Friday, July 31, 2009

What Can States Do to Address Racial Equity in Child Welfare?

In a bold step to examine racial disproportionality and disparity, the state of Michigan’s Department of Human Services initiated an intensive review of their policies, procedures and case practice with a team of national experts, local leaders, and stakeholders. This team, led by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, designed and implemented a qualitative Race Equity Review to examine the research question: "How does it come about that, after substantiation of child abuse or neglect, African American children are more likely to be removed from their homes?" The findings of the review and this report identify specific policies and practices that directly negatively impact African American children and families. Listen to an NPR interview about this report and its findings. Policies to address racial disparities in foster care.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Effective are Programs for Delinquent Girls?

The Government Accounting Office has issued a new report to review OJJDP's efforts related to studying and promoting effective girls' delinquency programs.
This report addresses the following questions: 1. What efforts, if any, has
OJJDP made to assess the effectiveness of girls' delinquency programs? 2. To
what extent are OJJDP's efforts to assess girls' delinquency programs consistent
with generally accepted social science standards and the internal control
standard to communicate with external stakeholders? 3. What are the findings
from OJJDP's efforts to assess the effectiveness of girls' delinquency programs,
and how, if at all, does OJJDP plan to address the findings from these efforts?
For policies to reduce juvenile detention.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Does a Child's Neighborhood Impact Economic Mobility?

The Washington Post reported yesterday on findings to be issued this week by the Pew Economic Mobility Project: "Researchers found that being raised in poor neighborhoods plays a major role in explaining why African American children from middle-income families are far more likely than white children to slip down the income ladder as adults." The Pew project released results from a poll in March that found "Americans believe in the their ability --- and the ability of their children --- to get ahead. Resoundingly, Americans place greater importance on ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to improve their economic standing over reducing inequality." This latest report looks specifically at the important influence of neighborhood poverty on the mobility gap between Black and White America. The findings "provide compelling evidence that investments in children’s environments have the potential to facilitate economic mobility among blacks living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods". The report discusses the policy implications of these findings. For policies to increase family economic success.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Academy for State Policymakers on Safely Reducing Foster Care

The National Governors' Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures are offering a policy academy on "Achieving and Sustaining a Safe Reduction in Foster Care". States can submit an application to attend the academy on November 5-6, 2009, in Tampa, Florida. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2009, at 5:00 p.m. EDT. (Contact: Jody Grutza) (Hat Tip to Front and Center) For policies to increase exits from foster care to reunification, guardianship or adoption.

Friday, July 24, 2009

e-Government, the Trend Continues

The Brookings Institute recently held an event titled "Innovation in Government: How to Make the Public Sector Faster, Smarter and More Connected". Experts in e-Government discussed technology tools that policymakers at the federal and state levels are using to not only share information with citizens, but engage them in the process. Other interesting sources of information on this topic include Transparent-gov, with links to state websites; GovTwit, a directory of government twitterers; and a directory of links to legislative caucus websites, Twitter pages, Youtube pages, Facebook pages, and blogs courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislators. Follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Home Foreclosures Hit Record, States Are Finding Ways to Help

Bloomberg News reports that "more than 1.5 million properties received a default or auction notice or were seized by banks in the six months through June, ... a 15 percent increase from the year earlier. One in 84 U.S. households received a filing. ... One in eight Americans is now late on a payment or already in foreclosure." The State of Pennsylvania has announced a new program to assist families facing economic crisis. The “Get Help Now, Pennsylvania” initiative offers the assistance of volunteer attorneys, banking and mortgage professionals, and financial analysts association offices twice a week. (Hat tip to Front and Center) For policies to address housing foreclosures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cost of Child Care Continues to Grow

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies has issued a new report "Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2009 Update" which looks at the average prices charged for child care for infants, 4-year-olds, and school-age children in centers and family child care homes in every state. The report reveals that child care costs continue to rise with costs often times exceeding monthly food and other household expenses. For policies to improve access to early care and education.

(Hat tip to Connect for Kids)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Assets and Opportunities Scorecard, How Does Your State Rank?

CFED now has state data along with a state scorecard "divided into six indexes — Financial Security, Business Development, Homeownership, Health Care, Education, and Tax Policy and Accountability — the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia on their performance in 84 outcome and policy measures. The state-level data highlight areas where individuals and families are excelling or lagging in securing a sound financial foundation. The Scorecard also describes what each state government is or is not doing to further foster opportunities for its citizens to own and keep assets." For policies to support family economic success.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reforming the Child Welfare System

The Urban Institute has a new book out, Reforming Child Welfare, that "chronicles the experiences of the D.C. child welfare agency and two state agencies, places them in the context of national child welfare data, and matches the accounts with rich analyses of research on leadership, management, and organizational change". Coinciding with the release of the book, Urban is offering an event/webcast on July 24th entitled "Child Welfare: Uniting Leadership, Policy, and Research to Serve Vulnerable Children and Families". For policies to safely and effectively reduce foster care.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Addressing Racial Disparities in Foster Care

On June 23rd the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, held a Congressional briefing on Racial Disproportionality and Disparities in Our Nation’s Child Welfare System. Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families has posted a summary of the event. A panel of experts discussed the history of racial disparities and child welfare; the experiences of different racial and ethnic groups; lessons from the families that have experienced involvement with the child welfare system; and lessons from the states that can inform federal policy.

