Friday, October 30, 2009

Helping State Policymakers Understand and Utilize Research

The Council of State Governments has produced the State Policy Guide: Using Research in Public Health Policymaking for state legislators and their staffs. By providing key public health research terminology, qualifiying "strong research,” and advising how to use research in drafting legislation, the guide outlines the benefits of utilizing research results to make policy in public health and human services.
More information on research-informed policymaking.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Webcast: Who Moves, Who Stays,The Resilience of Low-Income Communities

A forthcoming examination of evidence from the Making Connections initiative, a decade-long effort sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to improve neighborhoods in 10 cities, will be the starting point for a debate about the intersection of poverty, neighborhood quality, and economic advancement. A webcast by the Urban Institute is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2009, at Noon–1:30 p.m. ET To Register

Panelists will discuss whether low-income families move because of financial and other problems or to find better homes or communities; whether mobility supports or undermines neighborhood stability; how federal neighborhood revitalization initiatives should respond to high rates of family mobility; and what role cities and nonprofits should play in serving families that move and those that stay.

Panelists: Raphael Bostic, assistant secretary for policy development and research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Claudia Coulton, professor of urban social research and codirector, Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change, Case Western Reserve University; Brett Theodos, research associate, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, Urban Institute; Bill Traynor, executive director, Lawrence (Mass.) Community Works; and Margery Austin Turner, vice president for research, Urban Institute (moderator)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Federal Agencies and a Foundation Come Together to Expand a Successful Juvenile Services Model

New federal funding has been awarded to expand the Reclaiming Futures model into three more juvenile drug courts across the country over the next four years. Funding is being provided by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is awarding a grant for the treatment; OJJDP is awarding funding for the operation of the court; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is providing approximately $1 million in technical assistance to implement the Reclaiming Futures’ model. The goal of the Juvenile Drug Court Reclaiming Futures Program is to serve substance-abusing juvenile offenders by developing and establishing juvenile drug courts with the Reclaiming Futures model, and including best practices for adolescent treatment to reduce substance abuse among participating youth.

RWJF launched Reclaiming Futures in 2002 to address these urgent needs by reinventing how juvenile courts work. The initiative brings together judges, probation officers, treatment providers, families and community members to improve drug and alcohol treatment for young people in trouble with the law.

Researchers at Columbia University, for example, found that four out of five teens in the juvenile justice system are under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing their crimes. And in spite of research that shows treatment helps reduce recidivism, most juvenile courts aren’t set up to detect and treat substance abuse or to provide mental health and other important services. “Most juveniles admitted to treatment are referred from the criminal justice system,” said Eric Broderick, acting administrator for SAMHSA. “These grants will use practices proven to help young people get off drugs and back on track toward building fulfilling lives.” (Excerpted from the press release) For policies to reduce juvenile detention.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The High Costs of High School Drop Outs

For many years criminal justice studies have repeated the grim statistics about the incarceration of African American men. But now an excellent new report by the Center for Labor Market Studies looks at this crisis from a different perspective. The "Consequences of Dropping Out of High School - Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers" starts with a jaw dropping number- the 22% daily jailing rate for young black men who drop out of high school- and then proceeds to detail stark facts about the labor force participation by high school drop outs. Another dose of harsh reality- young female drop outs were six times as likely to have given birth as their peers who were college students or four year college graduates, and in 2007 8% of all girls aged 16-24 were unmarried mothers. One more statistic to bring the point home- young high school drop outs, male and female, were 63% more likely to end up in a jail, prison or juvenile detention facility than their peers with a college degree.

