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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 11: 3/13/2006   
Headlines

FY 2007 Budget Decisions Stall

Effort to Save SSBG Underway

Child Care Organizations Call on HHS to Stop the Elimination of The Child Care Bureau

CWLA Joins Effort to Urge HHS to Implement National Youth In Transition Database

CWLA Joins Groups Calling on HHS To Implement TANF Regulations To Assist Families

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



FY 2007 Budget Decisions Stall

The Senate took its first step in passing a budget for FY 2007 last week when the Senate Budget Committee adopted a budget resolution. This resolution will outline limits on spending and, as it did last year, possible cuts to mandatory and entitlement programs. Before a resolution is adopted, Senate and House budget committees must come to an agreement on a final resolution. There appears to be growing distance from the President's FY 2007 budget proposal as Congressional leaders are showing concern about pushing for another set of cuts to mandatory and entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and foster care during an election year. Senate Budget Committee chair Judd Gregg (R-NH) made a strong statement against entitlement cuts on Tuesday when he announced that Republican leaders in the Senate had failed to gain enough votes for another set of entitlement cuts.

By the end of last week, House leadership was stating that they would not act on their budget resolution until after the St Patrick's Day break that starts on March 18. Budget decisions may also be delayed as Congress completes work on a $70 billion tax cut package. The tax legislation is part of the 2005 budget reconciliation and it must be passed before adoption of a budget resolution for FY 2007. Negotiations between the House and Senate over what should be included in the $70 billion tax cut legislation have slowed, with Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) indicating they will not reach an agreement until April.

The President released his FY 2007 budget proposal on February 6, which calls for $65 billion in cuts to entitlement programs, including a 30% reduction--$500 million--in total Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funding. This cut poses a significant loss to child welfare supports as SSBG accounts for 12% of all federal child welfare allocations.

In testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Michael Leavitt, Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, noted that the President's budget does call for additional funding cuts to programs and added: "We had to make hard choices…when there are fewer resources available, someone has to decide that it is better to do one thing or another…our budget reflects those areas that have the highest pay-off potential."

Committee members raised concerns with the Secretary in some program areas that touch on child welfare. Representative David Obey (R-WI-7th) discussed the 25% reduction in the Maternal/Child Health Block Grant; Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI-1st) pointed to the provisions in the proposed budget to restrict Medicaid’s targeted case management matching funds for various children's services such as mental health; and Representative Don Sherwood (R-PA-10th) questioned Secretary Leavitt on the cuts to the Community Service Block Grant.

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Effort to Save SSBG Underway

CWLA, as co-chair of the National Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) Coalition, is circulating a letter calling on Congress to reject the President's proposed 30% cut in SSBG funding. In the letter that will go to members in both Chambers, the SSBG Coalition notes that any additional loss of funding to SSBG will threaten communities’ ability to provide services "to children, families, the elderly, and people with disabilities."

SSBG is a flexible funding stream designed to allow states to divert federal funds to areas that demand the most attention. Currently funded at $1.7 billion, SSBG funds over 29 separate programs ranging from child protective services, to early education and child care, to Meals on Wheels for senior citizens. This flexibility has allowed communities to meet the specific challenges they face and reinforces the role of SSBG as a key social safety net program. As noted above, SSBG serves as a vital source of child welfare supports. States use SSBG funds to provide adoption services, foster care, independent living, residential treatment, and services for at- risk youth, as well as child protection.

SSBG is featured as part of CWLA's Legislative Agenda and Hot Topics. Local and national organizations are encouraged to sign on to the letter in support of SSBG.

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Child Care Organizations Call on HHS to Stop the Elimination of The Child Care Bureau

CWLA joined with 289 other local and national child care advocates last week in calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mike Leavitt to reverse the decision that will in effect eliminate the Child Care Bureau. Under the new plan, child care would no longer be governed by a Bureau under the Administration for Children Youth and Families (ACYF), but by the Office of Family Assistance, which also has oversight of the TANF block grant. The New York Times wrote about service agencies’ objections, specifically citing CWLA's involvement, in a story March 10.

