"America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves--if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment." -- President-elect Barack Obama, during his victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago on November 4.
FEBRUARY 23-25, 2009: CWLA National Conference Children Today -- America's Future!
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC
Dates and locations subject to change. For more information on the CWLA calendar, including conference registration, hotels, programs, and contacts, visit CWLA's website, or contact CWLA's conference registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703/412-2439.
Support a White House Conference
The next few months offer a perfect opportunity to build momentum for a White House Conference on Children and Youth in 2010. Learn about the goals for the conference and the backing it has so far. There is a sample resolution for boards to encourage the conference, a link to join the cause on Facebook, a survey to help determine the agenda, a form for individuals and organizations to sign on in support, and much more. After the 111th Congress is sworn in, keep track of those cosponsoring bills in the House and Senate, and encourage more representatives to join by connecting to Congress at 202/224-3121.
2008 Fact Sheets Available
With updated indicators including child protection, health, child care, education, and income support, CWLA's 2008 Fact Sheets are available. The sheets present data that give an overview of the conditions faced by vulnerable children in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. State Fact Sheets from 2000 to 2007 are available for comparison.
Western Region Conference
Cheryl Gully (right) stands with the Western Region Outstanding Service Award winners, foster parents David and Janine Barber and their daughter. The Barbers were nominated by member agency Casa de los Ninos in Tucson, Arizona.
CWLA's Western Region hosted a training conference in mid-September with the theme "It Takes Courage and Compassion to Service Children and Families: Tools for Confidence and Competence." Attendance suffered due to budget cutbacks at public agencies that created new restrictions on travel; about 250 people came, compared to more than 500 at the last conference in 2005.
"The workshops reflected the conference theme: working with children and families," Cheryl Gully, Western Region director, explained. "The field of child welfare has over the past 10 years moved from being child-focused to being family-focused--in order to assist in helping at-risk and vulnerable children, you must also help their families of origin."
Gully added that the attendees enjoyed the conference, appreciating the topical workshops and the chance to network with their peers. She said she heard many people looking for a larger selection of CWLA books and giftables, which they'll find at the national conference in Washington, DC, February 23-25.
News from the Hill
At the end of the 110th Congress, the "most significant child welfare legislation in a decade" was passed by both houses and signed into law by the president. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, H.R. 6893, passed the House of Representatives by voice vote September 17, passed the Senate by unanimous consent September 22, and was signed by President George W. Bush on October 7 as Public Law No. 110-351.
"It is amazing that we were able to get this through," said John Sciamanna, codirector of Government Affairs at CWLA. "Everybody joined hands on this--in both parties and in both houses."
"This is an historic moment for foster children and families. Not since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 has this country had a bill that speaks directly to the needs of the more than 513,000 children in foster care," Christine James-Brown, CWLA President and CEO, said after the bill was signed. "This bill further advances the mission of the CWLA to promote the well-being of children, youth, and their families."
Two early versions shared many points, which were incorporated into the final bill. Primary is the reauthorization of the adoptions incentives program, with increased incentives for the adoption of special-needs children and children age 9 and older, which was set to expire this fiscal year. This reauthorization was the impetus for the entire legislative package.
With the bill, Title IV-E funds are more accessible. States are given the option to use Title IV-E funds for relative kinship placements, an expansion from the current situation, where only relatives who are licensed as foster parents can receive support from Title IV-E funds. Additionally, changes in the bill will allow tribal governments to apply directly for Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funding, eliminating the current extra step that requires tribal communities to go through a state system for those funds.
States will also have the option to extend federal foster care funding to youth up to age 21 under the new legislation. States will decide to what age support can be given, and will also have the chance to require independent-living settings in care institutions with youth 18 or older. Another provision in the bill for younger, school-aged children compels states to ensure they are still attending school--remaining in their same schools as long as it is in their best interest, and being enrolled immediately in a new school if not. The cost of transportation can be included in the foster care maintenance payments.
Movement started in late June when Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL), the chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Income Support and Family Security, introduced H.R. 6307, the Fostering Connections to Success Act. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a voice vote a few days later. After the summer recess, the Senate Finance Committee approved the chairman's substitute version of S. 3038, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act. The Finance Committee bill represents a bipartisan agreement between Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA). That chairman's mark or substitute bill evolved out of discussions on S. 3038, which Grassley introduced in May.
Taking advantage of the technology that makes learning at any time, any place endeavor, CWLA has partnered with Essential Learning (EL) to offer individual courses and series trainings online. They are continuing education and professional development courses for child welfare and human service workers, clinicians, supervisors, managers, and others. Member agencies can find targeted classes based on CWLA training programs, books, journals, and newsletters, as well as a group of EL courses recommended by CWLA. The curriculum can be searched by accreditation agency, so participants can be sure they'll earn continuing education credits where they need to.
Each month brings updates and new classes to the site, and CWLA member agencies and their staff receive a 10% discount on all EL courses. Visit www.cwla.org/consultation/elearning.htm to learn more, or view the course site at www.cequick.com/myeln/cwla/default.asp .
Of 42 responding states in CWLA's 2004-2005 state survey, four said they did not maintain youth over the age of 18 in foster care: Alaska, Florida, Nebraska, and New Mexico. Florida's response clarified that, like many states, they continue to offer services on a voluntary basis--in its case, until age 23. Three other states-- Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Tennessee--maintain youth until they are 23, which is the oldest age at which youth are assisted by foster care, according to the survey.
Source: National Data Analysis System (NDAS) State Data Trends report. Find trends reports and much more information at http://ndas.cwla.org. NDAS is a free online service started in 1999 by CWLA and sponsoring states.