Why should policymakers care? In addition to the societal costs in this generation and the next as these high school drop outs raise their children in poverty, the fiscal costs are staggering: " The average high school dropout will cost taxpayers over $292,000 in lower tax revenues, higher cash and in-kind transfer costs, and imposed incarceration costs relative to an average high school graduate."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Announcing a Senior Policy Position

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) announces a new Senior Policy position. CSSP developed as part of its efforts to influence policies and practices that emphasize accountability for results. Our mission is to develop public policies and practices that strengthen families and communities to produce equal opportunities and a better future for all children. CSSP seeks a candidate with extensive policy experience and education, and shares our commitment to improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families. To view the details of this announcement.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Report Shows Families Less Likely to Notice Mental Health Needs in Young Children with Special Needs

A new issue brief shows that families are less likely to notice mental health needs in younger children with special needs and more likely to overemphasize the mental health needs of older youth with special needs. Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) comprise 13.9 percent of all children in the United States. Nearly 22 percent of households with children include at least one child with a special health care need. Low income and minority CSHCN have higher rates of mental health problems yet are less likely than their counterparts to receive mental health services.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tax Credits for Working Families, Information About Impacts and Tools

The Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit (CTC), Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), and the dependent exemption all provide important benefits; a single parent with two children can receive up to $7,500 — depending a variety of factors. Too few families take advantage due to confusing eligiblity rules. A fact sheet by the Urban Institute outlines the value of the tax credits, and a new tool by the Children's Defense Fund helps families identify which benefits they should pursue. The Bridge to Benefits is a multi-state project to improve the well-being of families and individuals by linking them to public work support programs and tax credits. To date only four states have participated in the project, leaving families across the country without access to a useful tool. EITC, and other tax credits, are considered one of the most successful policies for lifting children out of poverty. For state policies to expand tax relief for working families.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Data Comparison Tool from CLASP

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) has released a new research tool, the CLASP DataFinder, that allows users to create and download tables comparing select administrative and demographic data on programs affecting children and families at the national, state, and community levels. Users can currently find several years of data on child care assistance spending and participation, Head Start and Early Head Start participation, TANF expenditures, young child demographics, and poverty; community-level data are also available for education, demographics, and youth violence. A useful tool for advocates and policymakers looking to examine and synthesize data!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A State Policymaker's Guide to Stimulating the Economy through a Two-Generation Approach

New guide from CSSP: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Families and Young Children, A State Policymaker’s Guide to Stimulating the Economy through a Two-Generation Approach. This guide offers ideas and strategies for state governments to maximize... the impact of ARRA for low-skilled parents and to ensure the healthy development of their children. It provides an analysis of the ARRA funding allocations that will create entry-level jobs and ensure access to quality early care and education. For state policies and guidance on using the stimulus funding.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Child Maltreatment Prevention Strategies

Recently released, the Fall 2009 issue of The Future of Children, a collaboration between The Brookings Institution and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, focuses on policies and practices for the prevention of child maltreatment. Its articles address prevention measures such as:

· Using risk factors to create accurate risk assessments;
· Investing in proven community-wide interventions;
· Integrating home-visiting programs into prevention efforts;
· Rethinking the approach to families with drug or alcohol abuse; and
· Expanding programs to prevent sexual abuse.

Policies for building strong and stable families. Enter your email at to receive updates about our forthcoming child abuse and neglect prevention policies and strategies!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Collaborative Pre-K Programming

Pre-K Now’sBeyond the School Yard: Pre-K Collaborations with Community-Based Partners” describes promising practices and challenges in the collaborations between K-12 leaders and community-based providers to provide high-quality pre-k programs. With significant research showing the positive effects of high-quality pre-k on children and their future learning opportunities, as well as expertise and resource constraints, K-12 officials are exploring collaborations with community-based programs like child care centers, Head Start, and faith-based organizations. Pre-K Now’s report provides concrete steps to develop effective collaborations and offers policy recommendations to facilitate their development.
For education leaders with a traditional K-12 perspective, collaboration often presents both new opportunities and new difficulties, from establishing relationships with early care providers to developing a shared definition of “school readiness.” While implementing a pre-k program in partnership with community-based organizations may require more time and effort, this strategy ultimately benefits all stakeholders: public schools, private providers, families and children.
Policies to improve early grade-level reading, as well as strategies for investment in quality prekindergarten.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Municipal Leaders Can Support Foster Youth Transitions to Adulthood

