encourage coordination between state courts and the child welfare system, and provides a one-time increase of $40 million in Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) funds.

The legislation also imposes a net cut of $11 billion from Medicaid through increased copays, lessening of benefits, and tightening of asset-transfer rules for long-term care patients. The bill clarifies what services can be billed as Medicaid-supported targeted case management (TCM). The Congressional Research Service had previously reported, "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."

Other major changes included in the reconciliation bill include a child care and TANF reauthorization, cuts of $1.5 billion in child support enforcement, $1.5 billion in farm subsidy programs, $6.4 billion in reductions for Medicare, and $12.7 billion in reductions to federal student loans programs through a series of changes to interest rates and fees. The final bill also puts some funding back into Medicaid by allocating $2.1 billion for hurricane assistance in selected counties and parishes in affected areas.

CWLA has a full description and analysis of the 2005 reconciliation bill online.

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Budget Cuts Allow for Even Larger Tax Cuts

As the House was approving legislation cutting important services for abused and neglected children, the U.S. Senate began work on finalizing a $70 billion tax cut bill (S. 2020). When the bill was originally passed by the Senate Finance Committee, the tax cuts were $60 billion. Due to the way the reconciliation rules were written, now that a $40 billion budget reconciliation entitlement cut has been enacted, the Senate can increase the size of the tax cut to $70 billion.

The Senate passed its tax-cut legislation at the end of last week, and the House had already passed its own tax-cut proposal (H.R. 4297), so now the House and Senate will have to agree on which tax cuts to include in the $70 billion total. Since the tax bills were passed as part of reconciliation measures, they have been placed under fast-track rules, which limit debate in both houses. If Congress completes the legislation, the net result of the two 2005 budget reconciliation bills will increase in the federal deficit.

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President Indicates More Cuts in Budget to Be Released February 6

Keeping to tradition, the Administration will follow last week's State of the Union address by sending Congress its FY 2007 budget proposal this Monday. In his January 31 State of the Union address, the President gave little indication of what that budget may include for children's programs, but he did call for more focused cuts affecting social programs.

In his speech, the President indicated he would seek to eliminate 140 programs, saving $14 billion in federal spending. The President failed to mention where these cuts may come from. He also indicated he would seek greater cuts in mandatory or entitlement programs. This raises alarm for the child welfare community, since federal entitlement funds provide more than 50% of the funding for child welfare. Early reports indicate the President may call for a half-billion-dollar cut from the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). SSBG is a flexible funding source that provides funding for more than 30 state and local programs. SSBG also constitutes 12% of all federal child welfare spending.

Recently, the President has highlighted the need for additional spending freezes and reductions in discretionary spending outside of defense spending and homeland security. These two areas of the federal budget make up approximately 85% of all discretionary spending that Congress must appropriate each year. The President also called for making his tax cut permanent, which will also have an added cost. It's unclear whether Congress will pursue another budget reconciliation bill in 2006, although Senate Budget Chair Judd Gregg (R-NH) has indicated his desire to do so.

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Olympic Medallist Joins Efforts Against Childhood Obesity

Dominick Dawes, a gold medallist in the 2004 Summer Olympics, along with the Girl Scouts of America and the Michael Cohen Group, helped present new findings on young girls' health-related attitudes, behaviors, and actions January 25 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The New Normal? What Girls Say About Health Living documents young girls' perceptions and attitudes concerning body image, diet, weight, and the level of exercise in their lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics says obesity is now the most chronic health problem among U.S. children; a lack of healthy food choices, larger portions of meals, and less exercise are the major contributing factors. More than 9 million children over age 6 areclassified as obese.

Highlighted in the report are finding that document the rates for overweight children and adolescents has doubled, and in some instances tripled, in the past two decades. Girls from low-income and minority backgrounds have the highest rates of childhood obesity.

Including findings from more than 2,000 girls, 450 boys, and nearly 600 mothers, the report reflects current attitudes and behaviors about exercise and diet. Young girls cite increasing pressure from peers and the need for acceptance to maintain healthy diet and exercise. This pressure affects girls' emotional health and self-esteem while playing a critical role in their own perceptions about exercise. Also critical is that young girls define healthy on their own terms, with an equal emphasis on physical and emotional well-being.

The full report is available online.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available Free to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

Preparations are under way 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 to best 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 directly from policymakers. Members of Congress need to hear what their votes will mean for the children, youth, and families in your state and community. Make your voice heard at Hill Day 2006!

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

February 6: Release of President's FY 2007 budget

February 18-26: President's Day Recess

February 27-March 1: CWLA National Conference, Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

March 18-26: Congressional Spring Break


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