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CWLA Calls on HHS to Reconsider Move to Require Proof of Citizenship Before Receiving Medical Care

For more information, contact
Joyce Johnson
Phone: 804/492-4519
Cell: 703/980-7641

June 28, 2006, Washington, DC -- The Child Welfare League of America has joined with U.S. Senators and Representatives and several national organizations in calling on Congress to order HHS to reconsider its decision to implement new restrictions on Medicaid that could delay or prevent access to health and mental health services for children in foster care.

Today at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Linda Spears, CWLA Vice President for Communications, said, "Congress needs to tell the Dept. of Health and Human Services to stop and rethink what they are doing. Many children in foster care will be denied access to needed health care. It's unconscionable, especially after these children have already suffered from abuse and neglect, to now require impossible new restrictions that will hinder access or worse, deny them the health care and mental health services they need," she continued.

According to CWLA, over 800,000 children spend time in foster care every year. Access to health and mental health care is essential for these children to be reunified with their family successfully or adopted. There is a consistent and growing body of evidence that children in out-of-home care have greater health and mental health needs than other children. Research suggests that access to care, especially in the first days of placement, is important. A process that hinders, denies, or slows down access to such needed services can only serve to worsen the situation for children who have already suffered maltreatment.

If current guidance remains unaltered, a passport, driver's license, birth certificate, or church records will be required to be eligible for assistance. Clearly a vast majority of children in foster care will not have a passport or driver's license. Collecting birth certificates or church records places an additional burden on states where staff and resources are already stretched thin and represents a new unfunded mandate.

CWLA calls on Congress and HHS to exempt foster and adoptive children from these requirements. HHS should recognize that these children have, in fact, been identified as wards of the state. CWLA urges HHS to accept as evidence of identification the fact that these children are wards of the state with a specific identity.

Since 1920, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) has been the nation's pre-eminent organization dedicated to ensuring that disadvantaged and vulnerable children are protected from harm and have the tools and resources they need to grow into the healthy and happy adults we want them to become. CWLA is the trusted authority for professionals who work with children and the only national organization with members from both public and private agencies, providing unique access and influence to all sectors of the children's services field.

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