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Two Places at Once: Youth Summit and Adoption Expo

CWLA's Terri Braxton at the booth at the Freddie Mac Foundation's Adoption Expo.

CWLA spent Saturday, November 6 in two places at once. In Arlington, Virginia, youth and agency staff attended the second National Youth Summit. It was designed to celebrate Fostering Healthy Connections, a program sponsored by the New York Life Foundation where foster care alumni mentor children and youth still in care. The event emphasized ways to stay connected, and featured presentations from Darrell "Coach D" Andrews, an author and youth leadership development speaker, and Tanisha Cunningham, founder of the Underground Railroad to Success, an organization that helps youth aging out of foster care.

Across the river in downtown Washington, DC, CWLA had an exhibit booth at the Freddie Mac Foundation's Adoption Expo. Attendees were potential parents considering adoption and adoptive families learning about available supports in the District, Maryland, and Virginia. Many expo participants learned about CWLA and its work at the event, and CWLA staff described their mission and purpose, rallied support around the White House Conference, and offered children's books and adoption titles for sale.

Big Idea: Reestablish the White House Conference

Linda Spears and Tim Briceland-Betts wrote an essay for First Focus as part of that organization's Big Ideas: Game-Changers for Children series. In the paper, they share the history of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, which was last held 40 years ago. "In many respects, there has not been a more critical time in our nation, as so many children and families face new and historic hardships," they assert, describing the challenges both on a family level--layoffs and pay cuts which can lead to homelessness, food insecurity, and substance abuse--and facing the child welfare system as a whole, as both state budgets and charitable donations shrink.

"What we lack is a national agenda for protecting and serving our nation's most vulnerable families," they write. "Reestablishing a White House Conference on Children and Youth would help redirect our current trajectory and set a comprehensive road map for how our nation can focus on, and better serve, children and families." Download the full essay by searching First Focus's website, www.firstfocus.net.

News From the Hill: Midterm Elections

The November midterm elections resulted in a shift in the balance of power on Capitol Hill, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives in the biggest turnover in more than 70 years. Democrats lost seats in the Senate but retain a majority. As soon as the new Congress arrives in Washington in January, CWLA will begin building a rapport with the newly elected representatives and leaders in both houses. There are opportunities ahead, but also significant challenges:

  • The 112th Congress will likely encounter significant gridlock when it comes to budget issues. The incoming House Republican majority has pledged to cut discretionary spending and limit the role of government. They plan to issue across-the-board spending cuts to non-defense, discretionary funding programs and roll funding back to 2008 levels. The President's budget, due out in February, will likely be very different. Getting agreement on fiscal reform between the House, Senate, and President in the next Congress will be difficult.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is currently operating under a short-term extension that expired December 3, 2010. TANF will need to be extended again during the lame duck session of Congress, but it is unclear how long the next extension will be. CWLA has also recommended several improvements for TANF. Given the political makeup of Congress for the next two years, it is unclear if reauthorization of TANF will be a priority or if the two parties will be able to come to an agreement on how to reform the program.

  • While repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not likely, opposition is still strong from some members of Congress. They could slow the appropriations process to block discretionary funding components, or tie up implementation by frequently calling administration officials to testify on the Hill. Additionally, many states are already in the process of challenging the constitutionality of the act.

Visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm to subscribe to Children's Monitor, a weekly newsletter from the CWLA advocacy staff that reviews events on Capitol Hill.

CWLA Applauds Passage of AB 12 in California

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, into law in October. As encouraged in the federal Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351), AB 12 extends support services to foster youth up until the age of 21 for as long as they are working or attending school. California joins 31 states and the District of Columbia in allowing youth to remain in foster care until age 21. However, only a handful of these states have enacted legislation to allow them to participate in the federally supported program.

"California's a big state, and this is big news that will have far-reaching effects for foster children. We applaud the governor and state legislature for enacting this important legislation," said CWLA CEO Christine James-Brown. "This is another important outcome from the 2008 Fostering Connections Act, and we hope that California's leadership will encourage other states to enact similar laws." California has the largest population of foster youth aging out of the child welfare system, so its new law will have an immediate and significant impact in helping more youth in foster care adapt to adulthood better. Research shows that youth who receive support after age 18 are two times more likely to be working toward completion of a high school diploma, three times more likely to be enrolled in college, and much less likely to have been arrested. For every $1 invested by a state, there is an estimated $2.41 return on investment.

Several CWLA member agencies, as well as many other groups and individuals, worked hard to get this legislation passed and approved.

To comment on this article, e-mail voice@cwla.org.

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