News from the Hill – June 2011

Congressional Social Work Caucus Gains Members and Holds New Briefings The Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) continues to grow with 35 members, including all of the Social Worker Members as well as two Republicans, Rep. Platts (PA) and Rep. Issa (CA). Members of the caucus will represent the social work profession and the needs of social work clients through regular hill briefings, media statements, and working with community and government stakeholders. It is important that the CSWC is a diverse, bipartisan group dedicated to protecting and promoting the profession. Has your Member of Congress joined the CSWC yet? Click here to find out. 

The CSWC has held three congressional briefings on: 

Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR 1106/S. 584) currently has 49 cosponsors in the House and 7 in the Senate. We still need your help to secure additional cosponsors and pass the most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever introduced to address the workforce issues facing the social work profession. As we continue to struggle with the economic recession, it is more important now than ever to reinvest in society’s social safety net.

Contact your Senators and Representative in support of the bill today.

House Appropriators Cut HHS Funding

On May 11, the House Appropriations Committee announced the Fiscal Year 2012 spending allocations for each of its subcommittees, cutting total federal discretionary spending by approximately $30 billion in the next fiscal year compared to FY 2011. Spending for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Departments (LHHS) would be reduced by more than $18 billion – $41.5 billion less than the President requested. The cuts to LHHS could jeopardize the future of many programs that employ social workers and serve millions of clients.

Senate Democrats have yet to move forward on their proposal for a 2012 budget plan.  Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has chosen to hold off releasing a counter offer to the House plan until the completion of the budget negotiations initiated by the White House and led by Vice President Biden.  It is expected that the Conrad budget plan would include tax increases as part of the strategy for deficit reduction.

Child Welfare Waiver Bill Introduced in Senate

On May 17, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Finance Committee chair, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking Republican on the committee, introduced the State Child Welfare Innovation Act, S.1013, (H.R. 1194), to renew authority for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend through 2014 waivers of federal foster care regulations to enable states to use funds flexibly in developing innovative strategies for serving children in the child welfare system. The House companion bill, H.R. 1194, was introduced in March by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

States that apply for a waiver to use federal foster care funds would be required to address one of three goals listed in the legislation:

1) Increase permanency for children and promote the successful transition to adulthood;

2) Increase efforts to better serve children and families served in-home or in-placement by improving safety; and

3) Prevent abuse and neglect and the re-entry of children into foster care with a special focus on in-home and community-based services. 

The bill focuses on enabling states to make changes in their policies, procedures or other aspects of the state child welfare program to achieve the goal of the project funded under the legislation.  Specific child welfare program improvement policies related to prevention identified by the bill include: family counseling, family group decision-making, in-home peer support for families; family-based substance abuse treatment; and addressing domestic violence that puts children at risk of entering foster care.

The bill aims to reduce the number of children and youth entering foster care while also improving the circumstances for children in the child welfare system and keeping families together.  Senator Baucus credited a drop in the number of children in the foster care system by more than 80,000 over the last ten years, and by nearly 40,000 over the last two years, in part to success achieved by the states’ use of the type of waiver the bill would provide. The Finance Committee leadership considers the legislation to be cost-neutral and free of controversy, which should enable it to move quickly.  

Federal Funding Opportunity for Domestic Violence Programs

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) recently announced the solicitation of applications for cooperative agreements under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Discretionary Grants Program to support a nationwide network composed of National Resource Centers, Special Issues Resource Centers, and Culturally Specific Special Issue Resource Centers focused on the intervention and prevention of family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence.

This network will consist of one National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), one National Indian Resource Center Addressing Domestic Violence and Safety for Indian Women (NIRC), three Culturally  Specific Special Issue Resource Centers (CSIRC), and at least four Special Issue Resource Centers (SIRC).

Announcement Access: All four of the funding opportunity announcements have been posted online, additional details about each of the opportunities can be found at: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants/open/foa/office/acyf_fysb

Deadlines: Please note that applications are due on July 15, 2011 for all four of the funding opportunity announcements (NRCDV, NIRC, CSIRC, and SIRC).   Please also note that the NIRC application due date was incorrectly published with a July 16th deadline.

NASW Attends Hill Briefing on Adoption

NASW staff recently attended a briefing about post adoption services hosted by a coalition of child welfare advocates that include the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Voice for Adoption, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the Child Welfare League of America. NASW collaborates with many of these groups to improve the nation’s child welfare system.

In addition to four adoptive families relating their personal stories, Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke about her experience in assisting families in her district sort through complex international adoption issues that prompted her to introduce the Supporting Adoptive Families Act last year. Although most domestic adoptions are successful, she stressed the need for more data on why some adoptions are not. Most adoptions are from the child welfare system and include youth who have been abused, neglected and in need of a continuum of services to address various emotional and behavior issues. Policy solutions include recommendations to increase federal and state funding for post adoption support programs.

NASW Supports Reintroduction of Criminal Justice Legislation

In May, NASW endorsed the Byrne/JAG Program Accountability Act, H.R.1913.  The bill was reintroduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and currently has 3 cosponsors. The Byrne/JAG Program Accountability Act would require all states and localities receiving funds through the Byrne/JAG Program to implement policies and practices to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities within their criminal justice systems, without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas.  Specifically, the bill would require Byrne Grant recipients to:

  • Establish coordinating bodies of relevant stakeholders to oversee and monitor efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities;
  • Identify and analyze key decision points in their criminal justice systems to determine which points create racial and ethnic disparities;
  • Collect and analyze data to identify where racial and ethnic disparities exist in the criminal justice system;
  • Develop and implement a work plan for reducing those disparities based on the data collected; and
  • Publicly report each year on their efforts in the above areas.

For additional information, click here to read the press release.

Political Climate

In any given election cycle, roughly 1/3 of the U.S. Senate is up for reelection. There will be 33 seats up in 2012 (barring further resignations or retirements that would increase this number).  Currently, 23 of these seats are held by Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) and 10 by Republicans.  Since several of the Republican-held seats are safe for their party, they will undoubtedly focus on trying to take away Democratic seats.  The Democratic party, conversely, will primarily play defense and hold onto as many seats as possible, leaving it up to individual challengers to try and defeat Republican incumbents largely on their own. 

As the election draws nearer, NASW-PACE will take into account the viability of all incumbents, as well as their voting records on our most pressing issues, in considering endorsements.  We will also carefully evaluate the positions taken by challengers and their ability to win in the 2012 political climate.  All of our endorsements will be geared toward enhancing the number of elected federal officials who support the goals of social workers and their clients.

Federal Benefits are Going Electronic

The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced a new rule requiring all federal benefit and non-tax payments to be paid electronically. Anyone applying for Social Security, Veterans Affairs or other federal benefits, will receive their payments electronically starting with their first payment. Anyone currently receiving federal benefit checks must switch to an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013. People already receiving benefit payments electronically do not need to take action. They will continue to receive their payment as usual on the payment day. You can read more about this here.

Advocacy Blog Roundup

Oregon Passes Memorial Act in Support of Social Work Reinvestment Act

International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia Observed

State Toolkit – New Health Care Law Provisions for Young Adults

NASW Executive Director Dr. Elizabeth Clark on the Anita Estell Show

Advocacy Alert Roundup

URGENT Action Alert: Contact the House of Representatives TODAY

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