Monday, April 25, 2011

State Food Stamp Programs

All states make information about their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) available publicly. According to a review conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, there are significant variations among states’ SNAP (formerly called food stamps) web pages and on-line services. They found that some states only provide a basic description of the program on their agency’s website. Others offer applications, benefit calculators, pre-screening tools, detailed program operation instructions for caseworkers, and copies of program memoranda to eligibility workers that describe policy changes to the program. By making all of these materials readily accessible to the public, states can facilitate an improved understanding of SNAP.

In the report, Food Stamps On-Line: A Review of State Government Food Stamp Websites, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provides links to every state’s SNAP web page and provides an overview of the types of information and services that states provide. For states that are interested in expanding the services provided on their state’s web page the report’s overview section could serve a s a helpful tool because it highlights the various features states offer, such as benefit calculators or office locators.

To learn the basics about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program visit, Policy Basics: Food Assistance.

For more tools and information on policies that promote family economic success, visit PolicyforResults.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Racial Disparities in Wealth.

The Center for Community Economic Development has issued a new report "Diverging Pathways: How Wealth Shapes Opportunity for Children". The key findings were:

Racial disparities in households with young children are dramatic. In 2007, 32% of white households with young children were income-poor and 14.2% had no assets. In sharp contrast, 69% of Latino and 71% of blacks were income-poor, and 40% had no assets.

  • Racial disparities in child outcomes start early and grow over time. At nine months, all children start out with fairly similar scores on a standard child development test, but by two years of age, racial disparities emerge.
  • The wealth gap widened for households with children. Between 1994 and 2007, the wealth gap between white and black households with children increased by $22,000 -almost doubling from $25,000 to $47,000. In 2007, black households with children held only 4% of the wealth of white households. From 2005 to 2007, black households living with zero or negative net worth (debt) grew from 35% to 39% while it stayed constant at 15% for white households.
  • Maternal education matters, but alone cannot eliminate racial wealth disparities. For every dollar of wealth owned by a white mother with a bachelor’s degree or higher in 1994 a black mother owned 64 cents. By 2007, it had fallen to 13 cents. The wealth gap between white and black mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher grew five times larger between 1994 and 2007 to an astonishing $128,000.
For state policies to reduce child poverty.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Policy Solutions to Support Immigrant Children

According to the latest issue of The Future of Children, a joint project of Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, immigrant children are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population today. However, many immigrant children are experiencing serious problems including inadequate education, poor physical and mental health, and poverty.

Wednesday, April 20, The Future of Children, will host an event at the Brookings Institution to release the latest issue of its journal. The issue is devoted entirely to several aspects of the status and well-being of immigrant children. An accompanying policy brief reviews the problem of low educational attainment among immigrant children and proposes a set of policy recommendations that could improve their attainment, including expanding preschool programs, improved English Language Learner instruction, and congressional passage of the DREAM Act to allow undocumented students to attend college.

The journal, Immigrant Children, is available on the Future of Children website.

Visit PolicyforResults for more on ensuring children are healthy and prepared to succeed in school.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Closing State Deficits

All of the 48 states that have released budget proposals for fiscal year 2012 have proposed deep cuts. In light of that, it is important for policymakers at the state level to consider what additional or alternative measures are available to close state deficits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, A Balanced Approach to Closing State Deficits, suggests that states that rely solely or primarily on budget cuts to close deficits are hurting residents and businesses that need immediate assistance and are also reducing demand in the economy and impeding their state’s economic recovery. The report suggests using a more balanced approach to closing deficits that includes:

  • Efficiency – focusing on the goals of expenditures and whether there are better ways to reach those goals;
  • Using all available resources – employing reserves and rainy day funds responsibly and wisely;
  • Scrutinizing all spending, not just what is appropriated through the budget – including programmatic expenditures made in the form of tax breaks;
  • Improved collections – aggressively seeking taxes due that are not being paid;
  • Tax increases – particularly those that have a more positive impact on the economy than spending cuts;
  • Prioritization – making careful decisions based on goals and effectiveness when budgets must be cut; and
  • Paying close attention to future impact while fixing today’s problems.

For more information on ways that states can protect the most vulnerable families in their states, while maximizing their return on investment and stimulating their economy visit CSSP’s new policy briefs page, which includes briefs on policy topics ranging from effective government to improving grade level reading.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Evidence: Policy that Focuses on Results Gets Results

In 1999, Maryland established eight Child Well-being Results to capture and quantify the quality of life for children and families in the state. These eight results for child well-being reflect the priorities of the Children‘s Cabinet and the Governor:
  • Babies Born Healthy;
  • Healthy Children;
  • Children Enter School Ready to Learn;
  • Children Successful in School;
  • Children Completing School;
  • Children Safe in their Families and Communities;
  • Stable and Economically Independent Families; and
  • Communities that Support Family Life.
In 2000 the Children's Cabinet identified Children Enter School as a priority result, at that time only 49 percent of children were ready for school on day one. Then the Children's Cabinet established six specific goals with 25 strategies to improve the rate and created an immediate action plan to build public support. Steps included adding a school readiness committee of the Children’s Cabinet, focusing on parental involvement, expanding early care and education services, and addressing credentialing and compensation of child care staff.

This week Maryland issued its annual report on the progress towards Children Enter School Ready to Learn, announcing that remarkable progress has been made:

  • 81% of all children entered school ready to learn in 2010, up 32 points since 2000
  • 76% of African-American children are fully school-ready, up from 37% in 2001-2002  
  • The percentage of kindergarteners from low-income households who are fully school-ready rose from 34% in 2001-2002  to 73% in 2010-2011.
    For an issue brief or policies to support early academic success and guidance on establishing results-based policy in your state.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Preventing Childhood Obesity

    Childhood obesity in the United States is a serious problem that impacts the health and future of our children and amounts to growing costs to states. According to a collaborative report by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, the United States is projected to spend $344 billion in obesity-related health care costs in 2018 if obesity levels continue to increase at their current rate. Furthermore, according to Leadership for Healthy Communities, if we continue on the current path we will raise the first generation of children to” live sicker and die younger than the generation before them.”
    There are several resources to learn more about the scope and impact of childhood obesity.
    • Leadership for Healthy Communities has several fact sheets that cover multiple issues related to preventing childhood obesity including facts related to American Indian and Alaska Native children, fact sheets in Spanish, and a list of talking points.
    • CDC’s national and state specific fact sheets offer a good way to get a sense of the problems scope across the country, and in your state.
    • Action for Healthy Kids has a series of fact sheets on various issues related to childhood obesity prevention and healthy school policy including fact sheets on U.S. public schools, local wellness policies and physical education.
    • 10 Frightening Facts about Childhood Obesity provides a series of facts about the percentage of kids that are eating healthy food, getting enough physical activity and time children spend watching television.
    There are also several great resources for state policymakers to learn about strategies to reduce and prevent childhood obesity. Including: