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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and Federal Programs

Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

While most young people have access to emotional and financial support systems throughout their early adult years, older youth in foster care and those who are emancipated from care often face obstacles to developing independent living skills and building supports that ease the transition to adulthood. Older foster youth who return to their parents or guardians may continue to experience poor family dynamics or a lack of emotional and financial supports, and studies have shown that recently emancipated foster youth fare poorly relative to their counterparts in the general population on several outcome measures.

Recognizing the difficulties faced by older youth in care and youth emancipating from foster care, Congress created a new Independent Living initiative (P.L. 99-272) in 1986 to assist certain older foster youth as they enter adulthood. The legislation authorized mandatory funding to states under a new Section 477 of the Social Security Act. In 1999, P.L. 106-169 rewrote Section 477 to create the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) and doubled the total annual funds available to states from $70 million to $140 million. The law also expanded the population of youth eligible to receive independent living services—with no lower age limit—and gave states greater flexibility in designing independent living programs. Independent living services can refer to assistance in obtaining a high school diploma and training in daily living skills, among other services.

The CFCIP has been amended three times. In 2002, the Promoting Safe and Stable Amendments of 2001 (P.L. 107-133) authorized discretionary funding for states to provide education and training vouchers (ETV) to youth who age out of foster care and youth adopted from care at age 16 or older. For FY2010, Congress appropriated $45.4 million to the ETV program. The CFCIP was amended again in 2008 by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-351). The act expanded eligibility for the program by adding as an additional program purpose that youth who are in foster care on their 16
th birthday but who subsequently leave care for adoption or kinship guardianship are eligible for CFCIP service. The law also extended the ETV program to youth who leave care at age 16 or older for kinship guardianship; made tribal entities eligible to apply directly for CFCIP and ETV funds directly from the federal government; and authorized additional supports and services outside of the CFCIP to older youth in care, including providing states the option, beginning in FY2011, to extend Title IV-E foster care to youth ages 18 to 21. In 2010, the program was amended for a third time by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, PPACA), which requires states to educate youth aging out about the importance of a health care power of attorney.

Along with the CFCIP, federal child welfare law and other federal programs are intended to help older foster youth and recent alumni make the transition to adulthood. The Title IV-E foster care program has protections in place to ensure that older youth in care have a written case plan that addresses the programs and services that will assist in this transition. Further the law that established the CFCIP created a new optional Medicaid eligibility pathway for “independent foster care adolescents;” this pathway is often called the “Chafee option.” Beginning in 2014, eligible young people who emancipate from foster care will be covered under a mandatory Medicaid pathway until age 26, as required under PPACA. Federal law also authorizes funding for states to provide other types of assistance. Further, the Higher Education Act authorizes services specifically for youth in foster care or recently emancipated youth, including education and housing services.

Date of Report: August 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 58
Order Number: RL34499
Price: $29.95

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Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs

Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy

There is no single definition of the term “runaway youth” or “homeless youth.” However, both groups of youth share the risk of not having adequate shelter and other provisions, and may engage in harmful behaviors while away from a permanent home. These two groups also include “thrownaway” youth who are asked to leave their homes, and may include other vulnerable youth populations, such as current and former foster youth and youth with mental health or other issues.

Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A youth’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and alcohol and drug use are strong predictors of family discord. The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway. Estimates of the homeless youth exceed 1 million. Estimates of runaway youth—including “thrownaway” youth (youth asked to leave their homes)—are between 1 million and 1.7 million.

From the early 20
th century through the 1960s, the needs of runaway and homeless youth were handled locally through the child welfare agency, juvenile justice courts, or both. The 1970s marked a shift toward federal oversight of programs that help youth who had run afoul of the law, including those who committed status offenses (i.e., running away). In 1974, Congress passed the Runaway Youth Act of 1974 as Title III of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (P.L. 93-415) to assist runaways outside of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYP) has since been expanded through reauthorization laws enacted approximately every five years since the 1970s, most recently by the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act (P.L. 110-378).

