Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strengthening State Fiscal Policies

As the economy slowly begins to recover, many families are still facing difficult challenges. For state policymakers to successfully support these families it is critical that they make decisions that lead to effective and efficient policy solutions. A new report issued by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Strengthening State Fiscal Policies for a Stronger Economy, provides guidance on fiscal policies that can create jobs now and lead states to long-term economic prosperity. The report suggests that in this year’s legislative sessions policymakers should:

  • Restore state revenues quickly and target investments to get the economy back on track;
  • Avoid ineffective strategies and gimmicks that weaken the state’s economy;
  • Protect state services and investments that create jobs over the long term to ensure a sustained recovery; and
  • Strengthen opportunities for families and children to contribute to the economy by avoiding cutbacks in their purchasing power while also making sure they have the supports they need into the future.
Each recommendation in the report links to analysis describing the best practice in greater detail.

For more resources on making sound policy decisions for families in difficult economic times visit our Policymakers’ Corner, which provides a fact sheet series on
Jobs, Economic Growth and an Educated Workforce for the Future.

For results-based public policy strategies for families visit and check-out What Works.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New on Policy For Results! Promoting Children's Social, Emotional and Behavioral Health.

Just over 20 percent of children (or 1 in 5) have either currently or at some point in their lives experienced a seriously debilitating mental disorder. Unfortunately, most children with mental health disorders do not get the supports and services that they need.

In order for children to meet developmental milestones, learn, grow and lead productive lives, it is critical that they be healthy. Good social, emotional and mental health is a key component of children’s health and healthy development.

As a part of its commitment to ensuring that all children are healthy, the Center for the Study of Social Policy has developed a new section on and a corresponding report that focuses specifically on promoting children’s social, emotional and behavioral health.

In addition to facts about the issue, the new section includes policy strategies that states can use to promote children’s full health. The information in this section is designed to support policymakers in their efforts to ensure that all families have access to necessary, quality care. State policymakers can help children grow up with the supports they need to be healthy and productive.

Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Economy and Saving for College

The New America Foundation recently completed a series of papers called, Creating a Financial Stake in College, that addresses the connection between children’s savings and college success. The first of five reports in the series is about - Why Policymakers Should Care about Children’s Savings. Through the context of the well-documented disparities in college attendance and completion rates by socioeconomic class, and the growing role that education plays in employment and economic mobility, the paper addresses the question; “How do we create greater access to college and higher completion rates for more of America’s children?” The report suggests that part of the answer is to focus on the short-term problem of paying for college.

The paper addresses concerns over growing college debt and simultaneously falling salaries – and notes that this is particularly troubling for students who go into the “helping professions” such as social work, teaching and religious training). The paper states that an “increasing reliance on college loans and mounting college debt has caused some policymakers and researchers to question whether funding college attendance and completion through debt accumulation is a wise policy decision. This, coupled with the current economic crisis and additional focus on debt, may make children’s savings policies a more appealing alternative to expanding access to college loans or continuing to invest in them at such high rates.” This report suggests that financial aid policies that promote asset accumulation among children and their families are a way for the federal government to help restore balance in the financial aid system.
One such solution, the promotion of children’s savings accounts, leverages investments by individuals and their families with investments from the federal government (e.g., initial deposits, incentives, matches).

For policymakers, thinking outside of the traditional options is ever more critical in the current economic climate. In order to ensure that both our communities and our economy are healthy policymakers are considering new options to support families. As noted in the report there are “noteworthy efforts underway to create a more accessible savings infrastructure for children. State college savings (529) plans are tax-advantaged savings vehicles offered in 49 states and the District of Columbia.”

To learn more about the importance of College Completion visit

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The President's FY13 Budget: Aligning Resources with Results

On Monday, the administration released their budget proposal for FY13. The president’s budget proposal outlines the administration’s policy agenda and federal spending proposal for the upcoming year and sets the tone for the national policy agenda. The federal budget becomes the guide by which every major spending and revenue decision is made, making it one of the largest policy vehicles for supporting children and families. Children and families across the country need support as they continue to face difficult challenges in the aftermath of the recession. While many states are beginning to see some progress, state budget shortfalls are still present and families are still facing very difficult circumstances as the economy slowly begins to recover.

One way that policymakers can support families around the budget is through developing and strengthening partnerships with the community. These partnerships can lead to more efficient and effective policymaking. In our new publication, Aligning Resources with Results: How Communities and Policymakers Collaborated to Create a National Program, we highlight the collaboration between community organizations in Philadelphia with state and local policymakers. This collaboration, centered on the result of improving the health of children, led to the development of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. The state initiative provided funding for 88 fresh-food retail projects in 34 Pennsylvania counties, creating or preserving more than 5,000 jobs and improving access to healthy food for more than half a million Pennsylvania residents. The success of this collaboration led to a national budget initiative, the National Healthy Food Financing Initiative, aimed at improving the health of children across the country by providing access to fresh-food. Earlier this week, in the administrations FY13 budget proposal, the president proposed a total of $400 million in financing to community development financial institutions, other nonprofits, public agencies and businesses with sound strategies for addressing the healthy food needs of underserved communities.

