CSSP.org Blog http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/rss CSSP.org Blog Feed Thu, 23 Apr 2015 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 A Promotora‚Äôs (Community Health Promoter) Personal Journey: Pathway to Capacity Builder https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/a-promotoras-community-health-promoter-personal-journey-pathway-to-capacity-builder Thu, 19 Jul 2018 11:19:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/a-promotoras-community-health-promoter-personal-journey-pathway-to-capacity-builder Best Start is First 5 LA’s place-based initiative designed to improved results for children, families and communities. The initiative, which operates in 14 of Los Angeles’ most challenged communities, supports the development of local Community Partnerships made up of parents, residents, business and community leaders, health care providers, community service agencies, faith-based leaders, local government officials and interested community members who have made a commitment to working together to improve the conditions and opportunities that will ultimately improve results for children, families and the communities they live in. CSSP’s primary role with First 5 LA and the Best Start initiative is to help build the capacity of the 14 Community Partnerships so that they are high functioning, results focused entities that will continuously seek to improve community and family conditions for children for years to come. 

With a team of approximately 20 members, the Los Angeles based CSSP team works directly with community partnership members, local organization and building organizations to ensure that the essential capacity building measures that have been the core of CSSP’s work overtime are the basis for each partnerships’ skill building and design. 


¡Presente! Our Best Start parent and resident leaders yelled out “present” during the welcoming ceremony at the Visión y Compromiso’s 15th Annual Conference on October 6 & 7, 2017 at the Ontario Convention Center.  The ballroom that held about 1,000 promotores and community leaders shook with energy and laughter.  The conference welcomed members from local areas, across the nation and internationally.  Our Best Start members connected with new contacts and participated in dozens of workshops.   Opportunities, such as the conference, uplift the Best Start’s parent and resident leaders’ commitment to be a part of the process, create a sense of ownership and motivate them to become advocates for their communities.   

The following is an interview with Lupe Gonzalez, a capacity builder for Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) and Wilmington about her experiences as a community leader, her path to become a capacity builder with Best Start, and getting the Visión y Compromiso Conference, a gathering of community health educators, off the ground. In 2017, most of the 14 Best Start communities sent 90 parent leaders to this three-day conference. For more information about Visión y Compromiso and the 2018 conference, its 16th annual slated for October 4-6, please visit http://www.vycconference.org/ 

José Montaño: Lupe, tell us about how you started out and how you came to be a community leader and capacity builder? 

Lupe González: I born and raised in South LA, and the negative part (of growing up there) was that youth were not seen as being capable of graduating high school. Luckily there was a model that came into South LA, which was the promotor (community health educator) model. It offered community members the opportunity to be a part of the training. The model cultivated the experiences that people had and launch it into community education and organizing. The Esperanza Community Housing Corporation provided the first-cohort training for South LA members in the late 90s. The director back then went to ESL classes in the neighborhood and schools, and the application came to my house. My dad took ESL classes and brought it back for my mother. We (my mother and I) both applied and got in. 

The model opened up a trust-based relationship. I saw how it helped our family to develop better communication. The model helped me, my mother, and my family. What could it do for the community?

JM: How did you go from being a local leader in South LA to helping establish a national effort and conference like the one at Visión y Compromiso? 

LG: At first, it was just Esperanza graduates, then we started learning we had “cousins” in like-minded organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. We all thought we were the only promotor group that existed. We weren’t, there were a lot of us. We connected and talked together. We identified the need for the types of support, and because we didn’t have the structure to do it, we didn’t have an organization. 

Leaders from the promotor groups saw an opportunity to keep supporting us and to create a nonprofit organization.  We didn’t give it a name until a collective gathered, we got together at a conference about 90 of us, a lot of promotoras from different places, and we identified the needs and the support we desired. We started throwing out names and it became Visión y Compromiso. Visión because we had a vision and wanted to become liaisons, a bridge, employees, better people in our communities, anything we wanted; and compromiso because we needed to be committed.  

JM: Tell us a little about your how you went from being a promotora to becoming a nonprofit leader training promotoras? 

LG: Through my volunteer work with Esperanza, I became a part of the staff. I took on the role of the Director of Health Programs. I saw how grants functioned, how to supervise promotores, and how to run programs. 

Originally, I was trained in 1996, we graduated in December 1996, and in 1997, we wanted to go out and change the world. Each year after that Esperanza graduated more promotores. I became a mentor to many new promotores. In 1998, I officially became an employee with a program under California Hospital to teach community members about the Medi-Cal managed care system. 

JM: How about your role with Visión y Compromiso? You’ve been involved from the very beginning. How has your role evolved from organizer, co-founder of the conference to now what? 

LG: I wouldn’t say too much co-founder. That came from a lot of us. We were in different spaces, and we started by saying things like, “My name is Lupe and I’m a promotora de salud (community health educator/promoter).” And then people would ask, “What is that?” and that’s where we started gaining traction, validity, and acknowledgement. 

This year is the 16th Annual Conference. The way that my role has evolved is similar to the way I became a promotora, I started participating as a volunteer and became passionate about the work that they do.

JM: Lupe, you shared much about your history of leadership and how you helped shape Visión y Compromiso and Best Start’s involvement in that. Can you share with us how you came to be a capacity builder? 

LG: My journey as a capacity builder began four years ago when I was a part of the Best Start Metro Community Guidance Body. I learned about Best Start when I was a resident in the area and also through my work at Esperanza Community Housing Corporation.  While at Esperanza, I was working with the promotor training and participating in both efforts I came to understand that the two organizations had things in common. There (at Best Start Metro), I met Brenda Aguilera and Aja Howell who introduced me to the capacity building opportunities through training and practice. 

I was introduced to the communities of SELA and Wilmington, and with the support and trust of the communities, the organizations and First LA staff, I eventually became the facilitator for those communities.  When the facilitator contract came to an end, I was invited to be a part of the capacity building team.

JM: What are you most proud of with this conference and professionally? What is your greatest accomplishments to date? 

LG: Professionally, one of the biggest accomplishments is being a capacity builder with CSSP. To be a promotora and be within a team of people with such varied educational levels and life backgrounds. Wow! By being part of Best Start Metro LA… and now being a mentor to those community members that are following in my footsteps, that’s a great accomplishment for me personally.  

Because of the work that we have done together, the promotores has become a nationally recognized model. I was invited to become a member of the national steering committee of promotores in Washington DC. I’m really proud to represent the promotores en la lucha (in the struggle.) Many don’t have the income to go to meetings, or they don’t have the means of transportation, but they are still there. It’s their movement, they have a sense of ownership, so that makes me very proud. 

I have also learned a lot through my years in Best Start. Starting off as a member of Best Start gave me the background and context to be able to guide communities as they planned for the future. There have been wins and lessons learned. The promotor training I received early on helped set the foundation and the Best Start trainings reinforced my confidence. I have been fortunate to share my story with the Best Start members and hope that it motivates them to continue developing what they already have, to be the best they can be to support their own communities.

