Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enhancing Home Visitation Policy and Practice with Domestic Violence Prevention Efforts

Following substantial funding for home visitation programs in recent federal health care reform, a new brief by the Family Violence Prevention Fund encourages policymakers to embrace the opportunity to address the needs of mothers and children experiencing or at risk of experiencing domestic violence through more effective home visiting programs.

Home visitation programs have demonstrated success in improving child and family outcomes but do not realized their full potential without addressing domestic violence, which is often co-occurring with child maltreatment in a home and, according to the brief, is “the single most common precursor to child deaths” in the country. With domestic violence training for home visitors and appropriate program infrastructure, home visiting programs may more effectively reduce child maltreatment, improve maternal health and child outcomes, and improve school readiness, as well as reduce intergenerational cycles of violence.

The brief provides evidence of the effectiveness of home visiting programs and the effect of domestic violence on child and maternal well-being, promising programs, and practice recommendations.

For policies to support building strong and stable families. Visit our to sign up for email updates on strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect—coming soon!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Defining Poverty: Developing a Supplemental Poverty Measure

The way that poverty is defined and measured has a significant impact on families living at or near the “poverty line.” According to the current population survey, in 2008, 13.2 % of Americans were living in poverty. Unfortunately, in the current economic climate this number has likely only increased.

The poverty thresholds estimate the rate of poverty in the United States by determining the number of households whose annual income is below the set threshold for the household’s size. The original U.S. poverty measure was developed by Molly Orshansky at the Social Security Administration in 1964. The Orshansky Measure, which has changed only to adjust for inflation, is inadequate in measuring both family income and need. When developed, the poverty thresholds were presented as a measure of income inadequacy, Orshansky stated that "if it is not possible to state unequivocally 'how much is enough,' it should be possible to assert with confidence how much, on an average, is too little." Unfortunately, these underestimates are used as the official poverty measure – and while program benefit eligibility is not tied directly to the poverty thresholds – the measure determines the Department of Health and Human Services’ poverty guidelines, which have serious consequences for low-income families.

To address this matter, the U.S. Census Bureau is planning to develop a supplemental poverty measure. The new supplemental measure is going to be released with the Census Bureau’s annual poverty report in 2011. The supplemental measure will address several factors that the current measure does not take into consideration. The new measure will consider not only income but also cash assistance and the cash value of benefits from government programs (including food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit and housing asistance). The new measure will also take into account the basic cost of housing, food, transportation, child care and health care. State policymakers should follow this process closely because it will have an impact on the funding available to provide families with the assistance they need.

For a summary on the new measure read: Census to Redefine Poverty from the Brookings Institution.

For the history of the definition and measure of poverty in the U.S.

For a primer on poverty thresholds and the poverty measure.

For policies to support Family Economic Success.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New State Child Welfare Policy Database

Child Trends, with support from Casey Family Programs, recently launched a new clearinghouse for state child welfare policy. The Child Welfare Policy Database catalogues information about laws, procedures, and agency guidance for every state and the District of Columbia. You can review information by topic or by state for a variety of policies including kinship laws, child welfare expenditures, and policies related to older foster youth. will be using and linking to this great resource as we help elected officials (as well as administrators, advocates, practitioners, and researchers) remain current on the most effective policies that protect the nation's most vulnerable children.

For policies to support Building Strong and Stable Families.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Washington State Partners to Improve Child Welfare

Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services, Children’s Administration recently implemented a new system-wide practice model called Solution-Based Casework (SBC). In making this system change – the state requested an independent, ongoing implementation study and impact evaluation from Partners for Our Children. The study and evaluation seek to determine the degree to which implementing SBC is successful in improving child and family outcomes in Washington State. The partnership includes parents, state leadership, child welfare administrators and staff, The University of Washington School of Social Work, and the private sector. The partnership is working together in order to improve the lives of children in foster care based on research, testing and evaluation.

The role of partnership is a critical one in successfully implementing and thoroughly evaluating wide-scale change. For state policymakers seeking to partner across agencies (with members of the community, academics, and practitioners) Washington State’s evidence-based approach might serve as a valuable resource.

For related news coverage regarding Washington States initial findings.

To read the Interim Report: Evaluation of Washington’s Solution Based Casework practice model: Baseline parent survey analysis by state, region, and service context.

For a Framework on Connecting Policy to Results.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Job Opening for Senior-level Communications Director

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is seeking a senior-level communications director with 8 to 10 years of broad experience in communications planning, strategic marketing, and media relations as well as outstanding writing and communications skills. CSSP seeks a professional who can implement a comprehensive communications plan, ensure consistent branding across all aspects of CSSP’s work, develop dissemination and outreach strategies for CSSP’s work, manage the development and delivery of all print materials and maintain media relationships. Knowledge of reaching key federal, state and local policymaker audiences desired. Competitive salary and benefits. For more information.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Women and the Changing Workforce

The Center for American Progress, just issued a new report, How Working Women Are Reshaping America’s Families and Economy and What It Means for Policymakers. The report addresses the impact of an increasingly female workforce and states that women are now half of all workers on U.S payrolls, that two-thirds of mothers are bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings, and 4 in 10 mothers are either the sole breadwinner or are bringing home as much or more than their spouse The report also points out that while workforce participation and family income have increased for all women, it is particularly noteworthy among women with low-incomes who are now primary breadwinners in two-thirds of their families.