This month's Judges' Page, a newsletter produced by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National CASA Association examines the role of the courts and provides examples of court efforts to reduce racial disproportionality in child welfare.
NCJFCJ recognizes that judges, through their decisions, affect the daily lives of the hundreds of thousands of children and families that walk into the nation’s courtrooms. Leadership from the bench must be bold and courageous in bringing the issues of disproportionality to the forefront. Judges must examine personal beliefs and biases and engage broad-based partners in developing specific action plans designed to reduce disproportionality, with the goal of transforming practice at every level and point in the dependency, juvenile justice, domestic violence and adult criminal court systems.
For policies to address racial equity in child welfare.

UPDATE: Please note that the summary of the Congressional briefing mis-identifies one state system. (Our thanks to Richard Wexler for pointing out this error!) One of the panelists, Antonia Ybarra, described her experience with the Iowa Department of Human Services not Ohio.

From her bio: Ms. Ybarra is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. In addition to her work and many community activities, Ms. Ybarra is proudly raising her two grandchildren. Ms. Ybarra spent 15 months fighting to obtain custody of her son’s children from the Department of Human Services in Woodbury County, Iowa.

She shares the story of her experience to let it be known that there are serious problems with the Child Welfare System. Ms. Ybarra feels her story may have turned out differently if she was not blessed to have had a knowledgeable attorney and the support from her community, as well as her family and friends. Her message is that the system needs to make changes. Child Welfare must change the way they make decisions before children are placed in foster care instead of with their loving, capable families. She believes that there needs to be programs that will help the parents, or family members, keep children with the family. She hopes her story will help change the way the Child Welfare System impacts the lives of children and families.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

State Investements in Early Care and Education Increase Despite Budget Gaps

The National Conference of State Legislatures has just issued a report on Early Care and Education State Budget Actions for Fiscal Year 2009. The report finds that "although states began to face tough economic times as they developed FY 2009 budgets, early care and education programs continued to see some expanded investment". Additional findings included:

  • Appropriations increased in all four survey categories; child care, prekindergarten, home visiting, and other early learning initiatives. Total increases were $651 million. The state general fund share was $402 million.
  • Lawmakers increased support for early care and education programs even as budget gaps emerged.
  • Many states that increased funding in FY 2009 also increased funding in FY 2008.
  • It is uncertain if the trend toward increased investment will continue in FY 2010 Financing strategies to support early care and education.

For more on financing early care and education policies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cash Strapped States Make Shortsighted Cuts in Juvenile Justice

Last December the Associate Press reported that a number of states, including South Carolina, were cutting spending in juvenile justice programs due to the economic downturn. Yesterday the New York Times, in both a story and video, described how deep those cuts in South Carolina have gone:
In the last year, the state has cut the financing for its juvenile justice system by one-fifth, forcing 285 layoffs and the closure of several facilities, including five group homes that focused on counseling. The department has scrapped a program that helped paroled youngsters find jobs, unleashing them into a state with 11.6 percent unemployment. It has canceled state financing for 40 after-school centers for teenagers, where they get help with their homework, receive mentoring and take part in activities during hours when children are most likely to stray into trouble. It has trimmed the ranks of social workers to 20, from 36.
As noted in yesterday's post, research demonstrates that the very programs being cut by states across the county can both save money now and avoid future costs. For more information on maximizing returns on investment and reducing costs by reducing detention.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Evidence that Alternatives to Juvenile Detention Save Money and Improve Outcomes

The Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability issued the fourth report in as many years that documents the effectiveness of a program to redirect youth from juvenile justice residential facilities.
Over the past four years, the Redirection Program has operated at a lower cost than residential juvenile delinquency programs and has achieved better outcomes. Youth who successfully completed the Redirection Program were significantly less likely to be subsequently arrested for a felony or violent felony, adjudicated or convicted of any offense, or committed to a residential program or sentenced to prison after treatment than similar youth who successfully completed residential commitment. The Redirection Program has achieved $36.4 million in cost savings for the state since it began four years ago due to its lower operating costs compared to residential delinquency programs; the program has also achieved a cost avoidance of $5.2 million in recommitment and prison costs due to reduced recidivism by its graduates.
For policies to reduce juvenile detention.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Predictors of Early Academic Success

Child Trends has a new report out called Early Childhood Predictors of Early School Success. The report reviewed the scientific evidence from the fields of child development and health and health services research, related to early school readiness, and focused on large longitudinal studies. They found that "the strongest evidence for effects between school success and maternal education, family income, low birthweight, and gender. ... [and recommended] an instrument to identify at risk children using these factors in the clinical setting as a critical step in integrating research on child development into clinical practice". For policies to improve early academic success.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Is a New Federal Poverty Measure Coming?

