Read a rundown on the top public policy issues facing state lawmakers in 2015, state-private sector partnerships for infrastructure, e-cigarettes and taxes and dealing with cuts to mental health programs.
NCSL will host the 2014 Legislative Summit in Minneapolis Aug. 19-22. The Legislative Summit is the nation's largest gathering of legislators and legislative staff. Included in the lineup of great workshops is “Keeping the American Dream Alive,” focusing on how states are using research on the effects of poverty to shape programs and public-private partnerships to tackle this complex problem and ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed. In addition, there will be a criminal justice plenary meeting regarding child trafficking and an update on what is happening at the federal level.
For more information about NCSL's 2014 Legislative Summit, visit the Summit Homepage or Register
NCSL’s Child Welfare Project, in the Children and Families Program, recently hosted the 2014 Three Branch Institute meeting on Child Social and Emotional Well-Being in Milwaukee June 30-July 2. The Institute was cosponsored by NCSL, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Casey Family Programs.
The Three Branch Institute is a partnership of the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government. The Institutes have varied over the past few years, from reducing the numbers of children in foster care, to enhancing permanency for older adolescents to this year’s topic of social and emotional wellbeing in foster care.
Participants in the 2013-2014 Three Branch Institute, including seven state legislators, interacted with national experts, foster youth, state administrators and their colleagues in other states to continue work on their strategic plans created during the 2013 Three Branch Institute. These teams exchanged ideas and discussed barriers and potential solutions to improving the well-being of children in foster care. Experts discussed data collection and interpretation, substance abuse, psychotropic drugs and trauma informed care, among other timely and interesting topics. The photo accompanying this article features the Tennessee Three Branch Institute Team discussing their experiences.
In addition to yearly meetings, there is ongoing technical assistance, webinars and meetings of each state’s home team to further move the project and the strategic plans along.
More information about the Three Branch Institute
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The U.S. is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving on the Southern border. Unlike earlier child migrations, which primarily were from Mexico, most arrivals in 2014 are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Recent reports have attributed the increase to numerous "push factors,” such as gang violence and lack of economic opportunity, and "pull factors," including the possibility of reuniting with family in the United States and rumors that children who make it to the boarder will be given reprieve.
As of June 14, 2014, more than 52,000 children have been apprehended, doubling the number of arrivals compared to last year. Potential state impacts of this current surge include: budget shortfalls in state administered refugee programs and implications for state services; state licensing and oversight of care providers for unaccompanied children; and communication/coordination of federal enforcement and emergency response with state law enforcement.
Federal responsibility for unaccompanied children is divided between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457) requires DHS to screen unaccompanied minors as potential victims of human trafficking and offers additional legal protections. Children in DHS custody who are under age 18 without a parent or guardian must be screened and transferred to HHS within 72 hours. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in HHS reunites the child with family or a friend, or, in approximately 10 percent of the cases, places them in foster care pending court review of their immigration claims. These unaccompanied minors are not given a green card or any kind of legal status. Children who are not placed with a sponsor are cared for through a network of private and public ORR-funded care provider facilities.
Currently, the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is outpacing the policies, procedures and physical space set up to handle them. The agencies have responded by identifying shelters and processing facilities, redirecting staff and funds, and activating an interagency group coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have assigned more staff to apprehend and process children and families crossing the Texas border.
The administration has recently requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding as well as increased the FY15 budgets for both DHS and HHS to address the surge. Additionally, Congress is considering amending the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to allow for the expedited repatriation of the unaccompanied children.
Check out NCSL’s Child Migrants to the United States report covering recent trends in arrivals of unaccompanied children, an overview of the federal unaccompanied minor program, federal budget proposals to respond to the increased arrivals, and benefit eligibility for unaccompanied migrant children.
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has begun a newsletter with information about its “Success Beyond 18” campaign designed to promote services to older youth in foster care. The newsletter provides information about what is happening in the states as well as an info-graphic illustrating the cost and potential benefit of extending services. NCSL tracks legislation aimed at extending services to older youth on our Extending Foster Care to 21 page and summarizes the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 which authorized the use of federal Title IV-E funding for the extension of foster care.
View the full “Success Beyond 18” newsletter and join the mailing list.
The Children's Bureau, part of the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families, recently released a “Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect” report including a list of 50-state statutes, updated as of November 2013. The report states that all 50 states and territories have some mandatory reporting law. Approximately 48 states require members of certain professions to report, while some 18 states require any person who suspects child abuse or neglect to report. Other issues discussed are institutional responsibility to report, standards for making a report, privileged communications, inclusion of reporter's name in the report and disclosure of reporter identity.
Check out the full report
Also check out NCSL’s updated 2014 Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect, State Legislation page.
This July, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the Education Law Center, and the Juvenile Law Center published a fact sheet illustrating the importance of providing educational stability to children in foster care. They define educational stability (or school stability) as a student’s sustained attendance at one school, unless there is a “child-centered reason for school change,” regardless of the child’s change in home addresses. For a child to change schools whenever her or his living situation changes can be detrimental to the child’s education due to delays in transferring schools and varied school curriculums. In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act went into effect, requiring child welfare agencies to coordinate with educational agencies to provide children with such educational stability. On May 30, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services stated that it is the responsibility of all state and local child welfare and educational agencies to ensure educational stability, regardless of federal funds they may receive to do so.
View the fact sheet.
View NCSL’s Educating Children in Foster Care Legislation 2008-2012.
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