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In the Footsteps of Giants

  ·   By Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP

Each of us is the product of our own experiences, and those who molded our personal and professional lives. This Memorial Day weekend, I found myself in the midst of encounters with my own role models in pediatrics. On Sunday, I saw T. Berry Brazelton, the kind and brilliant pediatrician whose books captured the imagination of parents in the late 20th century. Although he is now 99 years old, Berry walked in with a huge smile on his face, and promptly engaged in conversation with an eleven-year-old girl who wants to become a pediatrician.

Later this week, I will head up to Vermont for a celebration of the life of Paula Duncan, the guiding force (and I do mean force) behind the movement in pediatrics to move beyond screening for risk to assessing the positive in children and families, and partnering with parents to grow these assets.

These two leading lights amplify the themes that children need more than protection from adversity, they also need safe places to live, learn and play and to experience connection and support from the adults and peers who shape their worlds.

With the support of Casey Family Programs, I led a group of early childhood experts to produce a new report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences with HOPE (Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences). This report pulls together results from four separate population surveys. We learned that adults who recalled warm, nurturing relationships with their families and communities became healthier adults, even if they had multiple adversities in childhood.

While policymakers struggle to improve screening for risk and adversity, US parents and other adults already get it: children’s brains grow and develop in response to all their experiences, both adverse and positive. According to a 2016 population survey conducted by yougov.com and reported for the first time in the HOPE report, there is wide consensus among American adults of all ethnicities about the importance of positive parenting practices, and the political will to move forward in supporting families.

HOPE complements other new approaches to supporting child development and preventing abuse and neglect. Looked at through the lens of the social-ecological model, they all fit: The CDC advocates policies that support families through its Essentials for Childhood initiative. CSSP’s Strengthening Families approach emphasizes the centrality of the family in the lives of children, and articulates a set of protective factors that families need to thrive. HOPE completes this triad by demonstrating that protective factors operate through affecting children’s experiences.

The HOPE report provides more data and background for an approach that balances concerns about trauma and adversity with one that promotes the development of healthy resilient children who have had the positive experiences we all need. Although the report and the information within it is new, my own relationships with my mentors – Paula Duncan and T. Berry Brazelton – remind me that we are in fact only adding to a solid foundation of understanding.

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Dr. Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP, is a practicing pediatrician, the Chief Medical Officer at Health Resources in Action, and a Senior Fellow at CSSP. 

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.

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.

Questions about the so-called preschool “fade-out” effect are once again stirring up opinion on the merits of investing in early care and education. Recent articles with misleading headlines seemingly call into question the value of preschool programs for low-income children, though deep into the articles the authors defend early care and education as a worthy investment. Many readers will recognize sensational headlines for what they are: “click bait,” but in the current political and policy climate, when it comes to investing in the very young, this editorial practice, we believe, is both irresponsible and dangerous.

The “fade-out” argument, in actuality, grossly misleads readers to lump findings from research studies of programs of various quality, dosage and populations into one question: “is investing in early childhood education worth it”? On the contrary, considering the extent of the nation’s resource and opportunity gap for millions of young children and their families, the only question worth asking is, “is our investment enough?”

As the work of economist and Nobel Laureate James Heckman and others show, there is an overwhelming body of quality recent evidence that investments in comprehensive supports and services for economically and socially marginalized children and their families yield significant positive impacts for individuals and society. The evidence also suggests that benefits are greater and longer-lasting the earlier in a child’s life an intervention starts. Indeed, according to Heckman, “[t]he research shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7 to 10 percent return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. Significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors, and employment.”

To be fair, it should be no surprise to find evidence that a single year of pre-kindergarten instruction, even if it is of high quality, is not sufficient to “inoculate” against the future challenges many children face in elementary school and beyond — challenges that are largely the result of decades of community disinvestment, racial discrimination, and educational and economic disparities.

Skeptics also can rightfully call into question any investment that is built on a promise of large returns but that does not, in fact, sufficiently fund interventions that match the original program’s design. To think otherwise is unfair to the participating children, hardworking teachers and staff, and the families and taxpayers who pay for it.

But the answer is not to defund pre-kindergarten programs. Even the authors of the recent articles say so once you get into the fine print. Rather, the answers lie in paying attention to, and investing in, programs that incorporate strategies to address the contributing factors to successful interventions. To name a few, this list includes:

  • Respecting and supporting parents in their role as their children’s primary nurturers and teachers, as advocates for their children and their families, and as leaders and decision-makers within programs and within their communities;
  • Parental choice and continuous access to high-quality, birth-to-five early care and education options that meet families’ needs;
  • Comprehensive, two-generation supports for children and parents that address health, nutrition, basic needs and family economic stability;
  • Adherence to high-quality standards and developmentally appropriate curricula;
  • Highly skilled and adequately compensated staff;
  • Positive, strengths-based relationships among and between children, families and staff; and
  • Culturally and linguistically inclusive practice.

In the current political climate when every domestic program is under intense scrutiny and the threat of budget cuts, researchers and advocates alike must be crystal clear in their arguments and evidence. We must all avoid clouding the conversation with sensationalized rhetoric, and must call out inconsistencies and misconstrued arguments when we see them. To do any less threatens decades of progress toward leveling the playing field for families and communities that have been historically marginalized and threatens the advances we have begun to make in providing successful interventions for young children and their families.

CSSP stands firm in its commitment to supporting innovation and evidence-informed approaches that support children within the context of their families and communities. We call on researchers, advocates, policymakers and civic leaders to join us in continuing our collective efforts to promote policy, practice and systems change in order to create opportunities that promote well-being and economic success for all children and families. 

