The next Congress will have the opportunity to reauthorize more than a dozen programs that have a significant impact on children but whether that happens seems less than likely.  Generally federal programs are reauthorized for periods of four to five years.  The reauthorization process is intended as a way to provide needed oversight but in recent years Congress has failed to live up to its mission in this regard.  If a program is not reauthorized then Congress may still continue to fund the program through the annual appropriations process.  For some programs however some extension is required.  This happens when a program is funded through a mandatory funding stream such as the TANF block grant.  In this case Congress has extended the program with little or no changes for three months to one year at a time.

In this Congress the list of reauthorizations that will expire or have either expired (sometimes years ago) include The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) set to run out at the end of this fiscal year.  When CAPTA is extended it usually reauthorizes the Community Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse or Neglect (referred to as CB-CAP), the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Adoption Opportunities Act, and the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act.

Other programs due for reauthorization: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA—No Child Left Behind), the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Child Nutrition and Woman and Infant Child (WIC) programs set to expire this year.  On the mandatory side TANF expired in 2010 and continues through short term extensions until October 1, and the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program expiring in March (although the funding will carry to the end of this fiscal year).