As part of the re-organization, HHS is also planning to elevate Head Start, which will directly report to the Assistant Secretary of the ACYF Secretary, Dr. Wade Horn. Currently, Head Start is a separate bureau within ACYF. In justifying the elimination of the Child Care Bureau, Secretary Leavitt noted that "the enhanced work participation requirements under the Deficit Reduction Act will require close coordination between the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs and the child care programs to assure that States are able to move current welfare recipients into employment."

This reorganization fails to recognize the importance of child care to the education and well-being of children, and minimizes the importance of child care assistance in supporting working families, particularly low-income parents. Additionally, it could potentially disrupt the coordination efforts currently underway in states to provide more integrated early education and afterschool services.

Since l995, the Child Care Bureau has played a leadership role in expanding the child care services and the quality of those services. However, child care slots or services will have declined by 650,000 children by the end of this decade, according to budget calculations from the Administration. Unless Congress acts, HHS could move forward with the reorganization through administrative actions.

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CWLA Joins Effort to Urge HHS to Implement National Youth In Transition Database

CWLA has joined forces with other national and local organizations in urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD). A letter will be sent to Dr. Horn, the Assistant Secretary referred to above, requesting the immediate implementation of the database system.

The NYTD is mandated by the Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA), passed in 1999, but it has yet to be implemented. The FCIA requires states to collect information on: 1) outcome measures for youth aging out, including educational attainment, employment, avoidance of homelessness, non-marital childbirth, and others; and 2) the number and characteristics of children receiving services and the types of services provided. The law specifies that HHS develop and implement a plan to collect this information.

HHS completed the first step of the process by developing outcome measures and data elements in 2001. The state reporting system tool, called the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD), was submitted to Congress in September 2001. In 2002, HHS announced plans to issue a regulation regarding state compliance and penalties related to NYTD. This did not happen. Again, in late 2004, in response to the GAO report, HHS announced that it would issue these regulations in 2005. To date, HHS has neither issued the regulations nor begun collecting data.

The letter to Dr. Horn is being circulated now. If you would like to be included on the letter, please send an email to Robin Nixon, National Foster Care Coalition, rnixon@msn.com. To view the letter, go to www.natlfostercare.org.

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CWLA Joins Groups Calling on HHS To Implement TANF Regulations To Assist Families

CWLA joined with nearly 100 state and national groups calling on HHS to implement the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) regulations in a way that will not harm vulnerable families. As a result of the reauthorization of the TANF block grant included in the DRA, HHS must now write new regulations outlining allowable practices and guidelines. The legislation directs the department to take a more active role in how work requirements are implemented by the states and how states verify whether or not an individual is working.

Since its creation in 1996, TANF has required states to have a minimum percentage of adults meeting weekly work requirements. The new TANF law dramatically increased the number of adults in each state who must meet the work requirements. Current law allowed states some flexibility in what percentage of adults must be meeting the work requirements. The new law allows less flexibility and it is expected that almost all states must have at least 50% of TANF adult recipients in single parent families meeting work requirements, and 90% of adults in two-parent families meeting the work requirements.

Previously, no state had to meet the 50% work requirement, but all states had adults working, with rates around 30% nationally. Many states will have difficulty meeting the 50% requirement and, as a result, could be penalized with a loss of federal TANF funds. To avoid these penalties, states could remove families from TANF public assistance in order to reduce their TANF caseloads and to obtain the caseload credit.

The TANF sign on letter is available on CWLA's website.

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CWLA 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.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

  • St Patrick's Day Congressional break: March 18 through March 26
  • Target date for Congress to pass budget resolutions: March 15-18.
  • Congressional Spring break: April 8—April 23.
  • Deadline to complete negotiations between the Senate and House and adopt a single, final budget resolution: April 15.


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