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Anna Lovejoy is a senior associate 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.



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

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.


We are all watching, as nearly every federal governmental system is being led by individuals who want to see those systems fail (DOE, DOJ, DOL, EPA, HUD, HHS), and through the Orwellian chaos, I am reminded that these same systems have been failing my community for several centuries. And somehow, we –queer communities of color— always find ways to survive, organize and fight for the visibility of our worth. Now more than ever, I am encouraged by the organic creation of eco-systems of liberation by queer youth who have always had to fill in the gaps, when government systems have failed our community.

A recent manifestation of the eco-system concept was an event that the getR.E.A.L Initiative co-sponsored and put on by the Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (KBCAN). KBCAN launched their second annual Ballroom Symposium, as they organized the Ballroom community to envision a world where queer communities of color are liberated through unapologetic radical love, self-mobilization and transformative healing. The Ballroom Symposium was inspiring, creative and a launch of a series of similar events that will take place in locales across the country. A year ago I became a member of the House of Garcon and a founding member of Comme De Garcon Pro (CDG Pro), an intentional space within the House that seeks to harness community knowledge and skills, to create opportunities for House and Ballroom members to grow spiritually, professionally and civically. KBCAN and CDG Pro are just a few examples of spaces created through resiliency, working to get closer to liberation.

Let’s just be clear. Black and Brown communities, since the inception of this country, have been living in a world where systems are designed to disrupt our lives, criminalize our bodies, patrol our behaviors and police our humanity. This is a world that has intentionally— and in most cases— strategically created mechanism to ensure that our lives be devalued, pathologized and left to fend off a set of historical, harmful and institutionalized policies and practices. So out of necessity, queer Black and Brown communities have created our own connected parts, our own community of resiliency, our own sub-cultures, our own spaces and our own systems where we can experience liberation, self-determination and the power to radically shape (and reshape) our lives.

The word radical finds it origins from the Latin word “radicalis.” It simply means “of the root.” Thus, if my community feels the bruises of broken systems, if we regurgitate the trauma of multi-generational state sanctioned violence against our core identities, and if we can clearly see the strategic design of systems of oppression, then we must find radical solutions that tug at the very root of white supremacy, heteronormativity, gender-based violence and trans-misogynoir. Fortunately, communities that stand nearest to the margins, are doing just that. While creating direct confrontation at the very core of systematic harm and violence, queer communities of color—learning from the black radical tradition— have created societies that are building within them, eco-systems of liberation. I define eco-systems of liberation as fluid and sustained spaces created only through resiliency for the purpose of co-investment in radical acts of love, recognition, joy, affirmation, growth, support, and healing.

In this time, nothing is more important than being radical. “Radical” allows youth learn to survive (and thrive) when a generation of people preaching the politics of respectability are more concerned about policing our gender expression. “Radical” is how black girl magic built movements and sustained them throughout decades. “Radical” is how one taps into the imagination of the beyond, to be able to conjure up a just world that we have never known. 

Eco-systems of Liberation are radical. They are a response to rotten roots that have plagued this country since its inception. They can be found at the intersections, in compounds, through nuance and complexity. They are adverse to monoliths, norms and respectability. Eco-systems of liberation are the small informal and interconnected systems that were conjured up at the crossroads of freedom, self-determination and mobilization. They are a resistance to oppression, hatred and bigotry, but more importantly, they are a response to a core need for chosen-family, love and acceptance.

I am honored to be a part of the eco-system of liberation that has been longstanding within the House and Ballroom Scene, since it was created by Crystal Labeija, a black trans women nearly half a century ago. In times like this, we will continue to organize, mobilize, advocate and fight to hold government systems accountable. But as they continue to fail, we will continue to create eco-systems of liberation that allow us to never abandon our hope. And through hope, I know that freedom and liberation will be actualized in this world. Forever forward.
 

Jonathan Lykes is a policy analyst 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.

Fight For Our GirlsOn December 19, 2011, the United Nations adopted a resolution to declare October 11 International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize the rights of girls and the challenges and barriers that girls face around the world. Today and every day forward, we must consider the importance of social, economic and political investments in young women and girls. Their needs are crucial in our work to radically shift the intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination and to achieve equitable and sustainable life outcomes.

Today on International Day of the Girl Child 2016, we must also acknowledge that young women and girls still face gender and racial discrimination, personal and community violence and added trauma that result from involvement in foster care, juvenile justice and other intervening public systems.

“Without progress for girls, there can be no real progress on our global commitments to justice and prosperity,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka.

In our Fight for Our Girls policy series, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) centers the impact of structural discrimination and trauma in the conversation around systems-involved young women and girls of color. Many public systems are frequently ill-prepared to address the distinct needs of young women and girls, therefore creating an alarming trajectory that often involves early and unplanned pregnancies, homelessness and sexual abuse and exploitation.

When looking at girls’ involvement with the juvenile justice system, girls are more likely than their male counterparts to face arrest for status offenses. When confined for these nonviolent behaviors like running away, missing school and violating curfew they become disconnected from school, extracurricular activities and relationships with their peers, family and community. This is particularly concerning for girls of color, who currently have the highest rates of confinement to residential placement for status offenses with Native American and African American placed at the highest rates.

