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The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), which the House is set to vote on this week, would impose harsh new work requirements on the nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Access to an adequate, healthy diet is crucial for families with children: it improves health outcomes for pregnant women and their children, helps to ensure that infants and toddlers meet developmental milestones and is essential for success in school. SNAP currently serves one in four children in the United States; it lifts almost five million children out of poverty and reduces food insecurity by one-third among children who receive it.

The House farm bill imposes sweeping new work requirements that for the first time mandate work for families with school-aged children and older adults. Under current law, states are already required to impose work requirements on “able bodied adults without dependents,” or people aged 18 to 49 who are not raising a minor child. This work requirement already has dire consequences: according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), at least half a million very poor adults lost SNAP benefits as a result of the work requirement in 2016.

The current version of the farm bill requires that parents with school-aged children and older adults between the ages of 49 and 60 also prove on a monthly basis that they are either working and/or participating in a qualifying job training program for 20 hours a week. There are limited exemptions to the proposed requirement and CBPP estimates that in 2021 up to 8 million people might be subject to it, including more than 2 million parents.

Work requirements have no place in a program meant to fight hunger and support the health and well-being of children and families. As decades of experience with work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program have shown, work requirements in and of themselves do little to actually increase work or wages in the long term.

Education and training programs – not work requirements – can have lasting benefits, but the farm bill does not provide enough funding for such programs. If SNAP work programs’ per-participant costs approximated that of education and training under TANF, they would cost more than $1.2 billion per month, which translates to $15 billion per year or $150 billion over 10 years. The farm bill, by contrast, allots only $7.65 billion over 10 years in federal funding for these new work programs. States are unlikely to be able to fund the difference, even if they wanted to. The result, instead, will likely be that SNAP participants are funneled into under-resourced programs that do little to help them find good jobs.

Instead of leading to more meaningful work, the SNAP work requirement will simply result in more paperwork. To enforce the new work requirements, states will have to build expensive systems to track SNAP participants every month. The burden of proving that they meet work requirements will fall on participants. SNAP recipients who work low-paying jobs with unstable work hours might be unable to anticipate a shortage of work hours in any given month, until it is too late to add additional work hours. Workers with multiple employers, self-employed individuals and anyone who is searching for work or participating in job training will have a hard time documenting their hours.

Tracking work participation will be especially difficult for the families who need nutritional assistance most – including homeless families, families with mental and physical health problems and families with significant caregiving responsibilities. Indeed, many caregivers and people with physical and mental health conditions who should be exempt from the requirements will have trouble navigating the exemption processand effectively advocating their case if they are incorrectly assessed by a caseworker.

The result will be that families will lose much-needed assistance. As the experience under TANF shows, families sanctioned for failing to meet work requirements are disproportionately families of color and families facing multiple barriers – including homelessness, chronic illness, addiction, language barriers and physical and intellectual disabilities. If work requirements are expanded in SNAP, these same families are likely to see their benefits cut and food insecurity rise.

Indeed, communities of color that face racial discrimination and have higher rates of unemployment even when the economy is otherwise doing well, are especially likely to face sanctions under the SNAP work requirement proposal. Under current and proposed law, areas with high unemployment may receive waivers from the work requirement. But people of color are often less likely to live in the rural areas that qualify for waivers. The result will be that people of color may be more likely to be subject to work requirements than white people. We see this exact problem playing out now with the proposed Medicaid work requirement in Michigan.

All told, the farm bill may lead almost 1 million households to lose their SNAP benefits altogether or see them reduced, according to CBPP. When 60 percent of families with children receiving SNAP already work, a “work requirement” that simply makes it more difficult to put food on the table is the last thing they need.

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Elisa Minoff is a policy analyst and Valery Martinez is a Emerson National Hunger Fellow at CSSP
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Over the last year, conservative legislators and the Trump Administration promoted work requirements across a wide range of public benefit programs. Their push for “welfare reform,” or, as administration officials sometimes refer to it, “Welfare Reform 2.0,” comes on the heels of a tax bill that offers massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, but does little for everyone else.

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order directing all federal agencies to consider ways to strengthen existing work requirements and impose new ones. New or stronger work requirements have since been proposed for housing assistance, nutrition assistance and Medicaid health coverage.

Decades of evidence from the United States’ last experiment with “welfare reform” show why work requirements don’t work. Most notably, they do not accomplish their stated goal of helping people enter and maintain employment and increase earnings in the long run. Instead families who fail to meet requirements lose assistance – whether it is because they cannot find work, their jobs do not offer enough hours, they have health problems or caregiving responsibilities that interfere with work or they cannot keep up with the paperwork. Families at the lower end of the income distribution are hurt the most and extreme poverty has doubled over the last 20 years.

But there’s another problem with work requirements: they may be enforced in racially discriminatory ways and ultimately increase racial disparities. Evidence from 10 states suggests that African American parents are more likely to be penalized for failing to comply with work requirements than other parents receiving cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The potential for work requirements to increase racial disparities is brought into sharp relief by recent developments in Michigan.

The Michigan legislature is currently considering a bill that would impose the harshest work requirements on Medicaid recipients yet. Currently 2.3 million Michiganders receive their health insurance through Medicaid – 1.6 million through traditional Medicaid and over 600,000 through Medicaid expansion, which covers everyone earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Despite the fact that nationally, the vast majority of adults receiving Medicaid live in working families and in Michigan the majority of people who benefited from Medicaid expansion either work or are unable to work, Michigan legislators are jumping on the bandwagon and proposing work requirements.

Michigan Senate Bill 897, which passed the Michigan Senate on April 19 and is currently before the House, imposes a 29 hour per-week work requirement – significantly higher than the approximately 20 hour requirement proposed by the three states that have received approval from the Trump Administration to institute Medicaid work requirements to date. If passed, this means that a single mother in Michigan who averages 28 hours of work per week in a given month could lose her health insurance. The draconian work requirement has attracted criticism from across the political spectrum, including from the state’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

Equally disturbing, however, is the revelation that the harshest features of the work requirement would be applied disproportionately to people of color. This is because the bill contains an out. Most Michiganders can only meet the work requirement if they work or are in education or training, but people living in counties with high unemployment (over 8.5 percent) can meet it by “actively seeking work.” While racially neutral on its face, in practice the provision means that people living in rural, largely white, counties with high unemployment will have an easier time meeting the requirement, while people living in majority African American cities like Detroit and Flint that have high unemployment but sit in counties where the unemployment rate falls below the 8.5 percent threshold will have a much tougher time meeting the requirement. The same holds true for Arab Americans and Muslims living in cities like Dearborn and Hamtramck.

These sorts of inequities are endemic to work requirements, and exacerbated by the Trump Administration’s decision to encourage local variation in how work requirements are applied. As George Washington University professor Sara Rosenbaum, an expert on health law and policy, has noted, the permission of local variation allows for “enormous discrimination, really racial redlining.” This is because rural areas, which often have both larger white populations and higher unemployment, are more likely to benefit from any geographic exemptions to work requirements. Urban areas, where many people of color live, will generally be subject to work requirements, despite the fact that communities of color often have high unemployment rates even within cities where unemployment rates may be relatively low.

The Michigan legislation shows how this racial redlining could work in practice. In states like Kentucky that have already received approval to institute Medicaid work requirements, similar racial redlining could go into effect as early as this summer.

Instead of imposing work requirements that do not help people find and keep good jobs, legislators should expand access to programs that do – including child care assistance, education and training, and, indeed, health care.

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Elisa Minoff is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Last week, as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (HR. 1892), Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which marks a significant step forward for child welfare financing reform by breaking the block on using federal child welfare funding for the range of preventive and treatment supports needed by families who come to the attention of the child welfare system. 

The law finally allows states to claim federal Title IV-E reimbursement for time-limited mental health, substance abuse and in-home parenting skill-based programs which will keep more children safely in their own homes and out of foster care, regardless of a family’s income.  Previously, federal entitlement funding was only available for foster care or adoption and guardian support for children exiting foster care.  

I began working in public child welfare in Wisconsin in 1981, right after the establishment of the Title IV-E entitlement and the landmark Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (PL 96-272) which introduced into law the concept of “reasonable efforts” to prevent foster care placement as a required judicial finding in child welfare proceedings.  Although the concept was vague and is still not clearly defined, in order to access federal funding for out-of-home care the law required states to demonstrate, and courts to affirm, that they had made reasonable efforts to prevent placement of a child in foster care and to expedite reunification for children already removed from their families. However, the dollars to fund prevention and reunification services were missing from federal financing. It was also in 1980 that Congress turned the open-ended entitlement Title XX of the Social Security Act, which had funded states' prevention efforts, into a block grant further limiting federal dollars for such services. 

For the next decade many of us working in child welfare turned to promoting family preservation and family support services as a way to prevent unnecessary foster care placements and strengthen families. Again, the challenge for states was how to finance these services in the absence of substantial and adequate federal financial support for prevention.  In 1985, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) wrote a seminal piece which laid out a strategy for states to maximize claiming open-ended Title IV-E funding for out-of-home care, thereby freeing up state and local dollars to be directed towards prevention and family preservation services.  It was an extremely important strategy for drawing down federal dollars but it was a work-around for a child welfare financing system that continued to pay for services once families were torn apart but didn’t support efforts to keep them together.  A glimmer of hope occurred with the passage of the Family Support and Preservation Act in 1992, which expanded Title IV-B resources available for prevention services. But still Title IV- B dollars were very limited and the federal incentives were skewed toward removal at the expense of prevention.  

Since then advocates, providers, foundations, coalitions, policymakers, public and private providers and commissions have debated, scrutinized and lobbied to change a longstanding child welfare financing system that doesn’t promote the values at the heart of child welfare practice: to keep families together whenever possible; to place children with families, preferably their extended ones, when safety requires that they be removed; to do everything possible to reunify children with families expeditiously; and, when that isn’t possible, to expediently move children to permanency. Over the years, significant federal legislation was passed shaping the system we have today but none was successful in attacking a basic problem facing child welfare: the way services are funded by the federal government.  

Until now.  

The opportunities presented by the Family First Prevention Services Act are many; but we have far to go to ensure that the promise of the new financing system delivers on our vision for a more research-informed and just child welfare system. One opportunity is the recognition in the law that we need to build our evidence base about what works to keep children safely at home.  The array of programs that fall into the bucket of recognized “evidence-based programs” supported by randomized controlled studies for child welfare services is pitifully small and often not tested on the populations most at risk of child welfare involvement.  Rather than restricting funding to only these services, 50 percent of the funding can support programs shown to be promising and supported by research.  This is a huge opportunity for the field, one that we cannot squander. We will need to be creative in applying rigorous and diverse methods to evaluate promising services, using our resources wisely to discover which types of service in which settings work best for which families. 

African American and Native American children are less likely to receive in-home services and more likely to enter foster care and, that once in care, they experience disparate outcomes. With this in mind, the law also provides a real opportunity for states to invest in services that are culturally specific and focus on reducing racial disparities in the demographics of children and youth who enter and remain in the foster care system.  Importantly, the law also specifically recognizes the additional needs and stressors facing expectant and parenting youth in foster care by allowing services for these youth to strengthen their parenting. But state and local child welfare systems will need to determine which programs are most effective; how to offer these services to youth in ways that do not conjure up increased surveillance and unintended consequences; and how to engage youth in developmentally appropriate, fun and effective ways. CSSP’s Youth Thrive Initiative is helping states reconfigure their services and policies for youth and expectant and parenting youth so that they are developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed and culturally relevant as well as based on the research identifying what youth need to thrive. 

By extending to age 23 (for states that have extended foster care to 21) the financial, housing, counseling, employment, education and other services that former foster youth can access through the Chafee Program and by extending eligibility to age 26 for Educational Training Vouchers, the law is catching up with adolescent brain science which recognizes that youth need supports for longer periods before they are more developmentally ready for adult responsibilities. But again, youth are very clear about what they want and what they don’t.  States will need to work with youth to help them design and identify an aftercare plan that includes the supports and services they want and need to thrive.  To be most effective states will need workers trained and proficient in knowing how to work with adolescents by using the research about brain development and the protective factors associated with healthy youth development and well-being.   

The bill further recognizes that institutions (including group homes, residential treatment centers and shelters) are no place for children to grow up by restricting federal dollars for congregate care. This will require that states re-examine their foster care and kinship policies, licensing requirements, recruitment strategies, supports and training so that a sufficient number of quality foster and kinship parents are available to meet the needs of children and youth in search of homes. The newly developed CHAMPS campaign identifies a range of steps that states can take to improve their foster care systems and the bill includes grant opportunities to support states in building out their foster family continuum as they move to reduce reliance on congregate care. 

Finally, while the law directs needed resources for services to families who come to the attention of the child welfare system it does not provide resources that help to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place. That still remains a new frontier for federal investment. Until we devote as many resources into strengthening families as we do to responding to problems after they have occurred, our system remains flawed. 

