Friday, February 26, 2010

Improving Dental Policies for Low-Income Children

In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, Pew Center on the States has released The Cost of Delay: State Dental Policies Fail One in Five Children. Pew graded states’ policy responses to the challenges in dental health among America’s low-income children, scoring all 50 states and the District of Columbia on whether and how well they are employing proven policy solutions—all related to cost-effective prevention, Medicaid improvements, new workforce models, and data collection—to ensure dental health and access to care for children. The report and accompanying state fact sheets detail such policies and states’ efforts, highlighting and recommending low cost solutions with high return on investment for children and taxpayers.

Policies to expand health insurance and policies to help children be healthy and prepared to succeed in school.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Presidents’ Budget Proposal: Asset Building

The President’s FY11 budget proposal includes several components that contribute to family economic success, including provisions that help low and middle-income families increase their retirement savings. Approximately half of American workers do not have an employment sponsored retirement plan. The President’s budget includes an Automatic Workplace Pension Plan requiring businesses who do not currently offer retirement plans to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account. Employees are welcome to opt-out of enrollment but the plan provides expanded opportunity for workers to begin building assets for retirement if they choose. The budget proposal also includes provision to streamline automatic enrolment. Automatic enrollment in 401k retirement plans boosts enrollment significantly, and has been particularly effective in increasing the participation of low-income workers.

In connection to the automatic IRA proposal, the budget also includes provisions to assist small businesses in creating retirement plans for their employees. The White House proposes doubling the Small Employer Pension Plan Startup Credit from $500 a year (for up to three years) to $1000 a year. This provision is meant to help small businesses with the expense of starting and administering a new retirement plan. State policymakers should consider promoting these new asset building efforts as a part of their fiscal recovery and economic development efforts.

For more information on funding proposals that could make changes on the local level see CSSP’s Financing Community Change Blog Post, Financing Community Change through the President’s FY 2011 Budget.

Policies to support Family Economic Success

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tax Credits for Working Families

Every year millions of American families fail to claim the tax benefits for which they are eligible. This year, due to new federal tax laws, there are more eligible families than ever. The National Women’s Law Center ‘s Tax Credit Outreach Campaign, provides a number of resources for both parents and advocates regarding federal and state tax credits that assist working families. NWLC also provides specific state tax information fliers with break-downs of what state credits are available in addition to federal tax credits. The federal credits highlighted by NWLC include:
Policies to support Family Economic Success.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Model State Strategies for Addressing the Needs of Homeless Youth

A new report by the American Bar Association presents model state laws, including supporting evidence and suggested legislative language, to address the various needs of homeless and runaway youth. The products of a recent conference involving policymakers, lawyers, service providers, advocates and formerly homeless youth, the model statutes address legal issues and definitions, access to services and supports, discrimination, and administrative procedures. The report provides targeted strategies, reinforced by persuasive evidence and specific language, to help vulnerable youth.

Policies for preparing youth to succeed in life. Also, visit our homepage to sign up for email updates about upcoming content on child abuse and neglect, births to teens development, high school completion, and teen substance abuse.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Transforming Community Colleges to Improve Their Services and Image

A new publication from the Center for American Progress calls for community colleges to re-imagine several aspects of their institutions and develop “a more nuanced understanding of the needs and potential of [their] diverse student body.” By re-envisioning their curricula, structural and procedural norms, and political roles, community colleges can improve their service to students and bolster the legitimacy of their institutions. The authors provide several recommendations for transforming community colleges and specific policies to facilitate that change, including:
  • New approaches to training and credentialing
  • Funding for colleges and financial support for students
  • Policies to promote developmental education
  • Higher transfer rates to four-colleges
  • More modern infrastructure and technology
  • Better data collection
  • Common standards for assessing student learning and institutional effectiveness
Hat tip to Connect for Kids.

Policies to create seamless education pathways. Also, visit our homepage to sign up for email updates about new content on college enrollment and completion!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Fiscally Sustainable Budget

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order to create a bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This commission, co-chaired by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson will consist of members appointed by the leaders from both political parties in both houses of Congress and the President. The commission’s goal is to balance the budget by 2015 (excluding interest on the debt) and to create a more sustainable fiscal plan for the future.

In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee last week, Alice M. Rivlin of the Brookings Institution explained why the U.S. budget is unsustainable, and why the budget process is in need of a significant move toward bi-partisan cooperation. Rivlin, who was the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, made suggestions regarding stabilizing the debt increase (by setting a long-term debt to GDP ratio) as well as prerequisites for creating a credible plan to stabilize the debt.

As state governments continue to struggle with budget gaps, keeping a close watch on the federal budget, and the newly established National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, will be important tools in anticipating shifts in federal budget and tax policy. Creating bi-partisan commissions to consider spending might also be a strategy for state’s looking to make significant changes in their budget and budget –making process.

