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106th Congress Wrap-Up

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of these publications may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.

February 9, 2001

The second session of the 106th Congress ended after a flurry of activity on pending legislation that had been stalled due to the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the presidential election. Congress finally tackled the pileup of overdue spending bills, postponed action on an ambitious tax cut package, and adjourned on December 15. The final bill passed was legislation that included funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that funds many children's programs.

Earlier in the year, Congress completed action on other spending bills and legislation affecting children and families, including several key CWLA legislative priorities. Unfortunately, other key CWLA priorities, including the Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act, legislation to extend Title IV-E training to private agencies, and the Younger Americans Act, were introduced but not passed in 2000. The new Congress will consider these measures again this year. The Younger Americans Act (H.R. 17) was reintroduced on the first day of this congressional session by Representatives Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and George Miller (D-CA). The Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act is scheduled to be reintroduced within the next few months, and legislation to extend Title IV-E training to private agencies will be included in the omnibus children's bill that is currently being drafted.

It is unclear if, and in what form, the new Congress will consider action this year on two other measures that were considered but not passed in 2000. Those measures are the Flexible Funding for Child Protection Act of 2000, introduced by Representative Nancy Johnson (R-CT) to restructure how states receive money for child welfare services, and legislation addressing juvenile justice reforms.

Budget Highlights

Following is a summary of final spending for selected children's programs contained in three FY 2001 appropriations bills that provide funding for these federal agencies: HHS (P.L. 106-554), Justice (P.L. 106-553), and Housing and Urban Development (P.L. 106-377). Click here for more budget details.

CHILD CARE AND HEAD START

Child care programs, highlighted in CWLA's Budget Surplus Initiative, received unprecedented increases. Head Start funding was increased $933 million, bringing total funding to $6.2 billion. Child Care and Development Block Grant funding was increased $817 million, bringing total funding for that program to $2 billion. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) led the effort to secure these increases. Twenty million dollars in new funding was also approved for a new program, the Early Learning Opportunities Act, introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Ted Stevens (R-AK). Funds are to be used to allow states to help communities improve child care quality and promote school readiness.

CHILD WELFARE SERVICES

Many discretionary child welfare programs, including Title IV-B Child Welfare Services, Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) State Grants, Community Based Family Resource Centers, the Adoption Opportunities Program, and Title IV-B Child Welfare Training, only received level funding for FY 2001.
Social Services Block Grant
The FY 2001 funding level for the Title XX Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) was set at $1.725 billion, a $50 million cut from FY 2000. Due to efforts by CWLA members and many others, the final funding level set was higher than the initial House recommendation of $1.7 billion, and significantly higher than the initial Senate recommendation of $600 million. The final bill does maintain the amount of funds that states can transfer from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to SSBG at 10%. Under previous law, this transfer authority was set to be lowered to 4.25% in FY 2001.

This $50 million cut for FY 2001, however, could affect child welfare programming since many states use a substantial portion of their SSBG allocations to protect and care for abused and neglected children and vulnerable youth.

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Discretionary Grants
Funding for the CAPTA Discretionary Grants program increased from $18 million to $33.7 million. These funds have supported program development, research, training, technical assistance, and the collection and dissemination of child abuse and neglect data.

YOUTH SERVICES

21st Century Learning Centers
Funding for 21st Century Learning Centers increased by $392 million, bringing total funding to $846 million. These funds help schools stay open longer, provide recreation and learning-based activities, and generally provide a safe place for children after school. The U.S. Department of Education is required to strongly encourage joint applications by a local educational agency and a community-based organization. CWLA will be monitoring the notice of funding available for this program and will provide information and updates on the process. For FY 2002, CWLA will be working to further expand funding opportunities to community based service organizations.

HEALTH/BEHAVIORAL HEALTH

State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
The omnibus budget bill Congress passed immediately prior to adjournment contained the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act. It includes funding to encourage more enrollments of children in Medicaid and SCHIP. The law also put into place a new SCHIP reallocation formula to address the fact that many states were running out of time to spend their first year of SCHIP funds. The new formula reallocates FY 1998 and FY 1999 allotments from states that have not spent their allotments to states that have used up all their funds. States receiving this infusion of new funds will have an additional year to spend their money.

