Yesterday, Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) re-introduced a bill to ensure parents have legal representation throughout child welfare proceedings. Citing the benefits for children in keeping their families together, Moore promotes legal representation as a way to help parents access needed services, make the case for increased visitation, and negotiate case plans. The bill amends the Court Improvement Program (CIP) under IV-B, Part 2 of the Social Security Act to provide funding for the legal representation. In a press release, Moore states, “Child outcomes improve and courts function more effectively when all parties have quality legal representation.”
Yesterday the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on waivers for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). Waivers to the federal welfare program were first proposed by The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in July, 2012. Subcommittee Chairman Dave Reichert (R-WA) called yesterday’s hearing out of concern that waivers could negatively impact work securement and increase dependence on government benefits. Panel witnesses included Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT); the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Director, Kay Brown; Executive Director of the Secretary’s Innovation Group, Jason Turner; Policy Coordinator and Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, Elizabeth Lower-Basch and University of Maryland Public Policy Professor, Douglas Becharov.
Responding to state feedback about administrative, regulatory and legislative barriers, HHS’ TANF waivers were proposed to allow states the flexibility to innovate for the purpose of improving efforts to help families move from assistance to jobs. They are intended to test new approaches to meeting TANF goals and require an evaluation plan, performance targets, and a compelling case that the proposed approach promotes employment, retention, and advancement that replaces the need for government benefits. Due in part to its announcement during the 2012 campaign season, the waiver proposal received a lot of attention for being controversial, with opponents raising concerns that it would weaken work requirements. In September the House of Representatives passed H.J. Res 118 expressing disapproval for the waiver proposal.
Subcommittee members, including Chairman Reichert and Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) spoke about their own childhood experiences with poverty, highlighting their interest in ensuring welfare works. Senator Hatch pointed out that TANF has been running on extensions since 2010 and discussed his preference for improving the program through legislation rather than administrative waivers. Brown reported that since HHS has proposed waivers, eight states have expressed interest in pursuing them but no state has officially requested one and none have been granted. Turner discussed the origins and rationale for TANF including reciprocal work requirements in exchange for benefits and its success over other approaches like block granting. Lower-Basch discussed how the current structure of the TANF work participation rate is undermining the goal of promoting stable employment as a path out of poverty. Finally Besharov discussed international approaches to alleviating poverty through policy, including program evaluation efforts. Each panelist’s testimony can be found on the Human Resources Subcommittee’s website.
Following the first State of the Union address to propose universal pre-K and additional details on the broad logistics of making it happen, the Office of Early Childhood Development in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently provided a new fact sheet on what the initiative means for ACF programs.
Though a critical component of early education, federal efforts on child care and head start are run under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) not the Department of Education (Ed). This fact sheet makes clear that will continue, in addition to highlighting the Administration’s continuing focus on developing this initiative with an attention to the “whole child” and not just their academics. This includes comprehensive health and related supports as well as engaging parents and targeting the most vulnerable children with quality programming. Additionally, the fact sheet clarifies that there is no plan to block grant Head Start.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just released their latest annual report on child welfare expenditures. States are required to annually submit planned and actual spending on child welfare programs to HHS. In turn, HHS is required to compile and report on the data to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance. The 2011 reauthorization of IV-B of the Social Security Act further requires HHS to provide national totals for IV-B in this report.
The report shows that states planned most of their FY 2012 IV-B Part 1, Child Welfare Services (CWS), expenditures for protective services and family preservation. As required by statute, states planned to distribute FY 2012 IV-B Part 2, Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), funds fairly evenly among the four service categories of family support, family preservation, time-limited family reunification, and adoption promotion. In FY 2009, actual PSSF expenditures were similar with some variation at the state level. The report concludes that IV-B provides important flexible funding for critical services with a small percent of administrative costs.