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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 15: 4/10/2006   
Headlines

Child Welfare Waivers Approved at Deadline

Negotiations on House Budget Resolution Collapse

CWLA Submits Testimony on Meth Impact on Indian Country

Chapin Hall Presents on the Special Education Needs of Children in Foster Care

National Children's Memorial Flag Day

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Child Welfare Waivers Approved at Deadline

On March 31, the authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve Title IV-E foster care waivers expired. Just before the deadline, HHS granted at least five states permission to proceed with waivers. Iowa, Michigan, and Virginia received waivers for subsidized guardianship, and California's and Florida's waivers are for flexible financing.

The California and Florida waivers allow those states to receive IV-E funds as a fixed block grant based on projected costs over the next five years. The California waiver covers children birth through age 19 in up to 20 counties, with Los Angles County being the most prominent. The California funding level is based on federal foster care funds drawn by the covered areas during fiscal years 2003-2005 and will increase 2% annually for each of the five years.

The Florida waiver is for the entire state and covers children birth to age 18. The Florida proposal bases its funding on fiscal year 2005, with a 3% annually. Once a five-year calculation is made, a state can spend up to 20% of the federal funds in a given year, on any number of services.

In California, a county could opt out of repaying funds if the county were to overdraw its allocation. California maintains funding for training and for the state information system through the current entitlement structure.

Both proposals include a variation on the block-grant approach for adoption assistance, with states drawing down their federal funds as needed, but a calculation would be made for how much a state could spend on adoption assistance. Anything beyond the total would have to be covered by the state.

At least two of the other states, Iowa and Virginia, were requesting waivers allowing them to expand IV-E foster care funds to subsidized guardianships, and Michigan was requesting a waiver to allow for more intensive family services. The U.S. Children's Bureau was expected to include greater detail of the requests on its website by the end of last week.

In anticipation of the waiver decisions, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ranking Member of the House Human Resources Subcommittee, sent a letter to HHS on March 17 raising concerns over the proposed IV-E waiver requests. One concern is whether the waivers would provide an adequate evaluation to determine their effectiveness. McDermott also questioned the Administration's legal authority to issue a statewide waiver while it was arguing it needed federal legislation to grant such a waiver.

Waivers are generally issued for five years. To date the most prominent waiver requests have focused on kinship and guardianship placements. Current reports on past waivers are available on the .

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Negotiations on House Budget Resolution Collapse

The House of Representatives worked overtime late last week to approve a budget resolution before adjourning for a two week recess. Late Thursday, the negotiations collapsed and the House adjourned for its spring recess without passing the budget. The House will continue to seek deal on a resolution when it returns the week of April 24.

While the debate over a budget resolution was taking place in the House, both houses were proceeding with an emergency supplemental request, most of which was for the war in Iraq. The House has approved total funding of $91 billion, with $67 billion for the war. The Senate Appropriations Committee gave approval to a $106 billion package, with $72 billion for the war. The rest of the funds were mainly for hurricane-stricken areas of the country.

The funding for the war is not expected to be sufficient for the entire fiscal year, so there could be a second request later in 2006. Because the spending is labeled an emergency, the funds do not come under budget resolution spending restrictions, although they do affect the annual federal deficit.

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CWLA Submits Testimony on Meth Impact on Indian Country

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing April 5 on the national meth epidemic. The committee heard from tribal leaders, Department of Justice officials, and researchers that tribal communities face greater difficulties in overcoming meth than do other segments of society. Witnesses said that tribal nations face unique challenges concerning meth--including the extreme distances separating available services, including treatment options that are only available off tribal lands; lack of appropriate activities for tribal youth; and insufficient law enforcement.

Ranking Member Byron Dorgan (D-ND) reflected that meth is "causing challenges far beyond regular substance abuse addictions" in announcing that he and Committee Chair John McCain (R-AZ) were offering legislation increasing the designation of meth Hot Spots to tribal areas and making Drug Endangered Children's (DEC) programs available to tribal communities. The Combat Meth Act, included in the Patriot Act, includes an allocation of $20 million to support the DEC program, but the final legislation failed to make the funds available to tribal governments.

CWLA submitted testimony, on the effect of meth on the child welfare system. Policy recommendations in the testimony included guaranteeing that tribal representatives be full partners in developing plans combating meth use specifically within child welfare, passage of the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Act, reintroduction of the Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act (last introduced in 2004), and ensuring that tribal nations have full access to Title IV-E Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Training funds.

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Chapin Hall Presents on the Special Education Needs of Children in Foster Care

The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago continued its series of web conferences April 5 with a presentation on the special education needs that children in foster care face. In Chapin Hall research released last year, findings show that nearly 18% of the 3,000-plus children in foster care in Chicago experienced some level of emotional disturbance. Entry and exit data for those in foster care show students are more likely to enter foster care after receiving a classification of emotional disturbance; once entering foster care, they are more likely to gain such a classification; students in foster care are less likely to have their emotional disturbance classification removed; and students are less likely to exit foster care if they have such a classification.

The report's authors raised questions about whether behaviors actually reflect unmet mental health needs or a lack of available resources. Practitioners also presented measures to address these issues and previous state legislative activities. Full presentations are available on Chapin Hall's website.

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National Children's Memorial Flag Day

CWLA will again promote National Children's Memorial Flay Day on April 28 as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. CWLA launched this public awareness campaign in 1998 to reduce child mortality and direct attention to the tragedy of violent child deaths. Each year, nearly 3 million children are reported abused and neglected, and more than 1,000 die tragically from abuse and neglect.

The Children's Memorial Flag is red, with blue-paper-doll-like figures of children holding hands. A white chalk outline of a missing child in the center of the flag symbolizes the thousands of children who have been lost to violence. The flag was designed by a 16-year-old student from Alameda County, California.

For the past several years, all 50 governors have united in an impressive bipartisan effort to raise public awareness about the continuing problem of violence against children. Activities include flying the flag, issuing proclamations, or participating in ceremonies that memorialize each lost child. CWLA has led national and local publicity efforts, and the Children's Memorial Flag has become an increasingly recognizable symbol of the need to improve our efforts to protect children.

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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

April 8-23: Congressional Spring Break

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

May 27-June 4: Memorial Day Break


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