The RHYP currently authorizes federal funding for three programs—the Basic Center Program, Transitional Living Program, and Street Outreach Program. The Basic Center Program provides temporary shelter, counseling, and after care services to runaway and homeless youth under age 18 and their families. The BCP serves approximately 40,000 to 50,000 youth per year. The Transitional Living Program is targeted to older youth ages 16 through 22 (and sometimes an older age), and serves approximately 3,500 to 4,000 youth each year. Youth who use the TLP receive longer-term housing with supportive services. The Street Outreach Program provides education, treatment, counseling, and referrals for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Each year, the SOP makes hundreds of thousands of contacts with street youth (some of whom have multiple contacts). Related services authorized by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act include a national communication system to facilitate communication between service providers, runaway youth, and their families; training and technical support for grantees; and evaluations of the programs; among other activities. The 2008 reauthorizing legislation expands the program, requiring HHS to conduct an incidence and prevalence study of runaway and homeless youth.

In addition to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, other federal programs support runaway and homeless youth. Assistance can be provided through the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, discretionary grants for family violence prevention, and the Chafee Foster Care Independent Living program for foster youth.

Date of Report: August 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: RL33785
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

Curt Tarnoff
Specialist in Foreign Affairs

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. About 8,655 volunteers currently serve in 77 nations.

In 2011, the 112
th Congress is considering the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps, efforts to reauthorize the Peace Corps, and related issues. In February 2011, the Obama Administration issued its FY2012 budget request, proposing $439.6 million for the Peace Corps, a 10% increase over the FY2010-appropriated level of $400 million (H.R. 3288, P.L. 111-117) and a 17% increase over the final FY2011 appropriation of $374.3 million (H.R. 1473, P.L. 112- 10). The FY2011 appropriation follows a series of continuing resolutions and an across-the-board .2% rescission. It represents a cut of 6% for the Peace Corps from the previous year. On July 27, the State, Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations marked up an FY2012 bill, providing $374.3 million for the Peace Corps, equal to the FY2011 level. The full committee is expected to take up the bill in September.

The last Peace Corps authorization (P.L. 106-30), approved in 1999, covered the years FY2000 to FY2003. On July 21, the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported H.R. 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization for FY2012, which includes language authorizing $375 million for the Peace Corps in FY2012 as well as provisions addressing Peace Corps safety and security.

A comprehensive assessment of Peace Corps operations was published in June 2010. It makes 64 recommendations supporting a six-point strategy to be implemented in the coming years.

Current issues include the extent to which there is available funding for Peace Corps expansion, whether the Peace Corps has the institutional capacity to expand, and whether volunteers are able to function in a safe and secure environment.

Date of Report: August 4, 2011
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RS21168
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children

Carmen Solomon-Fears
Specialist in Social Policy

In 2010, 24% of families with children (under age 18) were maintained by mothers. According to some estimates, 60% of children born during the 1990s will spend a significant portion of their childhood in a home without their father. Research indicates that children raised in single-parent families are more likely than children raised in two-parent families (with both biological parents) to do poorly in school, have emotional and behavioral problems, become teenage parents, and have poverty-level incomes. In hopes of improving the long-term outlook for children in singleparent families, federal, state, and local governments, along with public and private organizations, are supporting programs and activities that promote the financial and personal responsibility of noncustodial fathers to their children and increase the participation of fathers in the lives of their children. These programs have come to be known as “responsible fatherhood” programs.

Sources of federal funding for fatherhood programs include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, TANF state Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE) funding, welfare-to-work funds, Child Support Enforcement (CSE) funds, and Social Services Block Grant (Title XX) funds.

