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The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) was established in 1920 and is now a coalition of over 600 public and private child-serving agencies from coast to coast championing legislation and services that protect children from harm.

National CWLA programs and expertise reflect the scope of member agency services, spanning adoption, adolescent pregnancy prevention and teen parenting, child day care, child protection, children affected by incarceration, family foster care, group residential care, housing and homelessness, kinship care, juvenile justice, mental health, positive youth development, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and a range of community services that strengthen and support parents and families. CWLA projects that involve young people and family members engage them as active participants, not just as recipients of services.

Project Brief:

Through our programs, publications, research, conferences, professional development, and consultation, CWLA speaks with authority and candor about the status and needs of American children, young people, and families.

As the nationally recognized standard-setter for child welfare services, CWLA provides direct support to agencies that serve children and families, improving the quality of the services they provide to more than nine million children every year. CWLA works with professionals across the country to make sure they have the best knowledge and skills to serve troubled children and families and also helps them to advocate for responsive policies. They also work to educate the American public about the needs of abused and neglected children and provide information on healthy child and family development. They develop standards for service in areas like child protection, foster care, adoption, and through this process promote quality services for children and families.

CWLA is committed to the goal of accessible, affordable, and comprehensive health coverage for all children and families. Children who come into contact with the child welfare system receiving placement and in-home services typically demonstrate more intensive health needs that warrant attention in this debate. These children have a higher rate of physical and mental health issues, stemming either from abuse and/or neglect or from preexisting health conditions and unmet long-term service needs.

Impact of the Organization/Project:

Below are important federal health policy initiatives that CWLA has engaged in and accomplished since December 2008 that will protect or improve access to health coverage for children and youth in foster care and other vulnerable children and youth.

Child welfare agencies are responsible for meeting the health and mental health needs of all children in state custody. Virtually all children in foster care and many in other permanent settings such as kinship care are eligible for and obtain health care services for both acute and long-term conditions through Medicaid. CWLA has and continues to work and try to improve several aspects of the Medicaid program Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CWLA worked arduously on reauthorization of the CHIP in 2007 and returned to the debate in 2009. Elements important to CWLA included in the final legislation were guaranteed dental benefits and mental health parity; the state option to implement express-lane eligibility; grants for outreach and enrollment, and establishment of a child health quality initiative. Also, due to the advocacy by CWLA and other organizations, the legislation will eliminate the five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP.

Mental Health and Addiction Parity
CWLA worked in collaboration with many national mental health organizations to push along and finally enact the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (contained in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, P.L. 110-343). Building upon the 1996 parity law, this landmark legislation goes far in ending the stigma associated with mental illness and is estimated to help 113 million individuals receive more comprehensive health coverage.

Health Reform
CWLA has been engaged in the current debate to overhaul our nation’s health care system. Two of CWLA’s top priorities that have been included in health reform legislation are (1) protection of Medicaid reimbursement for the treatment contained in therapeutic foster care programs and (2) funding for evidence-based home visitation programs.

Plans for 2010

CWLA supports U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention sets out basic standards which individual nations agree to pursue on behalf of children and which rest on four underlying principles: the right to survival; the right to develop to the fullest potential; the right to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation; and the right to participate in family, cultural, and social life. The United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not yet ratified the treaty. CWLA has spoken at symposia and at briefings on Capitol Hill to indicate their support for ratification. Their goal is to advance the U.S. Ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child through education, policy advocacy and media outreach.

The objectives are the following:
  • Conduct media outreach and speaking engagements to promote understanding of the CRC in conjunction with and following the 20th anniversary of the UN promulgation (November 2009).
  • Publish informational materials regarding the Convention for the Rights of the Child in the Children’s Voice (fall winter 2009), their bi-monthly magazine.
  • Produce a special edition of their award winning, peer reviewed Child Welfare Journal (fall 2010) to include 12 or more articles by legal, practice and policy experts reflecting a recent symposium on US Ratification of the Convention for the Rights of the Child.
  • Support coalition building and advocacy in conjunction with other non-profit partners including the U.S. Campaign for the Ratification of the Convention for the Rights of the Child.

CRY America’s 2009-2010 grant will be directed towards strengthening CWLA’s work towards the U.S. Ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child through education, publications, policy advocacy and media outreach.
To learn more about CWLA, please visit:


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