Other health and mental health programs that received FY 2001 increases:
  • $8 million for the Children's Mental Health Services Program (total of $91.8 million)
  • $64 million for the Mental Health Block Grant (total of $420 million)
  • $14 million for the Ryan White Pediatric AIDS Service Program (total of $65 million)
  • $65 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grant (total of $1.665 billion)
  • $15 million for the Title X Family Planning program (total of $253.9 million)

HOUSING

Section 8 Low-Income Housing Assistance
The FY 2001 budget included $18 billion to renew all existing housing vouchers, and an additional $453 million for 79,000 new low-income Section 8 housing assistance vouchers. This is the largest increase in more than 15 years.

Family Unification Program
HUD will set aside some of the funds for the Section 8 Family Unification Program (FUP) which provides rental assistance to families to prevent children from entering foster care or enable children to return from foster care.

Housing Resources for Youth Leaving Foster Care
The FY 2001 budget also permits FUP, for the first time, to serve young people ages 18 to 21 who have left foster care after the age of 16. Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), a long-time champion of FUP, spearheaded this program expansion.

Local housing authorities, child welfare agencies, and youth-serving agencies will administer this program. The housing authority will provide a housing voucher for 18 months, the child welfare agency will provide referrals, and the youth-serving agency will provide aftercare services.

A Notice of Funding Availability is expected to be issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in February, and assistance could be available by the middle of 2001. For more information, contact Ruth White, CWLA's Housing Program Coordinator, at rwhite@cwla.org.

OTHER LAWS ENACTED IN 2000

Children's Health Act
On October 17, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Children's Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-310). This law addresses the use of restraints and seclusion in certain facilities. The law was prompted by Hartford Courant articles on an 11-year-old boy's death in a Connecticut psychiatric hospital. The Courant commissioned a 50-state survey of similar facilities and confirmed 142 deaths over the past 10 years. Children accounted for 26% of these deaths.

Prior to the enactment of the final law, the Senate had approved two earlier proposals addressing the use of restraints and seclusion. These proposals would have required a doctor or other licensed professional to provide a written order for the use of very broadly defined restraints and seclusion in all types of residential facilities. CWLA and its member agencies worked with mental health advocacy groups, provider organizations, and others to remind Congress of the unique needs of children and the importance of community-based, nonmedical providers. These concerns are reflected in the final law.

The new law:

  • specifically addresses the circumstances of nonmedical, community-based facilities for children and youth by removing "residential treatment center" from the mandates for health care facilities that require a physician or other licensed practitioner to provide a written order for the use of restraints and seclusion;

  • emphasizes that restraints and seclusion in such facilities for children and youth be used only in emergency circumstances to ensure the physical safety of the resident and others;

  • ensures the person imposing restraints and seclusion in such facilities for children and youth have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and expertise to safely initiate the behavior management; and

  • requires HHS to develop licensing rules and monitoring requirements concerning behavior management practice within six months from enactment of the law.

HHS regulations will address these issues:

  • specifying what constitutes "emergency circumstances" that do not require the written order of a physician or other licensed practitioner;

  • defining "nonmedical, community-based facility for children and youth;"

  • defining a state-recognized body that will train and certify staff in behavior management;

  • defining a state licensing or regulatory agency; and

  • determining, for an interim period, who is competent to conduct a face-to-face assessment on the mental and physical well-being of the child or youth being restrained or placed in seclusion.

CWLA is closely monitoring the development of regulations to implement the act and is also convening a national advisory board to develop best practice guidelines for behavior management. This effort will better inform the work of the federal government on this issue. For more information, contact CWLA's Director of Residential Care, Lloyd Bullard, at lbullard@cwla.org.

The Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-314), sponsored by Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), was signed into law on October 17, 2000. The law is designed to help abuse and neglect courts comply with the new requirements of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. The law authorizes, but does not fund, three new competitive grant programs: 1) $10 million for competitive grants to abuse and neglect courts to create computerized case-tracking systems; 2) $10 million to courts to reduce pending backlogs of abuse and neglect cases by using night court sessions, hiring additional personnel to manage and reduce caseloads, or other innovative strategies; and 3) $5 million to expand the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in underserved areas. Congress did not provide any funding for these grants for FY 2001. CWLA will continue advocacy efforts to secure first-time funding in FY 2002.

Intercountry Adoption Act
After extensive efforts by CWLA and others, the Senate passed the Intercountry Adoption Act (H.R. 2909) and ratified the 1993 Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption on September 18, 2000. The bill's sponsors in the Senate were Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), both adoptive parents. Efforts to secure passage of H.R. 2909 in the House also in September were led by Representatives William Delahunt (D-MA, also an adoptive parent) and Ben Gilman (R-NY). Since the convention is a treaty, it was necessary for the Senate to provide advice and consent before the treaty had the force of law. President Clinton signed the Intercountry Adoption Act into law on October 6, 2000. (P.L. 106-279). More than 40 other nations, including China, have also ratified the convention.

The treaty comes at a time when record numbers of Americans are going outside of the country to adopt children. In 1998, American families adopted more than 16,000 children from overseas. In the last 10 years, nearly 100,000 children born abroad have joined U.S. families through adoption.

The act is designed to accomplish three goals: provide a system that will stop trafficking of children, create a framework whereby countries that send children and those that receive children will provide basic ethical and professional practice for agencies and others to follow, and establish regular opportunities for the convention parties to meet and improve the act's implementation. The goals of the convention are to safeguard the rights and responsibilities of adopted persons, adoptive parents, and birthparents in an international adoption. It provides, for the first time, formal international and intergovernmental approval of the adoption process.

The treaty establishes a minimum set of uniform standards governing international adoptions. Any country may make additional conditions. The act establishes a central authority in each country as the main source of information and point of contact. The U.S. Department of State will have that function in the United States. The treaty provides that adoptions allowed under the convention will be recognized by all other party countries, and it requires all adoption service providers to be accredited or approved to provide adoption services under the convention.

The law designates the Department of State with accreditation authority. It may delegate that authority to one or more accrediting entities, which may be either a private nonprofit entity such as the Council on Accreditation for Services to Children and Families (COA), or a nonfederal public entity, including state licensing bureaus that meet the criteria to be developed through regulation. COA is the only nonprofit entity that currently has an accreditation process in place for intercountry adoption. Affecting only international adoptions, this new accreditation process will have no direct effect on domestic adoption practices, which will continue to be governed by state licensing laws.

The law also requires states to report in their IV-B state plan the activities they have undertaken for adoption and postadoption services for children adopted from other countries, and specific data concerning adoptions of children immigrating to and emigrating from the United States. States are also required to collect and report information on children who are adopted from other countries and who enter into state custody as a result of a dissolution or disruption of an adoption.

CWLA is closely monitoring the developments of regulations that the Department of State is drafting to implement the law. For more information contact CWLA's Director of Adoption, Ada White, at awhite@cwla.org.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-395) was signed into law October 30, 2000. Sponsored by Representative William Delahunt (D-MA), this new law eliminates the need for adoptive U.S. parents to apply to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to establish their children's citizenship. The law amends the Immigration and Naturalization Act to permit foreign-born children, including adopted children, to acquire citizenship automatically. Children adopted from abroad receive the same treatment as children born abroad to United States citizens. A child whose adoption is completed abroad becomes a citizen immediately upon entering the United States. In cases in which the child is coming to the United States for purposes of adoption, but has not yet been adopted, that child becomes a citizen the moment the adoption becomes final. This law will also prevent adopted youth who commit crimes from being deported to their countries of origin, where the penalties are often much harsher. This new law becomes effective February 27, 2001. The law is not retroactive, and children adopted before this date must still apply for naturalization.



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