The National League of Cities’ July 2008 Municipal Action Guide, Supporting Foster Youth Transitions into Adulthood, provides a concise overview of the policies and practices related to supporting foster youth aging out of the system. NLC suggests action steps and resources for city government leaders, who do not traditionally play a role in foster care system administration but have tremendous potential to support the transition of foster youth into their communities.
Young people who have transitioned out of foster care are concentrated in cities and constitute sizable segments of the at-risk youth populations that cities seek to reach through a wide range of education, employment and training, homelessness, health and crime prevention initiatives. When city leaders thoughtfully anticipate the needs of transitioning foster youth and work collaboratively to address service gaps, they reap the benefits of a more stable, educated and productive workforce, safer streets and neighborhoods and decreased demand for emergency and other public services.
Policies for supporting children in and transitioning out of foster care, as well as policies for preparing youth to succeed in life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Georgia Works” for the Unemployed

A recent article discussed Georgia’s “brilliant little program” to combat unemployment and provide job training for its jobless citizens. Begun in 2003, Georgia Works allows people receiving unemployment benefits to work up to 24 hours per week for 8 weeks at certified businesses, gaining on-the-job training and potentially employment; unemployment benefits serve as pay, while the state provides workers with a small stipend to cover transportation or child care, for example. Though not without critics, the program has been acclaimed as a creative, low-cost strategy for expanding employment opportunities and job training during tough economic times.

Policies to expand economic opportunity and improve job training.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

State Stimulus Reports Are In, But We Need to Know More

October 10th was the deadline for states to submit their first stimulus funding reports. While the information will not be available to the public until October 30th on, it is a good time to look at the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and whether it is possible to evaluate progress. The goals were: (1) To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery. (2) To assist those most impacted by the recession. (3) To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health. (4) To invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. (5) To stabilize State and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.

There is significant anecdotal evidence that jobs may have been preserved, investments were made in science, health and infrastructure, and that state budgets were helped. But has the stimulus "assisted those most impacted by the recession"?

A new report from the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) puts into sharp relief the impact of the recession on communities and people of color. Examining data from the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CSI looks at unemployment, wages, rates of insurance coverage and poverty. In each area people of color are falling farther behind, as shown by the unemployment numbers:
  • Unemployment for Black men ages 20-29 has skyrocketed by 14.1% to a devastating 26.5%.

  • For young, Latino men unemployment has increased by 8.8% to 14.2%.

  • Unemployment among young black women has increased by 8.6% to 20.4%.

  • Today, 14.6% of Latina women in that age category are unemployed – an increase of 7.2%
    since the start of the recession.

The report concludes with a clear and specific finding- that stimulus funding and reporting must address communities of color in order to achieve the goals of economic recovery. In the days leading up to October 30th, or when the reports are made public, we may learn more about whether the goal of assisting those most in need is being addressed in a meaningful way. For now, the data suggests state policymakers may need to focus more of their efforts in this area. Watch this space for updates to the guidance for state policymakers on using the stimulus funding.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Evaluating TANF

A policy brief by Elizabeth Lower-Basch at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) outlines the weaknesses of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant and its implementation. She argues
All states have continued to use a portion of [TANF] funds to provide cash assistance to some very low-income families; however, the number of such families has fallen dramatically, to about one-third of their 1994 peak. Less than half of families who are eligible for cash assistance receive it. Many of the TANF requirements, including the work participation rate, the time limit on federal assistance, and most data reporting, are limited to families receiving cash assistance and do not apply to families receiving other benefits or services funded from the TANF block grant.
Policies for enhancing TANF, as well as more policies for expanding economic opportunity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Food Insecurity in the Recession

