Pennsylvania Puts Families First
PPC is proud to release our latest fact sheet, Putting Families First: Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act in Pennsylvania, after being an active stakeholder in informing the state’s submission of its 5-year prevention plan to the federal government. This work was led by Policy Director Rachael Miller, who served on the state-led Family First Project Team and multiple subcommittees focused on the plan’s implementation.
Enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, the Family First Prevention Services Act fundamentally shifted financing in the child welfare system to promote the use of front-end, evidence-based services to prevent the need for out-of-home placement and place new limitations on reimbursements for placements that are not family-based, such as congregate care settings.
While many provisions of the Family First Act are optional, changes about child welfare financing are not, creating an incentive for states to develop prevention plans. Pennsylvania is one of only 26 states to submit its 5-year prevention plan to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to date. The plan was filed on August 26th to make it effective on October 1st. The Office of Children, Youth, and Families within the state Department of Human Services has noted that while the plan has been submitted, it has not been formally approved by ACF and, therefore, can be amended in ongoing discussions.
PPC will continue to monitor the implementation of Family First and will continue to partner with OCYF, county agencies, and providers to make the plan’s vision a reality!
Childhood Begins at Home Campaign Releases Report Aimed at Diversifying Funding
The Childhood Begins at Home campaign’s new report, Forward Thinking: Diversifying Funding to Grow and Sustain Evidence-Based Home Visiting in Pennsylvania, charts a long-term strategy to grow and sustain evidence-based home visiting in Pennsylvania. With only a fraction of under-resourced pregnant women and families with young children receiving services, the report identifies a menu of state and federal funding streams that could be expanded or employed to help reach many more families.
Examples of current and potential new funding sources in the report include the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Title IV-E - Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), and state general funds.
Rather than replacing or shifting funds at the cost of another, the report emphasizes using a combination of funding sources through federally allowable financing strategies – such as blending and braiding funds from multiple sources – to maximize the limited resources available for home visiting.
Without increased investments from existing or new funding sources, it won’t be easy to expand services to the families who need it the most when only 5% are served currently. The report calls for Pennsylvania to develop a bold, robust financing plan to provide a secure foundation for our evidence-based home visiting system to meet the needs of families best and strengthen communities.
PPC gratefully acknowledges these foundations for their support of Childhood Begins at Home: Alliance for Early Success, The Foundation for Delaware County, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Philadelphia Health Partnership, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, W. Clement and Jesse V. Stone Foundation, and The Vanguard Group.
Pressure Mounts on Congress to Pass Budget Containing President’s Domestic Policy Agenda
Congress presses forward this week to pass an annual budget before the September 30th deadline, with the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting over the weekend to advance an omnibus bill that combines language previously passed in various committees through the mark-up process two weeks ago. The bill, also called the Build Back Better plan, is now positioned to move to a vote on the floor of the House. The legislation has been billed as the counterpart to the bipartisan supported $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill awaiting a vote in that chamber after passing the Senate in August. As such, both pieces of legislation are intertwined and will impact the other’s progress. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated the infrastructure bill will likely be brought up for a vote this Thursday, September 30th.
Major elements in the Build Back Better plan that are PPC priorities include:
- A $450 billion initiative for child care aimed at improving family access and affordability, as well as improving infrastructure for programs and pay for workers.
- Implementing universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds.
- Enacting a variety of enrollment and retention strategies for children and women in the Medicaid and CHIP programs to reduce the uninsured rate, including providing one year of continuous eligibility for children in Medicaid, permanently extending express lane eligibility for kids in Medicaid, extending postpartum coverage for women in Medicaid for 12 months, and permanently funding the CHIP program.
- Creating grant programs to address lead abatement for school drinking water, school and child care lead testing, and lead-based paint mitigation.
- A total of $4 billion in increased funding for Carl D. Perkins career and technical education funding.
- Keeping the expanded Child Tax Credit in place through 2025 and increase the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
- Providing universal paid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks for U.S. workers.
With the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan serving as the FFY 2022 budget bill, the measure needs to pass by September 30th. However, the House has taken preemptive measures in moving a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government from shutting down should negotiations need to move past that date and fund it through December 3rd. The CR would also raise the cap on the debt ceiling until the end of 2022, taking that partisan fight off the table until after the mid-term elections. Getting the 60 votes required in the Senate to pass the CR may prove challenging. The Senate has yet to take up the CR.
Separate from budget activity, PPC is also watching federal reauthorization efforts needed on the child welfare front, specifically for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which expires on September 30th and has both a House and Senate version of legislation; as well as a bill (HR 5167) that would extend the “Supporting Foster Youth & Families through the Pandemic Act.”