Given the rise of girls in the juvenile justice system, particularly girls of color, it’s critical to note the gender and racial bias that often occurs in juvenile justice systems’ decision-making processes. Historically, young women and girls have faced sexist perceptions of acceptable and unacceptable behavior from juvenile justice decision-makers.  Recent data show that structural racism and sexism continues to permeate the system, with gender influencing a court’s decision to charge youth with committing status offenses and race determining a girl’s likelihood of being detained. Black girls are a striking example of this intersectional bias as they are the fastest growing population being referred to juvenile courts and entering detention

A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Delinquency Alternative Initiative sheds light on the disparate treatment girls face and why they are often confined for behaviors that boys are not.  According to the study, these discrepancies can be attributed to paternalistic attitudes among decision makers. There is a prevailing belief that girls need to be protectedfrom themselves, fear of adolescent girls expressing their sexuality in ways that violate social norms, comfort with using locked confinement to access services for girls with significant needs and an intolerance for behaviors deemed uncooperative and noncompliant.  Young women and girls charged with status offenses are in fact not being uncooperative, or “acting out”, but many are instead responding to complex personal, family and community-level factors and trauma.

The recent passage of the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) in the House offers some hope for girls charged with status offenses. The bill outlines various protections for youth in the juvenile justice system, including strengthening the Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) provision, promoting trauma-informed alternatives to confinement, and most importantly, eliminating the VCO exception, which allows states to detain youth for status offenses. However, even if the Senate approves the reauthorization, there is still much more work to be done. Data show that girls represent a significant portion of dually involved youth, with girls representing 33 to 50 percent of youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems as opposed to 20 to 25 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system alone. Furthermore, current research shows that youth of color involved in multiple systems have poorer outcomes than their peers.  

Public systems must incorporate gender-responsive and culturally competent policies and practices to best support young women and girls in their care. By making the experiences of young women and girls of color involved in multiple systems more visible, we can continue to highlight the challenges and opportunities to better support this vulnerable demographic.

To join the conversation around the International Day of the Girl Child, follow the hashtag #DayoftheGirl on Twitter.

To learn more about how CSSP is working to radically shift the narrative surrounding girls of color and status offenses, please view our policy series Fight for our Girls.

To learn more about CSSP’s research on addressing the needs of young women and girls involved in multiple public systems, please view our policy paper Dismantling the Pipeline: Addressing the Needs of Young Women and Girls of Color Involved in Intervening Public Systems.


Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP and Precious Graham is a program and research assistant at 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. 

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.

Exploring How to Measure the Impact of Early Childhood Systems

  ·   By Cailin O'Connor

When early childhood systems function well, they can enhance the effectiveness of programs and services in the community, while ensuring better experiences for children and families and improving outcomes such as school readiness and optimal child development. However, documenting the impact of systems-level activities has been an ongoing challenge for communities.

Members of CSSP’s Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) are engaged in ongoing discussions about how to document and measure the impact of aligning and coordinating services and building the infrastructure of an early childhood system. This includes exploring questions like:

  • How can we distinguish between the effects of programs and the effects of the systems those programs are part of?
  • What data is available to gauge the well-being of all children and families in the community, and not just those who participate in specific programs?
  • What is the added value of program alignment and coordination within an early childhood system?
  • How does the coordination of the early childhood system affect families’ experiences within that system, and outcomes like health and school readiness for their children?
  • How can we ensure that our early childhood system-building efforts benefit the most vulnerable children and families in the community? How can the early childhood system help to reduce disparities between groups and promote racial and social equity? 

The first product to come out of these ongoing conversations is now available: A report from an EC-LINC Learning Lab that brought six communities together around the broad topic of Measuring the Impact of Early Childhood Systems. This issue brief defines four hallmarks of early childhood systems – family experience; quality services; safe, supportive and equitable communities; and well-functioning and sustainable systems – and describes examples of community-level evaluation related to each of them from the participating communities.

Stay tuned for additional products as these conversations continue.

Cailin O'Connor is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.

 

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.


I attended my first  Ball on City Hall Black Pride Celebration on May 23, a gathering to highlight the collective talents of the DC House and Ball (also known as ballroom) community through art and civic engagement. The event was supported by the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s getR.E.A.L Initiative and showcased artwork by fellows from the getR.E.A.L Marvelous Whirlwind project, including pieces by our in-residence artist JeNae’ Taylor. The art exhibit at the event chronicled the struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ youth of color navigating involvement with public systems, like foster care, and systemic  racism and oppression.

With more than three decades of relevance, the ballroom subculture has gained thousands of members and has inspired its own documentary and yet remains largely unknown to many. For those who haven’t heard of the ballroom scene, I recommend watching Paris is Burning, a documentary that features New York’s ballroom subculture in the 80s. The film depicts African American and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women as they compete in fashion runways and vogue dancing battles. Many of the contestants competing for trophies represent “Houses,” often taking their names from fashion icons like Balenciaga, Dior, Mizrahi and Versace. 

The ballroom culture plays a much larger role than as mere competitions, but importantly serves as families and social groups for ostracized LGTBQ youth and those youth who may be seeking advice and guidance.

“A lot of gay kids and gay youth were turned away from their own families, and they’d get together because they found this social network in the clubs and on the streets,” said Power Infiniti, “mother” of the House Infiniti of Florida.

The national subculture evolved from the Harlem drag balls throughout the 1930’s Harlem Renaissance. It provides a platform that celebrates all forms of gender and sexual expression.   It also provides many black and Latino youth and young adults with a chosen kinship structure through which collective impact, resilience and vital resources are shared. Today balls are as necessary and crucial in the cohesion of LGBTQ culture as they were in their formative years nearly nine decades ago. Historian George Chauncey stated that Harlem “enhanced the solidarity of the gay world and symbolized the continuing centrality of gender inversion to gay culture.” Powering through adversity, arrests by police, disapproval by politicians and continual harassment by others, the ballroom community created a scene that became unstoppable because of the persistence of its participants and organizers who fought for an inclusive and safe space.