JM: Congratulations, Lupe! 

LG: Thank you.

Lupe González is a CSSP Capacity Builder, Wilmington and SELA and José Montaño is a CSSP Capacity Builder, East LA


Santa Ana Early Learning Initiative: Padres Poderosos/Powerful Parents https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/santa-ana-early-learning-initiative-padres-poderosospowerful-parents Tue, 17 Jul 2018 13:05:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/santa-ana-early-learning-initiative-padres-poderosospowerful-parents According to the 2015 Census, in Santa Ana, there were 53,323 children ages nine years and younger (16 percent of the population), with 25,751 of them under the age of four. With those staggering numbers, multiple organizations (Delhi Center, El Sol Science and Arts Academy, and the Orange County Labor Federation) came together in 2015 to ask how they could create system and policy changes to support the economic needs of families with young children.

The opportunity arose for the three organizations to partner with the Children and Families Commission and the Center for the Study of Social Policy after the release of a capacity building grant that focused on a Collective Impact Framework, while also addressing the need to improve early literacy. The grant used the Two-Generation Model approach to provide supports and services not only to children, but also to their parents. The model would help increase early literacy outcomes, while also strengthening parenting capacity and addressing the economic needs of these families.

Eventually, the initial partners grew into a larger stakeholder group that would include government agencies, nonprofits, and the business community. The collaborative group, initially called the Early Literacy Initiative, changed the name to the Santa Ana Early Learning Initiative (SAELI).

Since 2015, SAELI has grown from three to over 50 partners that are focusing on two things:
1)     Enhancing early learning outcomes for all children prenatal to nine years old in Santa Ana; and
2)     Improving the economic well-being of their parents/caregivers.

When the Santa Ana Unified School District joined the group in the spring of 2017, the partners started looking at school aged children from preschool-to-fourth grade, and the many assessments used to measure their performance. The Children and Families Commission shared their Early Development Index (EDI) and United Way’s Family Financial Stability Index (FFSI) data to provide an insight into how children’s early literacy outcomes are affected by the economic instability of their families. What emerged was the need to target children at much younger ages.

SAELI knew that it would be challenging to take on the entire Santa Ana community, and instead decided to focus on three target neighborhoods. The three target neighborhoods chosen were: the Delhi Neighborhood, which includes Edison, Esqueda, Monroe and Washington elementary schools; Minnie Street neighborhood, which includes Madison and Kennedy elementary schools; and Pico-Lowell neighborhood, which includes Pio Pico, Lowell and Heninger elementary schools. Each of the principals from these schools committed to working on improving early learning and were tasked with developing a spark project that would help them target families with younger kids.

It was evident to the SAELI partners that by targeting children ages 0 to 5—before they reached the formal school system—they would have a higher chance of succeeding by the time they entered school. For this reason, the SAELI schools—along with the support from the school district’s early education curriculum specialists and other SAELI partners—created a training program for families with young children, in order to increase their awareness on the importance of early childhood education while also strengthening their parenting capacity. The result was Padres Poderosos/Powerful Parents. These 6 week, 90 minute workshops focused on a different topic every week, where parents/caregivers would learn about language development; early literacy; math/science/technology; health and social-emotional development; and school readiness. The goal was to teach the parents instructional activities for them to be working on at home with their children in order to better prepare them for school.

The design of the Padres Poderosos/Powerful Parents trainings incorporate three components: parent education on early learning, parent and children interactive play in activity stations, and a chance to connect with resources from the community. For the first 30 minutes, the children are taken to play while the parents learn about important developmental milestones and activities to help their children develop the skills necessary to be school-ready. After the training session for the parents, the children are brought back and they go from one activity station to another, where the parents and children interact together.

The principals, along with the help of their preschool and kinder teachers, provide the training and work alongside the parents and children in the activity stations. The activities include putting together puzzles, cutting out patterns by using scissors (teaching kids how to properly hold and use scissors), relay and obstacle courses to teach kids how to use their gross motor skills, and activities in which children use their language skills to sing songs and help identify letters, numbers, and colors. The materials used for the training and for the activity stations are all tools that families can continue to work on with their kids, at home. The principal at Madison, Lisa Gonzales-Soloman, emphasized to the parents the importance of continuing this work at home; parents later sent photos of themselves and their kids working on the activities they had learned at the training.

A portion of the time is dedicated to SAELI partners to share with the parents/caregivers about the supports and services available to them in their neighborhood. The SAELI partners gave a presentation on what they offered, and had a table with flyers, giving the parents time to come and learn about the available resources in their community. 

Parents and caregivers with younger children—who aren’t already enrolled in school—were provided the opportunity to familiarize themselves and their kids with the school setting. All families were equipped with the knowledge to help continue the education process at home, strengthening not only the capacity of the children but also by increasing the parenting capacity of the parents.   

"Padres Poderosos has re-inspired me as an educator. I see the impact we can make and how we truly are helping the future."

The engagement of the school staff with the parents fosters an environment for growth and development in parenting capacity. Parents also create stronger bonds with their children as they work through the activity tables, focusing on the key elements of development and school readiness. Principals and school staff administer an evaluation of the program at the end of each session, which serves to document the experiences of the parent participants. One parent at Madison Elementary stated, “I liked that I had a chance to spend quality time with my kids. It’s the first time I learned about a program like this, that incorporates academic things to do with the kids at home. I think it will help me be a better parent.” At the celebration ceremony at Lowell elementary, one mom said “I didn’t know that my 3 year old son was behind in development until the training on language development. I was so thankful to be connected to Help Me Grow, too, because now my son has been screened by a specialist they referred me to. I’m glad I came. I know I’m not the only parent who is probably experiencing something like this. Our community just doesn’t know about these things.”

The SAELI partners (schools and organizations) also mentioned having positive experiences. Principal Gonzales-Solomon said of the program: “Padres Poderosos has re-inspired me as an educator. I see the impact we can make and how we truly are helping the future.” A trainer from MOMS Orange County also recognized two parents that attended the classes he taught at one of the sites in Santa Ana and exclaimed, “It’s great seeing mom and dad active in the development of their kids!”

The work that the SAELI partners do focuses on collective impact. Nonprofits, businesses, and ---schools collaborate together to make positive changes in Santa Ana. The next steps for the group focus on parent engagement in the three target neighborhoods. By approaching parents/caregivers, residents and community leaders, SAELI hopes to weave another component into the collaborative group. The goal is to connect families and community members—with an interest in improving early learning outcomes and family economic stability—to more supports and services by activating a neighborhood leadership team that can serve as connectors to formal and informal supports and services. Padres Poderosos/Powerful Parents has been just one tool that is making this happen. It is evident that parents are emerging as more informed community members, and possibly as future leaders that can help improve the well-being of their neighborhood.

Paola Padilla is a project coordinator with SAELI.