Notwithstanding this last point, there is no question that the Family First Act presents many opportunities and associated challenges, and it will be years before full implementation takes effect. But we can start now by focusing on what we know from practice, experience and research about what families, children and youth need in order to re-create a child welfare system that recognizes family preservation and child safety as sides of the same coin.

Read CSSP’s official statement on the Family First Prevention Services Act

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Susan Notkin is a senior vice president at CSSP.

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.

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Frank Farrow is the president at CSSP.

Proposed Tax Bill Takes a Cut at Children

  ·   By Alexandra Citrin

On November 2, 2017, Representative Brady (R-TX) introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1), a tax reform plan which includes significant changes to the current tax code. The proposed bill includes several provisions that, if passed, would undermine the well-being of large numbers of children and families across the country. The tax bill’s provisions acutely affect low-wage working parents and strike a particularly hard blow to the U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act shamefully denies access to important tax credits for children who would otherwise be eligible by changing the filing requirements for their parents. The Child Tax Credit (CTC) would be unreachable for children in immigrant families whose parents currently do not have Social Security numbers but pay federal income taxes through the use of an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The bill also restricts college students with an ITIN from accessing the refundable portion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) by now requiring them to have a Social Security number.

For immigrants, many of whom are in the U.S. legally,[i] the ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service that allows individuals without a Social Security number to file federal income taxes. Filing taxes with an ITIN supports immigrant working parents to pay taxes that would otherwise not be captured by the tax system and utilize the tax credits that they are legally authorized to access, like the CTC. The CTC is an important means for lifting children and families out of poverty, helping to lift approximately 2.7 million people – including 1.5 million children – out of poverty in 2016. Denying tax-paying immigrant and mixed-status families access to this critical support, would have a negative impact on the health, development and well-being of over 5 million children – 80 percent of whom are U.S. citizens and an additional 1 million DREAMers.

The AOTC is a key support intended to off-set the high cost for young adults pursuing secondary education. The current AOTC provides a minimal – yet significant – support to ITIN holders and other low-income students. Denying access to the AOTC has to the potential to limit a young adult’s ability to continue their education and increase future wages. This would have a lasting impact on their ability to gain the skills and credentials necessary for their full participation in meaningful work and ultimately their contributions to our nation’s economic growth. 

In addition to the provisions aimed specifically at limiting immigrant families’ access to tax credits, the bill includes several other provisions that are harmful to low-income children and their parents.[ii] For example, the bill excludes many low-income working families – including approximately 10 million children – from accessing the CTC altogether while simultaneously expanding eligibility for higher-income families with incomes up to $300,000. The bill also eliminates the adoption tax credit for families that adopt a child, eliminates teachers’ ability to deduct the cost of purchasing supplies for their classrooms and ends the ability for working adults to deduct interest on student loan debt. 

The health of our country depends on every child, young adult and family being able to meet their needs and plan for their future. Attempts to use the goal of tax reform to restrict the ability for immigrants to achieve these goals will have a significant and negative impact on their families, including U.S. citizen children, and on all communities across the country. Rather than attacking and undermining the health, well-being and economic security of children of immigrant parents, any future proposals to the modify tax code should identify and promote opportunities to ensure that all children and working families are able to benefit from the tax programs meant to support their economic security – particularly for families working in low-wage jobs. Promoting these values is central to who we are as a country.

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Alexandra Citrin is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.


[i] ITIN-filers include both documented and undocumented immigrants. Many ITIN-filers are in the United States legally but do not qualify for a Social Security number. For the many ITIN-filers
who are parents of U.S. citizen children, tax credits are the only form of public benefit for which they are eligible because of their immigration status.

[ii] Additionally, the proposed tax cuts would also lead to an even greater impact on low-income children and families as a result of the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule, which requires the President and Congress to offset a tax cut with a compensating tax increase or entitlement cut with any failure to do so triggering an automatic spending cut. While the President and Congress could prevent these automatic cuts by waiving PAYGO, the impact of the proposed tax cuts remains the same with a decrease in federal revenue, policymakers will be forced to make difficult decisions about budget expenses including key entitlement programs that benefit all those living in the U.S. Key programs that would be subject to PAYGO include the Social Services Block Grant, Operations and Support for Citizenship Immigration Services, Crime Victims Fund payments to states and child nutrition programs – all of which are critical to promoting the health and well-being of children and families, particularly those who are living below and near the federal poverty level. 

 

An Accelerating Change Awardee Profile: PathWays PA

  ·   By Victoria Efetevbia

On September 27th, CSSP announced three winners of the 2017 Accelerating Change Award. Each of the awardees have demonstrated a commitment to reaching and serving diverse populations of young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk of involvement in public systems.

“We could not be prouder to receive CSSP’s 2017 Accelerating Change Award,” said Brenda Dawson, the President and CEO of PathWays PA. “We are truly honored to have CSSP recognize the hard work and commitment of our staff and their efforts to empower young women of color to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Founded in 1978, PathWays PA is dedicated to empowering women in the Greater Philadelphia Region, particularly women of color, to embrace their true selves and to become the greatest version of themselves. Pathways PA’s mission is to help low-income women, children, teens and families achieve economic independence and family well-being. The organization’s vision is that one day the families it serves will feel safe, lead healthy, self-reliant lives and become positive contributors to their communities.

PathWays PA’s vision is especially evident through the organization’s emergency shelter and transitional housing program, Nurturing Expectations for Successful Transitions (NEST). The NEST program is the only program in Philadelphia that provides emergency shelter services for teen girls who have run away from home or are experiencing homelessness. Many of these teen girls are girls of color and have been involved in public systems such as the child welfare system and the justice system. Young women and girls of color— especially those involved in public systems— face a unique and alarming trajectory that puts them at risk of poor outcomes.

For over a decade, the NEST program has recognized the unique needs of these young women and teen mothers and provides them with support through trauma-informed care. The program helps address young women’s trauma through a variety of initiatives including individualized counseling with a licensed therapist and case managers who provide young women with follow-up support. The young women who participate in NEST are also empowered to achieve their goals through a supportive community. They lead community service projects, serve on the advisory board for NEST and facilitate discussions with other girls of color in the community on issues important to them such as race, gender, sexuality and leadership.  

Since the NEST program’s inception, PathWays PA has witnessed significant changes in the lives of Philadelphia’s teen girls who have run away from home or are experiencing homelessness. Alumni of the NEST program often return to the program years later to share their transformative experiences with the young women currently enrolled in the program. Countless young women who have participated in the program have earned college degrees, despite once being on the verge of dropping out of school, secured stable housing and reunited with their family.

In addition to national recognition and an honorarium, PathWays PA will join other Accelerating Change Award recipients to be part of a network of similar initiatives to share ideas and help accelerate positive change and promising futures for women and girls of color nationally.

To learn more about PathWays PA, please go to http://www.pathwayspa.org/

Check out the other Accelerating Change awardee profiles here:

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

Gwen's Girls

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Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP. 

In August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released a new report, A Crisis of Hate: A Mid Year Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Hate Violence Homicides. Typically, these reports are published annually. However, NCAVP decided to release this report early with hopes that it will raise awareness of the increased violence faced by the LGBTQ+ community. NCAVP has been tracking violence against the LGBTQ+ community for 20 years and NCAVP has recorded the highest number of anti-LGBTQ homicides just over halfway through 2017. This is an alarming fact, especially when considering that this number will likely grow, as the year 2018 is still several months away.

As of August 23rd, 2017, NCAVP recorded reports of “36 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV affected people,” a 29 percent increase from 2016. In an attempt to further break down the data NCAVP collected, the report states that for the year 2017 thus far, “there has been nearly one homicide a week of an LGBTQ person in the U.S.” While this report demonstrates a stark increase in violence against all LGBTQ+ individuals, perhaps what is most disturbing is the increased number of transgender women of color who were the victims of homicides. Of the 19 murders of transgender and gender expansive individuals in the first half of 2017, 16 were transgender women of color. Notably, this report was published prior to the horrific murders of 28-year-old transgender man Kashmire Nazier Redd, nonbinary student activist Scout Schultz, 26-year-old transgender woman Derricka Banner and transgender teen Ally Steinfeld. This means that in the month since this report was published, the count of transgender and gender expansive homicides has increased by 16 percent, from 19 to 22, tragically surpassing the data reported in 2016.

In addition to this trend, there has also been a significant increase in reported violence and homicides against gay, bisexual and queer cisgender men. In 2016, four gay, bisexual and queer cisgender men were victims of homicide. For January through August of 2017, 17 cisgender gay, bisexual and queer men were murdered and over half (53 percent) of these victims were men of color. Despite increasing trends of violence against LGBTQ+ communities, data shows that people of color, transgender women of color, and queer, bisexual and gay cisgender men are more often the targets of anti-queer and racist violence. The fact that these groups experience oppression at the intersection of multiple identities – race, ethnicity, gender – undeniably contributes to these individuals facing higher levels of violence and higher murder rates than other members of the LGBTQ+ community experience.

While this report makes significant contributions to better understanding violence against some of the most at risk populations, data are limited. The number of homicides of LGBTQ+ people is likely higher. NCAVP cites several challenges to accurate data collection, such as the misidentification of victims’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity in police reports and the media. In addition, they note the media and law enforcement’s reluctance to categorize a crime as being related to bias.

A Crisis of Hate attributes the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ homicides in part to the turbulent political climate of the U.S. However, the report does not attribute these trends to any specific instance, policy change or otherwise. While the report does not propose solutions to the crisis, there are several organizations, states, cities and localities that are initiating actions to protect LGBTQ+ people in their communities, including:

  • Partnering with LGBTQ+ community members in creating LGBTQ+ task forces. DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Unit (LGBTLU) focuses on the safety needs of DC’s LGBT community, conducts public education campaigns on hate crimes and public safety, seeks to end hate crime and violent crime within the LGBT community and conducts patrols and responds to citizen complaints. These units are most effective when they partner with individuals from the local LGBTQ+ community every step of the way.
  • Decriminalizing sex work. Sex work is more common and also more dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals. In addition to LGBTQ+ individuals being more likely to engage in sex work to survive, LGBTQ+ sex workers are also nearly 2.5 times more likely to be attacked with a gun than other sex workers. Decriminalizing sex work would help keep LGBTQ+ sex workers safe by enabling them to access necessary resources and by protecting them from violent law enforcement. California is one state example where sex work has been decriminalized for minors with the passage of SB 1322 in 2016.
  • Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Illinois became the most recent state to add gender identity to the list of protected categories in hate crime law, joining Washington, DC, Minnesota, California, Vermont, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, Delaware and Nevada. States that currently have sexual orientation covered in hate crime statute include California, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Vermont, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Delaware, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Missouri, Kentucky, New York, Tennessee, Kansas, Puerto Rico, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado and Maryland.
  • Creating LGBTQ+ inclusive policies. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be turned away from homeless shelters and face a heightened risk of abuse, violence and exploitation. Transgender people are especially at risk, with some homeless shelters barring them from entering. Nonprofit homeless shelters that are specifically for homeless LGBTQ+ individuals have begun to pop up across the US to accommodate the needs of this community. A few examples of these shelters include Casa Ruby, The Wanda Alston Foundation, Project Fierce Chicago, and New Alternatives for Homeless Youth. These initiatives should be supported in conjunction with reforming policies of non-LGBTQ+ specific homeless shelters to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals always have a place to go.
  • Promoting safe and inclusive transportation. Homobiles, a non-profit in California, offers safe, reliable, pay-what-you-can, 24/7 transit for the LGBTQ+ community. Buses, taxis, subways, and walking have proven to be unsafe modes of transportation for queer people, especially in urban areas and especially at night.

While many cities and localities have made strides toward protecting and supporting their LGBTQ+ community members and their allies, protections currently in place for this population are not sufficient. CSSP remains committed to working with our partners across the country to promote policies and practices that support, uplift and protect all people from violence and discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, ability and immigration status. 

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Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Healthy relationships are important for the positive development of children and youth, and are especially important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in child welfare. LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system and within that demographic, youth of color are particularly disproportionately represented. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being – II, 61.8 percent of LGB children in child welfare are youth of color. Not only do LGBTQ youth of color experience disproportionate representation in the child welfare system, when systems fail to meet their needs they are also at a “heightened risk of exploitation due to experiences including rejection and desperate need of shelter, food and other necessities”.

The importance of healthy relationships for youth was apparent in CSSP-led focus groups, where youth spoke of experiences with healthy and unhealthy relationships, including sexual exploitation, and the response (or lack thereof) by child welfare systems. One barrier youth identified was the inaccessible language used by systems to identify and document these experiences, including the use of terms like sex trafficking or commercial sexual activity in assessments and intake forms. In order for child welfare systems to be able to identify and serve youth who have experienced sexual exploitation, it is important to use language that resonates with and matches the lived experiences of youth and to work with young people to identify healthy relationship patterns.

