Public Policy

A view from Washington

An update from the APA Public Interest - Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) on recent legislative action regarding children's programs, family planning and juvenile justice.

By Micah A. Haskell-Hoehl

As the APA staff member now covering the children, youth and families policy portfolio, I am very excited for the opportunity to work on these issues and collaborate with Div. 37 and other psychologists working in these areas. Children, youth and family (CYF) issues — in addition to my other policy portfolio, criminal justice — are passion issues for me. My experiences growing up in inner-city public schools gave me a strong motivation to work for social justice and public welfare, and my ten years of experience at APA, I hope, will allow me to advance the association's positions and priorities of our expert members effectively.

November's election caused the ground to shift under the feet of all advocates and lobbyists in Washington, regardless of the issues they cover — whether defense, farm subsidies or child welfare. With the goal of ensuring the best possible outcome on CYF policy issues, what this means for the coming two or four years is starting to come into focus. On many fronts, we will be playing defense, working to stave-off cuts to critical programs that promote healthy development, family cohesion and the social safety net. At the same time, it remains critical that APA lead on the issues in which psychology has unique and recognized expertise. The pendulum will swing back the other direction, and when it does, psychology and our partners in other fields need to be well-positioned to support new rounds of policy reform and innovation.

What follows is a brief summary of some recent activities related to children, youth and families policy. Our work together can help improve the federal investment in these areas and create better outcomes for those on whose behalf we serve.

Please do not hesitate to contact me via phone (202) 336-5935 or email if I can be of support or if you wish to share ideas about improving federal children, youth and families policy. Join APA's Federal Action Network (FAN) to receive periodic emails asking you to support our legislative activities.

Coalition Urges Congress to Prioritize Funding for Children's Programs

Facing headwinds related to federal funds for domestic programs, the Children's Budget Coalition (CBC) sent a Nov. 14, 2016, letter, signed by APA and 35 additional organizations, to House and Senate leaders outlining CBC priorities. Requests in the letter included:

  • Finalizing federal fiscal year (FY) 2017, which began on Oct. 1, 2016, through a regular appropriations process;
  • Giving legislation to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education the highest possible funding level;
  • Providing the highest possible funding level to children's programs, across spending bills; and
  • Maintaining agreed-upon parity between defense and non-defense spending.

Days after CBC circulated its letter, majority leadership in the House and Senate announced they would extend current funding levels through March 31, 2017. This will allow the president-elect to work with Congress to shape the allocation of federal funds beginning in April 2017.

APA Submits Comments in Support of Executive Branch Rule on Family Planning

In October 2016, the Public Interest Directorate submitted comments on a proposed rule on the Title X Family Planning program that would ensure continued access to family planning funds by clinics that focus on reproductive health. The proposed rule was drafted in response to states that have recently passed laws to restrict distribution of Title X funds to programs that do not focus on reproductive health care. APA supports the proposed rule as it ensures continued access to clinics that primarily serve low-income and low-access populations.

U.S. House Reauthorizes Key Federal Juvenile Justice Law

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives, with overwhelming bipartisan support, passed H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016. This bill reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the main law guiding federal investments in the nation's juvenile justice systems. Psychologists and FAN members have helped this reauthorization effort every step of the way, since last July's committee markup of related Senate legislation. Because of your support, both House and Senate measures contain a provision to ensure appropriate licensure or certification of mental and behavioral health professionals providing services to justice-involved youth, a critical APA priority for the legislation. Due to ongoing negotiations in the Senate, passage of the legislation this year remains in doubt, and APA will keep FAN members apprised of the situation.