Food Insecurity Rates Rise Steeply with the Recession, a policy brief released by Children’s HealthWatch, summarizes 2007-2008 data on food insecurity in a sample of 15,110 low-income American families with very young children. The organization found that overall rates of food insecure families increased 18.5 percent between 2007 and 2008, an increase greater than any year-to-year change in the data since 2001. The data suggest the need for policy action:
As pediatric researchers, we urge policymakers to use the upcoming reauthorization of child nutrition programs to strengthen and expand these crucial interventions. The programs scheduled for reauthorization address nutrition needs in pregnant mothers and children of all ages. These programs include WIC and child care feeding, which support our youngest children, as well as school breakfast and lunch, summer feeding and afterschool suppers which support children in elementary through high school. Scientific evidence has shown that these programs are vitally important even in good economic times. In a recession that has been called the worst since the Great Depression, they are a lifeline for millions of families with children. Children cannot wait until the recession ends.
Policies to enhance food assistance.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Do Rural Moms Have Access to Family Friendly Policies?

The Carsey Institute has taken a look at Family-friendly Policies for Rural Working Mothers. This brief presents an analysis of differences in access to family-friendly policies between rural and urban mothers.
Rural Americans are disadvantaged in income, education, and employment. They are also less likely to have access to family-friendly policies. Compared to urban mothers, rural mothers are less likely to have access to paid sick days, health insurance, dental insurance, parental leave, flextime, and job training. Single mothers in rural America fare the worst, primarily because they have less education, they work for smaller firms, and they work in occupations and industries that are less likely to offer family-friendly benefits.
For policies to improve family economic success and reduce child poverty.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Partnerships for Effective Systems of Care for Children and Families

The Research and Training Center (RTC) for Children’s Mental Health at the University of South Florida recently released Examining the Relationship between Family-Run Organizations and Non-Family Organization Partners in Systems of Care. Part of RTC’s ongoing systems of care studies, this report explores six family-run organizations, their relationships with their non-family organization partners, and the strategies they use to develop family voice and implement family-driven services.
The relationship between family-run organizations and non-family-run organizations in systems of care is complex in nature, and the strongest relationships appear to be those that are multi-textured. For example, in systems of care with strong family voice, the non-family-run entities consult with the family-run organization as a partner; support the family-run organization, not only with money, but with training and advocacy to carry out their responsibilities; use the family-run organization to trouble-shoot when
they run into problems; are open to learning from them and vice-a-versa–operating as a learning community; and, pay attention to how much the family-run organization can handle in its development.

Monday, October 5, 2009

What Every Policymaker Should Know about Early Childhood

A new report the "Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood, What Every Policymaker Should Know" by the National Center for Children in Poverty is filled with important data, facts and research highlights about young children.
The early years of a child’s life present a unique opportunity to foster healthy development, and research has underscored the importance of the first five years of life – both positive and negative experiences – in shaping children’s cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional development. This brief outlines the risks faced by young children with social, emotional, and behavioral problems, as well as barriers to eligibility, access to services, and service utilization. The authors conclude by recommending policy improvements needed by young children and their families.
For state policies to increase quality early care and education.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Child Welfare, Early Care and Education, and School Readiness

The Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service recently released Children at Risk in the Child Welfare System: Collaborations to Promote School Readiness. This report examines the degree to which the developmental needs of young children involved in the child welfare system are being addressed through partnerships across the systems and agencies which serve them. They analyzed data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Wellbeing (NSCAW) as well as a case study in Colorado involving interviews with key stakeholders and statewide surveys of caseworkers and foster parents. The report examines the prevalence of developmental problems among this population of young children, and the degree to which these problems are being identified and children referred for early intervention services. In addition to outlining the major findings from those sources, they also discuss the implications for program and policy. For state policies to ensure children are healthy and prepared to succeed in school. (Hat tip to Connect for Kids)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Young Adults in Rural Communities, A Longer Road

"The New, Longer Road to Adulthood: Schooling, Work, and Idleness among Rural Youth", a new report by the Carsey Institute, focuses on the education and work experiences of rural youth during the emerging adult years (age 20 to 24) as they make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. It documents how rural emerging adults combine work and school and experience idleness, closely examines their educational attainment, and compares their experiences with those in central city and suburban areas. They draw from current research and conduct analysis on nationally representative data sets that contain information on the transition to adulthood. (Hat tip to Connect for Kids)