But today, LGBTQ youth, particularly those of color, face more dangers than ever, and we need to make sure that we don’t exclude them when we speak of “community.” And we must preserve the spaces that allow many LGBTQ youth to feel safe and be themselves.

Following the massacre in Orlando on June 12, 2016, spaces and communities like the ballroom scene and houses become vital lifelines to many. Ballroom acts as liberating sanctuaries, transformative sites of community and safe and loving homes. These are spaces that we need to celebrate and defend.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

CSSP’s getR.E.A.L Initiative welcomes Vida Khavar as the new getR.E.A.L project director based in California, where she works to make sure LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth are included in the child welfare policy decisions. With a seasoned background collaborating with child welfare agencies throughout California and other states, Khavar has assisted agencies in building or enhancing already existing programs. These include: foster care, treatment foster care, independent living programs, group homes and residential treatment. Khavar strives to make permanency a center stage in all areas of child welfare so that more children and families can benefit from services that focus on positive outcomes for children and families involved in the foster care system.

Prior to joining the getR.E.A.L initiative, Khavar worked as a permanency director for Five Acre in southern California, focusing in the areas of foster care, intensive treatment foster care, adoption and group home. She has also worked as a consultant with the RISE initiative at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, an initiative funded by the Children’s Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The RISE initiative works with families, as well as government and social service organizations, to combat the heterosexism and transphobia that too frequently result in the mistreatment and even abuse of LGBTQ youth and to reform policies and practices that aren’t sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ youth.

Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Khavar received her bachelor’s in psychology from California State University – Northridge and her master’s in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She is also a licensed marriage and family therapist who has practiced for more than 20 years.

Vida can be reached at vkhavar@familybuilders.org.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.




The Center for the Study of Social Policy is excited to introduce JeNae’ Taylor, an in-residence artist with our get R.E.A.L initiative’s Marvelous Whirlwind Project (MWP) where she uses storytelling, mixed media and movement as a roadmap for healing.

For nine months, the MWP fellows will participate in weekly workshops to navigate their experiences of homelessness, foster care, criminal justice and mental health systems as Black LGBTQ youth and work not only to succeed but celebrate their unique experiences and build creative solutions for their community.

When asked what inspires her work, she quotes civil rights activist and actor, Ossie Davis: “Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change. It can not only move us, it makes us move.”

As a native of Washington, D.C. and a graduate of Columbia College’s Theatre Directing Program, JeNae’ is a theatre practitioner, teaching artist, youth enthusiast, culture emcee and curator of black girl magic. Using creativity as a platform to discover, explore and discuss her deepest cravings and curiosities in life, she has produced work across the globe since 2003.

JeNae’ is also a member of the Black Youth Project 100’s Healing and Safety Council and The MB Collective, a group that honors the founding members of The South Side Community Art Center and Dr. Margaret Burroughs.

Listed below are some of JeNae’s work:

JeNae’ Taylor talks about her public artwork against gun violence in Chicago.

Paper Trail by JeNae’ Taylor in Sixty Inches From Center.


Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.



This is a profile in a series of blogs highlighting the recipients of our
Accelerating Change Award (ACA). On May 23, CSSP announced five winners of our inaugural 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 and creating opportunities for their well-being and success.

“For more than 30 years, PACE has been a respected advocate for the power and potential of girls,” said Mary Marx, president and CEO of PACE. “We combine prevention, early intervention, counseling and academics with a unique culture that values all girls and helping each find her voice and achieve her potential.  We’re excited to broaden the national dialogue with respect to marginalized girls through this award.”

Founded in 1985 in Jacksonville, Florida, PACE Center for Girls serves more than 2,000 at-risk girls annually in 19 centers throughout the state of Florida. Over the years, the PACE Center for Girls has developed a nationally recognized, research-based, non-residential program model that features a balanced emphasis on academics and social services, with a focus on the future for middle and high-school aged girls and young women.

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. PACE Center for Girls works to disrupt this trajectory through its strength-based and asset building model – a program recognized nationally as one of the most effective in the country for keeping girls from entering the juvenile justice system.

The PACE day-program integrates academic preparation with individualized counseling, life skills training, career preparation, and goal-setting to create a learning environment where each girl is empowered and equipped to unleash her unique potential.

Girls attending PACE have histories that include trauma caused by sexual abuse, school failure, physical abuse, family instability, bullying, and poverty, but after attending PACE:

    • 92 percent of girls had no involvement with the criminal justice system
    • 94 percent of girls improved academically, including girls who came to PACE a grade level or more behind
    • 85 percent of girls were in school, higher education, or employed after leaving PACE. 

In an interview with Comcast Newsmakers, PACE Center for Girls Chief External Affairs Officer Nona C. Jones shares how the center transforms the lives of young women and girls.

“Mia came to PACE with some substance abuse issues [and] a history of sexual abuse, and because she was transformed because of her resiliency at PACE – she is now an attorney,” said Jones. “We have girls who are doctors, and educators, and business owners, who have never been told that they were capable of success until they found PACE. And PACE has made a difference."

The organization values all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.