Often, young people involved in sexual exploitation are unaware of the exploitative nature of their relationships. For example, a young person might perceive the exchange or expectation of sex in return for basic needs such as food or shelter as a normal part of an intimate relationship. Youth also cite fear of punishment and resulting stigma as to why they are hesitant to identify their experiences as sexual exploitation to adults and systems professionals. In addition, implicit bias on behalf of workers and perceptions of promiscuity or perceptions that youth of color are older and less innocent than their white peers may affect how assessment tools are applied for LGBTQ youth of color. Consequently, when the language systems use around sex trafficking and exploitation at intake and in assessments does not match the experiences of LGBTQ youth of color in the child welfare system, both systems and young people themselves may be prevented from accurately identifying those who have experienced sexual exploitation. This lapse between language and lived experience in turn also prevents the system from connecting these youth with appropriate supports and services.

In 2014, President Obama signed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980) into law which requires child welfare agencies to identify, report and support youth who are either at risk or have been victims of sex trafficking. Our focus groups and interviews concluded that in order to fully meet this requirement, the language utilized by the child welfare system must enable and support youth and fully engage LGBTQ youth of color.

Our recent brief, Bridging the Language Gap in Child Welfare: Identifying and Supporting LGBTQ Youth who have Experienced Sexual Exploitation, recommends ways for systems to support the identification of LGBTQ youth of color who have experienced sexual exploitation. States should:

  • Ensure youth engagement in the design and implementation of improved screening tools to increase capacity for child welfare systems to identify youth involved with sexual exploitation and trafficking;
  • Utilize multidisciplinary teams to ensure consistent language and definitions across systems;
  • Eliminate barriers to accessing child welfare services by updating and clarifying key definitions and terminology; and
  • Raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 years old for instances of sex trafficking that must demonstrate force, fraud or coercion.

These four recommendations aim to remove barriers to identifying LGBTQ youth who have experienced sexual exploitation. Identifying youth is the first step to connecting them with the appropriate and necessary supports and services. If child welfare systems are not able to identify youth, then they will not be able to provide supports and services that address unhealthy relationships and strengthen healthy relationships for LGBTQ youth of color.

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Justine Kim is a communications intern at CSSP. She is currently an undergraduate at Northwestern University, majoring in social policy and Asian American studies. 

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) report on the House-passed version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), released on May 24, 2017, highlights the ways in which the bill jeopardizes recent gains made in health care coverage, which is a foundation for healthy development and well-being. As CSSP mentioned in a previous blog post, American Health Care Act (AHCA) Passes the House: A Significant Step-back in Health Care Coverage and Advancement in Health Equity, on May 4, 2017, the House voted along party lines to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), by a narrow margin of 217 – 213, before the amended bill had the opportunity to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In order to garner enough votes amongst House Republicans, the bill included an amendment crafted by Representatives Mark Meadows (R - NC) of the conservative Freedom Caucus and Tom MacArthur (R - NJ) of the moderate Tuesday Group allowing states to request waivers of essential health benefits and of “community rating” requirements. These harmful waivers would enable insurance providers to: 

  • roll back nationwide standards that require plans to cover services like emergency services, mental health and substance use treatment
  • discriminate against individuals based on their medical history by increasing their insurance premiums;
  • charge women more than men for health coverage as they would have to pay more for plans that include maternity coverage; and
  • re-impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage. 

The CBO report estimates that the bill would lead to the loss of coverage for approximately 23 million people by 2026 – disproportionately impacting children and families of color, low-income children and families and those facing significant barriers to coverage such as those with pre-existing conditions and those who use mental health services or are in need of substance use treatment.

The CBO report estimates that the bill would lead to the loss of coverage for approximately 23 million people by 2026 – disproportionately impacting children and families of color, low-income children and families and those facing significant barriers to coverage such as those with pre-existing conditions and those who use mental health services or are in need of substance use treatment. The AHCA would also effectively end the Medicaid expansion (currently in effect in 31 states and Washington D.C.) as well as reduce individuals’ and families’ access to health care services, weakening coverage or making it less affordable. As amended, the AHCA would allow insurance providers to exclude basic services such as maternity coverage, substance use or mental health treatment or prescription drugs, leaving many people with pre-existing conditions unable to find the coverage they need at any price. Specifically, the CBO report estimates extremely high premiums for those with pre-existing conditions - essentially creating yet another barrier for these individuals to access necessary health care services. The $8 billion (along with a required state contribution) set aside in the bill to help cover those who fall into a high-risk pool also falls significantly short of eliminating the bill’s funding deficits or solving the other problems it creates for people with pre-existing conditions. 

Changes to Medicaid would also devastate state budgets, forcing them to cover the $834 billion spending gap or make difficult decisions regarding who qualifies for the program – potentially pitting vulnerable groups against each other. These changes will also reduce child welfare, juvenile justice and education spending and services – all of which now effectively leverage Medicaid dollars to promote healthy development and well-being for children and youth. Specifically, the AHCA: 

  • Ends federal match funding for all who qualify for Medicaid – effectively converting Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program to a block grant or per-capita cap;
  • Does not allow states to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured adults after 2018;
  • Allows states to determine what qualifies as an “essential health benefit;" and 
  • Increases premiums for individuals based on breaks in coverage.  

Currently, ninety-five percent of children in the United States have health coverage – a historic high – thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). More than 11 million low income adults are also benefitting from expanded Medicaid under the ACA. This progress is threatened however, by continued attempts to dismantle the current structure of providing health care to Americans through efforts such as the AHCA and President Trump’s FY 2018 budget proposal (released yesterday), which includes an additional $616 billion cut to the Medicaid program and CHIP. 

When parents are able to access health care coverage and treatment, it not only strengthens their capacity to promote their child’s development, but increases rates of coverage and treatment services for their children. Legislators have the ability to promote positive health and well-being outcomes for children, families and communities in an equitable manner. But by failing to meaningfully invest in policies and programs that have the ability to reduce systemic barriers to success, they instead create disparate outcomes for children, families and communities of color. As the Senate considers this piece of legislation within the coming month, CSSP urges legislators to reject this harmful proposal and any other damaging attempt to dismantle the current structure of providing health care to Americans. 

For more information on how the current structure of Medicaid promotes well-being and healthy outcomes for children and families and the dangers of altering the funding structure of the program, download and read recent CSSP briefs: 

We will continue to issue policy briefs, statements and blogs in response to attacks on equity, basic rights and well-being. These are continually evolving issues, and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to follow us on social media (@CtrSocialPolicy and fb.com/ctrsocialpolicy) and visit our website at www.cssp.org

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Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.

As details about the President’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY 2018) budget have emerged, concerns about how the needs of families – particularly those facing the greatest barriers to opportunity – will be met in an equitable and effective manner have intensified. When the President’s proposed “skinny” budget was released in March with limited details, it was clear that the health and well-being of children and families were at-risk. Now, the full version of the proposed budget, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” makes it even more apparent that the cuts proposed by the President would increase the challenges facing families who experience poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and other forms of compounding disadvantage – disproportionately children and families of color. 

The President’s proposed budget ignores key opportunities to advance equity and instead dramatically cuts – or eliminates entirely – funding for a number of essential safety net programs. All Americans lose in this budget proposal – only a small handful of wealthy households would stand to gain – but the budget is merciless in its treatment of low-income families. Overall, $1.7 trillion would be cut from mandatory domestic spending over 10 years. These devastating cuts are directed at programs that are vital pieces of the social safety net for families with low incomes, including $616 billion from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), $21 billion from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), $40 billion from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, $72 billion from programs that support people with disabilities, and $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These programs provide crucial supports to families seeking pathways out of poverty and can mitigate the effects of poverty on children and youth as they grow and develop. The proposed cuts are targeted directly at families experiencing poverty, families of color and immigrant families, moving the budget in a direction that worsens inequities.

The threats posed to families by the President’s dangerous proposals are significant and far-reaching. Specifically, cuts to Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP will negatively impact the health and well-being of children and families and signal l a clear attack by the Administration on children and families, reducing access to and affordability of critical health services, increasing food insecurity and ultimately contributing to poorer outcomes for families. These cuts are particularly significant for children and families of color who, due to compounding effects of disadvantage, face greater threats to their health than white children and families.

Cuts to Medicaid: The President’s devastating proposal to eliminate $610 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years – in addition to the estimated $800 billion that would be eliminated from the program under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – would shred an integral piece of America’s health care safety net. Medicaid serves as the primary source of health insurance for Americans with low-incomes, covering nearly 70 million people, over half of whom are children. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded access to Medicaid to nonelderly adults with low-incomes, further improving health care access and affordability for families experiencing poverty in the 31 states and District of Columbia that implemented this option.

Medicaid access has been particularly important for children of color given that it has, in coordination with CHIP, covered 54 percent of black children and 52 percent of Hispanic children in 2014, as well as 25 percent of Asian children and 26 percent of white children. Medicaid has reduced racial and ethnic disparities in access to primary and preventive care, which is crucial to closing gaps in health and developmental outcomes for children of color.

Medicaid has reduced racial and ethnic disparities in access to primary and preventive care, which is crucial to closing gaps in health and developmental outcomes for children of color.

The proposed Medicaid cuts would also be disastrous for children and families involved with child welfare systems, who depend on health care coverage and access to supports and services funded through Medicaid. A strong Medicaid program is critical for these young people as children and youth placed in foster care typically have more complex health care needs than their non-foster care peers.

Cuts to CHIP: The President proposes reducing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – which insures 5.6 million children – by at least 20 percent over the next two fiscal years, directly impacting the health of children across the country. Cuts would be achieved by eliminating an element of the ACA that increased by 23 percent the portion of the program’s costs that is paid for with federal money. This would greatly increase the burden upon states to fund CHIP at the same time that they are also being asked to pick up a greater portion of the costs for SNAP and Medicaid. Currently CHIP and Medicaid work together to ensure that children receive the health care they need, promoting healthy development. CHIP also effectively reduces disparities in coverage and health outcomes for young children of color.

The budget proposal would add additional eligibility restrictions to CHIP, creating a coverage gap for families with slightly higher incomes who nevertheless may not be able to afford health coverage for their children, particularly in high-cost regions. Federal funding would no longer be available to help cover children from families with incomes of more than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow families with incomes higher than 300 percent of the poverty line to access CHIP, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. These families would all be at risk of losing health care coverage for their children, including access to preventive care.

Cuts to SNAP: The President’s proposed $193 billion reduction in spending for SNAP – equal to more than 25 percent of the program’s budget – will lead to higher rates of hunger and food insecurity, and poorer health for children and families. Food insecurity, or a lack of consistent access to enough, nutritious food, is a serious threat to the health and well-being of over 42 million people across the country and disproportionately affects families of color, households headed by a single woman,  households with young children and those who identify as LGBT. SNAP is currently serves one of the nation’s most effective public health and anti-poverty tools, offering nutrition assistance to 42 million families of every description.

The President’s budget would restrict eligibility for the program, impose work requirements beyond those already in place, and requiring states to begin matching 25 percent of the benefits their residents receive by 2023. SNAP has been an effective program for decades because of its flexible structure as a federally-funded entitlement that allows SNAP to respond to sudden changes in need, including spikes in unemployment and natural disasters. Shifting cost burdens to the states will dissuade states from ensuring all families who need SNAP benefits receive them. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that only about 14 percent of SNAP participants who are assumed to be able to work are unemployed, making the imposition of additional, redundant work requirements unnecessary, ineffective and burdensome for states to implement. The ultimate impact of these additional restrictions will be to discourage eligible households from participating in SNAP when they experience food insecurity, to the detriment of the health and well-being of children, youth and families across the nation.

SNAP has been an effective program for decades because of its flexible structure as a federally-funded entitlement that allows SNAP to respond to sudden changes in need, including spikes in unemployment and natural disasters.

Nutrition supports are also critical for youth who are seeking to gain stability as they move into adulthood, including youth aging out of foster care, who are significantly more likely to experience poverty, homelessness and food insecurity as they transition into adulthood without the same degree of support from family members that many of their peers have. Food insecurity at these pivotal points can contribute to poorer outcomes in health and education for young children and youth. Because food insecurity disproportionately impacts families of color, reducing federal supports for families experiencing food insecurity will also ultimately deepen inequity across the nation.

Conclusion

The President’s proposed FY 2018 budget is alarming in its disregard for the struggles of our country’s low-income families, and will likely lead to greater disparities for children and families of color. The proposed budget offers important insight into the Administration’s policy priorities signaling a lack of concern with the health and well-being of children and families and a disregard for equity. CSSP is redoubling its commitment to meeting the needs of families facing the most significant barriers, including families of color and others who on a daily basis experience inequitable access to opportunities for health and economic stability.  We will continue to monitor appropriations activities, uplift any negative impacts on children and families, and bring to light the ripple effects federal budget proposals will have in state and local budgets.

