Tag Archives: Representative Lloyd Doggett

Commission on Child Fatalities Holds First Of Series of State Hearings Monday

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) will hold the first of a series of local hearings starting today. The hearings will allow the Commission to examine the range of issues that have been raised so far. The first meeting is in San Antonio, TX followed by a hearing on July 10, in Tampa, FL and a third hearing on August 28 in Detroit, MI. Additional hearings may be held in the fall of this year. The meeting details for the San Antonio meeting is , Monday, June 2, 2014, from 1:00–5:30 p.m. CDT, and Tuesday, June 3, 2014, from 8:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. CDT, held at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Downtown Campus, 501 W. César E. Chávez Blvd., Southwest Room, Durango Building 1.124, San Antonio, TX 78207. Although late, it may still be possible to register to phone in at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5WLJYWH. A call-in number is available upon registration. The first day will be dedicated to actions and policies in the state of Texas and will include policy and practice presentations from various Texas-based presenters including comments by commission-sponsor, Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). Tuesday will focus more attention on national policy and perspectives.

The state of Texas has had the highest number of child deaths in each of the past five years with 215 child fatalities in 2012 according to the 2012 Child Maltreatment report. According to rates, the fatalities rate at 3.08 per 100,000 children ranks the state lower than New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas with the last two states at approximately four and a half child deaths per 100,000.

The Commission is expected to have a website up and running by this week which should include tools to submit comments. You can also send comments via the mail to: Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, c/o General Services Administration, Agency Liaison Division, 1800 F St., NW, Room 7003D, Washington DC 20006.

According to the enabling legislation, the commission’s work includes an examination of best practices in preventing child and youth fatalities that are caused due to negligence, neglect, or a failure to exercise proper care; the effectiveness of federal, state, and local policies and systems aimed at collecting accurate and uniform data on child fatalities; the current barriers to preventing fatalities from child abuse and neglect, how to improve child welfare outcomes; trends in demographic and other risk factors that are predictive of or correlated with child maltreatment, such as age of the child, child behavior, family structure, parental stress, and poverty; methods of prioritizing child abuse and neglect; and methods of improving data collection and utilization, such as increasing interoperability among state and local and other data systems.

Child Welfare’s Million Dollar Problem

There is essentially an unwritten rule for child welfare programs in Washington, D.C.: expanded funding must be “paid for” through cuts to other areas of the budget—usually child welfare itself.  This has been true even in times of budget surplus. On Tuesday, April 29 this requirement was on full display. The House Committee on Ways and Means came together to adopt seven different bills. All but one addressed the tax code by extending certain business-related tax deductions. The first bill to come to a vote, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act (H.R. 4058),  was the only bill that did not address the tax code. The other difference between H.R. 4058 and the six others: at least some of its costs had to be offset.

The six tax bills cost approximately $310 billion over ten years.  They are a series of complex bills with one supporting business research spending and the others dealing with businesses accounting for income such as interest and royalties.  Some of these business breaks have drawn the ire of critics who see them not as job-creators but as tax shelters for corporations with flexibility in where they report their income. The Committee approved the six tax bills without any requirement that they be paid for. Furthermore, the Committee did not demand that these tax deductions offer any evidence-base of proven job creation.  Rigorous evaluation of the kind constantly called for in human service and found in the federal home visiting, teen-pregnancy prevention, and similar programs was not required, and still the tax bills costing hundreds of billions of dollars were approved by the Committee without an offset.

However, the child welfare bill was modified predominantly because one section was projected to cost approximately $1 million per year. H.R. 4058 proposes several changes and requirements on state child welfare agencies in dealing with youth, particularly those who are victims or potential victims of sex trafficking. The removed section would have mandated that state child welfare agencies provide young people exiting foster care with a Social Security card, birth certificate, health information and in some cases, a bank account: essential documents, particularly for a young person without a family. This provision was a modification of more expansive Senate legislation that includes requirements for all youth in foster care to receive bank accounts and driver’s licenses.  With input from more than 150 public and advocacy comments, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources had crafted H.R. 4058 with the narrowed requirements to account for concerns surrounding bank account fees and co-signing requirements and special challenges for requiring driver’s licenses in urban areas where cars may not be accessible, available or necessary via a foster parent. The narrowed provision, though essential for young people aging out of foster care, was pulled from the bill.

