Monday, August 30, 2010

Responsible Fatherhood

Actively involved fathers have a positive impact on the lives of their children and have a positive effect on the community as a whole. The issue of responsible fatherhood is an established priority for the Administration, and has been addressed in legislation in Congress and across the states. Engaging non-custodial fathers in child welfare cases is another way to support children through responsible fatherhood efforts. Two new resources were recently released by the National Quality Improvement Center on Nonresident Fathers and the Child Welfare System to support judges and attorneys in reaching out to non-custodial fathers whose children are placed in the child welfare system.

For policymakers, the Department of Health and Human Services has a Why Focus on Fathers?
Fact Sheet about what policymakers should know and what they can do to engage fathers. The fact sheet includes the research establishing the importance of engaging all parents and the ways in which policymakers can effectively support that engagement. The fact sheet recommendations include:
  • Review policies within the child support and welfare agencies, judicial and educational systems to determine whether laws, regulations and policies deter or prevent father involvement.
  • Develop flexible service delivery options within welfare and child support agencies that address the needs of different types of families referral to services, traditional enforcement or diversion.
  • Provide access to mediation and parenting plan development to never-married families similar to the way these services are made available to divorcing parents.

For more information on responsible fatherhood visit the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

For more policies to support
building strong and stable families.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Cost-Efficient Strategy to Extend School Days: Have Chicago Public Schools Found the Answer?

Research has consistently determined that students learn more the longer they spend in school. Extended days allow students to commit more time to learning new topics and reviewing their classwork. President Obama, as part of his education platform, has advocated an increase in both school hours per day and school days per year. Although students may benefit, such an extension would require teachers to work additional weekly hours. Last September, FoxNews published an article on the “dire economic effects” of an extended school year.

Fortunately, the Chicago Public School District has developed and implemented a cost-efficient pilot program that would extend the school day. The School District intends to lengthen the school day by 90 minutes at 15 elementary schools in Chicago this year. If successful, the program will expand to schools throughout Chicago in upcoming years. Administrators have limited costs by utilizing non-teachers, who will administer online math and reading courses during the extended period. Much of the more than $10 million allocated to the program will support the installment of a technological infrastructure in Chicago elementary schools.

For another blog post on extended school days.

For more information on preparing children to succeed in school.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Surprising Impact of the Kindergarten Experience on Adult Outcomes

According to a new study, students who learn more in kindergarten are more likely to experience positive adult outcomes. Raj Chetty, a Professor of Economics at Harvard University, investigates the relationship between one’s kindergarten experience and earnings in his paper, “How Does your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings?” By incorporating information from United States Tax Data and Project STAR, an experiment conducted in Tennessee kindergarten classes in the 1980’s, Chetty examines how the amount students learn in Kindergarten impacts them in the long-term.

Project STAR indicates that small class sizes and quality teachers increase kindergarteners’ test scores. Though such advantages do not consistently manifest themselves through test scores in the post-kindergarten years, they may reemerge during adulthood. Chetty’s study determined that a one standard deviation increase in test scores equated to a 14.8% increase in adult earnings. David Leonhardt, in a New York Times article on the study, writes that, “All else equal, they (the study participants) were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten.” Furthermore, the study found that children with high Kindergarten test scores were more likely to attend a “quality” college, to marry by age 28, and to have a 401k.

For more information on early childhood education.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unmarried Women and the Great Recession

According to a report by the Center for American Progress, titled The Other Half: Unmarried Women, Economic Well-Being and the Great Recession, improving the economic well-being of unmarried women will improve the national economy overall. The report outlines the economic status of unmarried women, stating that unmarried women have significant debt, much lower median net wealth, and less economic security than married couples or unmarried men. This is not only because unmarried women rely solely on their own earnings, but because women, including unmarried women, face a number of inequities in the labor market including segregation into lower paying jobs and wage discrimination.

The report states that 47 percent of women today are unmarried, and that 25 percent of American children are being raised by unmarried women. The report evaluates the ways that policymakers can help support unmarried women and their families leading to the enhancement of the already vital contribution that unmarried women are making to the economy. Suggestions include:

  • Provide direct support to working single mothers by implementing an increase in funding for child care assistance.
  • Ensure workplace rules allow women to attend to their jobs as well as their families by establishing paid sick days, encouraging predictable and flexible workplace schedules, and ensuring that workers have access to paid family and medical leave.
  • Provide women with job training in high-wage, high-demand jobs — provisions such as those included in the Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act.
For more information on Family Economic Success

Friday, August 20, 2010

Medical Homes: A Look at Illinois Health Connect

State Medicaid programs have the potential to conserve taxpayers’ money while providing families with more personalized care. The Robert Graham Center recently published a study that highlights the success of Illinois Health Connect, which saved the state $140 million in 2009. The initiative assigns Medicaid recipients in Illinois to primary care doctors, who are responsible for coordinating all of the families’ healthcare needs. The arrangement, better known as "medical homes," centralizes patient care; one physician is responsible for treating, referring, and continually following up on a particular patient. Such an approach minimizes costs by eliminating administrative expenses, improving the health of patients, and subsequently by the decline in hospital visits (doctor’s offices provide specialized care at a lower cost than most hospitals).