Today, the House voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – including an amendment crafted by Representatives Mark Meadows (R - NC) and Tom MacArthur (R - NJ) – representing continued efforts to dismantle the current structure of providing health care to Americans. The AHCA is a significant step back and jeopardizes recent gains made in health care coverage, which is a foundation for healthy development and well-being. The AHCA’s changes will reduce individuals’ and families’ access to health care services, weakening coverage or making it less affordable. Its changes to Medicaid will also devastate state budgets, reducing child welfare, juvenile justice and education spending and services – all of which now effectively leverage Medicaid dollars to promote healthy development and well-being for children and youth. Specifically, the AHCA:

  • Ends federal match funding for all who qualify for Medicaid – effectively converting Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program to a block grant or per-capita cap;
  • Does not allow states to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured adults after 2018;
  • Allows states to determine what qualifies as an “essential health benefit;" and 
  • Increases premiums for individuals based on breaks in coverage. 

Based on the Congressional Budget Office report on the initial version of the AHCA, provisions included will lead to the loss of coverage for approximately 24 million people and disproportionately impact children and families of color, low-income children and families and those facing significant barriers to coverage such as those with pre-existing conditions and those who use mental health services or are in need of substance use treatment. 

In order to garner the necessary votes, the AHCA now includes the Meadows-MacArthur amendment, which builds on an already harmful bill by allowing states to request waivers of essential health benefits and of “community rating” requirements. These waivers would enable insurance providers to:

  • roll back nationwide standards that require plans to cover services like emergency services, mental health and substance use treatment
  • discriminate against individuals based on their medical history by increasing their insurance premiums;
  • charge women more than men for health coverage as they would have to pay more for plans that include maternity coverage; and
  • re-impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage.

While the AHCA now includes $8 billion in federal funding to help cover those who fall into a high-risk pool and requires states to set up their own funding for these individuals, it falls significantly short of eliminating the bill’s funding deficits, or solving the other problems it creates for people with pre-existing conditions. 

Currently, ninety-five percent of children in the United States have health coverage – a historic high – thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). More than 11 million low income adults in 31 states and the District of Columbia are also benefitting from expanded Medicaid under the ACA. When parents are able to access health care coverage and treatment, it not only strengthens their capacity to promote their child’s development, but increases rates of coverage and treatment services for their children. The AHCA now goes to the Senate where it could face barriers to passage. 

For more information on how the current structure of Medicaid promotes well-being and healthy outcomes for children and families and the dangers of altering the funding structure of the program, download and read recent CSSP briefs:

Today’s vote in the House along with the Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which addresses amending regulations to allow for organizations to not provide preventive care based on a religious objection, marks a significant step backward in health care coverage for all Americans. We will continue to issue policy briefs, statements and blogs in response to attacks on equity, basic rights and well-being. These are continually evolving issues, and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to follow us on social media (@CtrSocialPolicy and fb.com/ctrsocialpolicy) and visit our website at www.cssp.org

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Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.

The Ongoing Fight for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care

  ·   By Amelia Esenstad

The past month we have seen a number of policies, plans and recommendations that, if or when implemented, will have many negative consequences for LGBTQ youth in foster care – reinforcing the need to, now more than ever, actively stand up for and support these youth. While we will continue our efforts at the federal level, we are also committed to highlighting work being done within states. 

Recent CSSP research, which will be featured in a forthcoming paper with Children’s Rights, Inc. and Lambda Legal, looked at state law, policy and licensing regulations across the country in the areas of child welfare, juvenile justice and runaway/homeless systems. Results show that while child welfare systems in 27 states and DC name sexual orientation and gender identity in non-discrimination protections, only four states require that placement decisions of transgender youth be made according to gender identity and only three states include gender identity in their definition of sex or gender. 

Our assessment of every state is documented in the map below, highlighting exemplary states and those with room for improvement. We will further explore the opportunities presented in all states to improve equity and outcomes for LGBTQ children and youth in care.














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Amelia Esenstad is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Promoting the Use of Data to Advance Equity

  ·   By Amelia Esenstad

Data collection and analysis are critical components of – and frequently the first, foundational step within – strategies to advance equity for children and families. However, recent efforts to undermine and eliminate national data tools and mechanisms will restrict the ability of policymakers and communities to fully understand differences among life experiences and impact of policy on promoting well-being and positive outcomes. These data are necessary to ensure sound decision-making and to assess the effectiveness of many policies and programs. Policymakers should not only preserve existing data strategies but should promote additional uses of data as well. 

The issues that policymakers face are often complex, and the data needed to design and implement solutions must match accordingly. Nuanced data looks at multiple data points and considers the intersections between them at different points in time, providing a more accurate picture of children, families and communities to emerge. These details enable jurisdictions to identify points where policy or practice change need to occur and to track and monitor changes and progress over time. Additionally, data should be collected for the purposes of analyzing the impact of policies and programs and should not be linked to individuals. 

Recent conversations highlight the importance of three important bodies of federal data: the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, American Community Survey and Supplemental Poverty Measure. 

H.R.482/S.B.103 is designed to dismantle policies that actively combat racial segregation. Section 3 of the proposed legislation specifically prohibits the use of federal funds for the database and is a critical component of this of this proposed legislation. However, even if Section 3 were to be removed from the bill, the remaining language still poses a dire threat to children, families and communities – and the AFFH rule. 

  • H.R.482, The Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017, would nullify the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and ban federal funds “to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.” These data are essential to supporting desegregation and community efforts to provide equitable opportunity and access to fair housing, a goal of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. 
     
  • Repeated attempts to eliminate or make voluntary the American Community Survey (ACS) would weaken a key data source for both government and business communities. ACS data informs over $400 billion of federal government funding allocations each year for purposes as varied as education, health care, infrastructure and housing as well as drives business decisions and market research among retailers, entrepreneurs and others. Making the ACS voluntary would reduce quality and accuracy, particularly for communities of color, and would increase annual costs. With the U.S. Government Accountability Office already labeling the 2020 Decennial Census as “high-risk,” the ACS must continue to be recognized as a valuable source of information for policymakers and communities. 
     
  • Calls to eliminate funding for the annual Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report fail to take into account the important data that the SPM provides when examining economic conditions. The SPM was originally developed to address limitations of the official poverty measure, which did not include the value of in-kind benefits or regional differences in cost of living, and to provide a deeper statistical understanding of poverty and anti-poverty programs. The SPM is a vital tool to study and record the positive impact that policies have on reducing poverty, and offers a much-needed complement to data collected through the official poverty measure.

Data plays a central role in shaping policy issues and solutions. The examples given here are only three ways that data can be used to illustrate a more detailed picture of the lives of children and families. Through efforts like these, policymakers can maximize the information available in order to promote equitable opportunities and outcomes for all.

We will continue to issue policy briefs, statements and blogs in response to attacks on equity, basic rights and well-being. These are continually evolving issues, and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to follow us on social media (@CtrSocialPolicy and fb.com/ctrsocialpolicy) and visit our website at www.cssp.org.

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Amelia Esenstad is a policy analyst at CSSP.

On Monday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly mentioned in an interview that DHS was considering separating children from their parents when they are apprehended at the U.S. border in an effort to deter families and their children from travelling to the United States to seek safety. This practice would needlessly separate children from their parents and would have drastic consequences for child safety and well-being.

In FY 2016, Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) encountered 77,674 children and their parents at the border, many of whom were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and seeking asylum, a form of immigration relief for which individuals cannot apply from outside of the United States. Currently, women and children who are apprehended together are placed in one of three family detention centers for up to 21 days before being released on bond, recognizance or participation in an Alternative to Detention (ATD) program while their case is pending before an immigration judge. Under Secretary Kelly’s proposed plan, these families would be needlessly separated—parents would be placed in detention while their children are referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  

Under current law, children who enter the United States without a parent and encounter CBP agents must be transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours of their apprehension. ORR then works to reunify these children with a parent or family member or place them in short- or long-term foster care – to be clear, these placements are not the same as foster care homes licensed and monitored through state child welfare agencies. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, DHS referred 59,170 unaccompanied children to ORR. In that same year, ORR reunified a majority (88 percent) of these young people with their parents or other family members in the United States and placed 12 percent in temporary or long-term foster care while they awaited the outcome of their immigration court proceedings. Oversight and funding for foster care for unaccompanied children is not done through the child welfare system but rather through ORR and its subcontractors.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), separating children from their parents as they seek refuge in the United States risks exacerbating an already emotionally and physically stressful time with additional trauma.

As we highlighted in our brief, Healthy, Thriving Communities: Safe Spaces for Immigrant Children and Families, family separation due to immigration detention places children at greater risk of psychological trauma, aggression and toxic stress responses. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), separating children from their parents as they seek refuge in the United States risks exacerbating an already emotionally and physically stressful time with additional trauma. Instead, the AAP recommends that children remain with parents, family members and caregivers during any time of anxiety or stress. Additionally, as a recent report from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Women’s Refugee Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) highlights, current practice to separate families as a means of deterring other immigrants, known as the DHS Consequence Delivery System (CDS), has not been shown to be effective through evidence-based evaluation and often contradicts what we know about humanitarian protection needs, due process and the importance of family unity.

Immigration experts attest that children who enter the United States with their parents are less likely to have other family members already living in the United States, meaning that a majority of children separated from their parents and referred to ORR under this proposed plan would likely need to be placed in short- or long-term foster care. This would massively increase ORR’s foster care caseload, which is concerning given that it is an already over-burdened and under-funded system. Last year, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that ORR is unable to safeguard children from sponsors attempting to “accumulate multiple children,” often fails to require background checks on non-sponsor adult household members or backup sponsors, does not adequately use home studies or provide post-release services and often does not ensure a sponsor has adequate income to support an unaccompanied child. Furthermore, the report found that sponsors often inflict legal hardship on unaccompanied children by not ensuring their appearance at immigration proceedings, among other findings.

While ORR has made efforts to increase oversight and ensure child protection, increasing ORR’s foster care caseload without a requisite increase in agency resources increases the risk that children will be placed in settings that can be harmful to their well-being, such as placement in congregate care facilities or with unsuitable sponsors or human traffickers who claim to be family members. The inability to monitor and ensure safety for children may result in an increase in child referrals to state and local child welfare agencies – and possible placement in the child welfare foster care system. Without a requisite increase in funding, ORR cannot work to develop and implement rigorous screening, review, training and certification requirements for foster homes and more importantly any group facilities where children are placed and ensure strong accountability and quality monitoring to ensure child safety and well-being.

Instead of separating children and families in the hope that it will deter families from trying to enter the United States, DHS should work to ensure that children and families remain together throughout the entirety of their immigration court case. In addition, DHS should make the following administrative policy changes:

  • Require the hiring of child welfare professionals at the border to supervise child protection and ensure families are separated only in cases where it is in the best interest of the child;
  • Prioritize family unity when determining whether or not to place an individual in detention; and
  • Consider the best interests of the child in all decisions impacting the custody, release or removal of family members.

For more information on these and other policy recommendations to protect family unity at the border, please see Betraying Family Values: How Immigration Policy at the United States Border is Separating Families. For more information on the costs and implications of separating children from their parents at the border, please see Separating Mothers from their Children at the Border is Wrong and Costly by KIND and the Center for American Progress.  

This is a continually evolving issue and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we continue to learn new information. Please check back with our blog for the latest information. 

You can download this as a fact sheet here

Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP. 

In recent weeks, CSSP's pursuit of its mission to promote the safety, security and well-being of all children, youth, families and communities, especially those who are systematically left behind, has required additional vigilance and timely and visible action. As Congress moves to dismantle the current structure for providing health care to low-income children and families, once again, we must speak up.

A range of proposals are currently being considered to restructure the foundations of health insurance coverage for low-income children and families, including changes to Medicaid (Title XIX), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These three health care financing programs provide coverage for millions of poor families and children and the consequences of change are likely to be very significant for their well-being. 

In a new brief series, we highlight the potential impacts of proposed changes on our most vulnerable populations of families and children and highlight several concrete, actionable policy strategies that policymakers at the federal and state level can take to ensure children and families continue to have quality health care and health insurance through Medicaid, CHIP and the ACA.

The two briefs released today highlight the vital role that Medicaid, CHIP and the ACA play in reducing health disparities, improving coverage and achieving equity in health outcomes for young children and families and children and families involved in the child welfare system. On our website, you will also find information on the race equity implications of restructuring Medicaid and CHIP.

We will continue to issue policy briefs, statements and blogs in response to attacks on equity, basic rights and well-being. These are continually evolving issues, and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to follow us on social media (@CtrSocialPolicy and fb.com/ctrsocialpolicy) and visit our website at www.cssp.org.