Historic Vote for Young Children Heads to the Ballot in Kent County, Michigan https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/historic-vote-for-young-children-heads-to-the-ballot-in-kent-county-michigan Thu, 12 Jul 2018 11:23:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/historic-vote-for-young-children-heads-to-the-ballot-in-kent-county-michigan CSSP welcomes guest blogger, Amy Turner-Thole of First Steps Kent, who shares the story behind a great victory for young children in Kent County, a community of more than 600,000 people in western Michigan, which includes Grand Rapids. First Steps Kent, a longstanding member of the Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) supported by CSSP, has been working tirelessly to secure sustainable financing for early childhood services in the county. We congratulate First Steps Kent and its partners on reaching a key milestone in this effort! 

“This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do.” 

That has been a guiding mantra for the coalition of community leaders working for the last two decades to increase investment in our youngest children. It was a message that resonated with the Kent County Board of Commissioners as its members voted June 28 to put an early childhood millage, or property tax levy, on the county-wide ballot in November.

 “We are grateful that our county commissioners see the value in providing high-quality early childhood services so that kids are healthy and ready to succeed in school,” said Annemarie Valdez, president/CEO of First Steps Kent, the nonprofit organization that proposed the early childhood millage. “We believe voters in our community will do the same.”

If approved by Kent County voters, the millage will generate approximately $5.5 million a year for six years to pay for services including home visiting, play and learn groups, developmental screenings, and navigation to help families access those resources. Funding will be distributed to community-based organizations to increase the number of children and families they serve. A portion of the funds will be used to develop a community-wide data system to measure impact. 

While First Steps Kent led the efforts to get the issue on the ballot, the public campaign will be handed over to Yes Ready by 5. With a “yes” vote in November, Kent County would become the first county in Michigan with a dedicated property millage for early childhood services. 

Getting to this point has been a long journey. 

In the early 1990’s, there was a growing understanding among child advocates that improving outcomes and eliminating longstanding disparities would require starting earlier—with babies and toddlers. What followed was a process of research, education, and consensus-building. Part of that was to bring together a powerful cadre of “unusual suspects” to champion the cause. 

“We reached out to influential business and community leaders who cared about kids and understood that we had to do things differently to get different results,” explained Kate Pew Wolters, co-chair of First Steps Kent and chair of the Steelcase Foundation. “We were intentionally bipartisan, recognizing that we needed people from diverse perspectives if we were really going to advance the community conversation.”   

That conversation focused on both the moral imperative and the business case, with a heavy emphasis on the return on investment associated with high-quality early childhood programs. There have been extensive public will-building efforts and education campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood. The community has seen significant gains over the last two decades, thanks to both public and private investments. However, the current capacity still falls far short of the need.             

First Steps Kent conducted an analysis in 2017, to better understand how many children and families are served currently, how many more need support, and what it would cost to provide those services. It uncovered big gaps including the fact that more than half of children eligible for home visiting are not receiving the service. Only 15 percent of economically disadvantaged three-year-olds are enrolled in preschool. Fewer than one-third of young children get routine developmental screenings.             

A successful millage will not fill all those gaps. What it will do is provide sustainable funding for some of the most vital early childhood services that will improve outcomes for children and families and achieve results that can influence public policy. It will help attract additional private funders as they recognize Kent County as a place where their collective investments can make a significant impact. It will demonstrate our community’s commitment to the principle that every child deserves to be healthy and ready to learn, and the understanding that our future prosperity depends on it.

Amy Turner-Thole is a communications consultant who has worked with First Steps Kent for the last 10 years.

Fighting for Social Justice: 40 Years of Innovation https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fighting-for-social-justice-40-years-of-innovation Thu, 28 Jun 2018 15:49:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fighting-for-social-justice-40-years-of-innovation This year marks an important one for CSSP as we celebrate 40 years of fighting for social justice. Looking back over these four decades, I find myself both amazed and proud that CSSP has come so far from our start as a modest policy center of the University of Chicago in Washington, D.C. to where we are now as an innovative, national non-profit with partners and projects across the nation. We’ve had many accomplishments and touched many lives over the years. 

It would take reams of paper – or more aptly, screens of text – to accurately cover our work in these last decades, but allow me to share briefly a bit of our history. 

Founded in 1978 by the visionary Tom Joe, with his co-creator Harold Richman, then Dean of the School of Social Services Administration at the University, CSSP worked with a variety of different stakeholders – from welfare rights organizations, labor unions, policymakers and state and local administrators – to combat poverty, fight for access to education for all children, address racial equity, and be a pioneer in using outcomes data to identify policy directions. Our work spans many different areas, always with a focus on changing the systems and situations that impact those most marginalized in our society, while also striving to open up opportunity.  We have worked for: 

  • Providing Children with a Good Start in Life: We have long focused on policies that increase the odds that all children are born healthy, developmentally on track by age three, enter school ready to learn and read well in third grade.
  • Successful Public Systems for Families: Working with gifted public sector leaders, we have helped improve the operation of child welfare, juvenile justice, and mental health agencies. We’ve focused efforts to reduce disparate outcomes based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and immigrant and ability status. Through our work, we have created a new narrative of what’s possible for the young people impacted by these systems.
  • Building Strong Communities: CSSP’s earliest work taught us that the intersection of place, race, and poverty affects the lives of far too many children. Working with dozens of communities, we helped establish the field of place-based, result-focused work, testing ways to partner with residents and other community leaders to build and shape their own futures.
  • Creating Policy to Improve Results at Scale: CSSP’s efforts are ultimately aimed at influencing public policies that will eliminate barriers and close equity gaps so that all children, youth and families can thrive. We are committed to developing policy strategies that reflect and support the best of what we learn from the field.

Our past is our future. To achieve another 40 years of similar progress and achieve truly equitable outcomes for all children, youth, families and communities, we recommit ourselves to working towards the radical transformation of public systems, to new efforts that support communities, and to public policies that will institutionalize and support these changes. Equity will forever be a core focus of all that we do. From internal policies to the work that we produce, we believe that reducing poverty, dismantling racism, and addressing the other root causes of our nation’s huge gaps in opportunity and outcomes are the key to reducing disparities based on race, ethnicity, sovereignty, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, and socioeconomic status. 

As CSSP enters its fifth decade, we invite you to celebrate with us. Later this year, we will host a celebration in Washington, D.C., which you can learn more about here. In the meantime, join us on Twitter and Facebook as we share memories, triumphs, and lessons we’ve learned over our history.  Follow along using #CSSP40. 

It has been my great pleasure to lead CSSP for nearly 20 years; with a clear focus on what families and communities need to thrive, I look forward to working with our extraordinary board, staff, and many, many partners to continue to turn ideas into action and to make a difference.

Frank Farrow is the president at CSSP.