In additional to national recognition and an honorarium, PACE Center for Girls will join the other Accelerating Change Award recipients at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House this month in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about PACE Center for Girls, please go to pacecenter.org

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

This is a profile in a series of blogs highlighting the recipients of our Accelerating Change Award (ACA). On May 23, CSSP announced five winners of our inaugural 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 and creating opportunities for their well-being and success.

“The commercial sex industry is a multi-billion dollar business that preys upon the most vulnerable in our communities. Disproportionally, that is low income girls of color,” said Lisa Goldbatt Grace, director and co-founder of My Life My Choice. “With this award, we have a new opportunity to take our unique intervention to a national stage and support systems around the country in doing this important work.”

Located in Boston, My Life My Choice is a nationally recognized organization that fights to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Through its survivor-led programs that educate and empower youth to find their voice and creative a positive life path, My Life My Choice is transforming lives one survivor at a time.

In 2001, a young 17 year old Boston woman living in a DCF-funded group home was brutally murdered while being commercially sexually exploited. Following her death, city leaders came together to ask if this was an isolated incident or the tip of the iceberg? It was concluded that the incident was a part of larger problem -- the need to address the issue of illegal sex industry as a big business that preys on marginalized children.  From Latasha’s death, My Life My Choice was created.

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. Many are deceived, manipulated or coerced into the commercial sex industry. Adolescent girls, particularly those abused, neglected, or exposed to family violence and addiction, are especially vulnerable to recruitment. My Life My Choice works to disrupt this trajectory through its unique continuum of services that includes survivor mentoring, prevention education, professional training, and advocacy. Their survivor-led model connects youth in crisis to an unwavering support system.

In spring 2016, six members of the My Life My Choice Leadership Corps worked with two radio journalists to learn how to interview each other and tell their stories. 

“One was my uncle, I was really close to him growing up [.] I think he took advantage of that and he introduced me to this guy and I went because, you know, that was my uncle,” recalled one girl in the My Life My Choice Leadership Corps. “That guy was like, you’re going to make money for me after we were miles away on the high way.”

Watch the full video posted here.

 To date, My Life My Choice has successfully trained over 8,000 youth providers in Massachusetts and nationally have provided prevention groups to more than 1,900 girls and mentored over 350 girls in Greater Boston. My Life My Choice also has trained facilitators on its prevention curriculum in 27 states.

In additional to national recognition and an honorarium, My Life My Choice will join the other Accelerating Change Award recipients at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House this month in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about My Life My Choice, please go to fightingexploitation.org

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

This is a profile in a series of blogs highlighting the recipients of our Accelerating Change Award (ACA). On May 23, CSSP announced five winners of our inaugural 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 and creating opportunities for their well-being and success.

“Roca exists to disrupt the cycle of poverty and disconnection that ensnares young people,” said Rosie Muñoz-López, director of Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done to support our young women to become good parents and attain self-sufficiency, and because of this award, we’ll have the opportunity to begin sharing the lessons we’ve learned with others who want to make a difference on behalf of young women and girls of color at a national level.”

Based in Boston, Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program developed after witnessing the success of its Intervention Model for high-risk, justice-involved young men. Roca saw a clear need to assist this growing and underserved population of young and expecting single mothers who are involved in risky and harmful behaviors. Many of these young women are out of work and out of school and involved with intervening public systems, including the child welfare and juvenile justice system. For these “high-risk” young mothers and children, Roca’s four-year program provides a safety net found nowhere else in the country.

Unlike traditional programs that expect to see results within a year to 18 months, Roca’s program is an adapted dual-generation intervention model for 16 to 24 year old mothers who cannot succeed in traditional home visiting or youth development programs and need to be approached differently.  The program emphasizes a long term approach to behavior change that incorporates the expectation of relapse into the program design. The model provides a full two years of intensive services and an additional two years of follow up support for high-risk young mothers.

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. Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program works to disrupt this trajectory through its programs that use an informed approach to serve a high-risk population: pregnant and single young mothers.  

Jennifer Vigil came to Roca with two small children, no high school diploma and no prospects for employment. Through Roca’s program, Vigil was partnered with youth workers who took a special interest in her future and walked her through various trainings including education, life skills, parenting, and financial and employment training.

“Not only did I get a GED, but I got a different personality,” said Vigil, a participant of the Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program. “I learned how to be a better parent, how to trust people, how to be compassionate, and all this comes back to Roca.”

In additional to national recognition and an honorarium, Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program will join the other Accelerating Change Award recipients at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House this month in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about Roca’s High-Risk Young Mothers Program, please go to rocainc.org

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

Young Women's Project adult staff

This is a profile in a series of blogs highlighting the recipients of our Accelerating Change Award (ACA). On May 23, CSSP announced five winners of our inaugural 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 and creating opportunities for their well-being and success.

“We are honored to receive this award. It is an acknowledgement of all the amazing work teen women leaders have done to improve the lives of their peers and city agencies that serve youth in Washington, DC,” said Nadia Gold-Mortiz, Executive Director of the Young Women’s Project. “Teen women continue to carry the burdens of family instability, gender and class oppression, and youth-serving institutions that are not working effectively. As adults, we need to do a better job of working in partnership with teen women to improve these systems.” 

Based in Washington, DC, The Young Women’s Project is a multicultural organization that builds the leadership and power of young women and girls so they can transform DC policies and institutions to expand youth’s rights and opportunities of DC youth.

Founded in 1994, the Young Women’s Project provides programs that guide youth through a process of personal transformation so they can become leaders in their peer groups, schools, families, and communities.  YWP programs work to engage under-resourced girls of color, ages 14 to 24, with a focus on teens and youth involved with public systems like child welfare and juvenile justice.

