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Public Policy Update - July 2014

In addition to supporting a network of 951 CASA/GAL programs throughout the country, the National CASA Association advocates for abused and neglected children on the national level by working with elected officials and government agencies, and by partnering with other child welfare organizations.

Included below are highlights of legislative issues that are of interest to the CASA/GAL network.  Contact Ashley Lantz, director of public policy, for more information.

FY 2015 Appropriations

The FY 2015 appropriations process is currently at a standstill in the Senate, due to a difference in views on how to proceed with consideration of the minibus package containing the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations bill. Senator Mary Landrieu introduced an amendment to the CJS bill to fund DOJ's court-appointed special advocate program at the authorized level of $12 million.

Trafficking and Adoption Incentives Package

The House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee reached an agreement last Thursday on a package that would achieve several proposed outcomes including reauthorizing the Adoption Incentives Program for three years through FY 2016, extending Family Connection Grants for one year at $15 million, providing screening and other initiatives to prevent children from being victims of sex trafficking, and eliminating another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA) as a permanency goal for youth under age 16. 

H.R. 4980, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, would also bolster the Fostering Connections Act requirement that states track and reinvest any savings from the expansion of the adoption assistance program by requiring that at least 30 percent of these savings on post-adoption, post-kinship and reunification services. 

The legislation also contains a number of provisions that would promote normalcy for youth in care, including a requirement that youth ages 14 and older be involved in their case planning.  Another provision requires that youth in foster care for more than six months prior to emancipation be provided with important documents, including a birth certificate, Social Security card, health records and insurance information, and a driver's license or state-issued ID.

Adoption incentives would be calculated differently under the bill and guardianships would be included in the calculations for the first time. The legislation would tie incentives to a rate-based system instead of the current number-based system and includes an additional award for improvement on overall guardianship placements and adoption of youth between the ages of nine and 14.

The House could take up H.R. 4980 as early as the second week of July.

Reauthorization of Child Advocacy Centers

The Senate passed, by unanimous consent, legislation to reauthorize several Victims of Child Abuse Act programs, including the children's advocacy program, on June 26, 2014.  S. 1799, the Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for Children's Advocacy Centers at $20 million per annum through FY 2018, extend DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grants for the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, and continue funding to national organizations that provide technical assistance and training to attorneys and other practitioners involved in the prosecution of child abuse cases. The legislation must now be approved in the House, where Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) has introduced a companion bill to Senator Coons's (D-DE) successful measure.

2014 Children's Budget

Last week, First Focus released its 2014 Children's Budget, which is a detailed analysis of more than 180 federal investments in children. Key findings from the Children's Budget include:

  • Total federal spending on children has decreased by 14 percent (adjusting for inflation) since its peak in 2010, while federal spending dropped by 8 percent during the same time period.
  • Child welfare spending has remained relatively flat with a just a slight decrease - $9 billion in FY 2014 - compared to $9.4 billion in 2010.
  • Spending on children is just 8 percent of the federal budget.

The Urban Institute also released an instructive report last year on federal expenditures for children that contains a number of projections on spending. The report can be found Read the full report. 

Child Fatalities Commission Hearings

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities will hold its next series of field hearings in Tampa, FL, on July 10; Detroit, MI,on August 28; and Denver, CO, on September 22 and 23.  The commission is a federally established entity that was formed as part of the Protect Our Kids Act to develop a national strategy and recommendations on reducing fatalities from child abuse and neglect.  The commission held its first public field hearing in San Antonio, TX, on June 2 and 3, during which National CASA Board Trustee and Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs provided testimony.

Read more about the commission's work.

 

 

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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