Let's Continue to Support and Celebrate LGBTQ Children and Families https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/lets-continue-to-support-and-celebrate-lgbtq-children-and-families Wed, 27 Jun 2018 10:45:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/lets-continue-to-support-and-celebrate-lgbtq-children-and-families CSSP’s Young Children and Their Families (YCF) team joins the loud chorus of voices from around the country in celebration of children and parents who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). Like all parents, those who identify as LGBTQ want what is best for their children and hold big dreams for their futures. Children who identify as LGBTQ or who are gender non-conforming need the same unconditional love and support from their parents and other caring adults as all children do. All families, regardless of family members’ sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), have their own unique strengths and challenges. And all parents, regardless of SOGIE, need support from time to time. Early childhood professionals are a key source of such support. Through everyday interactions, professionals in the fields of early care and education, health, and family support build close relationships with families that promote child and family well-being. In the remaining days of Pride Month, we highlight a few resources for families and early childhood providers in support of LGBTQ children and families. Happy Pride Month!

These resources from the National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement offer tips for early childhood providers on creating a welcoming program for LGBTQ families. Written for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, these resources are also relevant to a wide range of early childhood programs and settings, from Center-based and Family Child Care to Pre-kindergarten classrooms to home visiting programs. They include: Partnering with Parents Who Identify as LGBT, A Checklist for Programs, Children's Books that Include Diverse Family Structures, and Resources about Diverse Family Structures.

This CSSP blog post on Gender, Sexuality and Parenting (October, 2017) explores key questions about SOGIE and parenting: How should parents respond when their young children embrace a gender identity and/or expression that doesn’t line up with expectations? How should parents respond when their teenage or young adult children come out? What commitments do foster and adoptive parents make to accept the children and young people they bring into their families? On the other side of the parenting equation, does a parent’s SOGIE matter to their ability to love and nurture children? Should parents’ SOGIE be taken into consideration as systems try to find homes for the children needing families in this country?

With partners at Family Builders By Adoption in Oakland, California, CSSP’s getR.E.A.L. initiative developed a guide, Raising Healthy and Happy LGBT & Gender Non-Conforming Children, to help parents navigate what may be unfamiliar terrain. Birth parent, foster parent or adoptive parent, it boils down to being loving, supportive, accepting and open with your child, and advocating for them with other people or institutions (like church or school) that may not be as supportive.

“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents,” Facts for Families No. 92 from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry dispels myths related to the outcomes for children raised by LGBTQ parents compared to those for children from heterosexual families. The report concludes that it is the quality of the parent relationships with young children that affects their development.

Anna Lovejoy is a senior associate at CSSP.

To Pose is to Resist https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/to-pose-is-to-resist Mon, 25 Jun 2018 11:22:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/to-pose-is-to-resist If you attend most gay bars in major cities on any given Thursday, you’ll find that they are crowded with people excited to watch the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality TV show featuring a number of drag queens all competing for a coveted title. Each Thursday, the audience brims with excitement, clacks their fans, debates which queen will serve “realness” tonight and how they’re all really into voguing now. And while RuPaul’s Drag Race has popularized drag more than ever and inculcated a culture and language within the LGBTQ community and beyond, we must recognize the individuals and the community that paved the road and the ballroom culture that continues to be influential to present day.

With decades of relevance, the ballroom subculture has gained thousands of members and inspired several productions from documentaries like Paris is Burning and The Queen to FX’s newest series¸ Pose. The national subculture which evolved from Harlem drag balls throughout the 1930’s Harlem Renaissance, provides a platform that celebrates all forms of gender and sexual expression, but most importantly, it provides many queer Black and Latinx youth and young adults a chosen kinship structure through which collective impact, resilience, and vital resources are shared.

Even today, balls are as necessary and crucial in the cohesion of LGBTQ culture as they were in their formative years nearly nine decades ago. Persevering against adversity and powering through systems and institutions that historically have and continue to fail them, queer youth of color have always worked to fill in the gaps. They have always and continue to find ways to survive, organize, and fight for themselves and their communities.

Though we may enjoy RuPaul’s Drag Race and the visibility it brings to the LGBTQ and drag communities, we must acknowledge the roots planted by queer youth and young people who envisioned a world where queer communities could be liberated through unapologetic love and transformative healing. The next time we praise a drag queen for showing “realness,” we must also recognize that there is legislation impeding LGBTQ and gender-expansive youth to be their total and true selves. We must continue to ensure that our work is focused on mitigating the impact of efforts that will undermine the rights and jeopardize the safety of LGBTQ youth, especially youth of color and those involved in public systems.

As we dance and vogue to CeCe Peniston or Cheryl Lynn, let’s remember that to pose is to resist. For many queer youth of color, the ballroom scene and houses stand as vital lifelines. These spaces are sanctuaries, transformative sites of community, and safe and loving homes. These are spaces that we need to celebrate, protect, and defend.

Learn more about CSSP’s getR.E.A.L initiative, which works to improve the lives of LGBTQ children and youth involved with the child welfare system. Within the getR.E.A.L initiative, our organizing work aims to strengthen the ballroom scene through Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network. The network provides the alternatives for youth of color throughout the country to receive the supports and systems they need which our public systems have failed to provide.

***Photo taken by S Pakhrin of a Voguing Masquerade Ball at the National Museum of African Arts


Viet Tran is the communications manager at CSSP.

On Zero Tolerance, There is More Work to Be Done https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/zero-tolerance-more-work-to-be-done Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:24:25 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/zero-tolerance-more-work-to-be-done Over the past month, millions of people across the country and overseas have called for the administration to cease separating children and families at the border. Yesterday President Trump signed an executive order that purports to do just that, but it would be a mistake for us to celebrate this new direction.

First, there is no plan on the table to reunite the over 2,300 children who have been ripped from their parents. Every day that these children are away from their families is adding further trauma to them and their parents. 

Second, the order is attempting to nullify the 1997 consent decree resulting in the Flores Settlement Agreement that guarantees protections for minors apprehended by immigration authorities. Under Flores and subsequent court decisions, the government is required to limit the amount of time unaccompanied minors can be detained to 20 days and keep them in the least restrictive setting possible. President Trump’s executive order calls on the Department of Justice to seek a modification of the Flores settlement so that children can be detained indefinitely, with no apparent minimum standards for detention facilities. This is inhumane and inconsistent with what we know about child welfare, trauma, and what children need to thrive. 

Third, until new family detention centers are built we can only wonder where these children will go. There is nothing in the executive order that addresses this issue nor indicates what level of standard of care these facilities will be required to meet.

So, as much as we might be tempted to feel relief that this horrific policy, which has shaken our country to its core, has been suspended, the fight for justice for these families and humane policies must not wane. We must push for longer term policies that are driven by what we know about best practices in child welfare, trauma, child development, immigration, housing, and social justice to ensure that the thousands of families who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty secure the better future for their children that they seek.


Susan Notkin is a Senior Vice President at CSSP.

A Shout Out to Fathers and Father Figures https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/shout-out-fathers-and-father-figures Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:05:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/shout-out-fathers-and-father-figures In celebration of Father's Day, CSSP would like to give a shout out to all fathers and father figures!

The facts are out there highlighting the importance of relationships between fathers and their children for healthy child development and well-being of families. Research shows that children with involved fathers are twice as likely to enter college or find stable employment after high school and 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth as those who do not report a close relationship with their fathers. Children in foster care with highly involved nonresidential fathers are discharged more quickly, are more likely to be reunified and have a lower likelihood of subsequent maltreatment.

