Children's Voice Nov/Dec 2006

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Eye on CWLA

CWLA Speaks Out About Fewer Kids Eligible for Foster Care

Jessica Lindsey, a 21-year-old former youth in care who is now an officer in CWLA's National Foster Youth Advisory Committee, stood before an audience at a Washington, DC, press conference last summer and talked about her teenage years in foster care, bouncing between foster homes and residential care facilities in Wayne County, Michigan.

Few know better than Lindsey about the need for more federal funding for foster care programs. "Though I consider my experience with the foster care system to be short, I endured enough to last a lifetime," she said. "The state steps in to protect and provide for youth. This is their job, yet how can one protect and provide when there is very little funding?"

CWLA organized the July press conference to draw attention to the 10-year anniversary of the decision by Congress to tie eligibility for Title IV-E federal foster care assistance to the former cash assistance program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). During the event, CWLA staff introduced Ten Years of Leaving Foster Children Behind a report documenting how the number of children eligible for federal foster care assistance has decreased at an alarming rate.

CWLA conducted a state-by-state examination for a seven-year period, 1998-2004, to determine the average monthly number of claims states filed for each of those years. Eligibility declined 18% over six years, resulting in only 45% of maltreated children being supported by federal IV-E resources.

"This erosion of support is the result of antiquated rules and income requirements," CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik said during the press conference. "These are children who have suffered abuse and neglect who came into foster care, and then are found not to be eligible for federal assistance. These are children who have been mistreated and removed from their homes and from dangerous situations, only to find that they also have been abandoned and rejected by the very federal program designed to protect and care for them."

Ten Years of Leaving Foster Children Behind also shares the results of a June 2006 CWLA survey of its private, nonprofit member agencies that are direct service providers to better understand the effects of the budget shortfall. More than 25% confirmed their agencies are experiencing increased pressure to raise millions of dollars annually to make up for diminishing federal support; 65% identified a trend of local private agencies subsidizing out-of-home care.

"We have seen our fundraising demands grow annually as we are now raising $1.5 million per year to fill the gap of the costs of providing services," Tom Burton, Executive Director of Agape in Nashville, Tennessee, said of his agency during the press event.

Ten Years of Leaving Foster Children Behind, CWLA calls on lawmakers to consider solutions to the problem, and makes three different proposals to modernize and update eligibility:
  • Eliminate the entire income eligibility link and provide support to all children abused and neglected.

  • Eliminate the link to AFDC by gradually allowing states to cover all children in care. While this eligibility is being expanded to all children in care, the state can also receive a reduced match in funding. This reduced funding would restrain costs while allowing states to extend care to all abused and neglected children.

  • Replace the AFDC link with a link to an existing program, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid, to eliminate the gradual erosion of federal support that now exists, without committing the federal government to a shared commitment to all abused and neglected children.
Read more about Ten Years of Leaving Foster Children Behind, and download the full report in PDF format.

We're Moving!

After 21 years, CWLA is leaving its Washington, DC, headquarters for a new location across the Potomac River in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. The move is scheduled for March. CWLA's new contact information will be
Child Welfare League of America
2345 Crystal Drive, Suite 250
Arlington VA 22202
Watch "Eye on CWLA" in future editions of Children's Voice, as well as CWLA's website, for more information, including new telephone and fax numbers.

New Medicaid Provisions Enacted, Despite Requests for Delay

CWLA joined other national organizations last June in calling on Congress to order the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to delay implementing Medicaid requirements mandating that all children in foster care prove their identity and citizenship.

At a Capitol Hill press conference, CWLA Vice President for Communications Linda Spears said, "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."

Despite the urging of CWLA, Families USA, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and other groups favoring a delay, the law went into effect July 1. States must now verify that all Medicaid patients, including children in foster care, are citizens and can prove their identity. A passport is the primary evidence required. If a passport does not exist for the patient, another set of documents must be used to first prove citizenship, and a second set to prove identity.

States must already establish citizenship under Title IV-E foster care, but under the new law, that documentation will not be recognized unless the state Medicaid agency also makes the documentation.

CWLA called on Congress and HHS to exempt foster and adoptive children from these requirements, and urged HHS to accept, as evidence of identification, the fact that such children are wards of the state with a specific identity, because most children in foster care do not have passports or driver's licenses. 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.

At press time, a federal judge had indicated he was likely to issue an injunction that would prevent foster children from being subjected to the new citizenship documentation requirements. A hearing before a magistrate judge was scheduled for October.

Update!

A provision in the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (H.R. 6111) exempts foster children and children receiving adoption assistance from new citizenship verification requirements established under Medicaid. Read more.

CWLA Joins Campaign for Children's Health Care

Seventy percent of likely voters agree that providing affordable, quality health insurance to all children in the United States should be one of the top priorities of Congress and the President, according to a survey commissioned by the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

To help make this happen, a coalition of children's advocacy organizations--including CWLA--as well as educators, parents, doctors and nurses, and health care providers have launched the Campaign for Children's Health Care. The goal is to raise public awareness about the 9 million uninsured children in the country--a figure that exceeds the population of children in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming combined.

On the Campaign for Children's Health Care website users can sign a petition to Congress and the President calling on legislation that will provide affordable health coverage for all children; listen to a podcast on the issue; visit a tools and resources page for more facts about uninsured children; and learn about town hall meetings and other events around the country demonstrating the importance of health insurance for children.

"This issue is particularly relevant for the children served by CWLA's member agencies," says CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik. "Many children who enter foster care arrive with preexisting physical and mental health conditions that have gone unaddressed for a variety of reasons, including a lack of access to health care services. Once in the foster care system, access to health and mental health care plays an essential role in facilitating the potential reunification of these children with their families, or successful adoption.

CWLA Says Goodbye to Shay Bilchik

CWLA is preparing to enter a new chapter in its history this spring when the organization's leadership changes hands. After six years as CWLA's President and CEO, Shay Bilchik is stepping down from the helm to explore new directions in his career when his contract with CWLA expires in February.

Shortly after joining CWLA, Bilchik spearheaded the League's strategic planning process, culminating in the September 2000 publication of Making Children a National Priority, CWLA's strategic plan for 2000-2010. Bilchik's leadership also strengthened CWLA's organizational structure, enhanced communications, and encouraged cross-functional teaming.

To execute the search for Bilchik's replacement, CWLA's Board of Directors hired Spencer Stuart, a leading executive search consulting firm. In recent months, the search firm has interviewed CWLA's senior managers and issued an e-survey to other staff, the Board, and member agencies, to assess the qualities and goals desired of CWLA's next leader.

At press time, the search firm continued to interview finalists for the position. Look for more information in the next issue of Children's Voice.

Raise Your Voices

January 29-31, 2007
Women in Leadership
Life, Work, Family, Self: A Multitasking Balancing Act
San Diego Sheraton, San Diego, California

February 26-28, 2007
CWLA National Conference
Children 2007: Raising Our Voices
Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC
Dates and locations subject to change. For more information on the CWLA calendar, including conference registration, hotels, programs, and contacts, visit us online, or contact CWLA's conference registrar at register@cwla.org or 202/942-0286.


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