Friday, January 29, 2010

Child Care as a Competitive Target for Stimulus of Economic Development?

The Cornell University Linking Economic Development and Child Care Research Project’s Child Care Multipliers: Stimulus for the States makes the case that the child care sector’s contribution to the economy makes it a competitive target for dollars to stimulate economic development. Through its direct employment and output and purchase of goods and services, child care contributes significantly to the regional economy. The author’s analysis found that, on average, each new dollar spent in the child care sector produces a broader statewide impact of two dollars; each new job created in the sector means 1.5 jobs statewide. In addition to its importance as a parental support and contributor to child well-being, child care is established by this paper as a smart, strategic target for economic development policy and funding.

Policies to increase early care and education and expand economic opportunity.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Juvenile Delinquency Data: Progress and Work to be Done

Recently released 2008 data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provide a picture of juvenile delinquency in the U.S. While the data shows progress in areas like overall arrest rates, others, such as disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system, demand continued attention. Highlights of the data include:

  • An estimated 2.11 million juveniles were arrested in 2008.
  • Overall juvenile arrests declined 3% from 2007 to 2008.
  • Juvenile arrests for violent offenses decreased by 2% from 2007 to 2008.
  • In 2008, 11% of all murder victims were younger than 18.
  • In 2008, black youth comprised 16% of the youth population ages 10 to 17. However, black youth were involved in 52% of juvenile arrests for violent crimes and 33% of juvenile arrests for property crimes.

Policies to reduce juvenile detention.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preparing Foster Youth for Employment

Chapin Hall’s Employment Needs of Foster Youth in Illinois: Findings from the Midwest Study discusses the labor market involvement of youth who have aged out of foster care in the state as the youth reported it to researchers. Limited prior research on this subject has shown poor employment outcomes for these youth, and the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and later legislation were intended to provide funding to states to help foster youth transition into adulthood and self-sufficiency, including employment. Chapin Hall found that most aged-out foster youth had difficulty staying employed, that those employed tended to be in a job that paid less than a living wage, and that only 63 percent reported having received one service or support to aid with their preparation for employment. With the economy in its present state, the unmet employment needs of young people in the foster care system demand examination and programmatic responses by policymakers and administrators.

Policies to improve job training.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Looking at the Data: School Crime and Safety

Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009, the twelfth in a series of annual publications issued jointly by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice, presents the most recent data available on school crime and safety. Utilizing national survey of students, teachers, and principals, and other data sources, the report presents data on victimization, weapons, teacher injury, student perceptions of school safety, and availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, among others.

Policies for preparing youth to succeed in life. Visit our homepage and sign up for email updates on new content, including policies to support high school completion and address teen binge-drinking and substance abuse!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lessons from Nebraska: NACC’s Evaluation of the State’s Guardian Ad Litem System

The National Association for Counsel of Children’s Evaluation of the Guardian Ad Litem System in Nebraska offers a comprehensive study of the state’s GAL system as requested by the Nebraska legislature. Though strengths were identified in the current system, NACC found that its major challenge was a lack of basic accountability. Particular areas identified as in need of reform include:

  • There is not one GAL system in Nebraska; there are 93 different systems,
  • There is no uniform, comprehensive set of practice standards for GALs to follow
  • GALs do not routinely tell the court what their child-clients’ own views on the case are – in large part because they don’t know what their clients’ views are
  • GALs are insufficiently familiar with their clients’ needs
  • GALs do not receive adequate training or supervision
  • In one county in particular, individual attorneys’ caseloads are crushingly high”

In light of this evaluation and the best practices of other jurisdictions, NACC recommends the establishment of an independent oversight body for GALs and the implementation of several other reforms. Policies for building strong and stable families. Also, sign up on our homepage for email updates about forthcoming content on child abuse and neglect!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Missing Piece in Strategies for Turning Around Underperforming Schools?

A recent brief from Chapin Hall argues for a new understanding of improving academic achievement in underperforming schools. Using findings from several Chapin Hall studies, the authors describe the challenges faced by vulnerable children—those who have experience disruptions in home life and are more likely to come into contact with public service systems—and the academic and behavioral changes they face in school. Providing evidence that a disproportionate number of these children attend underperforming schools, the authors discuss the disruption in classroom and school environment that can occur when teachers are not trained to work with vulnerable children. Successful strategies for improving underperforming schools, they argue, must include training for teachers to work with these youth, organization that allows schools to respond to their needs, and recognition in the field of education that “social support is not an ‘extra,’ but essential to student achievement.”

