Monday, August 25, 2008

HR 6307 and S 3038

Just a reminder to use the widget in the sidebar to contact your representatives to voice your support of these two bills. Here's an email I received about it this morning from The Children's Monitor Online.

"Why Congress May Be Close to the Most Significant Child Welfare Bill in a Decade

While most of the nation and the media's attention toward Congress has been focused on partisan debates and what some refer to as gridlock, Congress broke for its August recess very close to moving a child welfare bill that would be the most significant in at least a decade.

On June 24, the House of Representatives, by a voice vote, passed the Fostering Connections to Success Act (H.R. 6307). Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL), respectively the Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Income Support and Family Security, had introduced the bipartisan bill just days before. The legislation drew from an earlier bill McDermott had introduced (Invest in KIDS Act, H.R. 5466), with that bill serving as the basis for bipartisan discussions.

Shortly before Congress left for the August recess, the Senate Finance Committee released the Chairman's mark or substitute bill, a bipartisan agreement between Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA). The Chairman's mark evolved from bipartisan discussions on a bill introduced last May by Grassley, S. 3038.

Because the Finance Committee ran out of time before it could act on the bill, the hearing or mark-up was rescheduled for September 10. CWLA has endorsed both bills, although differences exist. Negotiations in the coming weeks will hopefully resolve those differences into one bill. Both bills are significant for at least three reasons: They contain significant child welfare policy reforms, they are bipartisan, and they are paid for by offsets or savings in other areas of the government.

Although Congress has reauthorized other child welfare programs in the past decade such as the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program, and the Adoption Incentives program, sometimes with improvements, nothing has passed that would be as significant as this potential bill. The last major piece of legislation Congress adopted in this nature was the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997. That act, which created time frames to move children out of foster care, created the Adoption Incentives program and increased funding to PSSF, was significant, but it included little in the way of additional funds.

The House and Senate bills have several things in common that would make significant strides in the nation's child welfare system, although short of the comprehensive reform CWLA continues to promote.

Both bills reauthorize the Adoption Incentives program, with increased incentives for the adoption of special-needs children and children 9 and older. Both of these populations are disproportionately represented the more than 124,000 children waiting to be adopted. In fact, the reauthorization of this incentive program, due to expire this fiscal year, is the impetus for this overall package. Both bills take some slightly different approaches, with the Senate bill including a limited incentive fund for kinship placements, moving the program closer to a permanency incentive program.

Both bills would also extend support for kinship care by allowing states the option of using Title IV-E funds for relative kinship placements. Relatives can do this now, and be subsidized by federal Title IV-E funds, but only if they are considered foster parents. ASFA recognized kinship placements as one of three permanency options (along with adoptions and reunification), but never provided access to Title IV-E foster care funds, except for a few cases where states received temporary waivers.

The extension of funding to kinship care has been a long-time priority for CWLA. Working with other organizations, including Generation United, the Children's Defense Fund, and the Center on Law and Social Policy, legislation was developed and introduced by Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), S 661. In fact, Clinton announced the bill at a 2004 CWLA National Conference. That bill was later introduced in the House by Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL), HR 2188.

Although the Senate and House child welfare bills do not include everything in the Clinton and Davis bills, they do include an extension of funding, a requirement to notify relatives when a child enters the child welfare system, and a limited amount of money for kinship navigator programs.

The Senate and House child welfare bills also include changes that would allow tribal governments and consortia to apply directly for Title IV-E foster care and adoption assistance funding. Tribal communities can access these funds currently only as part of the state system or through and agreement with states. All too often, children on reservations go without the support of federal dollars for foster care or adoption assistance, creating an example of limited federal funds to tribal populations.

Direct access to funding would not be unusual, since tribes today have the ability to draw their own TANF (welfare) funds. Direct access to funding was also on CWLA's agenda, and bills have been introduced in this and previous congresses by members of both parties. The legislation has been a big priority for the Nation Indian Child Welfare Association.

The House and Senate legislation also would allow states the option to extend federal foster care funding to youth up to age 21. Under both bills, states would have an option to decide what age to go up to and would also define child-caring institutions for youth 18 or older to include independent-living settings.