For more information on setting a long-term debt to GDP ratio.

For more information on state fiscal concerns and budgets.

For federal budget basics.

For policies on family economic success.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elected Officials Offer Insight on TANF

The countries primary welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is expiring in October of this year. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, has asked current and former elected officials to provide their thoughts on TANF’s successes and failures in reducing poverty and providing opportunity for Americans. Exclusive commentary: current and former elected officials discuss TANF, currently features Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, and former Wisconsin Governor Scott McCallum. The featured elected officials answer a question a week for three weeks regarding TANF’s strengths and weaknesses, followed by another group of elected officials.

Policies to Support Family Economic Success

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Economic Well-Being: Tools to Map the State of the Economy

The impact of the recession on individuals, families and communities is reflected across a broad range of economic indicators including unemployment rates, foreclosures, bankruptcy and child poverty. While the recession has affected the entire nation each community, state and local government faces unique challenges. For example, in the case of unemployment, although the national unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 9.7%, the rate in Imperial County, CA is significantly higher (27.7%) while Cache County, UT has a much lower rate (4.4%). According to the New York Times, job-loss has affected men more than women nationwide. Also, while states have unemployment insurance funds - some states’ trust funds are depleted while other states have solvent funds. Understanding the ways that the recession is uniquely affecting state and local governments, communities and individuals can lead to more responsive policy solutions and community initiatives. There are several resources available online to map various indicators of the recession’s impact in states, counties and cities.

Create maps, graphs and ranking reports on economic well being (and a host of other issues) using the new Data Center at Kids Count.

Map unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy by state and county using the Associated Press's Economic Stress Index .

Review unemployment rates by state and county on The New York Times’ Geography of a Recession Tool .

Map delinquency rates for mortgages and loans using the Federal Reserve’s U.S. Credit Conditions Tool.

Map the impact of foreclosures in your community with the HotPads’ Forclosure Tool.

Map state unemployment insurance with ProPublica’s Unemployment Insurance Tracker.

Policies to Support Family Economic Success

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Importance of Evidence-Based Juvenile Justice Policy

The Vera Institute of Justice, through their Vera Voices Series, conducted interviews with Steve Aos, associate director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The presentation, Informing Justice Policy Through Cost-Benefit Analysis, is a six part series that addresses ways of using evidenced-based public policy to reduce incarceration, crime and criminal justice costs. The series includes information on using evidence to determine program and policy success (i.e. what works and what doesn’t) as well as the importance of considering the costs and benefits to the community before policy is implemented.

For a framework to connect policy to results.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Governors’ Budgets: Federal Aid Needed to Prevent Job Loss

States are facing an estimated $180 billion budget gap for FY 2011 (which begins July 1st, 2010 in most states). A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Governors’ New Budgets Indicate Loss of Many Jobs if Federal Aid Expires, outlines the significant cuts proposed in governors’ FY 2011 budgets. The cuts will predominately affect education, health care, and programs that serve low-income families and the elderly. According to the report, reducing funding in these areas would lead to a further weakened economy, including significant job-loss. The report outlines the impact of the funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in preventing job-loss and increasing demand. The report emphasizes the need for Congress to provide additional fiscal relief to states facing record revenue declines.

Policies to Expand Economic Opportunity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Increasing Access to Public Benefits: Important for Families and States

A new issue brief, Improving Access to Public Benefits: Helping Eligible Individuals and Families Get the Income Supports They Need, prepared by The Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, addresses untapped resources that, if utilized, would provide support to low-income families. The brief highlights research suggesting that $65 billion in government services and supports remain unclaimed – a problem effecting eligible families, as well as local communities and state governments. The brief details the problem, gives examples of innovative outreach efforts, and provides information on replicating successful benefit access models.

Policies to Support Family Economic Success

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Funding Child Welfare: A New Resource from CLASP

The Center for Law and Social Policy recently released, State Fact Sheets on Child Welfare Funding, 2010. The fact sheets include information on child welfare expenditures and funding sources by state, but also include contextual information about child welfare including the percentage of children living in poverty, types of abuse and neglect, the number of children in foster care, and the average length of stay in care for all 50 states.

Policies for Building Strong and Stable Families

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Who’s Covered and How?: Health Insurance Coverage for Kids

A recent brief from the Carsey Institute brief examines the health insurance coverage of children under age 18. Using data from the 2008 American Community Survey, the authors found that rural and urban children have lower rates of coverage and, of children with health insurance, nearly two-thirds are covered by public health insurance plans. With major health care reforms under consideration, it is crucial to understand and support the health care needs of young children.