Policies to improve early grade level reading through investments in education and support of vulnerable families.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creating and Sustaining Gains in Early Education: Lessons from New Jersey

New America Foundation’s white paper, Education Reform Starts Early: Lessons from New Jersey's PreK-3rd Reform Efforts, recounts New Jersey’s path to national leadership in early education and the lessons learned from that journey. After the New Jersey Supreme Court’s mandate that the state provide high-quality pre-Kindergarten programs, New Jersey crafted an expansive provider system and worked to link its early education investments with reforms in the K-12 system. The paper details the state’s successes and challenges in this effort, identifying lessons and providing recommendations for state and national policymakers to create and sustain large-scale gains in early education.

Policies to increase early care and education and improve K-3 academic success.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Child Care and the Recession, Families caught in the squeeze

First, some of the numbers:
- The average family spends 14% income on child care.
- Almost 43% of families changed their primary child care arrangement in the past year and 50% of those made the change due to economic issues.
- Of the families who made a change in child care 63% were worried that the changes had negatively impacted their child’s care.

The State of Care Index, from, outlines the annual cost of childcare and senior care, details families' efforts to save money on care arrangements,and reports on the tie between employment and caregiving. Policies for states to increase access to quality child care for parents and improve family economic success.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Six Things Policymakers Should Watch to Avoid Becoming the Next California.

In an interesting analysis reported by, a new methodology developed by Pew looks at two questions: How did California get into its current fiscal situation, and could other states find themselves facing similar difficulties? The methodology examined six key areas:
  1. Change in revenue
  2. Budget gap as a percentage of general funds
  3. Change in unemployment
  4. Foreclosure rate
  5. A supermajority requirement to raise revenue and ratify budgets
  6. The “money” grade from the Pew Center on the State’s Government Performance Project, which assesses how well states are managing their fiscal affairs

Based on this research, nine states are currently at risk of following in California's path. Policymakers should look at policies to address employment and foreclosures to point their state in the right direction.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some States are Taking Advantage of Under-Used Federal Fund

We previously noted that states are leaving money on the table by not accessing the TANF emergency fund. But Florida announced that it is creating 25,000 new jobs
Between now and September 30, 2010, Florida can potentially receive up to $200 million – with no matching state funds required – for the Florida Back to Work initiative designed to help pay for jobs for low-income families on a time-limited basis.“Nothing is more important than returning Floridians to the workforce and restoring their hope and economic security,” Governor Crist said. “These funds will provide businesses throughout our state a tremendous opportunity to give someone in need a fresh start and a new direction for the future.”
(Hat tip to Front and Center)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Aligning Education, Workforce and Economic Development

A new paper from the Education Commission of the States engages education, policy and workforce leaders to explore how to effectively align education, workforce and economic development policy to meet state and regional workforce needs. It provides a comprehensive view of alignment that addresses the various pathways students pursue through the education system and into the workforce. The paper provides examples of promising policies and programs states are employing to create greater alignment, as well as practical steps that state leaders can take in their states to fully leverage their education assets to meet state workforce and economic development goals. (Author abstract)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Juvenile Justice Research, Could It Reshape Public Policy?

A new report from a seven year long study follows 1,354 youth starting at age 14-17 after committing serious offenses including murder, robbery, sex offenses and kidnapping. Pathways to Desistance, supported by the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative, is a multi-site project tracking the outcomes of these young people through records and thousands of interviews.

The experiences documented provide greater insights into trajectory of delinquent youth and the effectiveness of the services they received. Among the interesting observations are that only one-fifth became involved with in the adult system and among the low level offenders placement in institutions statistically increased later offending. The researchers also documented high levels of substance abuse, 30% of the youth were diagnosed with a substance use disorder and over 80% used drugs or alcohol in the six months prior to their first interview. As a result, the report presents the following key findings:
  • It may be that expensive institutional placements are often being used in cases where there is little need for such an investment – and where it may in fact be counterproductive.
  • Ongoing substance use treatment for serious juvenile offenders appears to pay off. The key is including family in the intervention.

The implications for policymakers may be significant, from rethinking the incarceration of youth to requiring family-based treatments and interventions. Taken together, this could both reframe the dialogue and change funding decisions. For policies to reduce juvenile detention. (Hat tip to Reclaiming Futures blog)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keeping Kids in College

Only 20 percent of young people who begin their higher education at two-year institutions graduate within three years and only about 4 in 10 students receive a degree within six years. The reasons are outlined in "With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them" where Public Agenda presents a series of myths and facts based on surveys with young people. Their answers may surprise you. Work is the top reason young adults give for not returning to college once they leave. Many young people are trying to support themselves, but they do not recognize the long term impact of dropping out. The solutions they suggest are both simple and reasonable. Make part-time students eligible for maximim financial aid and offer courses on flexible schedules, such as evenings and weekends. Pretty simple.