CWLA endorsed legislation to extend care to age 21 (S. 1512), introduced early last year by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Extending care to 21 has been a big priority for advocates in California, in particular the John Burton Foundation. Over the past two years, the PEW Charitable Trusts' Kids Are Waiting campaign has brought dozens of young people to Washington, DC, to talk about their experiences in foster care.More than 24,000 young people leave foster care each year due to becoming too old. The testimony of so many young people has had an impact on members of Congress in both parties.

Another important provision in the Senate and House bills would require states to keep children who enter foster care in their same schools if it is in the child's best interest. If it is not in the foster child's best interest, the case plan must have an arrangement for immediate enrollment into the new school district. Under both bills, the state must also offer an assurance that all foster children who are covered by mandatory school attendance laws are in fact enrolled and attending schools. The bills also allow states to include in the foster care maintenance payments the cost of transportation.

These education provisions also have broad bipartisan support. For the last three years, Casey Family Programs has been working with a coalition of child welfare groups, including CWLA, to address the education challenges for children in care. Much of the focus has been on ways to strengthen provisions in the McKinney-Vento Act, which covers homeless children and their access to schools. This law must be reauthorized along with the reauthorization of the federal elementary and secondary education act.

Despite the common provisions in the Senate and House bills, negotiations will be required over differences in language and some differences in approaches. For example, although the same requirements for licensing apply to foster and kin families, the Senate bill would also allow a 10- state demonstration to allow some greater flexibility in kinship licensing as it applies to square footage, bathroom space, and rooms. Differences also exist in the tribal provisions.

In addition to these generally common areas, three significant differences exist between the House and Senate bills. The Senate bill would delink adoption assistance payments from the non existent AFDC eligibility program. This eligibility requirement means states have to look back to their AFDC eligibility requirements as they existed on July 16, 1996. The eligibility applies to both adoption assistance and foster care. The Senate bill would phase out this eligibility link and eventually cover all special-needs adoption payments by FY 2013. The House bill does not include this provision. CWLA has sought an elimination of the link to AFDC. This provision would be a major step toward overall reform.

The House bill has two important provisions not found in the Senate version. It would allow Title IV-E training funds to be used for private agencies. Private agencies are a critical provider of child welfare services. Some states rely heavily on these agencies, and expanding these training funds are a critical part of a comprehensive child welfare workforce strategy. CWLA has long supported such an expansion of private agency training. The House provision was also in a bill sponsored by Representative Jerry Weller (R-IL).

A second feature in the House bill is new requirements around health care planning and care for foster children. The House bill requires coordination between the child welfare department and Medicaid and other key state health care partners. The planning would have to include screening of children in care, tracking their records, and providing medication. The provisions are strongly supported by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) and have been prompted by the American Academy of Pediatrics. CWLA has also endorsed these provisions.

In the end, the strongest bill would include all of the House and Senate provisions. That, however, may require finding enough offsets to cover additional costs. If Congress can do it, however, the expansion of federal support for adoptive families, kinship families, tribal populations, youth leaving foster care, stronger training for the workforce, and better health and education services for children in care would mark a major advancement for child welfare and would serve as perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of the 110th Congress and for bipartisanship in Washington, DC, in 2008."


  1. Thanks for that Congress widget, and reminded us to be macro-minded. I so appreciate that about your blog.

    And congrats again on the test. I'm just assuming there are no limits on celebrating that.

  2. LOL! no there are no limits :) In fact I threw myself a little party over at the blues page yesterday...had a grand old time :)thanks!

  3. Hi Prin! I'm skimming some of your blogs and also wanted to thank you for this post. I'll be sure to check out the widget. Congratulations on your license! I saw your celebration over at your (very nifty) blues blog. My husband would appreciate the inclusion of Kool & the Gang. Can't throw a party without them! Thanks for stopping by BEYOND Understanding! Karen in Denver

  4. crap, I'm glad you came by...i got busy and forgot to do the post about your blog...i'm still busy trying to clear out but i'll do it as soon as i can...probably over the weekend :) hope you enjoy the blues page :)

  5. These bills are ripping familys apart.
    As CPS has to meet the quota each year over what they adopted out in legal blackmarket children the year before.
    So they are going into childrens public schools on the slightest allegations and removing children from familys that care & love them.
    Yes there are children who need loving homes.
    If you look at the numbers in each state for adoptions each year since Clinton introduced it you'll see they are very high.
    Also here is a link to show that not all adoptions are a good thing :
    Many of these children want to go home and CPS refuses to allow this because not only are they receiving child support from the parents each month. They are also receiving bonuses for each month these children are kept in state care.
    This federal money is coming out of our social security fund. Dont believe me ? Look into it.