Young Women's Project youth educator

Each year, YWP employs 250 youth staff who work to expand rights and resources in health, education, employment, and foster care. Youth are given the opportunity to work as campaign staff and health educators, conducting research and advocating for policies and programs that increase rights, resources, and job opportunities for under-resourced youth. YWP is working towards a city where youth are engaged in the leadership and decision-making of the institutions and processes that affect their lives.

YWP’s work is guided by a deep respect and love of the youth with whom they work, and a commitment to building youth power, ending oppression and practicing adult-youth partnership. YWP youth have the opportunity to work as researchers, organizers, and advocates with leadership ranging from the YWP Board of Directors, YWP adult staff, to Agency working groups and contribute to a full range of organizational decisions.

In additional to national recognition and an honorarium, The Young Women’s Project will join the other Accelerating Change Award recipients at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House this month in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about The Young Women’s Project, please go to http://www.youngwomensproject.org/

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP. 

Starting today, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) will release a series of profiles highlighting the recipients of our Accelerating Change Award (ACA). On May 23, CSSP announced five winners of our inaugural 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, such as child welfare and juvenile justice. Their innovative efforts are creating opportunities for youth well-being and success.

“viBe Theater Experience is thrilled and honored to receive this award from The Center for the Study of Social Policy, which will help to raise the visibility of the movement to improve the lives of girls of color, which includes the young women we serve,” said Toya Lillard, Executive Director of viBe Theater Experience. “This recognition will help us continue to offer free high-quality programming to those who need our programs the most. We place young women at the center of everything we do as an organization, and we are committed to creating and maintaining safe spaces for them to write, produce, and perform their own work, and speak about the issues that affect them most.”

Located in New York City, the viBe Theater Experience provides a space for young women and girls of color to express themselves through the production of theater and music about real-life issues written and performed by teenage girls (ages 13 to 19).

In 2002, graduate students Dana Edell and Chandra Thomas noticed the lack of free, high-quality after school programming for girls of color in New York City. Passionate about serving youth, the two worked with a group of girls to write, produce and perform their own original play, which eventually formed viBe Theater Experience. Since its creation, more than 70 original productions have brought free theater, live musical performances, videos and radio plays to a diverse audience, changing their perception about the kind of art that young women of color can create and what can be achieved through youth-centered collaboration.

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. viBe Theater Experience works to disrupt this trajectory through its compelling and innovative programs that use the arts to change the everyday lives of young women and girls of color.

In additional to national recognition and an honorarium, viBe Theater Experience will join the other Accelerating Change Award recipients at the United State of Women Summit hosted by the White House this month in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the wonderful programs at viBe Theater Experience, please go to http://vibetheater.squarespace.com

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

A Closer Look at Foster Youth and Sex Trafficking

  ·   By Susan Mapp

Sex trafficking of children in the United States occurs to children of all races and ethnicities and to both boys and girls. As I note in my forthcoming book – Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking – while specific numbers are unknown, it is known that children in the foster care system are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked. In 2014, 68 percent of those reported to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and found to be exploited through sex trafficking had been in foster care when they went missing.

This heightened vulnerability is for a number of reasons, and includes both the experiences that brought them into foster care, as well as their experiences while in care. Having experienced child maltreatment greatly increases the risk of being trafficked. Although clearly not every maltreated child will be trafficked, the professionals I interviewed noted that the vast majority of their clients had been abused as children: emotionally, physically, and/or sexually. Their experience is supported by extensive research.

This linkage may be due to lessons that maltreated children are taught. Children who have been abused are taught that people who love you mistreat you, that they do not have the right to say no and that they cannot control what happens to their bodies. Emotional abuse teaches children that they are of low worth and that those who say they love them will demean and disrespect them. Children who are physically abused have learned that physical violence is an expected part of a loving relationship. If they have been sexually abused, they learn that their body does not belong to them, that it exists for someone else's pleasure. These children are also taught to keep secrets and hide information from authorities, a required skill while trafficked.

A child found to be physically, sexually or emotionally abused by their parent or caretaker, may be placed in foster care. However, this can create another set of risk factors. As Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, a sex trafficking survivor and alumna of the foster care system, stated in her testimony to Congress:

Youth within the system are more vulnerable to becoming sexually exploited because youth accept and normalize the experience of being used as an object of financial gain by people who are supposed to care for us, we experience various people who control our lives, and we lack the opportunity to gain meaningful relationships and attachments.

Youth within the system are more vulnerable to becoming sexually exploited because youth accept and normalize the experience of being used as an object of financial gain by people who are supposed to care for us, we experience various people who control our lives, and we lack the opportunity to gain meaningful relationships and attachments. 

Once in the foster care system, too many youth are in foster homes with caregivers who do not truly care about them. Ms. Pettigrew stated that caregivers often use the support money from the state to purchase luxuries for themselves, and the youth are told they are simply the means to a paycheck. Thus, even before they are trafficked, these children are being taught that their purpose is to bring money into a household. An advocate reported a survivor stated that for her:

Foster care was the training ground to being trafficked. She understood that she was attached to a check. And what she points out is that at least the pimp told her that he loved her, and she never heard that in any of her foster care placements.