The report states that while the workforce has changed dramatically, that government, business, education and other social institutions need to make changes to support this new reality. The report suggests a policy agenda that includes; updating labor standards to account for employees’ family responsibilities, improving basic fairness in the workplace, providing support to families with childcare and eldercare needs, and improving our knowledge on work – life policies by collecting data and analyzing the effectiveness of state and local policies.

For the executive summary of this report.

For policies on expanding work support benefits.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization

Cross-posted from the Strengthening Families Blog on 3/15/2010

This week President Obama sent his “blueprint” for the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to Congress for consideration. The blueprint outlines principles that the White House hopes Congress will incorporate into the Act’s reauthorization to overhaul some of the less popular provisions in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), improve struggling schools, and ensure that students graduate from high school “college and career-ready.”

While ESEA and Obama’s blueprint focus primarily on K-12 learning, the goals of the act and proposed reforms rely heavily on children starting school ready to learn. Children are far more likely to be “college and career-ready” when they graduate if they participate in quality early care and education that both promotes their growth and development and connects their families to the support they need (see the Chicago Parent Child Centers research and “Early Childhood Education Quality and Child Outcomes”, Child Trends).

Although ESEA is not likely to impact early childhood education significantly, the administration has expressed a commitment to increasing access and improving quality in early care and education as well as supporting families. At a weekend forum in Cedar Rapids, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan highlighted the importance of early childhood in connection with the blueprint.

Visit CSSP's project on Strengthening Families for more information on the importance of early care and education.

For policies Ensuring Children are Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mapping the Reccession: A Graphic Transformation of the U.S. Economy

Labor writer Latoya Egwuekwe has compiled U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data from January 2007 to February 2010, animating it to show the change in unemployment over the course of the recession. The graphic is a powerful representation of the deterioration of the U.S. economy and the hardships facing families across the country.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A New Issue Brief: The NIS 4 and Child Welfare in Context

Chapin Hall recently released an issue brief, Child Abuse Prevention: A Job Half Done. The brief addresses the recently released Fourth National Incidence Study on Child Maltreatment (NIS 4) which found significant reductions in the rate of sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse toward children, but no significant changes in the rates of child neglect. The brief also states that the important drop in violence toward children suggests that comprehensive intervention strategies, high-quality clinical interventions, and holding people who harm children accountable – have helped to keep children safe. While the drop in violence toward children is good news, the lack of a reduction in rates of neglect (the most common cause of child maltreatment) suggests there is still a great deal of work to be done.

The brief advocates for those in prevention, practice and policy to look at the results of the NIS 4 in its historical context – because while there has been a reduction in maltreatment since the previously released NIS 3 (1993) the rate of child maltreatment in this recent iteration is still significantly higher than the rates found in the first two NIS reports (1980, 1986).

Maintaining and enhancing the gains that were found in the NIS 4, and addressing the rate of child neglect, will be difficult with state budget gaps and economic crises. The brief addresses the importance of continuing efforts to expand intensive home-based interventions, as a part of strategies to promote child well-being, and lists several other important strategies for policymakers and practitioners to consider when addressing the best ways to protect children.

Edited to add: The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform has issued an examination  of the NIS 4 that highlights questions about the methodology, definitions and conclusions. While noting encouraging trends, the report recommends greater investments in prevention and family preservation.

Policies for Building Strong and Stable Families

Friday, March 12, 2010

Supporting Parents with Children in the Child Welfare System

The National Center for Children in Poverty recently released the report Supporting Parents of Young Children in the Child Welfare System. The report was based on information from an emerging issue roundtable conducted in 2007 that brought together policymakers, philanthropists, researchers, leaders in child welfare, and practitioners. The report explores research, proposes criteria for effective programs, and discusses strategies that can be used at the local, state and national levels to improve mandated parent training for families with children in the child welfare system. The report suggests that, at minimum, states, courts and communities need to choose interventions based on their value from the perspective of cost, relative to the desired results and relative to competing alternatives. It goes on to provide seven recommendations on how to improve parenting education with a focus on results.

For more information on a Framework for Policy Success.

For policies to support Building Strong and Stable Families.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Look at Federally Funded Education Programs

The federal government accounts for approximately 9 percent of the country’s total investment in K-12 education (state and local sources provide the rest). The, 151 different programs that this 166.9 billion dollars funded (over FY 2006, 2007, 2008) - included a variety of goals and were administered throughout the country in different ways. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released their Overview of K-12 and Early Childhood Education Programs. This report to Congressional requestors, covers fiscal years 2006-2008, and addresses the federal expenditure on K-12 education, the characteristics of federally funded programs, and to what extent these programs complete evaluations. This report is a great tool for getting an overview of the programs funded by the federal government in the recent past, and to what degree those programs sought to determine their effectiveness.