Stay tuned for updates on federal activity in the coming days.
State House and Senate Return to Flurry of Legislative Activity in Harrisburg
The Pennsylvania legislature returned for its fall legislative session with busy calendars in both chambers. Last week, the state House returned a week early to wage a response to Gov. Wolf’s announcement at the beginning of the school year to mandate masks in schools and child care centers. However, the Republican caucus failed to marshal support for the measure and will take this week to regroup their efforts. At the same time, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on the topic, hearing mostly from local administrators.
Other activities last week in the House and Senate included:
- HB 1660 (Sonney): Beginning with the 2021-22 school year would limit a school board’s temporary emergency powers from the current four years down to 60 days if a school does not have in-person instruction for five consecutive days. A vote to extend an emergency for another 60 days would require a 2/3 vote of the school board and written notification to the public about why the extension is necessary. The bill passed the House by a vote of 118-82 and is now in the Senate.
- HB 1254 (DelRosso): The “In-Person Education Act” would require schools with no in-person instruction to provide families an option to use their child’s share of state education funding to access in-person educational alternatives in other districts through a “tuition” program. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee along party-line vote with Republicans in favor, except for Rep. Schroeder (R-Bucks), who voted with the Democrats to oppose the bill. PPC joined other education stakeholders in opposing the bill before the committee vote. Now on the House floor, the bill has garnered considerable amendments, including from Education Chair Rep. Sonney pertaining to voucher programs.
- Two child welfare bills passed the House and now head to the Senate for consideration: HB 1650 (Delozier) is “housekeeping” legislation to ensure the orderly development of Title 67 of the Consolidated Statutes, particularly around family finding and kinship care. HB 1657 (M. Mackenzie) amends to the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) by closing a loophole regarding children being present where methamphetamine is produced.
- On Wednesday, the Senate Aging and Youth Committee voted on SB 871 (J. Ward), which makes various changes to the CPSL, including streamlining provisions of the child fatality/near fatality review teams and expunction of founded and unfounded reports. The bill passed out of committee unanimously by a vote of 9-1, with Democratic Sen. Saval voting in the negative.
As both chambers are again in session this week, PPC is following:
- The House Education Committee today voted 15-10 on a party line vote to advance HB 1332 (Lewis) out of committee. The bill requires public schools to publicly post on its website its curriculum, which is already provided for in regulation, therefore making the legislation duplicative. PPC noted this in its opposition memo to the committee, in addition to commenting on the broad language allowing for subjective interpretation of what is or is not allowable in curriculum regarding race, ethnicity, gender, ideology, or other identifiers. Rep. Topper’s HB 1685, which would enact various charter reforms, also was voted out of committee.
- The House Judiciary is slated to vote on HB 1836 (Ryan), which would define “child torture” in the crimes code. PPC submitted a memo of opposition to the committee, along with other child welfare stakeholders, asking that the bill be removed from the agenda until further discussions on the implications of its language can be determined. PPC’s concern is that the legislation could have unintended consequences if not considered in concert with the CPSL and being punitive to families of color and those in poverty.
- The Senate Education Committee could vote on SB 846 (Mastriano), which aims to push back on the Wolf Administration’s mask mandate for schools and child care centers by providing a parental opt-out.
In Case You Missed It...
- The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), in collaboration with Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs (IRSA), released the American Rescue Plan Act Stabilization Subgrants for Pennsylvania Child Care Providers report, which gives child care providers the methodology of how stabilization grants will be distributed for eligible providers. A provider Stabilization Grant Estimator is also available for providers to estimate the amount of their stabilization grant if they apply. The application to receive a grant is now available to eligible providers through the PA Key Professional Development (PD) Registry.
- Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families recently blogged about national trends in children’s health coverage using the Census Bureau’s 2020 Current Population Survey in lieu of the annual American Community Survey, which is not available this year due to data collection issues during the pandemic.
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its new policy brief: From COVID-19 Response to Comprehensive Change: Policy Reforms to Equip Youth and Young Adults in Foster Care to Thrive about the importance of the pandemic-relief measures enacted by Congress last December and urging a continuation of those supports.
- PPC recently signed on to a National WIC Association letter with nearly 100 national organizations urging Congressional leaders to extend the Enhanced Cash Value Benefit for vegetable and fruit purchases for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program established during the pandemic and set to expire September 30th. This enhanced benefit increased the monthly voucher from $9 per child and $11 for women to $35 per child and adult.
- PPC and other national organizations recently signed on to comments to the U.S. Department of Education’s Learning Agenda, which recommends the Department establish a continuum of high-quality education services from birth through grade 12.
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
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Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101