On June 17th, Rep. Jim McDermott, chairman of the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee, introduced legislation that would update the way poverty is measured in the United States for the first time in half a century. The Measuring American Poverty Act of 2009, H.R. 2909, would largely implement recommendations developed by the National Academy of Sciences after it independently studied the way poverty is measured over ten years ago.“The way we measure poverty today is based on spending patterns from the 1950s to account for ordinary family expenses, but America in 2009 is different than America was in 1959, and we don’t take that into account,” McDermott said. “We also don’t take into account assistance provided to vulnerable Americans through programs like nutrition assistance and expanded tax credits to help people earn their way out of poverty,” McDermott added. “In the end, I want a system that is fair to the people who need help and fair to the people providing it, the taxpayers." (From the press release)

A discussion of the new poverty measure can be seen on the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity’s webcast. Mark Greenberg of Georgetown University and the Center for American Progress, Mark Levitan of the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and Indivar Dutta-Gupta of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support examine the need for a new federal poverty measure and discussed whether a new federal poverty measure could trigger an increase in federal government spending for aid programs aimed at low-income and poor families.

Policies to expand economic success and reduce child poverty.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What Can U.S. Policymakers Learn From Other Countries About Early Childhood Policies?

An outstanding new report has been released by The Commonwealth Fund entitled "An International Comparison of Early Childhood Initiatives: From Services to Systems" that examines the early childhood systems from four countries and identifies the lessons for the United States:

Despite evidence of how much the early years contribute to later health and educational attainment; there is, as yet, no clearly articulated U.S. policy on this most important period of life. There are a number of possible explanations, all of which conspire to limit progress on early childhood policy in the United States-

  • Much of children’s well-being depends on circumstances within the home, and typically, these have not been an incitement to government intervention.
  • Existing government programs that serve young children utilize a deficit model, are marginally funded, and operate in a maze of local, state, and nationalfunding streams, with little communication or coordination across health, education, and social services sectors.
  • Measures of what constitutes high-quality care for young children are insufficient and require further development. The least tangible aspects of caregiving that are most difficult to measure—mutual trust, positive affect, nurturance, responsiveness—are likely to be most important for the child’s long-term well-being.

The U.S. is not the only country to struggle with early childhood policy directions. England, Canada, and Australia all started with similarly fragmented early childhood services, a penchant for market-based solutions, and a desire to limit reliance on the welfare state. Families in each of these countries are facing similar pressures resulting from long hours at work, irregular work schedules, and limited child care options. This report describes components of each country’s efforts to respond to the importance of the early years and to develop policies that they hope will produce lasting gains for their youngest citizens. It also considers the implications of their experiences for the development of early childhood policy in the U.S.

Policies to support early childhood and academic success.

(Hat tip to Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

States and the Federal Government Team Up on Job Training has an interesting new piece on how states are promoting job training as part of their economic recovery efforts.
Instead of sending discouraged workers out to pound the pavement, states are using existing federal and state resources, boosted by $4 billion in stimulus funds, to help prepare workers for the kind of jobs expected to open up when the economy improves.
In addition to stimulus money, the federal Departments of Labor and Education have joined together to promote education grants for the unemployed through a new website called and provided an online resource for all state "one stop" employment shops for training, unemployment benefits and assistance with accessing the new education grants. Policies to support job training.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why Policymakers Want to Extend Foster Care to Age 21

State policymakers examining the challenges and opportunities of implementing the new federal foster care law, the Fostering Connections Act, will be interested in the upcoming Governing for Children event. Co- hosted by the National Governors Association and Chapin Hall on July 15, 2009, this web conference on "Extending Foster Care to Age 21" examines the costs, benefits, and opportunities of foster care beyond age 18. To register. For more on the Fostering Connections Act.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Measuring Outcomes for Children

The Urban Institute and Chapin Hall co-hosted an event on June 4th that explored the performance measures used by Health, Education and Child Welfare. Listen to experts Alyna Chien (Children's Hospital of Boston, Harvard Medical School), Jane Hannaway (Urban Institute), James Lewis (Chicago Community Trust), Matthew Stagner (Chapin Hall) and Fred Wulczyn (Chapin Hall) talk about:
  • What are the opportunities for developing more effective program design and service integration through performance monitoring?
  • How can monitoring practices across sectors support fiscal responsibility?
  • Where do federal and state policies on performance measurement converge or diverge?
  • How can a child development perspective enable all sectors to identify outcomes and monitor progress?

For more on Results Based Public Policy