Late last Friday, news broke that senior staff at The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were notified by the Trump Administration that seven words (Vulnerable, Entitlement, DiversityTransgender, Fetus, Evidence-based and Science-based) were prohibited from use in official documents being prepared for the 2018 budget. The news sounded a national alarm, with widespread negative reactions on social media, in popular news outlets and in the form of protests taking place in the nation’s capital. It is rare that a single government action manages to so thoroughly unite people through its unpopularity – in large measure because this edict is so dangerous on so many levels.

Among the seven words now banned at the CDC are several that specifically describe the nation’s most vulnerable communities – indeed, vulnerable is one of the forbidden words. Given the current climate of bigotry, fear and intolerance flooding the nation, it is almost unsurprising that the Trump Administration would attempt to force its agencies to remove words like transgender, diversity and vulnerable from their collective vocabularies. To remove the ability to speak about certain groups removes the ability to recognize them at all – even children are familiar with the silent treatment, the tactic by which pretending someone doesn’t exist utterly eliminates them from attention. There is an ease to turning a blind eye towards certain communities, many of whom have spent decades simply asking us to see and hear. Consider for a moment both how deeply troubling it is to be on the receiving end of such callous disregard and then imagine the broader ramifications of such a move when coupled with budgetary and policy concerns.

We are at a pivotal time in seeking to significantly improve health, education and well-being outcomes for American children, youth and families. Inequities defined by race, class, income, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, sexual and gender identity and orientation and urban/rural geography are severe and changing slowly, if at all. To further hamper this incremental progress by removing the very words used to describe these communities is a gross injustice and a harbinger of more disturbing times ahead. The role of government in this country is not to target, ignore or eliminate communities in need of assistance. Instead, an appropriate role of this – and any – administration is to create opportunity. That includes allowing open discourse and allocating funding for programs and resources that support basic needs and create the pathways for success.

The federal government’s budget decisions should not take place in a vacuum – instead, evidence-based and science-based (two additional words banned from the lexicon) knowledge should play key roles in guiding decision-makers towards creating and implementing policies that best support every community. Personal ideology should not be the grounding for public policy; CSSP Senior Fellow Lisbeth B. Schorr, put it best in a recent article, “But even when our beliefs vary about which social supports should come from family, neighbors, the market, philanthropy or government, we agree that we must base decisions aimed at promoting better lives in the future – especially if they involve public funds – on solid evidence.”

Recognizing the value of “community standards and wishes” as a valuable part of an evidence base is one thing – and a move we support, as a step to develop a more inclusive evidence base. But to ban mention of the gains made possible by more, not less, attention to what science and rigorous attention to facts can contribute to policy is a dangerous direction. What policies were enacted 50 years ago – 100 years ago – based on popular opinion that are now considered archaic, foolish and even dangerous? America is a country of innovation and learning – and part of that learning includes that strong, valid evidence cannot be built on one single community or ideology. Instead we must recognize the varying strengths and needs of all people and raise, rather than degrade, our standards about the right type of evidence for public policy and investment.

We are by no means naive about US politics. We are a nation deeply divided on our ideological views, but robust conversation about these views forms the bedrock of our political discourse. Suppressing the language we use and the tools we have at our disposal to arrive at reasoned conclusions creates a chilling effect both on the conversations themselves and on policies that can move the needle towards solving large-scale, systemic problems.

Words matter. This kind of creeping censorship is not a mistake or an error in judgment. Instead, it is an intentional move towards furthering directives that stand counter to a nation that prides itself on justice and inclusivity. We have started today with seven words – how many more will be added tomorrow? It is difficult to overstate how deeply catastrophic this ban is and how far-reaching its negative consequences. This is truly one of many steps towards dismantling rights, reason and accountability to justice across every level of our community.


Frank Farrow is the president at CSSP.

As we have shared, the deadline for extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) came and went on September 30th. Despite historical bipartisan support for the program and concurrence on CHIP policy moving forward, disagreement on where to find the money for CHIP halted efforts to keep the program alive. Now, a growing number of states are seeing the end of their resources. 