As a result, division arose during the course of the Committee debate despite the fact the legislation is a bipartisan bill.  Democrats, led by the Subcommittee Ranking Member  Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), questioned the provision’s removal and argued that it was simply because of the $1 million per year score calculation by the Congressional Budget Office. There was a back-and-forth between the two parties as to whether that was the complete reason why the section was removed and whether the minority party had been fully informed. It was acknowledged that the minority party was asked to propose an offset and Doggett did offer a committee amendment but withdrew it before the vote. At the end of the discussion there was some agreement through Committee Chairman David Camp (R-MI) that there would be an effort to put a similar provision back in the bill.  However, he did not commit to a straight restoration and the bill passed the Committee without the provision.

Tuesday’s Committee hearing clearly frames the constant challenge for child welfare. The $310 billion for the six tax bills is smaller than the so-called “tax extenders package” Congress may act on this year, yet it still dwarfs what will be spent in almost all of child welfare spending over the next ten years.  Under the current structure, child welfare spending (including Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act) is likely to be less than $80 billion over the next ten years. Regardless of budget circumstance, child welfare faces a requirement that costs be offset while other budget areas, even in the same Congressional Committee, do not.

Ways and Means Hearing on Reducing Child Deaths

Yesterday the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on the Protect Our Kids Act (H.R. 3653). This legislation establishes a commission to examine child deaths due to maltreatment and recommend ways to improve current policy and practices. Full Committee Chair David Camp (R-MI) and Subcommittee ranking member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) developed the proposal and called the hearing to solicit input on how such a commission would best undertake this work.

Representative Doggett spoke about the serious need to
address child abuse and neglect and the undercount of child deaths due to
maltreatment. He invited those attending the hearing to work with him and the
other members of the Subcommittee to improve the bill. He stated he was looking forward to the testimony offered at the hearing to determine ways the
legislation could be perfected.

Former Representative Bill Frenzel, a guest Scholar at the Brookings Institute, testified that he has served on many similar commissions and offered suggestions in regards to the makeup of the commission members to insure high leadership qualities. Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children’s Alliance, offered support for the commission in her testimony and emphasized the need for more research due to the serious undercounting of such deaths. Madeline McClure, Executive Director of the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, is also strongly supportive of the legislation. She testified that the bill will build on prevention efforts as well as increase our understanding of the size and dimension of the challenges. David Sanders, Executive Vice President of Casey Family Programs, offered suggestions on ways to improve the commission in his testimony primarily through expanding the areas of expertise of the potential commission members.

It is unclear whether H.R. 3653 will proceed to floor for a vote before the end of this Congress but if not it will be re-introduced soon after the 113th Congress convenes in January.

House Ways and Means Subcommittee Holds Hearing on SSI for Children

Earlier today the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources held a hearing on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children. Subcommittee Chair Geoff Davis, (R-KY) opened the hearing with a statement that he is focused on oversight of SSI benefits for children, including trends, program growth, and recipient outcomes. He expressed concerns that too many children on SSI drop out of school, experience poor employment outcomes, and continue receiving disability payments year after year even into adulthood. The Subcommittee is reviewing how the SSI program is currently coming up short and possible remedies. Davis has asked the Government Accountability Office to review the program.

Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. He stated that he shares the goals of ensuring the effective and efficient administration of SSI. He offered suggestions such as providing adequate resources to conduct continuing disability reviews to ensure that SSI recipients maintain their eligibility for benefits, and increasing educational and employment opportunities for disabled children as get they older.

One of the witnesses, Dr. Elizabeth Roberts, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, stated that she has seen an alarming abuse of the SSI system. She testified that the misdiagnosis of children with psychiatric conditions coupled with the financial incentive under SSI for getting children diagnosed with mental illness has led to abuse. Dr. Roberts was challenged on her assertions by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), who is also a child psychologist. He urged her to report any and all abuse she has seen, especially any that is maltreatment or unethical.

Katie Bentley, the mother of a young boy who suffers from multiple serious disorders and is an SSI recipient, also testified.  She spoke of how the SSI benefits have given her son opportunities that would not be available otherwise and how much he has improved as a result.