To review key line items for children and families proposed in the president’s budget and to learn more about how a local initiative, through a partnership with state government and great state leadership, can lead to a federal budget initiative read our full issue brief.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Summer 2012 Internships- 5 Positions Available

Purpose of Internships at CSSP
  • To provide interns with work experiences by contributing to one or more of CSSP’s areas of work
  • To expose interns to learning opportunities regarding systems reform, public policy and community change
  • To support interns to apply skills learned from college and graduate school to policy and practice work
Organization Overview

For more than 30 years, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. nonprofit, has been working with state and federal policymakers and communities across the country. Focused on public policy, research and technical assistance, CSSP's mission is to create new ideas and promote public policies that produce equal opportunities and better futures for all children and families, especially those most often left behind.

Using data, extensive community experience and a focus on results, CSSP’s work covers several broad areas, including promoting public policies that strengthen vulnerable families; mobilizing a national network to prevent child abuse and promote optimal development for young children; assisting tough neighborhoods with the tools needed to help parents and their children succeed; educating residents to be effective consumers securing better goods and services; reforming child welfare systems; and promoting, through all its work, an even playing field for children of all races, ethnicities and income levels.

General Information
  • Internships are unpaid, though a stipend may be available based on funding availability.
  • The application period closes March 30, 2012.
  • Internship areas: Public Policy, Neighborhood Investment, Child Welfare (2), Constituents Co-invested in Change
Public Policy Internship
CSSP seeks an intern that is available to work full or part-time on the policy team to help support its work on public policy. The public policy intern will participate as a member of a team charged which helping federal and state elected officials develop policies and funding to achieve better results for children and families; including, a leading national resource for result-based policy and funding strategies. The position offers the opportunity to explore a wide range of policy issues, including child welfare, poverty, health care, higher education, and economic policy. The participant will have the chance to sharpen research and writing skills while working with a dedicated and rigorous staff. He or she will also have an opportunity to learn about the public policy process by attending internal strategy meetings, hearings on Capitol Hill and with partner organizations, as well as exposure to local government. The candidate will also assist with research, writing and content update. Click here for more information on CSSP’s public policy work.

All applicants must:
  • Currently be pursuing a graduate degree in public policy, social policy or a related field, or pursuing an undergraduate degree with experience in public policy development and analysis
  • Have a demonstrated commitment to the mission and values of CSSP
  • Possess strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate orally and in written form
  • Understand public policy at the state and federal level
Additional qualifications: Some content management system experience is preferred.

Specific duties may include:
  • Conducting policy research
  • Assisting in the preparation of reports
  • Website maintenance and updates
  • Social media activities (blog, Facebook, Twitter)
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume and writing sample, no later than March 30, 2012, to:

The Center for the Study of Social Policy
c/o Megan Martin
1575 Eye Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005 with the subject line “Public Policy Intern”

Neighborhood Investment Internship
CSSP seeks an intern to be part of the Neighborhood Investment Team, which provides technical assistance and support to communities working to build the infrastructure and capacity needed to achieve, bring to scale, and sustain better results for all children and families. For more information about CSSP’s Community Change work and Neighborhood Investment work.

Specific duties may include:
  • Tracking fiscal and public policy developments at the federal, state and/or local levels that could impact neighborhood based community change efforts;
  • Conducting research related to improving outcomes for children and families through innovative policy and financing strategies at the neighborhood level; and
  • Assisting in the preparation of reports and other written content, such as fact sheets, white papers and blog content.
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume and writing sample, no later than March 30, 2012, to:

The Center for the Study of Social Policy
c/o Kirstin Noe
1575 Eye Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

Child Welfare Internships (2)
CSSP seeks two (2) interns, one for our New York office and one for our Washington, D.C. office, to help carry out our child welfare work focused on improving outcomes for all children and families at risk of, or already involved with, child protection systems. This work may include assisting state and local child welfare agencies to work more effectively with families and community stakeholders, striving to reduce racial disparities that contribute to poor outcomes for minority children in the care of child welfare agencies, helping states use class-action litigation as a less adversarial tool to bring about positive change in child welfare systems and analyzing and recommending improvements to state and national child welfare policies, practices and accountability systems. For more information about CSSP’s systems reform work.

