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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 26: 6/26/2006   
Headlines

Promoting Safe and Stable Families Legislation Introduced

HHS Releases Instructions on Proof of Identity and Citizenship for Medicaid Health Care

HHS Issues Guidance on Post-Rosales IV-E Administrative Changes

Ranking Member of Ways and Means Highlights CWLA

Senate Minimum Wage Debate Stalls Appropriations

Urban Institute Concludes Forum on Child Welfare and Child Well-Being

CWLA and UCAN Release Annual Teen Report Card on Adults

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Promoting Safe and Stable Families Legislation Introduced

Legislation to reauthorize the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program has been introduced in both houses of Congress. On June 15, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced S. 3525, and on June 20, Representatives Wally Herger (R-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced H.R. 5640. Both bills both would reauthorize PSSF for five years, extend the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program, and reauthorize the Court Improvement program. The two bills differ in other areas, however.

As a result of the Deficit Reduction Act, enacted in February, $40 million in mandatory funding was added to PPSF, raising funding from $305 million to $345 million. Mandatory funds do not require an annual appropriation but are written into law for a period of time, such as five years.

Both the Senate and House bills designate the $40 million increase for specific purposes not traditionally funded by PSSF. Senate legislation focuses the $40 million for state and local grants that would allow public and private entities to apply for competitive grants of up to $1 million to address the impact of methamphetamine use on child welfare.

The House bill designates the $40 million for child welfare workforce initiatives tied to meeting a requirement that states ensure children in foster care receive monthly visits. The $40 million is awarded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but states would have to provide data that they were meeting the monthly visit requirement.

Other areas of difference include the reauthorization of the Mentoring Children of Prisoners. The Senate bill would allow up to $25 million, or approximately half of the mentoring funds, to be given to a national entity that would oversee the program and the solicitation of mentors and recipients through the use of vouchers. The House bill also establishes a number of changes to the Child Welfare Services (CWS) program, Title IV-B part 1. Administrative funding would be limited to 10%, the plan requirements would be modernized, and states that had been able to spend some of these funds on foster care, adoption, and child care due to a grandfather clause from 1979 would only be allowed to spend CWS funds on child welfare services. CWS is currently funded at $289 million, with authorization levels set at $325 million. It has never received the full annual appropriation.

Both bills would strengthen access to funds for tribal governments by increasing and clarifying the amount of national funds set aside for tribes and by allowing tribes to form consortia to apply for grants. CWLA had endorsed the provisions advanced by several tribal organizations and governments. The goal is to improve direct access to federal child welfare by tribal governments, which often find themselves left out of federal funding formulas.

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HHS Releases Instructions on Proof of Identity and Citizenship for Medicaid Health Care

On June 9, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released instructions to states on how they must proceed to determine nearly every Medicaid patient's proof of citizenship and proof of identity.

The requirements, included as part of the Deficit Reduction Act (P.L. 109-171) passed by Congress in February, could create major challenges for children in foster care and special needs adoptions. In a departure from standing law, current or future Medicaid patients will have to prove their U.S. citizenship status and identity. Laws already in effect include restrictions and requirements on legal and illegal aliens; these new requirements, which take effect July 1, apply to U.S. citizens.

Children in foster care and adoptive children who qualify as special needs normally are eligible for Medicaid. All Title IV-E foster children are categorically required to be eligible, and states take the option to cover the rest of foster children.

Under the new law, the primary form of identification is a passport, as this will establish both a person's citizenship and identity. Individuals who do not have a passport must establish their citizenship through a series of other documents. States must follow in order of importance the type of documents that must be used to prove citizenship. To establish a person's identity, a state must use a different set of documents. It's highly unlikely a child in foster care will have a passport, so other documentation will be required to first prove that child's citizenship and then the child's identity.

States have to address many questions, including what material must be kept in a child's Medicaid file. For example, do actual paper copies of documents have to be kept on file? It is clear that electronic files will not be adequate. For children and other Medicaid patients entering the system, will the federal government reimburse a state's claim for health services while citizenship and identity are being determined? How will states pay for the administrative costs of intake and workforce training? States will have to go through this process, not just for children in the child welfare system, but for all Medicaid patients, including mental health, dementia, homeless, and many other citizens who may not have access to or the means to collect documents such as birth certificates, previous school records, or photo identification.

CWLA is working with numerous other organizations to raise the alarm on these provisions. We are urging HHS to use any and all discretionary power to protect these children from further harm. We will work with a coalition to pursue congressional action if regulatory action is not possible.

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HHS Issues Guidance on Post-Rosales IV-E Administrative Changes

On June 9, the Administration issued an information memorandum on the required changes as a result of the deficit reduction package passed by Congress in February. The budget-cutting legislation that reduced funding to federal programs by $39 billion enacted reductions in Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance of nearly $600 million over five years. The legislation also created two new $10 million-a-year court improvement grants and increased the PSSF programs by $40 million a year.