Download and read the new briefs Promoting Healthy Outcomes for Young Children and Their Families: Implications of Proposals to Restrict Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Protect Medicaid: Critical Opportunities to Support Children, Youth and Families Involved with Child Welfare.

           

Download and read The Racial Implications of Proposals to Restrict Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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Shadi Houshyar is a senior associate and project director at CSSP.



An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the United States. They are valued members of communities, employers, employees, parents and children. More than 5 million children, over 4 million of whom are U.S. citizens, have at least one undocumented parent. These children make up 7.3 percent of U.S. students enrolled in grades K-12. The ways in which immigration enforcement activities are conducted have a great impact not only on undocumented persons and their families and communities, but on overall child health and well-being and the safety and stability of communities.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two memoranda (linked here and here) implementing President Trump’s January Executive Orders on immigration. While these memos notably do not rescind President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted deferred action from deportation as well as work authorization to young people who came to the United States as children, these memos make families and communities less safe by greatly increasing internal immigration enforcement, expanding mandatory detention, rolling back protections for unaccompanied children and increasing the categories of people who are priorities for deportation, among other things. Specifically, they:

  • Increase mandated detention. The memos seek to end the long-standing practice of granting undocumented immigrants parole while they await removal proceedings. This will greatly increase the number of immigrants in immigration detention and result in the detention of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. Also, it may prevent immigrants who qualify for different forms of immigration relief, such as asylum, from seeking and obtaining this relief through the support of legal counsel.
  • Expand the 287(g) Program. The memos expand the 287(g) Program, a program authorized in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that deputizes state and local law enforcement to perform the functions of federal immigration officials. This program gives law enforcement personnel who act as immigration officers broad authority to make immediate decisions about whom to arrest for immigration enforcement purposes and encourages officers to begin actions against individuals they meet in the course of their official duties, including routine traffic stops. This program diverts resources away from local law enforcement and promotes fear and distrust among migrant communities and local police. This may create fear for immigrant victims of crime, including domestic violence, and prevent them from calling the police, reporting crimes or participating in police investigations for fear of deportation.
  • Expand expedited removal proceedings. Expedited removal proceedings allow for swifter deportations with limited court proceedings. The memos greatly expand the categories of immigrants eligible for expedited removal from individuals who encounter immigration officials within 100 air miles of the border and 14 days of entry to the United States to any undocumented person who has been continuously present in the United States for two years.
  • Reduce protections for unaccompanied children. The memos would change the classification of protections for unaccompanied children and may subject those who later reunite with a parent to expedited removal proceedings. While recognizing that children often travel to the United States to reunite with family or escape violence in their home country, the memo threatens to punish parents who indirectly or directly help to facilitate their child’s travel to the United States with either prosecution for child trafficking or subjection to detention and removal proceedings.
  • Increase the categories of people who are priorities for deportation. Under the Obama Administration, DHS was instructed to target enforcement activities on individuals with serious criminal histories, convicted felons and those who pose a national security risk while deeming vulnerable individuals and primary caretakers of children low priority for removal. The memos issued under the Trump Administration no longer exempt classes or categories of individuals from potential enforcement activities. While still prioritizing the removal of certain serious criminals and others posting public safety threats, these memos broaden the scope of enforcement priorities to include virtually any undocumented immigrant in the United States if they are even suspected of a crime.

Already, DHS has conducted a series of targeted immigration enforcement activities in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City, resulting in the arrest and detention of more than 680 individuals, one-fourth of whom had not been charged with or convicted of a crime.

As we discuss in our recent brief, Healthy, Thriving Communities: Safe Spaces for Immigrant Children and Families, the detention or deportation of a parent and/or primary breadwinner have long-lasting detrimental effects on children and families, including greater risk of psychological trauma, residential instability and homelessness, family dissolution, poverty, diminished access to food and greater health concerns. In the wake of these executive actions and the memoranda for implementation, advocates, policymakers and community leaders can join the 500 counties, 40 cities and 7 states that have enacted state and local policies to promote safety and stability for immigrant communities. These policies include:

  • Refusing to honor ICE detainer requests;
  • Opting not to participate in federal immigration enforcement activities like 287(g);
  • Leveraging state funds to ensure immigrant families’ access to safety net services;
  • Enacting legislation that supports older immigrant youth; and
  • Creating safe access to social services.  

For more information on these and other policies that promote safe and stable families and communities, please see CSSP’s brief, Healthy, Thriving Communities: Safe Spaces for Immigrant Children and Families.

This is a continually evolving issue and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to check our blog at www.cssp.org/media-center/blog for the newest information. 


Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Now is the Time to #getR.E.A.L

  ·   By Bill Bettencourt

Many of us have been awaiting the direction that the Trump Administration will take on issues impacting LGBTQ and Gender Non-Conforming system-involved youth. There is cause for concern. Yesterday, the Departments of Justice and Education withdrew trans-affirming educational guidance issued by the Obama Administration.  This guidance supported the safety and well-being of transgender youth in school settings and specifically addressed the use of bathrooms and locker rooms. The guidance was rescinded purportedly because of confusion in the courts, schools and communities about the interpretation of the word “sex” under Title IX, the portion of the Education Amendment Acts of 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding. However, the previous administration; professional organizations, such as the National Education Association; policy organizations; advocates; schools and parents spent much time helping policymakers and communities understand and recognize gender identity as a component of “sex”. Their efforts made visible the needs of transgender youth. The rescission of this guidance is a strong effort to keep transgender people invisible to our society and to dishonor and negate their gender identity.  

We have yet to see what additional actions will be taken by the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies that are supposed to support all children, youth and families. For several weeks now, there have been rumors and a leaked draft of a proposed executive order allowing for “religious exemptions” for programs receiving federal dollars to refuse service to LGBTQ children and adults based on religious beliefs.  The order has yet to be issued, but this order and other similar actions would actively undermine the safety and well-being of LGBTQ children, youth, families and communities. 

These actions at the federal level are having real life, stressful and harmful effects on youth. Young people who are not visible and have not come out are more likely to stay in the closet. Young people in schools and communities across the country are experiencing more discrimination and bullying and generally these youth will feel less safe as the Trump Administration’s decisions to deny them their rights, whether under Title IX or other provisions, leaves the door open for continued discrimination and traumatization. 

Young people in schools and communities across the country are experiencing more discrimination and bullying and generally these youth will feel less safe as the Trump Administration’s decisions to deny them their rights, whether under Title IX or other provisions, leaves the door open for continued discrimination and traumatization.

Currently only 19 states have non-discrimination policies that include and protect LGBTQ youth. The remaining states offer no such protection, although some local jurisdictions in these states have established their own inclusive policies.  Communities, schools and allies across the country are putting in place policies and practices that affirm LGBTQ children, youth and families, support their well-being and are examples for how we want our future to look. We must be diligent in supporting and sharing these examples to help spread them. 

Within this broader attack on the rights of LGBTQ young people and families, we are concerned about those young people in contact with the child welfare system, as they often have less family support that guide their healthy sexual and identity development. LGBTQ youth and youth of color are disproportionality represented in child welfare systems and we are concerned about the stigma and discrimination they experience while simultaneously dealing with past trauma. The ways in which child welfare systems work now to ensure LGBTQ and Gender Non-Conforming children and families are supported will be different depending on the state, urban or rural community within which they operate.  We urge leaders of these systems, many of whom are our partners, to remain focused on the mission and mandate to achieve permanence, safety and well-being for all system-involved children. In this climate, child welfare leaders, staff and partners must work even harder to ensure that these children and youth get equal access to education and equitable opportunities to promote healthy development so they have fulfilling lives. 

As we see what comes of pending court cases, federal policies, legislation and executive orders, let us stay focused on our mission and how within our very diverse national landscape we can collectively support one another and find ways to be creative in terms of policy, practice and the use of our resources.  Please know that we at CSSP are committed to doing our part moving forward and seeking out and working with our partners to support our public systems and its partners in their efforts.

This is a continually evolving issue and our analysis and specific recommendations will change as we learn new information. Please continue to check our blog, at CSSP.org for the newest information.

For more information about policies that support LGBTQ youth in child welfare see, view our report Out of the Shadows: Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare through Cross-System Collaboration. 
 

Bill Bettencourt is a Senior Fellow at CSSP and leads work on getR.E.A.L., an initiative that supports the healthy sexual and identity development of children and youth involved in public systems, particularly children and youth who identify as LGBTQ

The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s (CSSP) newest policy report highlights opportunities within Medicaid to improve health care services for child welfare involved expectant and parenting youth and their children. Access to comprehensive, regular and reliable quality medical and behavioral health care is essential for all young people, especially for those who are expectant or parenting. We know from data that when the health care needs of young parents are met, it is closely associated with positive health and developmental outcomes for their children. In order to ensure positive health outcomes for young parents and their children, it is important to focus on increasing access to quality, comprehensive, holistic services that meet the needs of young parents – as both an adolescent and parent – and their children. This includes coordinating health care services, automatic enrollment and working with fathers to ensure access to quality health care and opportunities to participate in their child’s health care services.

This report presents several strategies states should pursue within Medicaid to maximize the health and well-being of adolescent parents who have experienced foster care and their children including:

  1. adopting policies and practices that recognize and seek to meet the unique, holistic needs of both young parents and their children;
  2. increasing access to health care services and insurance through improving enrollment, eligibility and portability processes and policies; and
  3. improving cross-systems collaboration. 

Download the full report here: Improving Health Care Services: Opportunities Within Medicaid To Support Child Welfare Involved Expectant and Parenting Youth and Their Children.


Alexandra Citrin is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.

As a nation of indigenous people and immigrants, we have a responsibility to ensure that our policies welcome, support and protect newcomers who face significant barriers upon moving to the United States. Sadly, recent federal developments related to immigration enforcement and access to supports and services present a real danger to community safety, particularly for immigrants and their families. 

Immigrants are integral members of our communities—experts estimate that there are currently 11.5 million undocumented persons living in the United States and that of the 5.1 million children in the United States with at least one undocumented parent, 4.1 million are U.S. citizens. The ways in which immigration enforcement activities are conducted greatly impact not only the safety and stability of immigrant families but also the stability and health of the broader communities in which they live.  The compounding effects of lack of access to critical supports and services and fear of family separation have a direct impact on the healthy development and economic mobility of immigrant children and families.  

In a new brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, we highlight several actionable policies at the state and local levels that can be used to promote safe spaces and economic stability for immigrant communities, including adopting sanctuary policies like refusing to honor immigration detainer requests or opting out of federal immigration enforcement activities, and options for states to strengthen safety net services for immigrant families and support immigrant youth. In the wake of new and proposed federal policy targeting immigrant families and communities, advocates must be ready to defend effective policies and enact new ones that promote child and family well-being and advance our development as an inclusive nation.

Download and read the brief: Healthy, Thriving Communities: Safe Spaces for Immigrant Children and Families

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Tweetables:

New brief by @CtrSocialPolicy highlights policies to promote safe spaces & econ stability for immigrant communities. http://bit.ly/2loqPRN

We must ensure our policies support & protect immigrants who face barriers upon moving to the US. @CtrSocialPolicy http://bit.ly/2loqPRN

 .@CtrSocialPolicy brief recommends sanctuary policies to promote safe spaces for immigrant children & families. http://bit.ly/2loqPRN

 

 Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Children’s Bureau Commissioner Rafael Lopez issued an important and groundbreaking Memorandum this week about the urgent need for high quality legal representation for all parties to ensure the well-functioning of child welfare proceedings. The memorandum contains relevant research on the topic, including the importance of early appointment of counsel, and includes an Appendix with examples of existing high quality representation. The Children’s Bureau “ strongly encourages all jurisdictions to provide legal representation to all parents in all stages of child welfare proceedings” and all jurisdictions are encouraged “to consider providing such representation as part of a multi-disciplinary team." This is an exciting development that will advance standards for all parties in child welfare proceedings.


Martha Raimon is a senior associate at CSSP.

Today on December 3rd the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) joins the United State of Women to declare the first United Day of Women.  As young women and girls of color continue to be overrepresented in child welfare, juvenile justice and other intervening public systems, it is important that on this day we acknowledge the structural racial and gender discrimination, personal and community violence and added trauma that often accompanies intervening system involvement.

Girls represent between 33 to 50 percent of youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and 20 to 25 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, girls of color comprise up to 61 percent of girls in residential placement in the juvenile justice system and have the highest rates of confinement to residential placement for status offenses, with Native American and African American girls placed at the highest rates.  For many young women and girls, particularly those of color, these systems fail to fully address their intersectional needs and often place them at risk for poor outcomes in life.