Policies informed by the experiences of the constituents are more effective.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Looking at Spending Disparities and Outcomes

The Rockefeller Institute issued a paper recently called "Spending Is Up, and So Are Interstate Disparities in States’ K-12 Education Revenues". The authors look at how the stimulus funding and the economic downturn could exacerbate disparities in education across and within states. The paper's emphasis is that states that have historically spent less on education also have higher child poverty rates and thus higher levels of educational need. Due to the economy and in spite of the stimulus funding, these lower-spending states are continuing to devote relatively fewer resources to education. The authors recommend that:

There are ways, however, to make the relationship between funding and need more transparent to policymakers. Some states and large districts have developed systems that reflect the differential costs of educating students with different needs.[That] help them better understand the relationship between their funding decisions and educational need. Then they could make an informed choice as to whether to distribute funding using a traditional population-based formula ... or using a formula that is weighted to reflect student need.
While this information is important to policymakers, what may be even more significant is the relationship between spending and child outcomes. For too long policymakers have been asked to look only at need and not outcomes. But an article in the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy makes the case for policymakers and quantifies the correlation between policy (in this case spending) and child well being. The authors of "Are Public Expenditures Associated with Better Child Outcomes in the U.S.? A Comparison across 50 States" found that
states that spend the most on children through social programs and tax credits are also the states that have the healthiest children and the children with the best educational and behavioral outcomes, and whether states that spend the least have the worst child outcomes. ... Education expenditures have particularly strong and positive effects on child outcomes, especially test scores and adolescent behavior.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy provides a framework for looking at policy development based on results, not just need.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Juvenile Reentry: Recommendations for Policymakers

The Youth Reentry Task Force of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition has issued a report with recommendations for the federal government on improving outcomes for youth through improved reentry. Back on Track: Supporting Youth Reentry from Out-of-Home Placement to the Community looks at the characteristics of reentry youth, the collateral consequences associated with out-of-home-placement and the essential components of youth reentry services. The report recommends that effective reentry services should:
  • Be located in the community where returning youth live;
  • Be individualized to assist with developmental deficits;
  • Concentrate heavily on ensuring school reenrollment, attendance, and success;
  • Focus on permanent family/guardianship connections;
  • Include access to mental health and substance abuse treatment;
  • Recognize the diverse needs of returning youth;
  • Include a structured workforce preparation and employment component; and
  • Include housing support and assistance for youth who cannot live with relatives and are transitioning to adulthood.

For state policies to improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Where are 1 Million Children?

Another question might be: Why are Young Children Missed So Often in the Census? A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at why children are undercounted, what can be done about it and why the undercount is important to states and localities. As to the last point, one major reason is the loss of federal funding particularly Special Ed Grants, Head Start, SCHIP, Title IVE and Teacher Quality Grants.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Science and Social Policy

The recent kerfuffle in Washington over home-visiting programs raises some important questions about the intersection between social science and social policy. First, a quick background summary.

The President's 2010 budget included $124 million to support "families by providing additional funding for ... creating the Nurse Home Visitation program to support first-time mothers". What followed was a heated debate about home-visiting programs writ large and the Nurse Family Partnership in particular, with everyone agreeing that home-visiting is important but that no single program was universally superior. A Brookings paper took a look at this issue noting that the commotion was largely based on politics. In the end, Congress struck a balance with "a program of home visits to low-income mothers, mothers-to-be and low-income families which will produce sizeable, sustained improvements in the health, well-being, or school readiness of children or their parents".

At the heart of this debate was not the efficacy of home-visiting as an intervention but the strength of the science upon which we try to build social policy. The challenge is made even more complicated by the fact that evaluation methods are the subject of so much dispute within the research field. A timely and useful GAO report on program evaluation found that "requiring evidence from randomized studies as sole proof of effectiveness will likely exclude many potentially effective and worthwhile practices". Also, the Rockefeller Institute has recently made "Social Science in Government" available which makes the case for a broader view of evaluation that takes the complex nature of social interventions into account.

With the federal government more focused than ever on results, it is important to consider both how we measure results and how policymakers can use results to develop public policy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Celebrating Infant and Toddler Policy Achievements

What better way to bring in the new year than to applaud the achievements from 2009? Zero to Three in a brief entitled "Celebrating Improvements in Infant-Toddler Policy- Top 10 Policy Achievements of 2009":
  1. Early Childhood Issues Make it to the Top of the Presidential Agenda
  2. California Voters Defeat Propositions to Reduce Early Childhood Funds
  3. Economic Stimulus Package Includes Significant Funding for Infants and Toddlers
  4. Illinois Passes Law to Increase Set-Aside for Infants and Toddlers
  5. Bipartisan Leaders Form Congressional Baby CaucusKentucky Creates Task Force on
  6. Early Childhood Development and Education
  7. The Early Learning Challenge Fund Seeks to Strengthen State Early Childhood Systems
  8. Oklahoma Public and Private Partners Invest $30 Million in Early Learning
  9. Congress Expands the Children’s Health Insurance Program
  10. Washington Defends Funding for Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs

For state policies to improve outcomes for infants and toddlers.