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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 18: 5/1/2006   
Headlines

Senate Finance Committee Focuses on Meth and Child Welfare

Substance Abuse Treatment Numbers Released

CWLA Cosponsors Kinship Briefing

Davis Holds Briefing on Child Welfare Legislation

Congress Continues to Struggle with 2006 Budget Resolution

Save the Date: May 10 National Call-In Day for Kinship Caregiver Support Act

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senate Finance Committee Focuses on Meth and Child Welfare

In its first full committee meeting focusing on child welfare in nearly 10 years, the Senate Finance Committee convened a hearing on April 25 to examine the use and manufacture of methamphetamine and it's impact on child welfare. The committee joined the increasing Congressional call to action and response toward methamphetamine (meth). As lawmakers have drawn a more focused approach on meth response and law enforcement, CWLA has continuously stressed how meth is affecting child welfare systems.

In testimony submitted to the Finance Committee, CWLA called for protection and services for children affected by parental involvement; treatment programs incorporating all community partners; protections for child welfare workers, who often are the first to encounter meth environments; and prevention efforts aimed at children and youth.

The Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) noted the "child welfare system is already overburdened,...understaffed, and undertrained" and "children remain in limbo for too long while securing a safe and permanent home." Grassley also said additional funds should be made available for adoption assistance and family reunification services. With the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) expiring this year, Grassley acknowledged the Finance Committee is planning to conduct hearings this year on reauthorizing the program. PSSF reauthorization is part of CWLA's 2006 Legislative Agenda.

The committee heard from family members who described their positive experiences with family-based treatment services and spoke about the joy of ending their meth addiction and reunifying with their children. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), referenced the Child Protection/Alcohol Drug Partnership Act that she and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) originally introduced in 2004. Awaiting reintroduction in Congress, the legislation would provides substance abuse treatment grants specifically designated for families who come in contact with the child welfare system.

Kevin Frank, Director of Child and Family Services Division in South Central Montana, reported that more than 65% of all foster care placements in his state are directly attributed to drug use, and that meth is a factor 57% of the time in these cases. Frank also pointed out that meth is straining all aspects of community life, as even children who do not enter the formal child welfare system may be living with their grandparents or other relatives due to parent absenteeism.

The complete testimony of all participants is available on the Finance Committee's website.

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Substance Abuse Treatment Numbers Released

The Senate Finance hearing coincided with the annual release of the Treatment Episode Data Set from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Highlights from the data show that treatment for alcohol accounted for 40% of the 1.9 million substance abuse admissions in 2004, a 13% decrease since 1994. From 1994 to 2004, meth treatment admissions grew 285%, from 33,444 to 129,079.

Alcohol and other drugs continue to play a major factor in the rates of children who suffer from abuse or neglect. Studies show that substance abuse is associated with the placement of at least half the children in child welfare custody, one- to two-thirds of the cases of children with substantiated reports of abuse and neglect, and two-thirds of cases of children in foster care. Children whose parents use alcohol or drugs are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to suffer from neglect.

CWLA has partnered with the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, and other organizations in calling for increased meth treatment supports and services for pregnant and parenting women who come in contact with the criminal justice system. The organizations call for House appropriators to allocate $20 million to fund Section 756 of the USA Patriot Act. This provision calls for collaboration between the criminal justice, child welfare, and state substance abuse systems to carry out programs to address the use of methamphetamine drugs by pregnant and parenting women offenders.

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CWLA Cosponsors Kinship Briefing

On April 25, CWLA, Generations United, AARP, the Children's Defense Fund Grandparents for Children's Rights, and the Center for Law and Social Policy sponsored a briefing on kinship care legislation now pending in both houses of Congress. The panel included two caretakers as well as kinship advocates in support of legislation now before the U.S. Senate. S. 985, sponsored by Senators Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) would expand Title IV-E funding to children in the child welfare system who are placed with relative caregivers. Clinton addressed the briefing about the need for the legislation

Current funding under Title IV-E is limited to adoption assistance and foster care. The only way for relatives to qualify is to meet all the requirements of foster care, which can be too restrictive to meet the needs of grandparents caring for their own grandchildren. The bill would also require notification of relatives when a child enters the child welfare system, and would provide start-up funds to states and some local governments to establish a navigator system that would help all kinship providers obtain basic information and community support. Generations United used the briefing as an opportunity to release a new study on state-by-state data on the number of children in foster care being cared for by grandparents and other relatives. The report is available online on the Generations United website.

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Davis Holds Briefing on Child Welfare Legislation

Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) sponsored a briefing April 25 in regard to a series of bills he has introduced to make improvements to child welfare. One bill, H.R. 3380, is similar to Senators Clinton and Snowe's bill, S. 985, in expanding support to kin families. The Davis bill differs from the Senate bill, however, in that it would also extend IV-E funding to children placed in non-relative kin placements.

The panel for the Davis legislation spoke about the range of needs and improvements needed in the child welfare system. Panelists included John Sciamannna, CWLA; Sondra Jackson, Black Administrators in Child Welfare; Donna Butts, Generations United; Sue Badeau, Pew Commission; and Dennette Derezotes, Race Matters. Davis said it would be difficult to see any major legislation passing in the remainder of this session of the 109th Congress. He also pointed out that the legislative process takes time and that moving legislation can take some gradual steps toward final enactment, and that is how he views his legislative efforts.

In addition to the kinship bill, Davis is sponsoring legislation that would improve data collection in regard to state child welfare systems and create a new state permanency bonus fund to reward increased kinship placements, reunifications, and adoptions. Another Davis bill seeks to improve tracking the level of services for youth who age out of foster care and would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the National Youth in Transition Database. The Davis bills are H.R. 3379, H.R. 3470, and H.R. 3471.

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Congress Continues to Struggle with 2006 Budget Resolution

The House of Representatives continues to try and find a consensus over a 2006 budget resolution. The resolution outlines spending limits for the FY 2007 federal budget, but the House has not been able to reach an agreement. The Senate acted before the Spring break. In the House, however, the issue has become more complicated as some members are seeking to use the budget resolution as a way to impose limits on the use of earmarks. An earmark is legislative language inserted into appropriations bills that directs various grants and federal funds to specific states, programs, or organizations. They frequently bypass the application process when they are included in an appropriations bill.

The earmark issue has been the focus of lobbying reform, but some House members are now insisting it become a part of the budget. The issue was further heightened when some members began insisting the limitations on earmarks be extended to tax legislation. As the budget resolution stalled, appropriators in both houses were indicating they were prepared to move annual appropriations without a budget resolution.

The White House has begun pressuring House and Senate Republicans to come to a final deal on a tax cut package. The $70 billion tax cut is actually part of the 2005 budget resolution. Congress needs to pass the tax cut before it agrees to a 2006 budget resolution, or the tax cut will lose the protections it now has against potential delays during the Senate debate.

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Save the Date: May 10 National Call-In Day for Kinship Caregiver Support Act

CWLA has partnered with AARP, the Children's Defense Fund, Generations United, the National Hispanic Council on Aging, and other organizations to urge Congress to pass kinship legislation that provides additional support for those who provide safe and caring homes for children who are not able to live with their parents. CWLA is calling on all advocates and friends of children to reach out to their Senators on Wednesday, May 10. Further information, including the toll-free phone-in number, will be provided in the next Children's Monitor.

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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

May 10: Call-in day in support of S. 985, the Caregiver Support Act
May 27-June 4: Memorial Day Break
July 1-10: July 4th Break
July 29: House Summer Recess Begins
August 5: Senate Summer Recess Begins
September 5: Congress Returns


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