Adolescents in foster care experience the natural adolescent yearning for freedom and autonomy, however those in foster care have even less say over what happens in their lives than their same-age peers. Their lives are dictated by their caseworkers, foster parents and likely, other professionals. Adolescents in foster care often report plans are made for them without their input and feeling that they are not heard when they do speak up. This can be particularly true for those in a residential center, the type of placement from which youth are most likely to run, they do not have the same freedom of movement as their peers. Therefore, when they are seemingly offered a chance to be on their own and make their own decisions, or they run away, they will take it, and can thus be recruited into a trafficking situation.

Those who are members of the LGBTQ community are at further risk. Sexual minority youth are significantly more likely to be involved with the child welfare system than sexual majority youth. Once in the system, they continue to face difficulties due to discrimination, including rejection by foster parents, verbal and physical harassment and hostility. They report poorer treatment by the child welfare system, a higher number of foster care placements, are more likely to be placed in a group home and are more likely to be homeless.

To help prevent these youth from being trafficked, all those working in the child welfare system, whether as caseworkers, residential center staff, foster parents or others, must be made aware of this issue and the red flags that may signal a child is being groomed or trafficked. For example, Georgia developed a webinar to address this need due to the busy schedules of child welfare staff to ensure they had the needed information, while other states, such as Pennsylvania, have offered trainings to foster parents. They must also constantly work to meet a child's needs in a healthy way and ensure that the child feels accepted. Regardless of their role, all citizens need to be aware of this crime so we can stop the selling of the nation’s children for people’s sexual desires. You can learn more in - Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking - available in June 2016.


Susan Mapp, MSSW, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of the Social Work Department at Elizabethtown College.

Promise Neighborhoods build pipelines of programs, service and support so that children and youth in distressed communities can succeed in school and beyond. As a signature program of the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative and the Administration’s Ladders of Opportunity agenda, Promise Neighborhoods emphasizes education as the means to break the cycle of poverty.

This cradle-to-career-pipeline aims to achieve 10 child and family well-being results by making improvements on 15 associated indicators that span the lives of young people.

The U.S. Department of Education, which administers the Promise Neighborhoods program, and the Center for the Study of Social Policy, one of the several technical assistance providers for the program, created a series of videos titled “Pipeline Profiles” to better help illustrate the cradle-to-career approach.  The series consists of three videos that highlight how three Promise Neighborhoods are integrating and sustaining three different solutions into their communities: 

Although each video focuses on one selected element that plays a key role in the given Promise Neighborhood’s pipeline, the entire compilation conceptualizes the structure that supports children from cradle-to-career in diverse communities across the United States.

The Chula Vistas Promise Neighborhood, coordinated by South Bay Community Services, brings together a collaboration of partners focused on family, education, health and community to provide children in Castle Park neighborhood with opportunities to excel in school, attend college, find employment and lead healthy lives.

“We knew that there were challenges when it came to education. The expectation was just to graduate from high school – and the Chula Vista Castle Park area, only about 11 percent of our youth were graduating from 4 year institutions,” Mauricio Torre, Youth and Family Development Department Director, said in the Pipeline Profiles series video for Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood.

One of the main goals of the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood is to transform a community through education. It aims to support children from the moment they are born to the day they graduate college and create a community that values education. When families are struggling with financial burdens or emotional challenges, it can affect the whole family – including children’s learning. By supporting the whole family and advocating for quality academic support systems, it opens up a world of possibilities and is instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty.

 “We are now seeing Promise Neighborhoods not as a grant but as a way to affect change and really change a system within our community, bringing all these community partners under a common goal and vision,” said Torre in the Pipeline Profile series video.

To learn more about our work, visit our Promise Neighborhood page.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.

Sixto Cancel, Founder, Think of UsCSSP’s getR.E.A.L initiative welcomes Think of Us as a new partner in its national network. Think of Us, founded by Sixto Cancel, is an online web and mobile platform that started as a commitment to action at the Clinton Global Initiative University. Today, the initiative is a digital tool that supports youth during their transition into adulthood.

With the support of getR.E.A.L, Think of Us will launch its evidenced-informed coaching app called Unify later this year through the Santa Clara County Department of Children and the Washington, D.C. Department of Behavioral Health. The mobile application will provide young people with interactive videos, self-coaching activities and planning tools to help them identify and set personal goals, while also providing a framework to achieve them. 

“It’s important to us to use technology to reach today’s foster youth—after all, they are part of the Millennial generation, a demographic known for its digital nativity and embrace of innovation,” says Cancel, who was recently honored as a White House Champion of Change for Foster Care.

Watch this space for updates about the Unify app, and click here to join the getR.E.A.L network.


Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP.


All children deserve to be part of a welcoming, safe and loving home – and that includes youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and gender non-conforming (GNC). According to a report by The Williams Institute, up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT, yet fewer than 7 percent of kids nationwide are LGBT. 

The discrepancy of those percentages suggests a strong need for supportive services and housing for LGBT and GNC youth who experience homelessness, as well as greater awareness of how the trauma of having no place to live impacts their development and opportunities in life. 

The True Colors Fund, co-founded by Cyndi Lauper, started the first #40toNoneDay in 2015 with a message that everyone has a role to play in the movement to end LGBT and GNC youth homelessness.

“While family rejection is the most commonly cited reason for LGBT youth homelessness, it’s just one piece of the puzzle – a very big puzzle. We need to make sure we are seeing the whole picture,” Lauper wrote in an Advocate op-ed.

This raises the question: what is the bigger picture?

While there are complex and varied factors that contribute to LGBT and GNC homelessness, we can act to prevent it by supporting various programs and initiatives that work to ensure they do not end up homeless and on the streets.