CSSP works to ensure public systems are shaped and guided by the latest research and best practice. In February 2017, we released a report Changing Systems & Practice to Improve Outcomes For Young Fathers, Their Children & Their Families providing recommendations on how child welfare systems can better engage and support fathers in their role as parents and increase positive outcomes for fathers, their children and families.

Public systems have long been responsible for reproducing the dominant oppressive narrative of fathers, especially fathers of color, as absent and negligent. Policy and practice centered on these assumptions create barriers and inequities that minimize fathers’ participation in their children’s lives to the detriment of thriving families and communities throughout the country.

CSSP is issuing a call to action this Father’s Day in support of public system efforts to better engage and serve fathers and father figures.  

Suggested action steps:

  • Leading with data that highlights fathers’ strengths and contributions to child well-being and thriving families.
  • Ensuring physical spaces are reflective of inclusive images of fathers. 
  • Uplifting the voices of fathers and ensuring they inform policy and practice decisions.
  • Being mindful of language used in communication and on forms.
  • Tweeting positive and inclusive messages that uplift parenthood, fatherhood and those who serve as father figures. This year, consider using any of the following hashtags: #fathersday2018, #ilovemydad, #thanksdad, #BestDadAward, #MyDadMyHero

CSSP challenges you to ask what you will do this Father’s Day to support the recognition of fathers as key members of families and as part of shaping better futures for children, families and communities.


Derick Gomez is a program and research assistant at CSSP.


CSSP Staff Reflection: Moving Forward this Pride Month https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-staff-reflection-moving-forward-pride-month Tue, 05 Jun 2018 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-staff-reflection-moving-forward-pride-month The first Gay Pride Parade took place in 1970 in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall (“Riots”) Resistance, the birth of the gay rights movement. I attended the first Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, which occurred in 1972. It was a fun event celebrating who we were as a community when we began saying “no more” to being stigmatized for being ourselves. In 1972 politicians in so-called liberal San Francisco steered clear of the parade. Today across the country politicians run to be included in Pride events and to campaign for our votes. Over time, as a culture, we have evolved and gained some rights, including gay marriage. Still those most impacted by stigma are the very folks who started the movement at Stonewall: queer people of color. Our parades have turned into parties and advertisements and political campaigning; for the most part, huge celebrations in many cities in the US.  

Our getREAL Initiative has been working to improve the lives of LGBT children and youth involved with the child welfare system. Those youth overrepresented in and most negatively impacted by the system are LGBTQ youth of color. Through work in California and Allegheny County, PA we hope to demonstrate ways in which systems can do better for these young people. Through the network we have more than 80 child welfare public system, non-profit and advocacy groups and others; our goal is to provide resources and tools to support their work and ensure that the young people they work with are better served. Through our youth organizing work we aim to strengthen the Ballroom Scene through the newly developed Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (kbcan.org). The network provides the alternatives that youth of color throughout the country have created to get the support they need which our public systems have failed to do. 

And now we at CSSP stand ready to work with our colleagues across the country to resist the movement occurring at the state and federal level to push back the progress we have made over the past years. The use of religious exemptions to allow discrimination by agencies receiving government funds is but a step among many occurring right now. This PRIDE month needs to be one that is a call to action to defend and protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. We at CSSP are committed to doing our small part to ensure that our work is focused on mitigating the impact of efforts that will undermine our rights and the progress we have made. I remain committed to the resistance—both personally and professionally. I ask that all of you doing this valuable work also join me in that commitment. Join us in commemorating Stonewall this PRIDE month as we enter the next phase of the movement.

Bill Bettencourt is a senior fellow at CSSP.

Minnesota Seeks to Preserve African American Families with New Legislation https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/minnesota-seeks-to-preserve-african-american-families-with-new-legislation Fri, 01 Jun 2018 17:53:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/minnesota-seeks-to-preserve-african-american-families-with-new-legislation Across the nation, advocates and state legislators are seeking solutions to improve racial disparities in child welfare, and in some instances, are targeting efforts specifically towards improving outcomes for African American children and their families – who are one of the most disproportionally impacted demographics throughout U.S. child welfare history. One of these efforts is taking place in Minnesota’s State Legislature with the consideration of the African American Family Preservation Act. The purposes of this bill are to: “(1) protect the best interests of African American children, and (2) promote the stability and security of African American families by establishing minimum standards to prevent arbitrary and unnecessary removal of African American children from their families.” The legislation goes on to propose several ways of accomplishing these two goals, such as to allow – when necessary –parents, guardians and social workers to petition the court for reinstatement of parental rights, which is a power currently only granted to the county attorney. 

Though each component of the piece of legislation is crucial, one particular section stands out amongst the others: Section 4 reads that local social service agencies are required to “make active efforts to prevent out-of-home placement of African American children, eliminate the need for a child’s removal from the home, and reunify a child and family as soon as practicable.” Applying this standard would revolutionize the responsibility of Minnesota’s child welfare agencies to serve African American children and families. Although this is revolutionary, the idea to hold child welfare agencies accountable to making active efforts – rather than reasonable efforts –is not a new one. 

The idea of applying an active efforts standard is borrowed from the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Prior to the passage of ICWA in 1978, there were no federal protections in place to keep Native children with Native families. The lack of federal protections, combined with the fact that the U.S. government failed to recognize these children as part of separate nations led to excessive removal of Native children from their families, homes and communities, with many of them being placed in boarding schools as an assimilation effort. In fact, before ICWA’s implementation, data suggest that approximately 75 – 80 percent of Native families living on reservations had at least one child removed from their home by a public or private child welfare agency. Though the passage of ICWA brought about many changes to how child welfare agencies interact with tribes, perhaps one of the most important is the switch in both policy and practice regarding the standard of removal. Rather than having Native families adhere to the standard policy of ensuring that child welfare agencies have made reasonable efforts to keep the child at home, these agencies have to prove that active efforts were made to keep the child at home. 

More than just a symbolic change, the active efforts standard is one which allows the court to hold child welfare agencies accountable to African American children and families. A Child Welfare Information Gateway report explains that, while every state has a broad definition of what constitutes reasonable efforts, a court generally looks to ensure that the efforts made were accessible, available and culturally appropriate services specifically designed to improve the capacity of families to provide their children with safe and stable homes. Meanwhile, ICWA mandates that state child welfare agencies make active efforts, such as early participation and consultation with the child’s tribe in all case planning decisions, in order to provide services to the family in order to prevent removal of an Indian child from the parents or from Indian custody. Additionally, active efforts are required to reunify an Indian child with their parent or Indian custody after removal. 

