Since the latest major action on child welfare, reauthorizing IV-B of the Social Security, Congress has returned its attention to the budget in completing the FY 2012 budget and starting the FY 2013 budget in the Senate and the House. The slow process of policymaking has continued with several proposed bills and a hearing on child abuse reporting, Senate and House Foster Care Caucus activities, and a handful of other legislative stirrings on issues affecting child well-being. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), which creates reports for Congress, frequently analyzes legislative proposals and other major policy issues. In regards to child welfare, some recent and popular circulations include a memo on child abuse and neglect reporting, a report on the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and another report on the health care needs of children in foster care.
At the end of 2011, a CRS information memorandum was released summarizing the six bills proposed in response to the child sexual abuse tragedies that garnered national attention and outrage at the end of last year. The memo provides background on the federal role and response to child abuse and neglect reporting laws and how each bill would amend current law.
In early January, SSBG was the focus of a CRS report released. This report provides background and funding information about this flexible funding source for a plethora of social service activities, including child welfare. The funding history of SSBG is described, including that it has been stagnant at $1.7 billion yearly since FY 2002. Supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) transfers are also described, along with a recent House-passed concurrent resolution calling for elimination of the program. In addition, recent amendments made with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are explained.
CRS also recently released a report on the health care needs of children in foster care, and related federal statute. The report highlights data indicating that the majority children entering the foster care system are at increased risk of having physical and or mental health care needs, when compared to the general population. Over the years, federal statute has expanded to addresses some of the health care needs of children in, or formerly in, foster care through legislation like the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Looking ahead, these reports could inform future legislation or budget decisions. It is always important to let Congress know how potential changes could affect the children and families we care about.