One initiative that supports LGBT and GNC youth impacted by multiple intervening systems is CSSP’s get R.E.A.L initiative, which works to transform child welfare policy and practice to promote the healthy development of all children and youth. Many families that provide foster homes for LGBT and GNC youth may not provide the affirming environment needed because of their religious and cultural beliefs. Jurisdictions in our network are engaged in a variety of system transformation efforts to better support these youth and their families.

 “We are pushing the system to say that any child that comes into care needs to be recognized and engaged for who they are, and affirmed and loved and supported to become who they are authentically – and that’s not what’s happening in the system,” Bill Bettencourt, senior associate at CSSP who leads the get R.E.A.L initiative, commented in a recent interview with HuffPost Live. “That should happen for all kids. If you want to be a foster parent or an adopted parent, you should make a commitment to be able to do that.” 

Another initiative that is part of the get R.E.A.L network is Think of Us, an online web and mobile platform. Think of Us, founded by Sixto Cancel, started as a commitment to action at the Clinton Global Initiative University and now stands as a digital tool that supports youth during their transition into adulthood.

Think of Us will launch its evidence-informed coaching app called Unify later this year through the Santa Clara County Department of Children and the Washington, D.C. Department of Behavioral Health. The mobile application will provide young people with interactive videos, self-coaching activities and planning tools to help them identify and set personal goals, while also providing a framework to achieve them. 

“It’s important to us to use technology to reach today’s foster youth - after all, they are part of the Millennial generation, a demographic known for its digital nativity and embrace of innovation,” wrote Sixto Cancel, who was honored as a White House Champion of Change for Foster Care.
Think of Us and get R.E.A.L are among many initiatives that are pushing the fight to ensure that all youth – including LGBT and GNC youth – have an opportunity not to just live in a safe and loving home, but to thrive there as well.

This #40toNoneDay, let’s make our voices heard loud and clear that ending LGBT youth homelessness needs to be a priority. Let’s talk about mitigating the particular challenges that LGBT and GNC youth face – the stigma, the discrimination, the rejection, the exploitation and violence they suffer as they attempt to navigate the world in the same way that all youth do.

To learn more about our work supporting LGBT and GNC youth, visit our get R.E.A.L web page and follow the hashtag #40toNoneDay.

Viet Tran is a communications associate at CSSP. 

 

Check out this second video profile highlighting some of the work that the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood is doing to strengthen partnerships between schools, the school district and an institution of higher education and build out the K-12 segment of their cradle-to-career pipeline. The East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood is an FY 12 implementation grantee serving children and families in East Lubbock, Texas.

Promise Neighborhoods across the nation are working to achieve better results for children and families in their community through the development of a continuum of solutions, also known as a cradle-to-career pipeline. These pipelines are intended to seamlessly link effective programs, services and supports to help achieve a set of 10 results by making improvements on 15 associated indicators that span the lives of young people.

This series is made up of three videos that highlight how three Promise Neighborhoods are building three different pieces of their continuum of solutions. The first explored early childhood in Berea College Promise Neighborhood, which serves three rural counties of eastern Kentucky. An upcoming video will examine college and career in Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood in California. While each video highlights selected elements of just one part of a given Promise Neighborhood’s pipeline, taken as a whole, the series offers a glimpse into what it takes to support children from cradle-to-career in diverse communities across the United States.

Strengthening Families

New training materials are available to support implementation of the Strengthening Families approach. The Strengthening Families Scripted Curriculum Series consists of eight training modules containing slides, a suggested script for trainers, handouts and activities to help professionals apply the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework in their work with children and families.


The series presents CSSP’s most up-to-date research and reflects lessons learned from over a decade of implementation of the protective factors approach in child- and family-serving programs and systems across the country. Released one module at a time over the past eight months, the entire curriculum is now available for your use and adaptation.

CSSP worked in partnership with jurisdictions using the Strengthening Families approach in their child welfare systems to develop materials that help child welfare workers to understand the Strengthening Families approach and apply it in their daily practice. Former Strengthening Families initiative director Nilofer Ahsan led the development of these materials to meet the needs of specific jurisdictions over several years, then combined and revised content from across those and other projects into a comprehensive Strengthening Families curriculum in 2015.

While the training materials were initially designed for a child welfare audience, much of their content can be used or adapted for other audiences. In addition, while the entire curriculum can be used as a multi-day training, you are also free to pick and choose from the materials to meet your training needs. For example:

  • Need to make a presentation on an aspect of Strengthening Families? Use one or more modules from CSSP’s Strengthening Families curriculum, adapting as necessary for your audience.
  • Have you been wanting to incorporate some Strengthening Families content into other trainings or presentations? These slides, handouts and activities can be inserted into existing trainings or bundled with other content as needed.
  • Has your child welfare system been looking for ways to help caseworkers move to a strengths-based, protective factors approach? Talk to your child welfare training academy about how they could incorporate these materials into their pre-service training or professional development offerings.

See an overview of the curriculum here, find all the materials in the “Training and Professional Development” part of the Strengthening Families website, or click to view the script of each module below:

  1. Introduction to Strengthening Families : A protective factors framework
  2. Understanding the Strengthening Families protective factors
  3. Youth Thrive: A protective factors approach for older youth
  4. Trauma and brain development: A protective factors approach
  5. Making small but significant changes in child welfare practice
  6. Taking a community approach to Strengthening Families
  7. The research behind Strengthening Families
  8. Tools to support Strengthening Families implementation

Let us know how you use CSSP’s curriculum to move Strengthening Families implementation in your work.


Cailin O'Connor is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.

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