Unfortunately, despite being labeled the “gold standard” in child welfare practice, ICWA efforts face widespread issues with non-compliance and Native children continue to be disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. For this reason, Minnesota’s legislation contains several proposed accountability measures, such as the creation of both the African American Child Welfare Oversight Council and the African American Child Well-Being Department within the Department of Human Services. The proposed purpose of this department would be to assess each case involving an African American family to ensure that removal from the home and placement in foster care is a last resort. Another section of the legislation proposes the creation of African American Child Welfare grants, which are to be made available to African American-led organizations, service providers and programs that serve African American children and families. Advocates, parents and policymakers who support the bill are hopeful that measures such as these will help to curb issues of non-compliance. 

The critical nature of the African American Family Preservation Act becomes amplified when held against a backdrop of heartbreaking data: According to 2016 data in Minnesota’s Child Maltreatment Report, African American families account for nearly 20 percent of child maltreatment cases, despite only being about 6 percent of the overall population. African American children are at a slightly more than three times greater likelihood than white children to be reported to child protection and to be removed from their homes. By requiring that agencies and caseworkers make active efforts, thereby enacting a higher standard in order to “preserve the family, prevent breakup of the family, and reunify the family,” this bill has the potential to radically shift the outcomes of Minnesota’s African American children and families for generations to come. 

Click here for the latest updates on tracking the status of the African American Family Preservation Act.

Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Preventing Child Abuse by Strengthening Families: Reflecting on the Evolution of Prevention Approaches https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/preventing-child-abuse-by-strengthening-families-reflecting-on-the-evolution-of-prevention-approaches Wed, 30 May 2018 12:48:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/preventing-child-abuse-by-strengthening-families-reflecting-on-the-evolution-of-prevention-approaches Each April marks national Child Abuse Prevention Month, an effort to bring attention to preventing child abuse, as well as to elevate the needs and strengths of families and children. In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, many states and communities hold special events and run messaging campaigns, while federal agencies shine a spotlight on effective prevention strategies and the role that prevention should play in our overall approach to child and family well-being. Our partners at Prevent Child Abuse America use the pinwheel as a symbol of prevention and “great childhoods” – and each April “pinwheel gardens” are planted in communities across the country to symbolize a commitment to ensuring that children have great childhoods free of abuse and neglect.

This year, I was pleased to see the creative and positive ways that many of our federal, state and local partners recognized Child Abuse Prevention Month – including the use of our Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework to focus on family strengths. I also fielded questions from several people about the relationship between Strengthening Families and child maltreatment prevention, which led me to reflect on the shift toward focusing on universal family strengths that has recently taken place in the prevention field.

For the past 15 years, Strengthening Families has helped to shift the conversation about child abuse and neglect prevention toward a positive and strengths-based one, focusing on how we – as a society, in our communities and in child- and family-serving programs – can support all families to build the key protective factors that they need in order to thrive. Previously, prevention efforts focused on risk factors, and often inadvertently alienated the families they intended to help. These deficit-based efforts also fell short in that they didn’t give service providers or community members anything constructive to do to help families they encountered who needed some support, short of formal involvement with the child welfare system.

Strengthening Families has been a big player in “flipping the script” for many human service providers, who have seen that starting from strengths and approaching parents in a spirit of partnership and respect, yields better results. Recognizing and building on family strengths is the surest way to help families weather any storms they may face, and still provide safe, stable, nurturing care to their children.

This universal, strengths-based approach has been embraced by thousands of professionals, not just in the family support field (where it originated) but in early care and education, home visiting, child welfare and other child- and family-serving fields. Reflecting this shift, the federal Prevention Resource Guide has been structured around protective factors for several years, providing concrete guidance for service providers and other community partners to help families build their protective factors.

For us at CSSP, we are glad to see our partners around the country using Strengthening Families as the basis of their prevention efforts. Here are a few great examples of Prevention Month activities that incorporated a focus on protective factors this year:

  • Prevent Child Abuse America shared parenting tips related to the protective factors.
  • Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina organized a “5 Factors 5K” run/walk to engage community members in learning about the protective factors while also raising funds for prevention programs in the community. (See our article about this in our February 2018 newsletter)
  •  The Alaska Children’s Trust developed a set of tip sheets and posters, each focused on one of the five protective factors, and posted daily tips on social media throughout April.
  • The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, declared April to be Strengthening Families Month, with a community celebration and recognition of prevention and family-strengthening activities

We are so gratified to see the focus on strengths and supporting families continuing to take hold across the country. CSSP believes that all children, youth and families deserve the chance to thrive. We also believe that goal will only be accomplished when we work with families as partners towards progress, acknowledging that all families have strengths and all families need support. We look forward to seeing this continued evolution of the prevention field, toward embracing parents as partners, recognizing family strengths and achieving better outcomes for children as a result. Learn more about our Strengthening Families work here and sign up for our newsletter here.

Cailin O'Connor is a senior associate at CSSP.

Born Perfect: It's Time to End Conversion Therapy https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/born-perfect-its-time-to-end-conversion-therapy Mon, 28 May 2018 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/born-perfect-its-time-to-end-conversion-therapy Like thousands of other young people who risk their lives in search of refuge from abuse in their home countries, Marco made the perilous journey to the United States with strangers and only the clothes on his back. He was 15 and. as a gay youth, had already endured several years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of family, schoolmates and neighbors in Honduras. A sensitive child with an artistic streak and absolutely no interest in sports or roughhousing with other boys, Marco had been teased, taunted and physically attacked for not being “man enough.” His grandmother was unable to protect him from the abuse and eventually agreed to let him go to the U.S. to live with an uncle. 

Unfortunately, Marco’s living situation in Los Angeles didn’t turn out to be the respite he expected from the tumult he had left behind in Honduras. Marco’s uncle forced Marco to work late hours as a dishwasher, causing his school attendance and performance to suffer, and the uncle became increasingly intolerant of Marco’s sexual orientation and “too feminine” expression. He became verbally abusive and on one occasion slapped Marco as he yelled at him to “change his ways.”

Despite feelings of depression resulting from the multiple traumas he’d experienced, Marco entered foster care somewhat hopeful that he would at last be able to live safely as his authentic self. However, his journey in the child welfare system began as quite the disappointment, as Marco’s foster mother, though warm, was clearly on a mission to try to change Marco’s sexual orientation and gender expression. The foster mother criticized Marco for his choice in clothing and insisted he trade in his fitted pants and t-shirts for what she deemed to be clothing “more suitable for boys.” She enlisted her older son to give Marco “lessons” on how to walk and sit in a more masculine manner. She took Marco to her church, where the pastor counseled Marco on how to be a “godly man,” encouraging traditional gender roles and heterosexual dating. These messages were not lost on Marco: become straight and gender conforming if you want to be acceptable to God and your foster family. And so, despite deep misgivings, that is exactly what Marco tried to do. 

Few practices hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth like Marco more than attempts to change their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Young people experience these “conversion therapy” efforts as rejection and, as a result, suffer from depression and attempt suicide at rates six and eight times higher, respectively, than their peers who experience little or no rejection by their families. They also are more than three times more likely than their peers to engage in substance abuse and sexual behavior that put them at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The American Psychological Association has warned that being subjected to conversion therapy can result in a whole host of ills, including depression, social withdrawal, substance abuse, intimate relationship issues, risky sexual behavior and suicide. And every major medical and mental health association in the country has declared the practices ineffective, unnecessary and potentially harmful.  