The memo, ACYF-CB-IM-06-02, instructs states how to proceed as a result of the reductions made by Congress. The deficit reduction package overturned the Ninth Circuit Court ruling of Rosales v.Thompson and also restricted states on their use of Title IV-E administrative funding when children are placed in kinship settings. The memo indicates that children who were determined eligible for IV-E foster care assistance before February 8, 2006, as a result of Rosales may continue to be eligible until the next redetermination of eligibility. The next redetermination must be within a 12-month period as currently required. A child who was eligible because of the Rosales ruling will no longer be eligible for Title IV-E foster care assistance once the redetermination has been made. States will have to fund the assistance to the family with other funds that may be available at the federal, state, or local levels.

In regard to the IV-E administrative costs for a child placed with relatives, a state may claim administrative costs for the lesser of 12 months or the average time it takes the state to license kin families to become foster parents.

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Ranking Member of Ways and Means Highlights CWLA

Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently called attention on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to testimony CWLA provided on a family-centered approach to child protective services. On June 14, Rangel noted "the outstanding work and commitment of the Child Welfare League of America. This organization acts on the premise that every child is valuable and has something to contribute to society. They believe that our children are entitled to nurturance, protection, and the chance to develop his or her full human potential." Rangel acknowledged that all aspects of society share in the responsibility in promoting that all children have the opportunity for healthy human growth development.

The testimony Rangel referred to was provided by CWLA Vice President of Corporate Communications and Development Linda Spears to the Human Resources Subcommittee on May 23. That testimony is available online.

Rangel's full comments are available via the Congressional Record.

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Senate Minimum Wage Debate Stalls Appropriations

On June 22, the Senate debated and then rejected an amendment by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) to pass a minimum wage increase. The Kennedy proposal would have increased the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over two years, but it was rejected by a vote of 52-45. Democrats were surprised the previous week when an amendment offered to the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill by Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was adopted. The amendment, which is based on a bill by Representative George Miller (D-CA), passed by a committee vote of 32-27. As a result of the House Committee action, the House leadership has indicated the House may not vote on the Labor-HHS appropriations bill until after the election in November. That could change if pressure mounts to have a vote on the minimum wage sooner. The last time the minimum wage was increased was in 1997, and it is now at its lowest level in 50 years as a percentage of hourly earnings, according to some economists.

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Urban Institute Concludes Forum on Child Welfare and Child Well-Being

The Urban Institute recently concluded its six-part panel series, Thursday's Child. The forum, Child Welfare and Well-Being: Building a 21st Century System for Kids, focused on building a child welfare system that incorporates the overall well-being of children, as opposed to focusing primarily on safety and permanency.

Presenters on the panel supported incorporating more resources into the child welfare system and better collaboration across systems to accommodate and nourish children's developmental needs. Research consistently shows that most children enter the child welfare system during three important developmental stages in their lives: during the first year of life, the school-starting age, and the start of adolescence. The panelists expressed that addressing a child's developmental needs can help prevent removals and ensure the quality of a child's experience once they enter into care. The panelists also supported building bridges and partnerships across agencies, such as those concerned with education, criminal justice, and mental health, to develop an effective network with agencies involved in a child's well-being.

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CWLA and UCAN Release Annual Teen Report Card on Adults

For the second straight year, parents received only a modest grade in 20 categories measuring their positive impact on children and youth. CWLA joined member agency Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) for the release of the eighth annual UCAN Teen Report Card on Adults on June 16.

The report, released each year as school closes, provides an opportunity for the nation's youth to turn the tables as they grade adults. Topics include combating prejudice and racism, child abuse, honesty, fighting AIDS, understanding why teens run away, leading by example, providing quality education, and effective government leadership.

Despite an average grade jump from a C in 2005 to a C+ this year, parents nationwide failed to make the grade in a number of life's lessons, as scored by teens. The report card shows that parents have improvements to make--specifically in the areas of leading by example, understanding youth, youth prevention of drinking and drug use, and handling government affairs. Although adults received no As in any of the categories, they received their highest marks in the realms of providing young people a safe place to live and teaching positive values.

For the past eight years, the UCAN Teen Report Card has served as a valuable catalyst between adults and teens by providing America's youth with a voice. The results collected feature the input of more than 1,000 youth, ages 12-19. In conjunction with a nationwide survey, teen focus groups were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, to expand and clarify items on the report.

The release of the Teen Report Card coincided with the Boys and Girls Club of America's annual Youth Report to America. Like the report card, the Youth Report to America questioned youth on a variety of teen issues, including teens' personal relationships, issues and challenges, and their overall view of America. Indeed, many of the findings were consistent between the two reports. For example, both reports found that teens consider their relationship with their parents or guardians to be the most important relationships in their lives. Both reports also identified drugs and alcohol abuse as the most significant problem facing teens.

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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.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

July 1-10: July 4th Break
July 29: House Summer Recess Begins
August 5: Senate Summer Recess Begins
September 5: Congress Returns
October 6: Target Adjournment


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