The current situation may compel states to freeze CHIP enrollment. As Vice President Donna Cohen Ross explains, we know from past experience that the side effects of a CHIP freeze can hurt children now and into the future. Meanwhile, children are still waiting for Congress to extend CHIP funding and each day of inaction brings children and families closer to the serious health and financial risks associated with being uninsured.

Read Donna's featured post on the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) blog now.

Donna Cohen Ross is a vice president at CSSP  

Last month, CSSP hosted a Twitter Chat for our Fight for Our Girls initiative. The Fight for Our Girls initiative, which includes a series of issue briefs, was founded by CSSP’s Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare to radically shift the negative narrative surrounding girls of color and status offenses from a focus on delinquency and misbehavior to structural discrimination, trauma and youth well-being.

Advocates and service providers gathered together online for the Twitter chat by tweeting with the hashtags, #FFOG and #FightForOurGirls. Guided by questions and facts originating from the initiative’s latest brief, Fight for Our Girls: Applying an Intersectional Lens to Girls of Color Facing Status Offenses, participants discussed the unique needs of girls of color and worked together to envision innovative solutions. Echoed in these solutions was the importance of centering the voices of girls of color when public systems providers make decisions that affect them. Participants also agreed that girls of color are the experts when talking about their experiences with public systems. Additionally, participants commended Fight for Our Girls for examining the intersections between race, gender and sexual orientation for systems-involved girls, signifying the importance of continuing this research and dialogue.

You can view highlights of the Twitter Chat here:

Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Every November, communities of transgender individuals from across the U.S. organize awareness-raising and educational events and protests in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, which culminates in a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). The first TDOR was held by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. TDOR has grown to memorialize all transgender and gender expansive individuals who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Annual vigils often include a reading of a list of names of the transgender and gender expansive individuals who were killed that year. The number of transgender individuals who are murdered each year continues to climb at alarming rates. HIV/AIDS continues to claim transgender lives. Public policies continue to target and disenfranchise transgender people. The transgender community is at the center of an epidemic of violence. TDOR plays an important role in raising public awareness of hate crimes against transgender individuals and the transgender community at large. TDOR also ensures that our transgender siblings are remembered in a world that tries to forget and erase them. 

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds us of the precarious nature of transgender life. 2017 has been named as the deadliest year for transgender people ever recorded. Thus far, and with a month and a half of 2017 to go, there have been 24 murders of transgender individuals. In addition to transgender individuals being at a high risk of physical violence and death, the transgender community continues to struggle with high risks of suicide. At this time, research is unable to provide conclusive evidence as to what caused the rates of transgender homicides to increase. However, it is likely that the uptick can be partially attributed to both the seemingly positive and negative social changes occurring around us. Furthermore, it is likely the result of contributions to anti-transgender violence being made at all levels, starting with the level of the individual and reaching all the way up to the level of government and public systems. 

Unsurprisingly, anti-transgender violence is normalized through our current political climate, which is proving itself to be increasingly hostile towards the transgender community. This hostility is evident from a nearly never ending list of recent actions taken by federal, state and local-level government officials. Some recent federal actions have included President Trump’s recent speech at the 2017 Voters Values summit, which was held by the notoriously anti-LGBT Family Research Council; President Trump’s attempted ban on transgender troops; and the nomination of President Trump’s judicial nominee, Jeff Mateer, referring to transgender children as part of ‘Satan’s plan.’  

Seemingly positive social changes, such as more representation of transgender actors in mainstream television and film or the recent success of transgender candidates in electoral politics, have also had a detrimental effect on the safety of the transgender community. With more representation comes increased visibility, and with increased visibility comes escalated risks of both interpersonal and state violence for the transgender community. It has always been dangerous to be out as transgender, but in recent years, heightened levels of visibility of the transgender community has made us a target. 

