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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 9: 2/27/2006   
Headlines

Meitner Departs CWLA

Congress Returns for Start of Appropriations

Higher Education Opportunities for Foster Youth

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

CWLA's Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Meitner Departs CWLA

CWLA Vice President of Government Affairs Liz Meitner has announced she will be leave her position at CWLA effective March 3, 2006. She will begin her new role as Vice President of Public Policy at Voices for America's Children, a children's advocacy organization based in Washington, DC, on March 6.

After 16 years at CWLA, Liz will make the 2006 CWLA National Conference her last. Liz has provided a strong voice on the issues affecting children, youth, and families that have come before Congress, and she has taken the lead in crafting and developing CWLA's Legislative Agenda. Throughout her tenure, she has been considered a highly regarded resource for Congressional staff, advocates, students and all friends of children.

She has been involved in shaping and developing the core child welfare programs enacted since 1990, including the creation and expansion of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, the Family Unification Program, the Adoption Incentive Program, the Adoption and Safe and Stable Families Act, and expansion of the John H. Chafee Independent Living program, as well as the rejection of proposals that would have ended entitlement funding under Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. She has had a significant impact on ensuring adequate services for abused and neglected children and the foster families who care for them, along with an increased focus on preventing child maltreatment.

Within CWLA, Liz has guided Government Affairs' efforts for the past six years. Under her leadership, CWLA has served as the cochair of the National Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition, which coordinates the national analysis and federal advocacy efforts of national organizations. Liz also greatly increased the accessibility and output of CWLA advocacy materials--developing the Children's Monitor and Legislative Alerts, along with an increased amount of material found on CWLA's Advocacy website.

As CWLA moves forward, we will be forever grateful for Liz's tireless commitment and the dedication she has shown to improving the lives of all children.

Senior Policy Associates John Sciamanna and Tim Briceland-Betts will serve as acting codirectors for CWLA's Government Affairs Department as we continue to aggressively pursue our agenda on behalf of this nation's most vulnerable children and families.

Back to Headlines

Congress Returns for Start of Appropriations

The House and Senate return this week ready to begin action on the annual appropriations process. The House Appropriations Committee has already scheduled all of March to conduct hearings on the 2007 budget. Each year, the House of Representatives begins the appropriations process for the next fiscal year to begin on October 1. The Senate is expected to begin its appropriations process in late March and early April. General Congressional guidelines call for Appropriations committees to provide their budget estimates six weeks following the release of the President's budget.

On March 8, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt will appear before the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHHS-Education to review the Administration's budget proposal. Released on February 6, the Administration's proposed budget drops HHS discretionary spending by $2 billion below funding for 2006. The budget recommends providing $67.6 billion in discretionary spending in HHS, down from the $69.2 billion for FY 2006. Even this allocation of spending assumes that Congress will accept the President's proposal to cut funding in the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) from its regular funding level of $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion, and use remaining funds to cover some of the current HHS discretionary spending.

CWLA strongly opposes SSBG cuts. Some members, including Subcommittee Chair Ralph Regula (R-OH), have publicly groaned about the decreased funding levels for HHS. Some of the more popular programs in that department, such as funding for health research in the National Institutes of Health, are frozen, or even cut from one program to fund another. For Congress to protect other programs will either come at the expense of funding for other HHS programs, or require a complete rejection of the President's proposed budget.

Senate Budget Chair Judd Gregg (R-NH) will again play a critical role in the budget process. Gregg has repeatedly advocated cuts from entitlement programs, as well as tight caps on discretionary levels, as a measure to reign in the federal deficit. By April 15, both the House and Senate will approve a budget resolution package, which is not signed by the President but rather serves as the guideline for specific program appropriations.

Last year's budget resolution included specific instructions to appropriators to follow a reconciliation procedure. Historically, reconciliation packages are included as a measure to decrease the federal deficit by controlling federal expenditures over a five-year budget window. The 2005 Budget Reconciliation Act, adopted February 1, 2006, included a $39.7 billion cut to federal entitlement programs, including nearly a $600 million loss to Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.

Several moderate members of Congress, facing difficult reelection campaigns this fall, have balked at the idea of another reconciliation package, and they are also leery of the President's budget proposal. Even if a reconciliation package is not adopted, any further cuts to human service programs will have a direct negative effect on the availability of services for children, youth, and families.

Back to Headlines

Higher Education Opportunities for Foster Youth

A recent report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy addresses the challenges facing foster youth as they attempt to gain higher education levels. The report notes that of college-qualified foster youth (about 150,000 total), only 30,000 are attending post-secondary education.

Currently, foster youth complete high school at a rate of 50%. The lack of adult life skills, mental health problems, dislocation, and nonacademic barriers are some of the reasons for the disparity in higher education opportunities for foster care youth. The report also recognizes that the root of the unique barriers foster youth face in gaining advanced education is their common traumatic experience: the neglect or abuse that brought them to the attention of public authorities, and subsequent removal from their families. When youth must switch foster homes, the report says that placements that cause youth to begin at a new school are also substantial factors in academic difficulties.

Tom Wolanin, Senior Associate for the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and author of the report recommends a shared approach in ensuring foster youth gain the educational skills necessary to thrive. This includes all who are exposed to the foster youth, including judges, teachers, parents, social workers, counselors, and foster parents.

The full report is available online.

Back to Headlines

Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

CWLA's 2006 National Conference begins this week. From Feb. 27 through March 1, CWLA is bringing together the 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. At this time, CWLA will release its full 2006 Legislative Agenda and announce new child welfare financing proposals for Congress to consider.

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 local community. Make your voice heard at Hill Day 2006!

Back to Headlines

CWLA's Legislative Alerts Available 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.

Back to Headlines

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

Feb. 27-Mar. 1, 2006: Children 2006: Securing Brighter Futures

March 18-26: Congressional Spring Break

March 15-18: Target date for Congress to pass budget resolutions

March 18-26: Congressional Break

April 8-23: Congressional Spring Break

April 15: Deadline to complete negotiations between the Senate and House and adopt a single, final budget resolution


Back to Headlines

Click here to see the list of previous issues

If you know of others who would like their names added to this list, please have them visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm. To remove yourself from this list, send an e-mail to monitor@cwla.org with "Remove from Monitor Online List" in the subject line.

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of this publication may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.