Policies to expand health insurance coverage for children.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Parental Incarceration and Child Development: Unique Needs and Specialized Supports

Two new publications from The Bendheim Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing (CRCW) at Princeton University, examine the effects of parents’ incarceration on their children, a relationship that suggests the need for holistic, multi-system supports for families affected by incarceration Parental Incarceration and Child Well-Being: Implications for Urban Families finds that children of incarcerated parents face unique hardships, including more economic and residential instability than their peers, and that sons of incarcerated fathers demonstrate more behavioral problems. Beyond Absenteeism: Father Incarceration and its Effects on Children’s Development presents further consequences for children’s development. The authors find evidence that children of incarcerated fathers are significantly more likely than peers to externalize problems at age five, among other effects. Both publications point to the need for specialized supports for children of incarcerated parents and the potential for effective interventions at the point of incarceration.

Policies to help build strong and stable families and encourage family economic success. Visit our homepage to sign up for email updates about our new content on prisoner re-entry—coming soon!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Federal Child Nutrition Programs and Rural Households: Ensuring Children in Need are Served

Soon, Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the Child Nutrition and Women, Infants, and Children Reauthorization Act of 2004, the funding legislation for federal food assistance programs for children. A new issue brief from the Carsey Institute argues for the necessity of these programs to children in rural households in particular, identifying barriers to participation and effect program delivery to these households. The authors’ key findings include:

  • Of the estimated 6.2 million rural households with children in the United States, approximately 29 percent participate in at least one of the four major federal child nutrition programs.
  • Although about 2.8 million rural households with children are income-eligible for the child nutrition programs, roughly 43 percent of those eligible do not participate in any of the four programs.
  • Rural household participation rates in the South are higher than the rates nationally for all four programs.

Policies to expand food assistance.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fostering Connections: New Resources and Training Opportunities

There are several new resources available to help support the implementation of the Fostering Connection Act in the States. (Hat tip: Children’s Defense Fund)

  • February 8 Webinar. The Fostering Connections Resource Center will be hosting a series of webinars to support implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. On Monday February 8th State leaders from Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee will share how their states are designing foster care services for 18 to 21 year olds. To reserve a seat for this webinar.
  • February 10 Teleconference: The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections will be holding a monthly teleconference series to provide a forum for sharing information and experiences in implementing improved child welfare practices and to learn about national trends and research findings. To register.
  • Sample Legislation to Implement the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Option.The Children’s Defense Fund in collaboration with others has developed this sample legislation that outlines the components that are required by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. Policymakers and administrators can use this tool in order to access the federally supported kinship guardianship program.
  • Guidance from the Children’s Bureau in the Administration on Children and Families: Implementing the Fostering Connections Act. A reference guide to locate Children’s Bureau policy, guidance and other implementation activities.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reframing Youth Violence as a Preventable Public Health Issue

Moving From Them to Us: Challenges in Reframing Violence Against Youth, commissioned by the Prevention Institute on behalf of Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY), describes the media’s framing of youth, race, and crime and the related challenges of violence prevention. The authors discuss portrayals of youth and violence and how they are affected by framing of race and government. Ultimately, they proffer ideas for shifting public understanding of youth violence from a purely criminal justice issue to one of public health and prevention.

Hat tip to the
Reclaiming Futures blog!

Policies for preparing youth to succeed in life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Would Longer Schools Days or Years Mean Greater Student Achievement?

The National Center on Time and Learning’s report, Tracking An Emerging Movement: A Report on Extended-Time Schools in America, analyses a database of more than 650 schools that utilize an extended school day or school year. (This database is searchable on NCTL’s website.) Trends, in areas like student outcomes and time use, across these schools point to extended-time schools as a potential strategy for increasing student achievement.

Policies to improve K-3 academic success.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pres. Obama's 2011 Budget, Online Analyses Available

The President’s budget is being released today and will detail the spending freeze presented during the State of the Union. The freeze will be accomplished through program cuts and eliminations from non-exempt areas of the budget; exempt areas include national security (Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans) along with entitlements (Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps). The details of the 2011 budget will be discussed during several upcoming presentations:

  • Foster care and child welfare: Department of Health and Human Services will hold a briefing on its part of the budget on Monday, February 1 at 1pm EST. It can be watched live online. The HHS budget summary can be accessed after 12:30 on February 1.
  • Early childhood programs: CLASP and the National Women's Law will examine the impact on early childhood programs during a free audio conference on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, at 3:00 p.m. Register today!
  • Children and families: The Coalition on Human Needs will hold a briefing on the President’s Budget on Friday, February 5, from 3:00 to 4:30 EST at AFSCME, 1625 L Street, NW. You can register for the webcast of the briefing. This is a great opportunity to get an overall picture of the budget and its implications for the future of children, families and other adults. (Hat tip: Children’s Defense Fund)

For tips and strategies to maximize federal funding, particularly during tight budget times.