However, despite this complete disavowal by the medical community, many young people continue to be subjected to these discredited and dangerous practices. According to a Williams Institute (UCLA) report released earlier this year, 20,000 LGBT youth (ages 13-17) will receive conversion therapy from a licensed mental health provider before they reach the age of 18 and another 57,000 from a religious leader. Children in state custody are not immune to this reality. In fact, they are vulnerable to being subjected to these efforts by multiple sources, such as social workers, mental health providers, foster parents, relative caregivers or placement staff.

Child welfare agencies, which are charged with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of youth, can protect youth from these harmful practices through policies that explicitly state that agency representatives—including employees and foster parents—cannot engage in any efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth in their care, and that the agency cannot contract with providers who engage in such efforts. Several jurisdictions have adopted these types of policies and have coupled them with training, including information on the harms of conversion therapy and the appropriate therapeutic responses to LGBT youth.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) has been standing up for conversion therapy survivors for more than 20 years. In 2014, NCLR launched the Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy throughout the United States. To date, we have helped secure legislation protecting young people from these dangerous practices at the hands of licensed mental health professionals in 10 states, the District of Columbia and 35 municipalities. This year, three additional state legislatures have passed bills that are awaiting signature by their respective governors.

But the legislative work, though the most visible, is only one of several strategies used by the campaign to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. Acknowledging the particular vulnerabilities of youth in state care, we have been assisting child welfare—and juvenile justice—agencies to develop policies protecting youth in care from being subjected to practices aimed at changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Those interested in learning more, including how to receive technical assistance, can contact Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator, at CReyes@NCLRights.org.

Carolyn Reyes is the youth policy counsel and Born Perfect campaign coordinator at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

National Foster Care Month: Supporting LGBTQ Youth Involved in Child Welfare https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/national-foster-care-month-support-lgbtq-youth-involved-child-welfare Tue, 22 May 2018 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/national-foster-care-month-support-lgbtq-youth-involved-child-welfare

It is important that all children and youth in the child welfare system — which includes those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) or gender-expansive — feel safe, supported and loved, especially through their childhood and adolescent years.

This year during National Foster Care Month, we continue to work to ensure that all children and youth can be fluid in how they describe and express their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It’s also important to note that LGBTQ or gender-expansive and young people of color in foster care will often experience different outcomes than their peers.

CSSP’s getR.E.A.L initiative currently works to impact child welfare policy and practice to promote the healthy development of all children and youth. Many families, including those that provide foster homes for LGBTQ and gender-expansive youth, may not provide the supportive environment needed because of their religious and/or cultural beliefs. With the getR.E.A.L initiative, we continue to test out new ideas, employ new strategies and implement affirming policies in jurisdictions across the country to better support these youth.

As we move forward to build safe and thriving environments for all children that promote healthy development of sexual and gender identity and expression, we must remember that children grow to become their best selves when they are surrounded and supported by loving families.

Check out these CSSP resources that aims to improve the experiences of LGBTQ children and families in contact with the child welfare system or learn more about CSSP’s getR.E.A.L initiative.

Out of the Shadows: Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare System through Cross-System Collaboration

A Blueprint for Progress: A Policy Guide for Advocates Supporting LGBTQ Youth of Color in Child Welfare Systems

Safe Havens: Closing the Gap Between Recommended Practice and Reality for Transgender and Gender-Expansive Youth in Out-of-Home Care

Bridging the Language Gap in Child Welfare: Identifying and Supporting LGBTQ Youth who have Experienced Sexual Exploitation


Viet Tran is the communications manager at CSSP.

House to Vote on Farm Bill that Would Impose New Work Requirements on Families with Children https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/house-to-vote-on-farm-bill-that-would-impose-new-work-requirements-on-families-with-children Tue, 15 May 2018 10:31:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/house-to-vote-on-farm-bill-that-would-impose-new-work-requirements-on-families-with-children The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), which the House is set to vote on this week, would impose harsh new work requirements on the nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elisa Minoff is a policy analyst and Valery Martinez is a Emerson National Hunger Fellow at CSSP

New Public Charge Guidance Could Drive Children into Foster Care https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-public-charge-guidance-could-drive-children-into-foster-care Fri, 11 May 2018 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-public-charge-guidance-could-drive-children-into-foster-care Children and their families – disproportionately children and families of color – come to the attention of the child welfare agency due to allegations of abuse and neglect. When the allegations are substantiated and ongoing intervention is deemed necessary to support the safety of the child, child welfare agencies work with the family to mitigate safety and risk concerns. While we know that children do best when they are with their families, sometimes due to safety concerns children must temporarily enter foster care. While a great deal of attention has recently been paid to the impact of the opioid crisis on driving more children into foster care, there has been a lack of awareness about the impact of current immigration policies – both real and perceived – and the resulting potential to drive children and youth from immigrant and mixed-status families into contact with the child welfare system.

Under the current administration there has been an ongoing attack through oppressive policies on immigrant and mixed-status families and their children. These policies include changes in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities, increased data sharing between the Office of Refugee Resettlement and ICE and leaked information on potential changes to what can be considered in public charge determinations.

As new immigration policies have been implemented, proposed and leaked, the Administration has not acknowledged the detrimental impact these policy changes have on the health, safety and well-being of families and children – and consequently, their potential involvement with child welfare. Nearly half of families (47 percent) who have their children removed from their homes have trouble paying for basic necessities, and with data showing the withdrawal of immigrant families from enrollment in critical programs due to fear of having information shared with immigration officials, the leaked proposed changes to public charge guidance may result in many more families falling into poverty.

Specifically, parents and providers are already reporting higher rates of food insecurity due to lower SNAP enrollment and renewals, lower rates of enrollment in public health insurance (e.g., Medicaid and CHIP) and lower rates of enrollment, attendance and parent participation in early care and education programs. Given that the leaked proposed changes to public charge guidance pit a family’s choice to access concrete supports and services that promote health and well-being in direct competition with their future ability to gain lawful permanent residency, we are likely to see more immigrant families struggle to meet their basic needs and finding themselves in situations where they and their children – both immigrant and citizen children – come to the attention of child welfare.

Simply becoming known to the child welfare system could have devastating impacts on immigrant and mixed-status families and their children since, simply due to their immigration status, once involved with child protective services, families may be afraid or unable to access necessary supports or services that would support their ability to remain together safely or achieve reunification if children have to enter foster care.

We know that children do best when they can safely remain with their families. However, recent policy proposals directly attack the safety net of support for immigrant and mixed-status families and may put their children at risk of experiencing circumstances of neglect. During National Foster Care Month, it is important that child welfare systems and advocates recognize the detrimental impact of these immigration policies and identify solutions for supporting immigrant and mixed-status families in accessing needed supports and services so that they can remain together and their children do not unnecessarily have to enter foster care.

