Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Translating Research into Policy: Early Childhood Development

A recent study, "Science Does Not Speak for Itself: Translating Child Development Research for the Public and Its Policymakers", describes a multi-year project to translate the complex scientific concepts of child development research into policy and practice. A cross-discipline group developed 8 key concepts grounded in the research:
  1. Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development.
  2. Brain architecture is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood.
  3. Brains are built from the bottom up. 
  4. The interaction of genes and experience shapes the developing brain.
  5. Learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health are highly interrelated.
  6. Toxic stress in the early years (e.g., from severe poverty, serious parental mental health impairment such as maternal depression, child maltreatment, and ⁄ or family violence) can damage the developing brain. 
  7. Early healthy development is less costly, to society and to individuals, than trying to fix it later.
  8. Effective early childhood programs can be measured and can inform wise investments.
But making the research accessible was only the first step. Until this information was made widely available the general public believed that early childhood development was both the responsibility and problem of individual families. The policy shift began to occur as the research connection between the value of early childhood development to society writ large, the collective achievement, became known.

For state policies to improve early childhood development. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

The EITC and the Suburban Working Poor

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income working people designed to encourage and reward work as well as offset payroll and income taxes. EITC has been successful by most accounts in its response to economic trends by offering critical support to help working families during times of economic hardship as well as to the shift in geography of the working poor (increasingly suburban). A report by the Brookings Institution, Responding to the New Geography of Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the Earned Income Tax Credit, assesses the changing geographic distribution of the low-income population compared to recipients of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) between 1999 and 2007 in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. The report finds that:
  • Changes in EITC receipt have tracked closely with the growing and shifting geography of working poverty.
  • Between 1999 and 2007, all 69 large metro areas that experienced significant growth rates in their low-income populations saw EITC receipt increase in response.
  • Low-income workers claimed $47.5 billion through the EITC in 2007—a real increase of 25 percent over 1999—with 60 percent of EITC dollars going to residents of the 100 largest metro areas.
The continuing growth of poor working families in the suburbs is an important aspect of this report. It highlights the importance of EITC for low-income workers and families because of it’s ability to respond to families in suburban and rural communities. Low-income suburban residents living in communities without place-based opportunities are able to benefit from the EITC because it is delivered through the tax code, and therefore highly accessible.
Click here to learn about state strategies for enacting and expanding a state EITC. Click here for strategies to expand state EITC outreach

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New on! Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Preventing child abuse requires a multi-generation approach that supports parents, addresses developmental needs, and reaches families long before they come in contact with the child welfare system.  

As a part of its commitment to building strong and stable families, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has developed a new section on  PolicyforResults that focuses specifically on preventing child abuse and neglect, which includes facts, data and strategies to support  states in preventing child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are able to thrive in safe and stable homes. The site also features two new videos:
  • An overview of CSSP’s Strengthening Families initiative, which encourages building protective factors in families
  • The story of how Kansas uses the Strengthening Families approach at the state and community levels
Both videos were made possible through CSSP’s partner, Kansas Strengthening Families Plan

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Resource: 13 Ways of Looking at Poverty

In 2009, one in seven Americans—43.6 million people—were poor. Who was poor and what that means is addressed in The Urban Institute fact sheet, 13 Ways of Looking at Poverty. The fact sheet presents a quick overview of research on poverty, including 13 key points on poverty's effects on immigration, health care, children, infants with depressed mothers, employment, assets, and neighborhoods. Each fact on the fact sheet is connected to an Urban Institute research report.

For more information on poverty and strategies to promote Family Economic Success.

Monday, March 14, 2011

State Budget Shortfalls and New Priorities

States governments continue to feel the impact of tough economic times with 44 states and the District of Columbia projecting budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2012 totaling $125 billion. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as governors across the country work on state budgets for the year they face decreased tax revenues without a decreased need for state-provided services - leading to increased spending gaps.
In the wake of the recession, states’ are facing significant budget constraints and are focused on redesigning government in a way that is more efficient. The National Governors Association released an issue brief analyzing Governors’ 2011 State of the Union Addresses. The report highlights the priorities most frequently addressed by governors as they outline their state’s goals for 2011. Governors’ were focused on government redesign efforts citing consolidation, streamlining the bureaucratic processes and controlling employee and pension costs. NGA’s Redesigning State Government page provides resources for states including a fiscal survey of the states, past government redesign efforts, and state-requested audits aimed at guiding cost savings, revenue enhancements, consolidation and elimination of agencies, and increasing government efficiency in general.
Even though the recession is over the aftermath continues at both the federal and state level. The importance of perusing policy changes that work and creating more responsible, effective government solutions is critical for both state budgets and for the children, families and communities state policymakers serve.
Visit the PolicyforResults homepage for updates on new content offering solutions for policymakers in tough economic times; including practical tools for making effective policy decisions.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Budget, FY2012

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2012 was released in February, and in light of the country’s growing deficit, there were some significant cuts in program funding. However, debate continues around whether or not they were the right cuts and if they were too much or not enough. Several controversial cuts were made to domestic discretionary programs like the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and there has been significant criticism about the effect of the budget on low-income families. However, in tough economic times it is important to look for opportunities wherever possible and there are some positive ones for kids and families and communities in the President’s budget.

There are valuable investments aimed at supporting young children through high quality early childhood programs including $350 million for the early learning challenge fund to improve access to higher education for minority students. To help youth succeed as adults, the higher education incentives, including tax relief through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, investments in community colleges, improved job training through the Workforce Innovation Fund and an $150 million expansion of the Promise Neighborhoods program are some of the ways this budget attempts to support young people.

The President’s inclusion of $2.1 billion in new resources for health care services like health centers, extending the Earned Income Tax Credit and $7.9 billion for efforts to prevent hunger and improve nutrition, including the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all help support basic needs that allow children and families a chance to be healthy and economically successful.

Additionally, with proposed support like $150 million for Partnership for Sustainable Communities, incentives can be created that establish comprehensive, multi-agency changes from transit-accessible housing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The President’s budget also provides $250 million for the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, designed to revitalize distressed urban neighborhoods.

The President’s budget and the following Congressional budget process are critical for states struggling with budget concerns of their own. The following is a list of some of the resources to help state’s get to the core of the opportunities and concerns regarding the federal budget for children and low-income families.

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released analysis on the severe cut to LIHEAP. They also include state-by-state examples of a current house budget plan and how it would impact at-risk children and families. CBPP also has a primer on the federal budget process, how it works, and the budget timeline.
  • The Children’s Defense Fund has a Budget Watch tool that describes the federal budget process and includes analysis of why this year’s budget process is so complicated.
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy released State Resources to Support FY 2011 & 2012 Budget Advocacy around child care and early education.

Click here for Strategies in Tough Fiscal Times.