The debates in Washington this past year were dominated by heated budget battles. At the beginning of the year child welfare was a vulnerable target for potentially deep cuts. As a result of the CWLA ‘These Cuts Won’t Heal’ campaign and other advocacy efforts we’re pleased to report federal funding for child welfare remains level overall, compared to recent years. Our collective efforts were effective through two appropriations processes and the contentious debate to raise the deficit ceiling to prevent harmful budget cuts to the programs serving struggling families. The most recent agreement, the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), calls for exempting funds for poor and vulnerable children and families from cuts through FY 2012, which includes foster care, permanency, and Medicaid. Though of course this could change.
In addition to the budget outcome a major reauthorization bill was passed by Congress and enacted into law in 2011. The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (P.L. 112-34) passed in September. This legislation strengthens and improves title IV-B of the Social Security Act through 2016. See the detailed summary for specific provisions in the bill. Many relevant bills were proposed, including a flurry of responses to the child sexual abuse tragedies at the end of the year. Some bills progressed further than others, including an education bill with a critical provision supporting youth in care, which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
With the new year, the 112th Congress begins a new session. The budget process kicks of February 6th with President Obama’s State of the Union address. The return of the annual budget and appropriations process will again raise the need for advocates to demand that resources are needed to improve the outcomes for vulnerable children. It is also necessary to continue the call for comprehensive reform of child welfare financing. Ongoing efforts include implementing last year’s child welfare bill, as well as 2008’s Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110-351) and 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (111-148), including the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. Work will also continue to address the educational needs of children in care through reauthorizing federal education legislation, or some other vehicle if necessary, and to address recent failures in identifying abuse. We encourage all children’s advocates to joins us in setting an agenda and raising our voices for the issues we wish to see added to this priority list for 2012.