CSSP is an Active Member of the Protecting Immigrant Families, Advancing Our Future Campaign organized to protect and defend access to concrete supports and services for immigrants and their families at the local, state and federal level. To learn more about the Campaign, the proposed changes to public charge guidance and what you can do to support immigrant and mixed status families, please visit this website or contact Alexandra Citrin (alexandra.citrin@cssp.org).


Alexandra Citrin is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.

Michigan Medicaid Work Requirement Would Discriminate Against Communities of Color https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/michigan-medicaid-work-requirement-would-discriminate-against-communities-of-color Wed, 09 May 2018 11:07:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/michigan-medicaid-work-requirement-would-discriminate-against-communities-of-color Over the last year, conservative legislators and the Trump Administration promoted work requirements across a wide range of public benefit programs. Their push for “welfare reform,” or, as administration officials sometimes refer to it, “Welfare Reform 2.0,” comes on the heels of a tax bill that offers massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, but does little for everyone else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elisa Minoff is a policy analyst at CSSP.

National Foster Care Month: Renewing Our Commitment to Ensure All Young Children Have a Safe and Supportive Family https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/national-foster-care-month-renewing-our-commitment-to-ensure-all-young-children-have-a-safe-and-supportive-family Tue, 01 May 2018 12:53:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/national-foster-care-month-renewing-our-commitment-to-ensure-all-young-children-have-a-safe-and-supportive-family

Children thrive and grow to become their best selves when they are surrounded by a safe, loving and supportive family. This year during National Foster Care Month, CSSP joins our community partners to renew our commitment to ensure that all children – including foster youth – are empowered to have the same sense of opportunity and potential as any other young person, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what their circumstances may be.

Currently, more than 200,000 children remain in the foster care system and many more age out of foster care before being placed with a family. This National Foster Care Month, we must continue to work to ensure more children find permanency so they are able to grow and flourish to the best of their potential. When we create supportive and safe environments for all young children and their families, we ensure a promise for a brighter and stronger country.

Viet Tran is the communications manager at CSSP.

Using Evidence to Advance More Equitable Outcomes https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/using-evidence-to-advance-more-equitable-outcomes Fri, 27 Apr 2018 08:51:17 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/using-evidence-to-advance-more-equitable-outcomes Last Tuesday, April 17th, CSSP hosted a symposium focused on the intersection of evidence and equity. This daylong conversation was designed to explore the relationship between evidence and achieving more equitable outcomes while also recognizing often overlooked evidence necessary for advancing equity.

We were thrilled to bring several great minds from the field together to discuss this critical notion of centering equity in the conversation about evidence.  Joining us for the discussions were:

  • Jara Dean-Coffey, Luminare Group
  • Shiree Teng, Independent Consultant
  • Tatiana Warren-Jones, Bon Secours Community Works
  • Bill Wright, Center for Outcomes Research and Education
  • Tom Kelly, The Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Cheryl Grills, Loyola Marymount University
  • Anthony Bryk, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Friends of Evidence

If you couldn’t join us, take a look at the Storify page from the day. And watch this space (and CSSP's Twitter and Facebook pages) as we begin a series of blogs that explore #Evidence4Equity.



Sarah Morrison is the director of learning and evidence at CSSP.

#TrueColorsDay: Committed to End LGBTQ Youth Homelessness https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/truecolorsday-committed-to-end-lgbtq-youth-homelessness Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:00:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/truecolorsday-committed-to-end-lgbtq-youth-homelessness All children and youth deserve to be part of a welcoming, safe and loving home – and that includes youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ). Yet LGBTQ young people are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth.

On #TrueColorsDay, CSSP joins the True Colors Fund and its partners to ensure our voices are loud and clear that ending LGBTQ youth homelessness is a priority.

To participate or learn more about the #TrueColorsDay campaign, visit the True Colors Day page here.

You can also learn more about 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 LGBTQ and gender expansive 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.

Viet Tran is a communications manager at CSSP.

EC-LINC: Network of Early Childhood Innovators Welcomes New Members https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/ec-linc-welcomes-new-members Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:51:00 -0500 https://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/ec-linc-welcomes-new-members Across the nation and for a long time, dedicated community leaders have been working hand-in-hand to bring health, early learning and family supports together to meet the needs of young children and their families. Their efforts, driven by years of practical experience, deep caring, and remarkable vision, amount to much more than a set of services for young children. Rather, they’ve created early childhood systems that employ a comprehensive, integrated approach to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in school.

Reflecting on the impressive efforts of these individual communities, several years ago the Center for the Study of Social Policy, along with three pioneer communities asked the question: What if these early childhood systems-builders could work collectively to produce better outcomes for young children and their families?* The answer materialized, and the Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) was established. Since 2013, this “community of communities” has focused on tackling the toughest challenges facing young children and families, especially families coping with difficult economic conditions, a lack of affordable housing, fear created by unjust immigration policies and other factors that press on families and communities today.   

EC-LINC grew to a network of 10 by 2017. Now, these seasoned early childhood systems-builders regularly share their expertise and best practices, and they go even further. Using an “Action Learning Lab” approach, they advance innovative solutions to pressing problems and they bring those innovations to life. For example, EC-LINC is now engaged in creating and implementing meaningful family engagement strategies that promote leadership and advance equity; catalyzing a pediatric intervention that focuses on addressing the root causes of toxic stress; and exploring how best to use data to track progress and improve practice. This is hard work – challenging and energizing, frustrating and exhilarating, all at the same time. We and our EC-LINC partners are encouraged by how far we’ve come in so short a time and know that so much more is possible when devoted thought leaders and experienced individuals committed to taking action and achieving better results for children band together. 

With these possibilities in mind, we are extremely pleased to welcome four new communities to the EC-LINC network:

  • Guilford County, North Carolina, through Ready for School, Ready for Life
  • Multnomah County, Oregon through Early Learning Multnomah of the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette
  • Onondaga County, New York through Early Childhood Alliance - Onondaga  
  • Volusia and Flagler Counties, Florida through Thrive by Five of One Voice for Volusia 

Our new members will dive into EC-LINC “Action Learning Lab” mode without delay. Along with existing EC-LINC communities, and thanks to the generous support from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, they will sharpen their attention on what it takes to increase the number of children who are developmentally on track for kindergarten by age three. Communities will pursue specific goals in the areas of maternal and child health, family support and early care and education, as they work towards reducing disparities in healthy birth outcomes, expanding access to home visiting, facilitating universal developmental screening and shoring up the early childhood workforce. In true EC-LINC fashion, they will do their work through joint learning and testing innovative approaches, guided by cross-cutting priorities of advancing racial equity, promoting parent agency, employing data-driven decision making and delivering results.  

EC-LINC’s growth and development is a source of excitement and hope, especially in these challenging times. We look forward to working with this extraordinary network and sharing what we’re learning with the broader early childhood community, as together we continue to invest our resources and energy in improving the prospects for children, families and communities. 

Frank Farrow is the president of CSSP.


*The three pioneer communities are Palm Beach County, Florida and Orange and Alameda Counties, California.