Federal policy activities addressing issues important to children, youth and families

Government shutdown, Medicaid reform, TANF Reauthorization and Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect fatalities are covered.

By Micah A. Haskell-Hoehl and Ben Vonachen

What a difference a month can make. Since the last Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) update in the CYF News, we found ourselves in a precarious state of affairs when the government shut down entered into its second week. Notwithstanding the stalemate in Congress and the resulting lack of legislative possibilities, we continued to press forward and focus on regulatory issues and executive branch implementation, as well as educating members of Congress about psychology’s perspective, especially as it pertains to children, youth and family issues. Some of our most recent advocacy activities include: 

APA Advocates for Children and Adolescents Enrolled in Medicaid in Letter to U.S. Senate Finance Committee 

As a member of the National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, APA joined other cosigning alliance members in a Sept. 30 letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance regarding gaps in access to quality mental health services for youth and the urgent need to expand integrated care approaches to promote early intervention and effective treatment. The letter, which comes in response to the Finance Committee’s call for comments and submissions, addresses issues such as: shortages of child and adolescent mental health specialists; the need for Congressional support for integrated physical and behavioral health care for children and adolescents; and increasing state coverage and authorization for evidence-based mental health care services as outlined by National Institute for Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

APA Submits Recommendations for the Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

In September, APA submitted a list of recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Committee on Finance regarding the reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Among the recommendations, APA advocated for allowing and encouraging States to provide services to TANF recipients to address poverty-related trauma and disparities, including mental health problems, substance abuse and domestic violence. Linking TANF recipients with effective services, for example, through the state’s Medicaid program, is an important investment in overcoming barriers to employment as well as in promoting parents’ ability to provide care for their children.

President Obama Appoints Final Six Members to Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 

The creation of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, which is charged with developing a comprehensive national strategy to reduce fatalities caused by child maltreatment, is the result of APA supported legislation (the Protect Our Kids Act, PL 112-275) championed by Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he left the Senate. The bill was supported by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas and Rep. David Camp, R-Mich. in the U.S. House of Representatives and passed with bipartisan support. 

There are 12 members on the commission with half selected by the president and half selected by congressional leadership. The commission will be chaired by David Sanders, PhD, a clinical psychologist, who currently serves as the executive vice president for Casey Family Programs.