Children's Voice September/October 2008

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Next Congress: Opportunities to Deal with Child Welfare

John Sciamanna, Co-Director, Government Affairs, CWLA

More than any Congress in the recent past, the 110th Congress saw the introduction of dozens of bills that dealt in some way with child welfare. In fact, as Congress was about to adjourn they were very close to passing a major reform bill drawn from H.R. 6307 and S. 3038. Depending on the fate of these bills, some or all of the items below could be acted on in the new 111th Congress. With a new administration, perhaps looking for new directions, the legislation of this Congress could shape the child welfare agenda for the next. Important work during the 110th Congress included the following:
  • Legislation to restore the White House Conference on Children and Youth was introduced in both the Senate and House and sponsored by more than 65 members.

  • Legislation to extend federal support to kinship care families was included in two different bills in the House and two in the Senate and gathered more than 100 supporters.

  • Legislation to create a specific funding stream for home visitation programs was introduced in both houses and had the support of more than 80 members of the House and Senate.

  • Three bills to extend federal child welfare training funds to private agencies were introduced.

  • A bill to create a National Academy of Sciences study on the child welfare workforce was introduced.

  • At least five bills to extend federal adoption assistance funding to all special needs adoptions were introduced.

  • At least two bills to expand federal funding to all foster children were introduced.

  • Legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would allow states to extend foster care up to age 21.

  • Much of the advocacy community worked diligently to extend and protect children in foster care's access to health care through Medicaid.
Early in the next 111th Congress there will be much debate about the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), particularly CAPTA's funding levels and how to strengthen the law. The 111th Congress will also likely focus on related issues such as protecting young people in controversial "boot camp" treatment facilities. In addition to these bills, the new administration will bring their own focus, perhaps borrowing from this legislation or perhaps going in an entirely different direction. The exact route forward will be determined by the choice voters make in November.

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