Beginning with the 106
th Congress, the House, but not the Senate, passed bills containing specific funding for responsible fatherhood initiatives (in the 107th and 108th Congresses as part of welfare reauthorization bills). Moreover, from the start, President George W. Bush was a supporter of responsible fatherhood programs; each of his budgets included funding for such programs. In the 109th Congress, P.L. 109-171 (the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005) was enacted. It included a provision that provides up to $50 million per year (FY2006-FY2010) in competitive grants to states, territories, Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and public and nonprofit community groups (including religious organizations) for responsible fatherhood initiatives. In the 110th Congress, bills were introduced but not passed that would have, among other things, increased federal funding of responsible fatherhood programs. There were several responsible fatherhood bills introduced during the 111th Congress. In addition, the Obama Administration’s FY2011 budget included a proposal to substantially increase funding for responsible fatherhood programs under a proposed new Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund. Under the proposal, the new fund would have received $500 million for FY2011 (this proposal was not passed by either the House or the Senate). Instead, P.L. 111-291 (enacted December 8, 2010) extended funding for the Title IV-A Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants for an additional year (i.e., through FY2011). For FY2011, it appropriated $75 million for awarding funds for healthy marriage promotion activities and $75 million for awarding funds for activities promoting responsible fatherhood.

Most fatherhood programs include media campaigns that emphasize the importance of emotional, physical, psychological, and financial connections of fathers to their children. Most fatherhood programs include parenting education; responsible decision-making; mediation services for both parents; providing an understanding of the CSE program; conflict resolution, coping with stress, and problem-solving skills; peer support; and job-training opportunities (skills development, interviewing skills, job search, job-retention skills, job-advancement skills, etc.).

The federal government’s support of fatherhood initiatives raises a wide array of issues. This report briefly examines the role of the CSE agency in fatherhood programs and discusses initiatives to promote and support father-child interaction outside the framework of the fathermother relationship.

Date of Report: July 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: RL31025
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

International Violence Against Women: U.S. Response and Policy Issues

Luisa Blanchfield, Coordinator
Specialist in International Relations

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Tiaji Salaam-Blyther
Specialist in Global Health

Nina M. Serafino
Specialist in International Security Affairs

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognized international violence against women (VAW) as a significant human rights and global health issue. VAW, which can include both random acts of violence as well as sustained abuse over time, can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature. Studies have found that VAW occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes, with some research showing that women in developing countries experience higher rates of violence than those in developed countries. Many experts view VAW as a symptom of the historically unequal power relationship between men and women, and argue that over time this imbalance has led to pervasive cultural stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate a cycle of violence.

U.S. policymakers have generally focused on specific types or circumstances of VAW rather than view it as a stand-alone issue. Congress has authorized and appropriated funds for international programs that address VAW, including human trafficking and female genital cutting. In addition, past and current Administrations have supported efforts to reduce international levels of VAW— though many of these activities are implemented as components of broader foreign aid initiatives.

There is no U.S. government-wide coordination of anti-VAW efforts. Most agencies and departments do not track the cost or number of programs with VAW components. Therefore, it is unclear how much money the U.S. government, or individual agencies, spend annually on VAWrelated programs. Some experts have suggested that the U.S. government should re-examine, and perhaps enhance, current U.S. anti-VAW activities. They argue that VAW should not only be treated as a stand-alone human rights issue, but also be integrated into U.S. assistance and foreign policy mechanisms. Other observers are concerned with a perceived lack of coordination among U.S. government agencies and departments that address international violence against women.

This report addresses causes, prevalence, and consequences of violence against women. It provides examples of completed and ongoing U.S. activities that address VAW directly or include anti-VAW components, and it outlines possible policy issues for the 112
th Congress, including 
  • the scope and effectiveness of U.S. programs in addressing international VAW; 
  • further integrating anti-VAW programs into U.S. assistance and foreign policy mechanisms; 
  • U.S. funding for anti-VAW activities worldwide, particularly in light of the global financial crisis, economic recession, and subsequent calls to reduce the U.S. budget deficit; and 
  • strengthening U.S. government coordination of anti-VAW activities. 
Information on United Nations (U.N.) anti-VAW activities that previously appeared in this report is now published in CRS Report RL34518, United Nations System Efforts to Address Violence Against Women, by Luisa Blanchfield.

Date of Report: July 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL34438
Price: $29.95

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