Policies for ensuring Children are Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School

For a Framework on Policy Success

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Comprehensive Health Reform

Health care reform continues to be a controversial issue both for policy makers and constituents. With any large-scale change – people wonder whether the outcomes for their families will be better or worse than under the current system. To help appreciate these issues, the Urban Institute created, The Biggest Losers, Health Edition: Who Would Be Hurt the Most by a Failure to Enact Comprehensive Reforms?. The document addresses the groups, consistent of over 259 million Americans, that would be most affected if comprehensive health care reform is not passed: including 13.1 million self-employed people, 47.8 million people employed in firms of fewer than 100 workers, and 74.3 million people with income levels between 200-400 percent of the poverty level (according to 2008 data). The report is a good resource when considering the way that health care reform will serve families if it is passed, and what the future of health care would look like without reform.

For policies to ensure Children are Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Safety Net that Works through Tough Economic Times

The way that programs serve families in times of increased need is a critical consideration when evaluating the effectiveness of the U.S. means-tested safety net. During the current economic downturn – two U.S. programs have responded very differently, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Creating a Safety Net that Works When the Economy Doesn’t: The Role of the Food Stamp and TANF Programs. According to the report, because food stamps are a federal entitlement program, they have been better equipped to respond to increased need. TANF, in the wake of a tough state budget climate, has responded unevenly to the fiscal crises serving far fewer families than food stamps. While the report cites several reasons for these differences – it creates a compelling argument for why measures of caseload reduction might create incentives for serving the fewest number of families – as opposed to a performance measure that would allow for states to serve their neediest families – while still emphasizing work – such as, measuring an increase in employment or earnings.

For more information on TANF.

Policies to support Family Economic Success.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Next Challenge for Public Housing

The Urban Institute is holding a panel to address some of the future challenges critical for policymakers considering public housing. In the era of HOPE VI revitalization programs some residents have been left behind as the country’s most severely distressed public housing developments are replaced with mixed-income and private market housing options. Former residents with physical and mental health problems, weak employment histories, low literacy levels, drug or alcohol addiction, criminal histories, and serious credit problems are not seeing the benefits of the HOPE VI program. The panel will provide insight on options to serve vulnerable families - as local housing authorities, states and the federal government work to improve housing options across communities. The Chicago Family Case Management Demonstration will be used to provide an example of innovative options for moving forward.

To register for the March 11th, webinar of this panel.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The 2010 Census: Methodology, Implications & Myths

The 2010 census is important not just because it is provided for in the Constitution, but also because the census is used to determine the distribution of funds for several federal programs as well as the number of seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. With the large-scale “counting” that is going to take place this year, the Brookings Institution created “Five-Myths About the 2010 Census and the U.S. Population”. This article, published in The Washington Post, dispels myths about population growth, demographic shifts and the impact of immigration.

For more information on the way the census is conducted.

For more information on the way that census data is used.

For common questions and answers about the 2010 census.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Asset Ownership and Debt in Families with Children

Assets play a large role in the economic success of families with children, but asset poverty and debt often struggle to cover bills, let alone save. A new brief from the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) explores asset ownership and debt among families with children and examines disparities by race, gender of heads of family, and age of children. NCCP’s estimations of the financial assets of families with children and the proportion of families facing asset poverty and debt provide a picture of family financial insecurity and point to an area for policy intervention.

Policies to support family economic success.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Supporting the Needs of Children: The Interaction of Child Welfare and Schools

With research indicating that children in the child welfare system struggle academically, a new study looks at the ways in which child welfare workers interact with schools. The study examined several characteristics of child welfare workers and found that workers’ interactions with schools were related to caseload size, number of schools served, region of practice, and years of practice. These findings have important implications for the training and education of child welfare workers, the administration of the child welfare and educational systems, and the development of cross-system policy that holistically addresses the needs of children in care.

Policies to increase exits from foster care to permanence and policies to improve K-3 academic success.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Realizing the Racial Impacts of Legislation and Budgetary Measures

Racing the Statehouse: Advancing Equitable Policies 2010, a new report from the Applied Research Center, looks at state-level analyses of the racial impact of state-level legislative and budgetary measures. Through report cards, budget reviews, and progress reports compiled by state-level organizations, ARC identifies the positive and negative racial impacts of recent legislative and calls for policymaking addresses racial inequities and prevents unintended racial consequences.

Policies to reduce racial disparities in juvenile detention. Visit our homepage to sign up for email updates about forthcoming information on policies to reduce racial disparities in child welfare.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict"

A new report from the Center for American Progress reveals the disconnection between Americans’ widespread concern over work-family conflict and policymakers’ inability to pass legislation that addresses the issue. Analyzing data from the late 1970s to the late 2000s, the authors find that families across the economic spectrum experience work-family conflict but they experience it differently. Short-term and extended paid leave, greater workplace flexibility, freedom from discrimination, and high-quality, affordable child care emerge as shared needs across the spectrum of families, but an understanding of the specific conflicts faced by low- and middle-income and professional families is necessary for targeted, effective policy solutions. The authors identify ways to build a stronger coalition for policies that will support working families.

Policies to expand work supports.