  6. I debated on whether or not to publish the previous comment. decided to do it in hopes of a healthy debate. 1) I'm not really sure what "legal blackmarket children" are. 2) I don't know for sure but I'm relatively certain that CPS does not have any quota to fill where children are concerned. 3) all allegations however "slight" or not have to be investigated 4) bonuses? wtf! 5)children are not taken from "good and loving homes" I'm pretty sure there is a process where more than one decision maker is involved and more than one reported incidence is involved. Having never worked for CPS I am only saying "pretty sure" for this reason. I could go on but I'm sure I have readers that can who are experienced in this area and can take up with knowledgeable authority where I left off.

  7. I also do not work for CPS; I do work in an intensive family preservation (removal prevention) program. I certainly cannot speak for all states, all CPS workers, or every family who has been involved with CPS. I openly admit that many people have poor experiences with CPS.

    That said, I do know that it is incredibly expensive and legally difficult to remove children from unsafe homes. That is why my state, and many others, invest millions of dollars every year in programs like mine to prevent removals. Almost everyone agrees that children are best off in their own homes if those homes are safe.

    Regarding the finances, states do have a practice of redirecting child support, and sometimes welfare funds to foster parents. This does not begin to cover the expense of keeping children in foster care. Make no mistake: this is not a money making endeavor. Children are expensive to raise, with or without whatever minimal child support or state assistance may be available.

    Many children do want to come home. Most parents who have had children removed also want their children to come home. Having a child removed is about the worst thing that can happen to anyone. Very few parents who have had this happen are able to be unbiased in their view of the system. Most believe CPS was out to get them; most believe they did not put their children in danger. Most love their children. But loving a child is not the same as being able to keep a child safe.

    CPS does make mistakes sometimes. There are unwarranted removals. In my experience, most CPS workers work very hard to prevent removals. Legally, CPS is required to make reasonable efforts (usually provide preservation services) before any child can be removed. While there are problems with the CPS system, and some removals should not happen, by and large children are not removed when they can be safe in their own homes.

  8. RE: "These bills are ripping families apart." [and] "CPS does make mistakes sometimes."
    I, like most people, wanted to believe that CPS is working for the welfare of the children. I could explain my case, but it would only amount to one in many (some good, some bad). However, for those who believe that CPS is all good, or MOSTLY good, look at this report by Nancy Schaefer, or Then look at this news story from Kentucky
    (and associated links)
    Last year, Virginia received $1.5 billion for CPS mostly because they destroyed families. This bill will make that number much larger. When there is that much money involved corners are cut, exceptions are made, "reasonable efforts" become paperwork drills, lies and fabrication become errors in judgment, and state and federal lawmakers look the other way. If children aren't removed, the state does not get the money - it's that simple. There is much more money for removing the children than there is for preservation of the family. Preservation is expensive and costs the states, removing the children brings in money.
    This is a bad bill - bad for families AND children.
    Please, just look at the news stories and reports. They are honest and unbiased. Then read the biased stories, biased because of the horror of CPS corruption and written by the victims, at and (or the many other anti-cps sites).
    We all want to believe Social Services helps, but with this temptation of cash, they are now helping themselves.

  9. ASFA had an unintended side effect. It became an incentive to destroy families.

  10. i'm sorry but i will never believe that there is an "incentive" legally on the books to tear families apart.

  11. I am also truly sorry if your family was torn apart, but I have to believe there was a reason aside from this law and if you want to tell me about that i will listen...

  12. This bill funds the State of Florida to take children out of their family's homes at a rate of 35% over the national average. I lost my 4 kids due to one child being bitten by a dog. Other parents have lost their children because their refrigerator broke, or they did not let their child go to the school dance. They are looking for any reason to take kids, and they are using this Bill S.3038 to fund the destruction of our families. I know you wouldn't believe me, so I video taped all of the people at the courthouse and put them on Youtube at . I just want my kids back, that is all. I love my children, and would do anything for them. This is more like Nazi Germany, and less like America. If you doubt that S.3038 is a "bad bill", just do a search on Google for S.3038 and see all of the sites that are trying to fight this monster.

    May someone bless you with understanding. I am sure you mean well and want to help children. But get a Bill that reunites families, not one that destroys them