Where do we go from here? Allies and advocates need to make themselves more visible. They need to step up in taking on some of the work towards transgender equality so that the transgender community can focus on their own safety and survival. There are many ways to be a visible ally so that you can help transgender people in your life and the transgender community at large. Some ideas include: 

  • Regularly checking in on the emotional well-being of the transgender people in your life. Many transgender people struggle with their mental health. Offering your support can make a difference.
  • Support transgender candidates in local elections. If this is not possible, consider running for local elections where you can implement policies that support the transgender community.
  • Ask your library to carry books on transgender issues especially in the children’s section. Some recommended books can be found here.
  • Be vocal about the importance of policies, companies and elected officials who support the transgender community. Speak out against policies, companies and elected officials who are silent on these issues or who oppose them.
  • If you are a business owner, develop a plan to make your business transgender friendly.
  • Talk to your school district officials to make school a safe place for transgender students. Assist with lobbying to change policies that are harmful to transgender students.
  • Support transgender people on social media by standing up to hateful comments, sharing resources and voicing your support during social media campaigns. The more visible and vocal allies are in supporting and uplifting transgender people, the more likely it is that transgender people will feel empowered to tell their stories.
  • Consider donating to LGBT Centers that provide assistance to transgender youth, such as housing, clothing, meals and mental health services.
  • As winter approaches, take action to support homeless transgender youth and adults.
  • Show up to protests, vigils, fundraisers and other events to show your support for the transgender community.
  • Never stop educating yourself on issues and experiences of communities that face systemic violence. 

If allies take action to protect, support and empower the transgender community, transgender individuals have a greater chance at surviving 2018. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place annually on November 20th. 

Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Throughout our history, immigration policy in the U.S. has been notoriously ambiguous and largely shaped by race and/or ethnicity. Early immigration to the U.S. was greatly encouraged as it helped alter the racial composition of the country – diminishing the number of Native/Indigenous people who were already here and later seeking to suppress the rate of enslaved population growth amongst those who were forced to migrate as a means of free labor.

Despite the racist policies that served to quell the population growth of people of color, today nearly half of all children under the age of 18 are children of color. In addition, one in four children growing up in the U.S. lives in an immigrant family (having been born outside of the U.S. themselves or living with at least one parent born outside of the U.S). While the history of racist policies still impacts our country today, current public policies also pose a problem – still too often serving as barriers for children and families of color. It is important for policy to begin to build meaningful opportunities for all children and families. Policy options like reducing the current refundability threshold of the Child Tax Credit or extending TANF benefit eligibility to immigrant parents are some of the many ways that policymakers could begin to better address families’ needs. This is critical not just for the experiences of communities of color – but for U.S. growth and prosperity as a whole. 

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation Race for Results 2017 Policy Report: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children 

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Policy Report Race for Results, Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children from the Annie E. Casey Foundation includes detailed information on the experiences of children of color in the United States. The report includes rankings for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico on 12 indicators of child well-being that fall into four groups: early childhood, education and early work experiences, family resources and neighborhood context. Overall findings from the report reveal gains over the last few years but also demonstrate how well-being and opportunity are still not evenly distributed. Specifically, while no one racial or ethnic group of children is meeting all milestones in the index, it shows that African-American, Native American and Hispanic/Latino children continue to face the greatest barriers to opportunity and success.

The report urges policymakers to continue making targeted investments that help children become healthier, more likely to complete high school and better positioned to contribute to the nation’s economy as adults. In addition, the report also recognizes the growing number of children from immigrant families living in the U.S. and makes the case for continued investments aimed at addressing their unique needs – such as increasing economic opportunities for immigrant parents. 

Today, children growing up in the U.S. are more diverse than ever. Public policies should celebrate this diversity and capitalize on all of the incredible societal benefits that it offers. Public policy is a critical tool in working to ensure that those who have been most impacted by systemic and institutional racism have access to the resources and opportunities needed to actualize their success. Ensuring that every child in the U.S. is healthy and supported is the first step to doing this. It’s also the first step in becoming more competitive in an increasingly global economy. Policymaking focused on equity is the right thing to do – it’s also the smart thing.

Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.