Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced last week that they had reached an agreement to provide six months of funding through a continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2013. The omnibus appropriations legislation would be in lieu of enacting 12 separate appropriations bills. Congress is in recess for the rest of this month, so the CR will not be voted on until it returns after Labor Day.
The CR will provide six months of FY 2013 funding at an annual level of $1.047 trillion, which is slightly above the current year but the total agreed to in last year’s debt ceiling agreement. It is likely to contain few changes in policy, and congressional staff will have to spend August working on the specific budget language and data.
The proposal would appear to appease both the most conservative House members as well as Democrats in the Senate. Several House Republicans have emphasized the need to avoid a government shutdown at the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Democrats want to focus all the post-election discussions on how to deal with the expiring tax laws and automatic spending cuts set to take place on December 31, 2012 and January 2, 2013, if Congress fails to act.
Both sides are betting that they will be in stronger positions as a result of the election with potential changes in the White House and the make-up of the Senate and House. The funding level is above what House Republicans had proposed in their budget resolution this past April. It is possible that once Congress returns after using the month of August and Labor Day to campaign, some members may have a different view of the proposed deal.
HHS Releases Latest Child Welfare Numbers: AFCARS 2011 Data
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the new data on foster care and adoptions for the federal fiscal year 2011. Released annually through the Adoption, Foster Care Analysis and Reporting Systems (AFCARS), the number of children in foster care continued its decade-plus decline. The number of children in foster care on Sept. 30, 2011 was 400,540, over 100,000 less than there were in 2006 and 160,000 less than in 1999.
The decrease of 6,000 from 2010 to 2011 was the lowest in over five years. There were 3,000 fewer entries into foster care and 12,000 fewer exits. Adoptions from foster care were 50,516, which is a decrease of 3,000 from the previous fiscal year. Although the numbers have decreased, the general percentage of children adopted from foster care remained the same.
Entries into foster care are the highest at the youngest ages: 16 percent of children entering foster care were under one, eight percent were one, seven percent were two, six percent were three years of age, six percent were four and five percent were five years of age. That means that 48 percent of children entering foster care were between infancy and five years of age.
Exits from care were also the same between the FY 2010 and FY 2011, with 52 percent of children leaving care to be reunified with their families, eight percent leaving to join a relative, 20 percent leaving for adoption, eleven percent leaving through emancipation, six percent exiting to a guardianship arrangement, two percent being transferred to another agency and one percent running from care and being listed as an exit. There was a continued decrease in the number of children and youth emancipating or leaving care due to age with 26,286 emancipating in FY 2011 compared to 27,854 in 2010. To read the complete data go online: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#afcars
Foster Youth Interns Offer Recommendations to Congress
On Tuesday, Ju1y 31, the Foster Youth Internship program of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption (CCAI) held a congressional briefing to release their recommendations on how to make improvements in the foster care system. The briefing was the culmination of summer work by 14 former foster youth who spent their summer interning on Capitol Hill.
The recommendations covered more than a dozen challenges faced by youth in foster care. Issue areas and recommendations included the juvenile justice system, Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), psychotropic medication, post-secondary education financing, human trafficking, quality foster parent recruitment, foster parent training, mentorship, and transitioning out of care. Each intern had an opportunity to discuss their personal experiences while in foster care and how based on those experiences they would change the current system. Many of the proposals called for improved casework and stronger oversight on how children in foster care are cared for or helped. For further information on the Foster Youth Internship program and their recommendations go online: http://www.ccainstitute.org/our-programs/foster-youth-internship/about.html
Congressman Geoff Davis Leaves Congress
Congressman Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Ways and Means Committee, has resigned from Congress effective July 31. Davis had been a sympathetic voice in regard to child welfare issues and as chair of the subcommittee played the key role in the House. He was keenly interested in better data collection and promoting ways for better coordination of information across human service programs.
Davis had announced last December that he would not run for reelection. In his statement issued on the day of his resignation he said:
“In December 2011, I decided that in order to honor those values [God, family and work], I needed to retire from Congressional service so I could more effectively serve my family as a husband and father. Those priorities continue to guide my decisions. Recently, a family health issue has developed that will demand significantly more of my time to assist. As a result, I cannot continue to effectively fulfill my obligations to both my office and my family. Family must and will come first.”
On Thursday the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman David Camp (R-Mich), announced that Congressman Erik Paulson (R-Minn.) would serve as chair of the subcommittee for the remainder of the year. The Subcommittee could be instrumental on any potential decisions in regard to a TANF reauthorization in September or more likely a lame-duck session of Congress after the election.
State By State Data Available on Use of Psychotropic Medication in Foster Care
The PolicyLab at the Philadelphia Children’s has now gone online with an interactive map that can track state by state data on antipsychotics and polypharmacy use for children in foster care: http://policylab.us/index.php/resources/data-visualizations.html.
The map allows the viewer to click a state and see the trends in prescription drug use for the years 2002 through 2007. In June, we reported on a meeting sponsored by the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition and National Foster Care Coalition on the oversight and use of psychotropic medication for children in foster care. Featured speakers included Dr. David Rubin and Meredith Matone from PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr Rubin gave an overview of the PolicyLab’s efforts to improve the quality of health care for children in foster care. He presented some of the PolicyLab’s most recent research based on a review of Medicaid data. Based on their research they were able to analyze the use of psychotropic medications, use of multiple prescriptions per child and the use of antipsychotic medications.
The organization will also have a national analysis on the use of antipsychotic use and mental health diagnosis trends among all Medicaid-enrolled foster children between 2002 and 2007 in the fall of 2012. For more information on PolicyLab go online: http://policylab.us
UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS
- National Foster Care Coalition quarterly meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 19, 1:00 PM, location, to-be-announced.
John Sciamanna is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation.