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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 12: 3/20/2006   
Headlines

Senate Approves Budget Resolution for 2007 Funding

Senate Committee Rejects Cuts to SSBG

CWLA Submits Appropriations Requests to Congress

CWLA Urges Congress to Reject Further Cuts to Juvenile Justice

Adoption Coalitions Unite to Call for Reform of Child Welfare System

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Indian Child Protection Act

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Approves Budget Resolution for 2007 Funding

As the first step in the FY 2007 appropriations process, the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 last week to adopt a budget resolution. The resolution sets discretionary spending at approximately $882 billion for 2007. That figure adds at least $9 billion to the President's budget. Discretionary spending is those federal dollars that must be approved by Congress each year and includes most of the funding for children's programs, as well as funding for Defense and Homeland Security. The budget resolution does not propose anther budget reconciliation bill to cut entitlement spending.

One of the more important votes was on an amendment to restore $7 billion in funding for health and education programs. The amendment, sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), passed with broad bipartisan support on a vote of 73-27. Funding would be restored to the level from FY 2005.

This is only the first step in this year's budget debate. The House must act on its own budget resolution. House leaders have not decided whether they will try to adopt another set of cuts to entitlements, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and foster care. The House will not begin to make those decisions until it returns from the St. Patrick's Day recess on March 27. Once the House approves a resolution, the Senate and House will have to concur on one budget resolution. These negotiations will be key, as there are likely to be significant differences between the two budget resolutions, including funding for programs affected by the Specter-Harkin amendment and the Social Services Block Grant. SSBG is level funded in the Senate bill, but the House seems poised to adopt a $500 million cut as proposed in the President's budget.

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Senate Committee Rejects Cuts to SSBG

Prior to the full Senate adopting a budget resolution, the Senate Budget Committee on March 9 rejected a $500 million cut to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The cut was considered as part of a draft budget resolution largely based on the President's budget proposal released February 6.

The proposed cut to SSBG was part of CWLA's Legislative "Hot Topics" in its 2006 Legislative Agenda. Hill Day participants at CWLA's National Conference in February were crucial in informing members of Congress of the adverse effect of the cut to SSBG.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered the amendment that preserved SSBG funding, and the measure passed on a voice vote by committee members. The Administration's proposed budget sought to reduced SSBG funding by 30%, from $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion.

SSBG represents 12% of all federal funding states spend on child welfare services. SSBG funds are used to provide child abuse prevention, adoption services, foster care, child protection, independent and transitional living, and residential services for children and youth. In FY 2003, states allocated nearly $700 million in SSBG funds for children and youth involved in child welfare. Nationwide, more than 2.6 million children received a range of child welfare services funded in part or in full by SSBG.

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CWLA Submits Appropriations Requests to Congress

On March 8, CWLA submitted its request to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, outlining CWLA priorities in key children's programs. In the letter, CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik addresses mainly discretionary programs--those programs that must receive annual funding approval from Congress. The letter highlighted the need to protect SSBG from the Administration's proposed half billion dollar cut. CWLA also calls for increased funding for child care and Head Start to a level that will at least address cuts in services that have taken place in both programs due to underfunding and inflation.

The letter is available on CWLA's website.

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CWLA Urges Congress to Reject Further Cuts to Juvenile Justice

The President's proposed budget for FY 2007 calls for continued drastic cuts in funding for juvenile justice. Over the past four years, juvenile justice funding has been cut by 43%. The President's FY 2007budget would cut funding for the Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Grant program by 50%, to $32 million, down from $64 million in FY 2006. Funding for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant would be eliminated entirely. Funds for administering these and other juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs would remain at the inadequate level of $700,000. In recent years, administration funding was set at $6.8 million.

Juvenile justice programs are not able to sustain cuts of this magnitude. CWLA is working with many organizations to urge Congress to reject further cuts. A letter was sent last week to the Appropriations Committees with an urgent appeal to reject these latest proposed cuts.

The letter is available on CWLA's website.

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Adoption Coalitions Unite to Call for Reform of Child Welfare System

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) held a congressional briefing on March 14, in which the organizations called on Congress to provide increased supports for and revisions to the child welfare system to improve outcomes for children and address other pressing challenges, including inadequate financing, an overextended workforce, and limited placement options.

Senate Finance Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) spoke at the briefing, stating, "Every child has the right to a safe and loving home." The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over much of the federal funding for child welfare programs. Grassley has made child welfare a top priority for the Finance Committee this legislative session. He noted the committee is expected to reauthorize the expiring Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF) and to offer increased tax credits for adoptive parents. PSSF helps states meet the mandated timelines introduced as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA.)

Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), President of CCAI and key sponsor of previous legislation that allows for a $5,000 tax credit for adoptive families, echoed Grassley's comments by calling on greater supports for the children, youth, and families involved with the child welfare system.

Grassley also signaled the Finance Committee would begin hearings concerning the effect of methamphatamine on the child welfare system. CWLA has strongly supported greater efforts focusing on treatment and prevention of meth abuse, and this is included as part of its 2006 Legislative Agenda.

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Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Indian Child Protection Act

On March 15, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Act. The legislation, S. 1899, would reauthorize funding for child protection programs for tribal communities. The act was first passed in 1990 and is intended to channel child abuse prevention and treatment funding to tribal governments nationwide. For much of their history these programs have been underfunded or not funded at all. Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) noted a failure to follow through on the act.

Terry Cross, Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association highlighted five key recommendations in his testimony, emphasizing the need to provide necessary funding. He called for increased support for child abuse and neglect data collection, technical assistance, background checks, and clarifications on some of the background check requirements.

McCain, sponsor of S. 1899, highlighted the growing problem of methamphetamine abuse and its effect on tribal communities. He noted that Congress needed to place a higher priority on the issue and its impact on both the tribal community and the country overall. Dorgan, a bill cosponsor, said child abuse deserved greater attention and "is not just some other issue" that can be ignored.

The Committee is expected to act on the legislation by the end of March. Other Senate sponsors include Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Currently, there is no complimentary House bill.

Testimony from the hearing is available online.

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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

March 18-26: St Patrick's Day Congressional Break

April 8-23: Congressional Spring Break

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


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