Insider on the Hill

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Welcome to the latest edition of Insider on the Hill!

This is your source for what’s happening in Washington for child welfare. At American Humane Association, our policy experts give everything they’ve got to make sure that lawmakers are looking out for children. Insider on the Hill is where they share all of their “insider” child welfare advocacy knowledge with you!

From proposals and bills to votes and debates, Insider on the Hill gives you current information about what national advocacy groups and elected federal officials are doing for the well-being of children. To receive the handy, regular email update on the issues that matter most to our nation’s children,

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CCAI Hosts Hill Briefing by Foster Youth Interns

On July 27, more than a dozen young people who had been in foster care earlier in their childhood came together on Capitol Hill to educate legislators on how to reform the nation’s child welfare system.

Former foster youth get the opportunity to intern in Congressional offices through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) summer program. Throughout the summer, these young adults research foster youth policy issues and compile their findings into an annual report. Their report was released at the briefing last Wednesday, where the interns gave presentations on their various experiences and their policy recommendations.

Presentations ranged from the technical to the heartfelt — including advocacy for funding and critiques of procedure, as well as memories of separation from siblings and stories of mentoring, and eventually adopting, foster youth. Only 3 percent of former foster youth complete college, but these foster youth interns have overcome the odds against them, and are using their experiences to help the 423,000 foster youth in care today.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families Awaiting Reauthorization in September

As the fiscal year comes to an end on September 30, a number of programs must be reauthorized. One that is very important to child welfare is the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF).

PSSF is Title IV-B part 2 of the Social Security Act. Its authorization, along with Child Welfare Services (Title IV-B part 1), needs extension by the end of the fiscal year. Currently, PSSF provides more than $360 million in funds four main areas: adoption services, reunification services, family preservation and family support. It also funds some important court-child welfare coordination and substance abuse treatment programs, detailed in American Humane Association’s legislative agenda.

Some critical questions to consider in this issue:

  • Should the $20 million-a-year substance abuse grants continue?
  • Should states be directed to spend at least 20 percent of their funds on the four service areas or should they be allowed to spend any or all of their funds on one service? (Currently, states can get a waiver from the Department of Health and Human Services on the 20 percent requirement.)
  • Should changes be made to the mandate on states to assure monthly caseworker visits to children in foster care, and should court funding continue?

In June, American Humane Association testified before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources with a series of recommendations on how to strengthen PSSF. The Senate has not yet held hearings on the program but has had internal staff discussions. So far, discussions of PSSF have not included the issues that normally divide Congress.

After the Budget Battle, a Long Fall

Once decisions are made on the debt ceiling — no matter the outcome — there will be a long list of issues (including PSSF, described above) left to address — most of which have deadlines. Here are some of the most critical items:

  • The Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 – The new debt ceiling will mandate program cuts and the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor-HHS) promises to be a very contentious debate. To this point the House has moved on 9 of the 12 appropriations bills but Labor-HHS has not been one of them. The Senate has held back on acting on any of the bills pending a decision on what the spending caps will look like. Look for a contentious debate with a government shutdown possible if funding is not temporarily extended by the start of the fiscal year on October 1.
  • Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – The ESEA, also known as the No Child left Behind Act, expired in September 2007 but continues to operate without a reauthorization. American Humane Association has its own priorities regarding the education of children in foster care, but this legislation encompasses a much broader debate on the use of federal funds, school standards and testing. The Senate HELP Committee continues to have bipartisan staff discussions as a way to move forward. Action is expected in September. The House has split with the Committee on Education and the Workforce, passing five separate bills that make dramatic changes to current law. The bills have been passing on a very partisan split.
  • Reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – CCDBG has not been reauthorized since it was first enacted as part of the 1996 welfare reform law TANF (see below). Its mandatory funding was extended as part of the TANF reauthorization in 2006. A number of proposals call for increased funding for quality improvements, more flexible eligibility for families and better coordination with other early childhood education programs. However, with such limited increases over the past 10 years, much of that debate has been put aside.
  • Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – TANF was scheduled for reauthorization in the last Congress. Instead of being reauthorized, the funding it was merely extended by one year — and is now due to expire on October 1. The Administration has not offered reform proposals and has proposed another one-year extension.
  • Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) – This act was scheduled for reauthorization in FY 2008. It provides funding for a number of prevention initiatives but has had difficulty getting out of either Senate or House committees.
Changes to the funding streams for child welfare and immigration reform may also pose difficulties. Neither set of programs has been reauthorized, but both have supporters who may push for significant changes. Find more information on many of these issues in American Humane Association’s legislative agenda

New York City Has New Child Welfare Head as John Mattingly Ends Term

On July 27, John Mattingly stepped down from his position as Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). The biggest city in the nation has significantly reduced its foster care population over the past decade, but it continues to face challenges. Mayor Mike Bloomberg gave Mattingly high praise and took the time to announce his replacement: Judge Ronald E. Richter, who brings 20 years of child services experience as Deputy Commissioner for ACS under Mattingly. Richter also worked in City Hall alongside Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and oversaw a program to better coordinate human service agencies. Bloomberg appointed Richter to the bench in 2009 when he had an opportunity to adjudicate cases dealing with child abuse, neglect and custodial cases.

News of Note

Insider on the Hill will go on hiatus after this week’s edition.

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