A recent news report characterizes medical homes as the future of national healthcare reform. The efficiency and affordability of Illinois Health Connect could serve as a model for policymakers reforming their State Medicaid programs.

For more on the relationship between increased healthcare access and improving a child’s performance in school.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Webinar: Practices and Policies for Subgroups of Transitioning Youth

The National Governors Association and Chapin Hall are co-hosting a webinar on how to identify and respond to different subgroups of foster youth transition to adulthood, through policies and practices. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM CDT
The presenters are Mark E. Courtney, Principal Investigator of the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth and Faculty Partner of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago; Patrice Perrault, Youth Services Bureau Chief, New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families; Dianna Walters, Graduate Student, University of Southern Maine‐Muskie School; and Patrick Boyle of Youth Today as moderator. To register.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Poverty Reduction in the Short and Long Term

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has mitigated some of the effects of the recession by expanding and extending the supports available through food stamps, unemployment benefits, and health insurance, and by providing states with general purpose aid. While federal assistance has helped states support the growing numbers of residents who are unemployed or who are living in poverty, ARRA is due to expire long before the recession stops impacting the labor market and state budgets. The Urban Institute brief, Reducing Poverty and Economic Distress after ARRA: Next Steps for Short-Term Recovery and Long-Term Economic Security, outlines key goals for federal antipoverty policy. Goals include:
  • Provide jobs and income support as well as other services to reduce the short-term distress over the next 3-5 years.
  • Prepare policy responses that might lessen the next economic downturn.
  • Make sensible long-term investments in reducing poverty by extending certain provisions of ARRA and creating additional measures (such as investing in education and post-secondary credential programs aimed at low-income youth).
For more information on Family Economic Success.

While the brief discusses the antipoverty policy goals for the federal government, several of their suggestions are also relevant to state governments. With state budget cuts likely to be even deeper in 2011 than they were this year, it is critical that policy and program level strategies support the families most in need now as well as ensure greater economic security for all families in the future.

For more information on place-based strategies to reduce poverty and economic distress after ARRA. (For other results-based financing posts visit our financing community change blog).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Job Opening for a Senior Associate in Child Welfare.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy is actively recruiting for a Senior Associate in Child Welfare. This position will help carry out CSSP's child welfare work by assisting state and local child welfare agencies work more effectively with families and community stakeholders, striving to reduce racial disparities that contribute to poor outcomes for children of color in the child welfare system, 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 please visit the CSSP website and view the position announcement.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Number of Food Insecure Children Grows

A new report from the Center for Children in Poverty provides the most current information about food insecurity in the United States and policy recommendations.  While the report paints a grim picture, these figures are from 2008 and preceed the worst of the current recession.  Most notably, of the 39.5 million households with children (approximately 34% of all households) 21 % were food insecure. "Households where no one has a high school degree are nearly seven times more likely to report food insecurity among children than households where at least one adult has a bachelor’s degree."  As we noted previously, policymakers should consider poverty as part of their education reform agenda, and this report underscores the need to consider education as part of a poverty reduction agenda.
For more on state policies to reduce child poverty and to increase early academic achievement.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Home Visiting Evaluated

A Child Trends fact sheet, What Works in Home Visiting Programs: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions, examines the impact of various home visiting programs on a wide range of outcomes. Child Trends evaluated 66 different home visiting programs and categorized their findings as: not proven to work, mixed findings, and found to work. The fact sheet includes a matrix that provides detailed assessments of the program approaches based on their impact on 10 established outcomes.

Not all home visiting programs are the same, while they might share some common elements, such as providing families with social supports and connecting families to community services, they also have different target populations, provide different levels of service, and vary in visit frequency. With new policy, programs, and funding directed toward home-visiting it is important to establish what models have been developed, and how effective they’ve been in serving children and their families.

When implementing a new program or policy, reviewing the research and data on what has been successful and under what circumstances, enables policymakers to best serve their constituents specific needs.

For a
framework for policy success.