Specific duties may include:
  • Conducting research on implementation strategies for YouthThrive, a research-based framework for promoting healthy development and well-being for adolescents involved with child welfare systems.
  • Supporting technical assistance approaches for sites participating in the Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care National Learning Network.
  • Participating as a member of a team charged with monitoring child welfare system performance through in-depth analysis of data (quantitative and qualitative), policies and practices, case record reviews, and interviews with agency leaders, workers and stakeholders.
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume and writing sample, no later than March 30, 2012, to:

New York City
The Center for the Study of Social Policy
c/o Myra Soto
50 Broadway, Suite 1504
New York, NY 10004

Washington, D.C.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy
c/o Kristen Weber
1575 Eye Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Constituents Co-invested in Change Internship
CSSP seeks a graduate intern to support the Constituents Co-Invested in Change portfolio of work, which develops strategies to ensure that the perspective of customers, clients, parents, and residents are linked directly to informing and monitor the effectiveness of community change, policy change and system change efforts. Creating opportunities for communities to build their capacity and influence to leverage measureable change is essential to our interest in improving results for children and families in the communities that they live, work and worship. CSSP’s constituency focus is an investment strategy that places a premium on authentic and real time input from end users through its Customer Satisfaction, community decision making and community partnership and neighborhood revitalization work. For more information about CSSP’s Community Change work.
All applicants must:
  • Have a post graduate degree
  • Be willing to work in the Washington, DC.
  • Have strong writing and analytical skills
  • Have an interest in action based research, work with and in local neighborhood communities, and a commitment to the mission and values of CSSP.
Candidates interested in pursuing a career in social policy, community change or community building are encouraged to apply. Qualified applicants should a cover letter, resume and brief writing sample, no later than March 30, 2012, to:

The Center for the Study of Social Policy
c/o Phyllis R Brunson, Associate Director,
1575 Eye Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TANF and "Disconnected" Mothers

After welfare reform in 1996, millions of single mothers left public assistance. Many of those parents were able to secure work and their incomes rose. However a large minority of these mothers, particularly those who were poorest and living alone with their children, did not benefit from increased income and left welfare without a connection to the workforce.

The poverty numbers released last fall y the Census Bureau indicated that of female-headed households 31.6 percent were living below poverty in 2010. Furthermore, for related children in families with a female householder 46.9 percent of children were living in poverty and for related children under age 6 in families with a female householder, 58.2 percent were in poverty. In order for public policy and programming to best support single mothers living in poverty and their families it is important to appreciate the varying dynamics at play for these families and the challenges they face.

The Urban Institute report, Dynamics of Being Disconnected from Work and TANF, states that there are a range of reasons that can lead to the beginning of a disconnected “spell.” However, the most common reason is the loss of a job (and all earnings). The report stated that out of all of the women ages 18-54 in their study who became disconnected, 59.8 percent had lost work and all earnings.

The Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution’s report, Helping Disconnected Single Mothers, presents both background information and policy recommendations. The report outlines some of the challenges that mothers who are disconnected experience, as opposed to those mothers who left welfare for work. Some of those characteristics include:

  • Less education and greater numbers of learning disabilities;
  • Higher levels of past or current substance abuse issues;
  • Higher rates of mental and physical health problems;
  • Younger children with larger families and often caring for someone with health issues; and
  • Current or previous relationships with domestic violence present.

In order to best meet the needs of these families it is important to consider the barriers to work that are present. One suggestion from the Brookings report is the development of a Temporary and Partial Work Waiver Program that would allow states to link families to medical and economic supports while providing more intensive case work to ease the severity and duration of employment barriers. The report also recommends subsidizing program participation to address substance abuse and domestic violence, ensuring mental health services are available for low income families and the expansion of health insurance programs to ensure access to medical care (additional recommendations can be found in the report).

With TANF reauthorization on the horizon it is an important time to consider how we are best meeting the needs of low-income and poor families. In considering policies to address the needs of these families, it is critical to look at the research and consider the challenges being experienced by subgroups that will be impacted by policy and program decisions. For state policymakers the implications of these decisions will have a profound impact on the families in their states.

For more resources to help address the needs of families visit

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

State Priorities in 2012

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently released their annual examination of important topics that will make up state legislative agendas this year. The list, The Top 12 of 2012, is not meant to cover every topic states will tackle during the upcoming legislative session, but is intended to highlight some of the program and policy issues dominating the attention of state policymakers this year. The list issues are not ordered by importance – and they span a range of policy areas. The list includes issues that cover states economic concerns, but also health, environmental, transportation and community safety issues. Each list item is followed by insight on the relevance of the policy issue for states.

This resource is a great way for states to get a sense of their shared priorities and for those partnering with state government to get a sense of the priorities for state policymakers for this year.