CSSP remains committed to advocating for young women and girls of color by promoting the gender responsive, trauma-informed and culturally competent practices and policies that are proven to address their needs. The Accelerating Change Award (ACA) and accompanying network, as well as the ongoing Fight for Our Girls series, are among CSSP’s latest efforts to center the impact of structural discrimination and trauma in the conversation around marginalized young women and girls in public systems and to support the long-term innovative solutions that encourage their well-being and success.

CSSP launched the Accelerating Change Award to lift up organizations that have demonstrated leadership and innovation in their efforts to engage and serve young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk for public system involvement. Earlier this year, CSSP recognized ROCA, Inc. High Risk Young Mother’s Program, PACE Center for Girls, Young Women’s Project, viBe Theater Experience and My Life My Choice as 2016 Acceleration Change awardees.

This past summer CSSP and ACA awardees participated in the White House’s first United State of Women Summit, a day-long conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, Civic Nation, the U.S. Departments of State and Labor and the Aspen Institute. The conference brought together practitioners, policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders to discuss key gender equality issues that women and girls face, including the unique issues that often occur at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual orientation for women and girls of color.

The United State of Women Summit served as a collective call to action and has since transformed into a movement to advance and empower women and girls nationwide. As our body of work on young women and girls of color continues to grow, CSSP and the Accelerating Change Network remains dedicated to advancing the movement. We look forward to expanding our efforts to improve the lives of systems-involved young women and girls of color in the coming year and contributing to a broader holistic framework and national policy agenda that will ensure their well-being and success. 

Tweetables:

Today on #UnitedDayofWomen, I will join @CtrSocialPolicy to stand for our women & girls of color in public systems. http://bit.ly/2gTfPGH

.@CtrSocialPolicy highlights organizations accelerating change for young women & girls of color. #UnitedDayofWomen http://bit.ly/2gTfPGH

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For more information, follow the United Day of Women on Twitter using the hashtag #UnitedDayofWomen or view their Facebook page.

For more information on CSSP’s work to improve the outcomes for women and girls of color involved in multiple public systems, please visit our website here.
 

Precious Graham is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

2016 Election Results and the Urgency of Our Work

  ·   By Frank Farrow and Judy Meltzer,
During the coming weeks, we will all be thinking very deeply about what the election means for us personally and for our work. For CSSP, it reinforces the urgency with which we need to pursue our mission and the need to redouble our efforts, work smarter and be more courageous and more visible in advocating and fighting for those most often, too often and systematically left behind. 
 
As a nonpartisan organization, we remain committed to partnering with those who espouse the ideals that all children deserve to learn, develop and thrive within strong families in safe and healthy communities. We’ll continue to work with leaders at the federal, state and local levels who work to create better lives for children and families, and we’ll join with others to help chart new directions as needed.  At the same time, there’s no missing the rhetoric and vitriol that characterized this prolonged campaign season. Our job is to confront, call out and fight against the forces of discrimination, injustice, white privilege and supremacy, disrespect and oppression whenever and wherever we see them and work with others to dismantle those forces and nurture the ideas, practices and policies that create opportunities and conditions, communities and systems, that help all children to thrive. 
 
We’ll keep our focus on the results we are trying to achieve.  As we figure out how to channel the emotions and energies inspired by this election, let us reinvigorate our efforts to achieve racial equity and protect and secure the futures of all children because we recognize that is an American ethic that persists and one that binds us rather than divides us. This is what we do as an organization, when we’re at our best.  

Frank Farrow and Judy Meltzer are the Directors of CSSP.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released updated poverty numbers for 2015 which projected higher household incomes, lower levels of poverty and higher rates of health insurance coverage than in the previous year. Despite these improvements, 43.1 million (13.5 percent of people) still lived in poverty in 2015. Of those 43.1 million people living in poverty, 14.5 million were children and 4.2 million were young children under the age of five. For many children and families of color, who are disproportionately impacted by poverty, the challenges of poverty are compounded by historic disinvestment in communities, and the legacy of racially discriminatory public policies that contribute to discriminatory job markets, housing markets and school systems as well as other barriers to economic opportunity.

Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) or gender non-conforming families and individuals face similar socio-economic challenges as other individuals who share their gender identity, race, ethnicity, age and disability, systems of oppression and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression often result in disparate poverty rates for LGBT communities. While there is no single LGBT experience, the impact of inequality towards an individual’s economic security vary from person to person based on their multiple identities (which includes race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, ability, socioeconomic status and more).

Research shows that youth who identify as LGBTQ often experience disparities in education, bullying in schools, housing instability, youth probation and homelessness when compared to their heterosexual, gender conforming peers. Moreover, they are more likely to experience family rejection as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity and face a heightened risk of child welfare involvement. Once involved in the child welfare system, these youth are more likely than their peers to experience placement instability and poor mental and behavioral health outcomes.

Furthermore, many LGBT families and individuals often endure “financial penalties” as the result of discriminatory policies at the federal, state and local levels. The failure of LGBT-inclusive policies today allows for legalized employment, housing, and healthcare discrimination, exclusion from obtaining health insurance and identity documents recognizing gender identity, and hostile, unsafe school environments. These financial penalties are even greater for LGBT families and individuals of color who are furthered compounded by other forms of discrimination as people of color – such as disproportional involvement in multiple public systems. With the presence of anti-LGBT laws and the lack of inclusive policies, LGBT communities are at a great risk of experiencing economic insecurity and poverty.

A report released by The Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress highlighted the struggle experienced by LGBT families and individuals and calls for policies that can be more inclusive to strengthen economic security for LGBT families and individuals.

When examining data affecting the youngest residents, children of same-sex couples are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty compared to children living in households of married opposite-sex couples. It is also shown that 19.2 percent of children living with female same-sex couples and 23.4 percent of children living with male same-sex couples are poor, compared to 12.1 percent of married opposite-sex couples.The report found that single LGBT parents raising children are three times more likely to have incomes near the poverty line than their non-LGBT counterparts. Similarly, married or partnered LGBT parents raising children are twice as likely to have household incomes near the poverty line compared to married or partnered non-LGBT parents. While the difference in near poverty rate was smaller for people living alone – 20.7 percent of LGBT people living along compared to 17 percent of non-LGBT people living alone – these differences indicate the pervasiveness of poverty for LGBT adults.

These disparate poverty rates are even more troubling for LGBT people of color, who face higher poverty rates than their white peers and astronomically higher rates than the general population.  A study by the Williams Institute found that African American same-sex couples have much higher rates of poverty than white same-sex couples and children raised by black parents in same-sex couples have extremely high rates of poverty (at 38 percent for those living with lesbian couples  and 52 percent for those living with gay male couples).

The Impact of Policy

Successfully supporting LGBT families, children and individuals living in and near poverty in their efforts to achieve economic stability require strategies that are well-coordinated and responsive to the connection between economic security and anti-LGBT laws. Although some policy strategies are universally important, others need to be administered differently for families depending on their individual circumstances. LGBT families or families with LGBT children may require support and services that are different and more intensive than those needed by non-LGBT families.

Many families and individuals will turn to federal, state and local government programs that provide basic aid such as food assistance, rental assistance, cash assistance, and other limited benefits. However, because not all government programs have the same definition of family in determining eligibility for benefits, many LGBT families and individuals may be unable to obtain vital assistance during times of economic strain, simply because they are LGBTQ.

We must work to ensure that our poverty reduction efforts are also inclusive of LGBT people, which includes LGBT families and their children. Although the poverty data released last week showed that we are making important progress, there is still significant work to do to strengthen the economic security of LGBT families and individuals. 

To learn more about CSSP’s recent research working to support young children and their families, read our latest policy brief, Supporting Children: Addressing Poverty, Promoting Opportunity and Advancing Equity in Policy.

To learn more about the impact of poverty on young children’s health, learning and development, read CSSP’s new fact sheet, Poverty in Early Childhood.
 

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP. 

Poverty in early childhood is a pervasive problem in the U.S., with 1 in 5 children under the age of 5 experiencing poverty in 2015. Among those young children, half experienced deep poverty, meaning their families lived below 50 percent of the poverty threshold. Children of color are disproportionately likely to be exposed to the material deprivation and reduced access to opportunity that comes with poverty – 37.4 percent of black children and 30.2 percent of Hispanic or Latino children under age 5 lived in poverty in 2015, compared to 12.8 percent of their white peers – contributing to racial inequities in health, learning and other measures of well-being. 

The cumulative effects of poverty on health, learning and social emotional development are increasingly well-understood, but not yet effectively addressed, leaving policymakers with a number of opportunities in the early childhood sphere to take action to reduce poverty and mitigate its effects. By capitalizing on these opportunities, we can better support families with young children and tackle both the causes and consequences of early childhood poverty. 

How Can We Better Support Young Children & their Families?

The consequences of poverty in early childhood can be prevented and mitigated through the provision of high-quality, accessible and responsive programs and services, but to address the root causes of poverty, a broader shift in policy is also needed. Policymakers can focus on two key areas to better support young children and their families: 

Build economic opportunities and promote economic stability for parents and caregivers

Within this area, early childhood policy makers can seek to support parents and caregivers to better support children – for example, by improving alignment between programs supporting children and caregivers. On the ground, this can look like better alignment of child care subsidies with workforce development programs for caregivers. Currently, many state policies make it difficult for a child to receive a child care subsidy while the child’s caregiver is participating in a workforce development program or pursuing an education. Both children and parents lose in this equation – children may lose access to high quality early care and education programs, while a caregiver may be forced to choose between retaining a child care subsidy and pursuing education or training to improve their economic opportunities. 

Additionally, policymakers can support and advocate for family-supportive tax and work policies. In tax policy, this can look like adopting or strengthening state Earned Income Tax Credits and strengthening the child tax credit to better support families with young children. Family-supportive work policies can look like higher minimum wage laws, protections for pregnant workers, paid family and medical leave policies and fair/flexible scheduling practices. These local, state and federal level policies improve opportunities for all children and families to thrive. 

Build a high-quality system of supports and services for families with young children 

Within this key area, early childhood policymakers can ensure that programs are high-quality, accessible and a good fit for the poorest families. To use early care and education as an example, high-quality early care and education can mitigate the effects of poverty on a child’s development, but research shows that children experiencing poverty have reduced access to high-quality early care and education programs. Policymakers can work with local early childhood service provider to promote equitable access to quality early care and education for families living in poverty, and particularly for families living in deep poverty.

To learn more about these strategies to support young children and their families, read CSSP’s new policy brief, Supporting Young Children: Addressing Poverty, Promoting Opportunity and Advancing Equity in Policy.

To learn more about the impact of poverty on young children’s health, learning and development, read CSSP’s new fact sheet, Poverty in Early Childhood

 
Melanie Meisenheimer is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Supporting Workers with the Greatest Barriers to Full Participation

  ·   By Megan Martin and Rosalynd Erney,

Labor Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions of workers to the economic and social progress of our nation. Although we continue to see declining unemployment rates (4.9 percent in July), there are still too many Americans who are not reaping the full benefits of our success as a country because of long-term unemployment and structural barriers to the workforce.

While the number of Americans who were unemployed for less than five weeks in in 2016 decreased by 258,000, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for more than 27 weeks) remained about the same, at 2 million people, or 26.6 percent of the unemployed. These workers and families are more likely to live in communities with families experiencing multiple generations of disadvantage who have been essentially left out of the economic mobility afforded by good jobs and isolated by poverty. Unemployment and underemployment also disproportionately affect people of color. As of July, the unemployment rates for blacks or African Americans (8.3 percent) and Hispanics or Latinos (5.6 percent) were greater than those of whites (4.2 percent) and Asians (3.8 percent).

Those who experience long-term unemployment often face multiple barriers to the workforce, including:

  • lack of access to transportation and affordable child care
  • safe and stable housing
  • access to education and training opportunities
  • physical and mental health care
  • criminal histories
  • lack of immigration status

These barriers are often compounded by labor market discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or ability. Policies that seek to increase workforce participation and reduce inequities must address these barriers in a holistic and comprehensive way.

A recent column in the New York Times analyzed a working paper by Princeton economist Amanda Agan and University of Michigan legal scholar Sonja Starr that studied employers who had enacted “ban the box” measures. Ban the box is shorthand for rules aimed at reducing discrimination based on past criminal history by prohibiting employers from asking prospective employees to indicate whether they have a criminal history until an initial offer of employment. The study found that criminal records are a major barrier to employment, but also that ban the box policies may result in employers being less likely to call back any applicant that they think is black.

The researchers sent fictitious job applications with randomized criminal histories before and after ban the box (BTB) policies were put into place in New Jersey and New York City. Overall, they found that white applicants received 23 percent more callbacks than similar black applicants (38 percent more in New Jersey; 6 percent more in New York City) and that the white advantage is much larger in whiter neighborhoods. Employers who ask about criminal records are 62 percent more likely to call back an applicant with no criminal record (45 percent in New Jersey; 78 percent in New York City). However, the race gap in callbacks grew dramatically after BTB policies came into effect. Before BTB, white applicants to BTB-affected employers received about 7 percent more callbacks than similar black applicants, but this grew to 45 percent after BTB policies were enacted.

This research highlights the devastating effects and pervasive nature of racial discrimination and bias and the need for targeted workforce policy that takes into account the intersecting challenges associated with discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, immigration status and ability.  The New York Times article, however, suggested that policies like BTB should be reconsidered, or sidelined, so that efforts can be focused on addressing the underlying cause—racism.

Addressing racism head-on must be a critical focus of any effort to meaningfully change workplace discrimination and other barriers to employment. However, policymakers have a responsibility to enact policy now that would protect workers from discrimination, and there are strategies, like racial equity impact assessments, that allow for thoughtful consideration of potential unintended consequences. In other words, it isn’t an either or proposition. Policymakers must simultaneously enact laws to protect workers while also actively addressing the significance of racism—both alive and well in the labor market and that can be produced or exacerbated by the unattended consequences of new laws.

Unfortunately, people of color often are discriminated against, and disadvantaged in a number of overlapping ways in the workforce. As made clear in Agan and Starr’s study, as well as several others, they are more likely to be subject to discrimination during the hiring process. People of color are also more likely to be engaged in low-wage work, and too often they experience poverty or near poverty despite being actively engaged members of the workforce. There are also connected costs that are extremely difficult for low-wage workers, disproportionately women of color, to meet. These costs include, for example, the provision of safe and nurturing child care. These are all areas where policymakers have an obligation to address structural racism and enact protections and supports to ensure that everyone is able to engage and benefit from the labor market. There are a series of policies to consider on Labor Day, aimed at reducing disparity based on race and ethnicity and promoting equity and opportunity for all workers. These include addressing structural barriers to employment and economic stability for disconnected communities, increasing opportunities that make work pay and promoting work supports.

Address structural barriers to employment

Communities of color are too often hyper-segregated in poor neighborhoods that are cut off from economic resources and opportunities. The policies that guide transportation, housing and schools have a huge impact on the resources and conditions in communities, which has a direct impact on the ability of residents to find and maintain work. Rather than treating issues like jobs and housing as separate, taking a place-conscious approach allows for more community-specific solutions and has the potential to positively impact the work participation and advancement of community residents. Enhancing resident connections to better work and schools is a core part of this, but so is building the infrastructure, growing resources and strengthening social networks in neighborhoods.

Make work pay

It is unacceptable that people work often full time or in multiple low-wage jobs and continue to struggle to provide for their families. Policies, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), provide additional support to working families while encouraging participation and advancement in the workforce. EITC provides low-income workers with a refundable tax credit that increases as a worker’s compensation rises and encourages and rewards work by offsetting federal payroll and income taxes. In 2014, the EITC combined with the Child Tax Credit lifted roughly 10 million people out of poverty, including more than 5 million children. Expanding EITC eligibility to childless adults would reduce poverty for 10 million people and lift 500,000 people above the poverty line.

Promoting work supports

Many low-income workers put in a full day’s work only to see a large portion of their paycheck going toward child care costs (on average 52.7 percent). Others must juggle volatile job schedules with meeting family responsibilities and do not work as many hours as they could, depriving their households of needed income and our economy of labor. Making investments in programs that support parents with the greatest level of need, particularly those living in poverty and households headed by single parents, is an important way to support work participation.

Multigenerational programs, like child care subsidies, support parental employment while also providing high-quality child care, allowing poor and low-income parents to stay in the workforce and support young children who face the most significant opportunity gaps. Strategies to support workers outside of work as they raise children and meet family responsibilities must include:

  • prioritizing child care subsidies for families facing the greatest barriers
  • establishing 12 months of continuous eligibility for recipients of child care subsidies
  • expanding the supply of accessible, affordable, high-quality child care for families living in areas with high concentrations of poverty through the use of grants and contracts
  • intentionally targeting outreach and consumer education activities to ensure that low-income families of color are informed of and have access to subsidies and other services for which they are eligible

Labor Day is a time to appreciate the important contributions of our nation’s workers and reflect on ways to eliminate structural barriers to the workforce that prevent workers from fully participating. This requires protecting workers now where discrimination is clearly present—and doing so as a part of addressing the structural and institutional racism that is pervasive in the labor market—and in our communities.


Megan Martin is policy director, and Rosalyn Erney is a policy and research assistant at CSSP.

Young women and girls of color are disproportionately involved in child welfare, juvenile justice, and other intervening public systems.  These systems often fail to adequately address their intersectional needs, steering them toward an increasingly alarming trajectory and ultimately, placing them at risk for poor outcomes in life. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has been long committed to promoting gender responsive, trauma-informed, and culturally competent practices and policies that are proven to address these needs.

The Accelerating Change Award (ACA) and the Fight for Our Girls series are among CSSP’s latest efforts to center the impact of structural discrimination and trauma in the conversation around systems-involved young women and girls of color and to support the long-term innovative solutions that encourage their well-being and success.Accelerating Change Award Recipients, CSSP Staff Tashira Halyard and OMB Program Advisor Kimberlyn Leary

CSSP launched the Accelerating Change Award to lift up organizations who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in their efforts to engage and serve young women and girls of color who are involved or at a high risk for public system involvement. In May, CSSP recognized five organizations from across the country who have excelled in these efforts. The Accelerating Change inaugural cohort includes ROCA, Inc. High Risk Young Mother’s Program, PACE Center for Girls, Young Women’s Project, viBe Theater Experience and My Life My Choice.

Accelerating Change award recipients convened in Washington, D.C. this past June for a networking luncheon and ceremony. Commissioner Rafael López of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and Kimberlyn Leary, former advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls and current program advisor at the Office of Management and Budget, delivered remarks at the ceremony and emphasized the importance of prioritizing the needs of young women and girls of color.

“We can change the narrative that doesn’t respect young women and girls of color,” said Commissioner López.

Awardees also attended the White House’s first United State of Women Summit, the day-long conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, Civic Nation, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Aspen Institute. The conference brought together practitioners, policymakers, business leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss the key gender equality issues that women and girls face. Key note speakers included President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Oprah Winfrey.

While the summit at large touched on a variety of topics, many smaller sessions provided deeper insight into the distinct issues that occur at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexual orientation for women and girls of color.

On the second day of the summit, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Girls at the Margin National Alliance (G@TM) hosted “Girls at the Center: Understanding Obstacles and Exploring Solutions”, a session focused specifically on needs of marginalized young women and girls and their families. The session, which featured experts in the field as well as young women and girls, explored the issues and trauma raised by juvenile justice and child welfare system involvement, early pregnancy and sexual exploitation. Panelists not only raised solutions, but also spoke to the lack of cultural competency among policymakers and the disconnect that often occurs between proposed policies and marginalized girls’ lived experiences. Ultimately, panelists advocated for holistic, interdisciplinary and intersectional approaches to policies and practices targeting this population.   

Given the recent rise of girls in the juvenile justice system, particularly girls of color, the need for an intersectional and holistic approach to system reform is more important than ever. Girls comprise of close to 30 percent of juvenile justice arrests and girls of color represent up to 61 percent of incarcerated girls.

The juvenile justice system must implement culturally competent and gender responsive practice standards in order to directly address their needs.  Practical tools for working with justice-involved girls by Oregon’s Coalition for Equal Access for Girls and Justice Coalition for Girls of Washington State may provide key guidance.

In addition to these standards, it is also crucial that the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) be reauthorized and that the valid court order (VCO) exception be eliminated. The bill offers various protections for youth in the juvenile justice system, including strengthening the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) provision and promoting trauma-informed alternatives to confinement. Additionally, eliminating the VCO exception, which allows states to detain youth for status offenses, would be extremely useful for girls of color as they currently have the highest rates of confinement for such behaviors.

The summit highlighted many of these key issues and served as a collective call to action to advance and empower women and girls nationwide.

“My hope is that people leave here inspired and ready to do something” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “So the question is what are you going to do?”

With a growing body of work on young women and girls of color, CSSP is uniquely qualified to answer this call. In addition to lifting up and recognizing the work already being done to improve the lives of women and girls of color involved in intervening systems with the Accelerating Change Award, our proposed ACA network will offer awardees the unique opportunity to join an intensive learning community of high-performing initiatives doing similar work across the country. Also, CSSP is shifting the way public systems address the needs of young women and girls of color detained for status offenses with the Fight for Our Girls series.  

CSSP looks forward to expanding our efforts and contributing to a broader holistic framework that will ensure the well-being and success of systems-involved young women and girls of color. Visit our Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare page for more information on our work supporting improved outcomes for children and families of color.

Precious Graham is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

 

Children of Incarcerated Parents: An Underserved Population

  ·   By Ama Konadu Amoafo-Yeboah and Ali Jawetz

In the last 25 years in the United States, the number of children under 18 with a parent who is incarcerated has more than doubled, from 1 in 125 children in 1985 to 1 in 28 in 2010. More than 2.7 million children now have a parent in jail or prison. This increasing rate of parental incarceration disproportionately affects low-income children of color. In 2008, 11.4 percent of Black children and 3.5 percent of Hispanic children had a parent in jail or prison, compared with 1.8 percent of White children. The effects of parental incarceration on children of color are often compounded because of predisposed socioeconomic factors and increased risk of household instability.

Young people whose parents are incarcerated is a demographic that is underserved. The potential impact of parental incarceration on children’s well-being is vast, leaving children of all ages at risk in virtually all developmental domains. Research is clear that early developmental experiences often impact a child’s behavioral, cognitive and social-emotional growth. Since the adolescent brain develops unevenly, traumatic events, toxic stress and other disruptions related to parental incarceration can hinder healthy brain development.

When examining the differences between parental absence due to incarceration versus parental absence for other reasons, researchers have found that there are specific disruptive effects on family members related to incarceration. Children with parents who are incarcerated are susceptible to long-lasting trauma because of the abrupt nature of the loss and the potentially frightening experiences surrounding incarceration (e.g., arrest, visitation and interactions with law enforcement). Author Joyce Arditti describes this trauma as contributing to feelings of “ambiguous loss” and “disenfranchised grief.” Ambiguous loss refers to the physical or psychological absence that lacks resolution and is not commonly defined or understood. Disenfranchised grief refers to the societal stigma of incarceration that contributes to a lack of social support or opportunities for public mourning or acknowledgement, generating feelings of shame and embarrassment. Populations that are already marginalized, such as low-income families, families of color, and non-nuclear or non-cisgender families, are more likely to experience these feelings of disenfranchised grief, since they may experience shame and trauma on a variety of intersecting levels. Youth need healthy social connections in order to feel more comfortable with themselves and to develop a sense of belonging, but disenfranchisement and loss associated with parental incarceration can impede a youth’s access to caring adults.

Youth with an incarcerated parent often need access to supports, which are often lacking when at least one parent is incarcerated and cannot contribute to family income. According to a Pew Trusts report, 65 percent of families with a member in prison or jail cannot afford basic necessities. Though financial problems are associated with either parent being incarcerated, incarceration of fathers tends to impact a family’s finances more negatively. Family income can drop by an average of 22 percent over the years a father is incarcerated. Along with the financial implications, parental incarceration is defined as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), which is associated with an increased risk of detrimental consequences to children; children with parents who are incarcerated are more likely than other children to experience social exclusion, homelessness, psychological disorders and behavioral problems. Additionally, children of incarcerated parents are at greater risk of suffering health consequences later in life, such as heart attacks, higher cholesterol and asthma.

As a result of the timeframes established in the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA), when a parent is incarcerated there is a significant risk that parental rights will be permanently terminated when the child is in foster care. A 2000 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that two percent of fathers who are incarcerated and 10 percent of mothers who are incarcerated have children in formal foster care, but these figures are likely underestimated because they do not include kinship placements. More recent data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System shows incarceration was a reason for entry into foster care for about 20,000 children in 2013. The state requirement to file for termination of parental rights is problematic, particularly when the parent is incarcerated in a facility at some distance from the child, too often making required visits and contact all but impossible. Though some states have recognized incarceration as an exception to the ASFA time frame, parental incarceration still serves as a barrier to reunification.

Understanding both the relationship between trauma and adolescent brain development for these children could improve practice, research and perceptions about incarceration. It is necessary for children of parents who are incarcerated to have better access to social networks and sustained relationships through improved visiting practices in jails and prisons, community programs that provide concrete support and educational programs that allow youth to develop cognitive and social skills. Practitioners, policymakers and other system leaders should view incarceration as a community and family problem through a trauma-informed and developmentally-informed lens.

Ama Konadu Amoafo-Yeboah and Ali Jawetz were child welfare/systems change interns at CSSP. 

Ama Konadu Amoafo-Yeboah was a summer 2016 intern conducting research and developing practice tools for Sexual & Reproductive Health policy and adolescents in the child welfare and court systems. She is a second year Social Work student at Columbia University School of Social Work with a concentration in Advanced Policy Practice and field of practice in Contemporary Social Issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Children and Families in Urban America from the University of Southern California. As a woman of color who is passionate about race equity and Black liberation, she plans to utilize community organizing and litigation to fight for civil and human rights. As such, Ama plans to pursue a career in law, and practice at the intersection of both fields to actualize change and improve outcomes with and for communities of color.

Ali Jawetz was a summer 2016 intern conducting research, analyzing data and writing content about engaging young fathers in the child welfare system. She is also supporting the team conducting a qualitative study about the nature of transformational relationships between youth and adults. Ali is a second year Master of Public Policy candidate in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, where she also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and a minor in Spanish. Her primary policy interests include criminal justice reform, race equity, and education reform. She hopes to pursue a career supporting underserved populations by developing rehabilitation and re-entry programs for people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, as well as pursuing policy changes to dismantle unjust arrest, trial and sentencing practices.

For many youth in the child welfare system, especially those who identify as LGBTQ, ethnic and racial minorities or young people with disabilities, effectively addressing the root of disparities they face within and across multiple systems is important. Youth identifying as LGBTQ are overrepresented in child welfare, and they experience higher instances of homelessness, poor educational outcomes and youth probation. These overrepresentation are even starker for LGBTQ youth of color. The data on LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, present a grim and disturbing picture about their experiences and outcomes. Child welfare systems, who are responsible for the safety and well-being of these young people, should focus on policies and practices that reduce disparate outcomes, provide that LGBTQ youth have resources necessary for healthy development, promotes safety of youth who identify as LGBTQ and commits to achieving their permanency.

CSSP research notes that significant opportunities exist for states and counties to use innovative strategies to promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth and their families. The following policy strategies and state examples are a few such efforts that target increasing opportunities for LGBTQ youth in the child welfare system. These policy strategies fall under three primary categories: 

(1) Ensure all youth have the resources necessary for healthy development

Youth in foster care need a range of physical and mental health services and educational supports. However, youth who identify as LGBTQ frequently confront barriers to accessing these supports because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To ensure all youth receive appropriate child welfare, health care, mental health and educational services and equal access to resources that promote healthy development and self-esteem, systems must embrace parallel approaches to promoting accessibility. Because a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not always known, policies and programs must be implemented in ways that respect and value all youth regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Additionally, policies should highlight the importance of acceptance and cultural competence throughout services and agencies that serve as common entry points for children and youth in foster care and connected systems.

Many youth highlighted the need for ways in which placements can signal their openness and affirmation of youth’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. One youth who moved from different foster homes stated he did not feel that he could disclose his sexuality because he did not know how his foster parents would react.

“I think it would have helped me if I would have known that my foster mom or my foster dad were okay with [my sexuality]. I never knew if I could disclose it and I never did. And I think that’s where I think a lot of my outlashing, my attitude, my anger, my depression and my rebellion came from. I felt like nobody understood me.”

(2) Promote the safety of LGBTQ youth

Many LGBTQ youth in child welfare have experienced neglect or abuse from their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identities, and more than half experience verbal or physical harassment at school. Regulations addressing this heightened risk are necessary to ensure the safety, permanency and well-being of LGBTQ youth – the same entitlement afforded to all children – across settings. Strategies should include explicit prohibition of bullying, as well as balancing the need for LGBTQ youth to receive services in appropriate, non-hostile settings while avoiding unnecessary isolation.

(3) Commit to achieving permanency for LGBTQ youth

LGBTQ youth, like all youth in the child welfare system, are entitled to the least restrictive placement and to adequate assistance in achieving permanency in a stable, healthy, culturally appropriate and lasting living situation with at least one committed adult. Permanency also involves reliable, continuous, and healthy connections with siblings, birth parents, extended family and networks of other supports identified by youth and families. Yet, LGBTQ youth lose their placements more frequently than non-LGBTQ youth in foster care, report more abuse in congregate care, are more likely to age out of foster care with a lack of natural supports and suffer worse educational outcomes as a result of multiple placements. To address these negative trends, strategies should prioritize individualized placement decisions that are in line with each youth’s permanency goals across settings while using personalized supportive networks and provide needed education and training for origin and foster parents, agency staff and all children in the system.

In crafting solutions that not only reduce disparate outcomes but also promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth involved in child welfare, advocates and policymakers must first understand the multiple and often compounding factors that contribute to these disparate outcomes.

Targeted, cross-system collaboration that ensures all youth have the resources necessary for health development, promotes safety of youth who identify as LGBTQ and commits to achieving their permanency can improve outcomes for LGBTQ youth and families who come into contact with child welfare based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, class, ability and immigration status, is critical to better serving all children and families through child welfare services. The practices and policy recommendations detailed here are concrete, implementable examples that, with appropriate time, resources and support, have the potential to significantly improve the experiences of LGBTQ children and families in contact with child welfare – and increase equity for all families.

To learn more in detail about these three policy strategies, read the full report Out of the Shadows: Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare through Cross-System Collaboration.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP. 

An Equitable Child Care Agenda

  ·   By Rhiannon Reeeves


Today’s families are working hard. However, while nearly 70 percent of poor children live in families with at least one working parent, stagnant wages, eroding labor standards and growing inequality are preventing poor families from meeting even their most basic needs, despite their efforts. This is amplified for mothers of color who are disproportionately impacted by wage inequality and wage stagnation. For families with young children, balancing work while negotiating the demands of parenting and managing the cost of necessities such as diapers, formula, health care and child care expenses create unique stressors in the lives of the entire family. For poor families, these stressors are compounded by the high cost of housing and food, low-wage jobs that lack flexibility, lack of access to transportation and additional daily life-challenges that may arise. 

More than 16 million children in the U.S. are currently living in poverty. Young children, particularly children of color, are the most likely to live in poor or low-income households. For young children, the toxic stress that often arises from conditions of chronic adversity, such as poverty, can have a significant detrimental impact on early brain development. This can have lasting consequences for their life-long health, academic success and productivity as working adults. The science of brain development points to the importance of safe, stable and nurturing relationships and positive interactions between children and their parents and other caregiving adults. Research also shows that parental protective factors, when present in a family, mitigate or eliminate risk and actively enhance early childhood development. As such, multi-generational approaches that aim to help families build protective factors have the potential to improve outcomes and positively impact families for generations. Programs and policies taking a multi-generational approach are not new, however there are many missed opportunities for policies that take into account the needs of both children and parents and the circumstances in which families live. Additionally, when policies and programs designed for families fail to address the intersecting challenges associated with race, income, gender, citizenship or immigration status the resulting child and parent outcomes may fall far short of the intended mark.

High-quality child care serves as a multi-generational resource enabling parents or guardians to work, go to school or attend training activities while their young children are cared for in quality early learning environments supporting their healthy growth and development. Parents of young children are able to meet their caregiving responsibilities more efficiently when they know their children are being cared for in safe, enriching environments. Additionally, research shows that offering high-quality early childhood and school readiness programs can improve educational outcomes for low-income and cultural and linguistic minority children. 

On average, 61 percent of the nation’s children age zero to five and their families regularly participate in child care and early learning and development programs. The remaining children and families are either cared for in their homes or participate in more informal care arrangements or unlicensed care that is not always of high-quality – most likely due to the high cost of child care which often poses significant challenges for families, particularly those who are poor and low-income. Child care costs vary from state to state and are contingent on factors such as the age of the child and the type of care used (center-based or family child care home). In the Northeast and Midwest, the cost of full-time center-based care for two children is the highest single household expense and is surpassed only by the cost of housing in the South and the West. When poor families, who are disproportionately people of color, are able to access child care, it is too often low-quality, with low-income parents of children age five or younger being more likely to report concerns about their child’s learning, development or behavior than their peers in higher-income families. 

When coordinated in a way that supports both young children and the working adults providing for them, high-quality child care is particularly well-suited to meet the needs of low-income families. Additionally, center-based and family child care providers who work with families on a daily basis are natural partners in helping these families build protective factors that mitigate or eliminate risk and actively enhance child and family well-being. In order to bolster these positive outcomes and better support parents in the workforce, policy should ensure coordinated, high-quality child care programing that meets the demands of families with the most significant needs. A number of potential strategies could be used to help improve existing child care programs and ensure that they can better meet the needs of young children and their families. CSSP recommends the following: 

  • Expand the supply of accessible, affordable, high-quality child care for low-income families, particularly those living in underserved areas or in areas with high concentrations of poverty;
  • Target outreach efforts that prioritize the enrollment of homeless children and families and children and families involved in the child welfare systems;
  • Pursue expenditures that seek to advance equity by developing and sustaining early childhood education systems aimed at improving outcomes for poor and low-income children, children of color and children who are dual language learners;
  • Intentionally target outreach and consumer education activities to ensure that low-income families of color are informed of and have access to high-quality child care;
  • Partner with, support and invest in parents, communities and providers in ways that are linguistically and culturally responsive to diverse populations; and
  • Invest in the recruitment, training and retention of a qualified, effective and culturally responsive child care workforce. 

A key component to a family’s success is addressing the needs of both children and their caregivers together. High-quality child care serves as a unique means to equitably accomplish this goal by meeting the needs of families facing the most significant barriers in a holistic way. The recommendations listed above serve as a starting point to spur implementation strategies aimed at serving these families. CSSP’s brief, An Equitable, Multigenerational Approach to Finalizing FY 2016-2018 CCDF State Plans and an upcoming compendium of briefs on the 20th Anniversary of TANF, to be released later this month, highlight ways in which states can leverage current policy opportunities to implement these strategies.


Rhiannon Reeves is a policy and research assistant at CSSP.

Earlier this year, the State Department announced that due to high volumes of applicants, it reached the allotted visa caps for Special Immigrant Juveniles from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. This is the first time the allotted cap has been reached in this visa category and is partially the result of increased numbers of migrant children and youth from Central America fleeing extreme violence, unsafe homes and unstable communities and seeking protection, family reunification, better education and employment opportunities in the United States. For the remainder of the fiscal year (until October 1, 2016), children and youth from these countries who have been granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) by USCIS will be unable to access visas. SIJS is a critical pathway to safety and permanency through lawful permanent residency for many children and youth – and without it children and youth lack access to many important benefits including health care, the ability to work and food stamps.

While the State Department announced that visas for children and youth from Mexico will be immediately available at the start of Fiscal Year 2017, visas for children and youth from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala will be unavailable until the current backlog of children and youth from these countries applying for their SIJS visa has been cleared.

Last week, CSSP released two briefs focusing on the impact of the cap towards children and youth from these countries and providing recommendations for policymakers and practitioners working with and on behalf of these youth. The first brief focuses on opportunities provided through SIJS and provides recommendations for federal and state policymakers.

Policies at the federal level should:

  • Ensure alternative options for children and youth to achieve temporary immigration relief while their lawful permanent residency status is pending, including issuing deferred action, Parole in Place or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to these children and youth.
  • Issue clear funding guidance to states regarding healthcare enrollment and revise current regulations to promote access to employment for youth.
  • Ensure funding opportunities for legal representation and/or a child advocate for children and youth in their immigration proceedings.

Policies at the state level should:

  • Ensure children who have approved Form I-360 petitions are enrolled in state Medicaid programs.
  • Dedicate state funding to support children with approved I-360 petitions for adoption subsidies to ensure children do not remain in foster care longer than necessary.
  • Include youth who have aged out of foster care and have approved I-360 petitions in the Affordable Care Act presumptive eligibility category for full Medicaid benefits until their 26th birthday.
  • Provide legal representation and/or a child advocate for children and youth in their immigration proceedings.

The second brief focuses on the impact of the cap on child welfare systems and recommends practitioners to:

  • Continue to file for SIJS (Form I-360) on behalf of minors from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.
  • Ensure that SIJS eligible children and youth are granted Deferred Action while awaiting the availability of SIJS visas.
  • Ensure children are enrolled in state Medicaid programs as soon as their Form I-360 petitions are approved and have access to mental and behavioral health services.
  • Support migrant children and youth enrolling in appropriate education settings.
  • Continue to work toward achieving positive exits to permanency for migrant children and youth in foster care.
  • Support permanent caregivers in pursuing adoption or guardianship.
  • Support older youth prior to aging out of foster care and inform children and youth petitioning for SIJS that a change to their circumstances can impact their eligibility for an SIJS visa.
  • Advocate for the court to appoint legal representation to support migrant children and youth resolve their immigration status.

To read more on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and how policymakers and practitioners can protect children and youth from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico in the absence of visa availability, you can download both briefs here.

If you have any questions about these briefs, please contact Senior Policy Analyst Alex Citrin or Policy and Research Assistant Rosalynd Erney.

Rosalynd Erney is a policy and research assistant at CSSP.

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