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 Elimination of the Teen Pregnancy Program (TPP) to Impact the Health and Well-Being of Children, Youth and Families http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/elimination-tpp-impact-health-wellbeing-children-youth-families Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:16:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/elimination-tpp-impact-health-wellbeing-children-youth-families The Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program administered through the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescence was established in 2010 to identify and support diverse organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy across the United States. Its purpose was to develop and identify evidence-based programs aimed at promoting healthy choices and well-being in youth. The program also sought to inform future practice through ongoing program evaluations. 

Organizations receiving TPP program funds serve youth in communities, juvenile detention facilities, foster care and schools through government agencies, tribal organizations, non-profits and religious organizations. TPP Program grantees provide participating youth with comprehensive reproductive health education and focus on strategies to resist peer pressure and mitigate intimate-partner violence in addition to building healthy relationships with parents and providing career planning services.

From 2010 to 2014, 102 organizations were awarded five year TPP grants, serving over 500,000 youth nationally. Over the course of these five years, 41 independent evaluations were conducted that provided significant insight for the youth services field on the most effective programs. Through independent evaluations, the work of these organizations increased programmatic knowledge of effective prevention programming for youth that has helped move the field forward. Using the knowledge generated from these evaluations and the experiences of these agencies, the second round of TPP awards were made to build on the work from the first cohort and support replication of evidence-based programs. Grants were awarded to organizations that implemented evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, built the capacity of youth-serving organizations and developed technology-based and other innovative youth-informed programs. 

In order to ensure positive outcomes for youth, including avoiding unsafe sexual behaviors, it is important that policies focus on – and funding be invested in – programs with a proven track record in increasing access to high-quality, comprehensive services that meet the needs of youth. The TPP Program does just that, however in late June 2017, the current Administration – which favors abstinence-only policies – quietly cut the program, eliminating $213.6 million in funding for organizations combating teen pregnancy.

Teen pregnancy has been declining since 2007. Between 2010 and 2014 (during the first cohort of TPP grantees), we saw the national teen pregnancy rate drop by 29 percent. While this is important progress, teen pregnancy still remains relatively high – particularly for young people facing additional risk-factors. Adolescents who live in poverty, grow up in a single parent household or are in foster care are at an increased risk of having an unplanned pregnancy. Further, Hispanic and Black adolescents, who experience these risk factors at disproportionate rates, are twice as likely as their white peers to experience pregnancy by the age of 19. TPP grantees have worked to reduce these disparities by targeting their efforts to these most at-risk youth and by tailoring their programming to address specific community needs.   

This funding cut and other similar efforts ignore the positive impacts that these public and community based programs provide to the health and well-being of youth. We know that the promotion of healthy development, strong social connections and concrete supports increases positive outcomes for youth and their families. The elimination of the TTP Program showcases the Administration’s disregard for programming proven to reduce teen pregnancy and for investing in the health and well-being of our country’s children, youth and families. CSSP recognizes that healthy development and well-being in youth depend on their ability to postpone starting a family of their own until they are emotionally and financially prepared for the responsibilities that come with parenting. Eliminating support for programs that seek to give youth the information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their life runs counter to best practice, existing research and common sense. We call on advocates, communities and states to continue to invest in programs that we know work, promote healthy development in youth and support youth to thrive.


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Alexis Grinstead is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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New Brief Identifies and Supports LGBTQ Youth who have Experienced Sexual Exploitation http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-brief-identifes-and-supports-lgbtq-youth-who-have-experienced-sexual-exploitation Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-brief-identifes-and-supports-lgbtq-youth-who-have-experienced-sexual-exploitation Healthy relationships are important for the positive development of children and youth, and are especially important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in child welfare. LGBTQ youth are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system and within that demographic, youth of color are particularly disproportionately represented. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being – II, 61.8 percent of LGB children in child welfare are youth of color. Not only do LGBTQ youth of color experience disproportionate representation in the child welfare system, when systems fail to meet their needs they are also at a “heightened risk of exploitation due to experiences including rejection and desperate need of shelter, food and other necessities”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Texas Religious Exemption Bill to Target LGBTQ Youth and Families http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/texas-religious-exemption-bill-to-target-lgbt-youth-and-families Wed, 31 May 2017 13:48:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/texas-religious-exemption-bill-to-target-lgbt-youth-and-families The Texas “Freedom to Serve Children Act”, passed by the Texas Senate on May 22 and sent to Governor Abbot for approval, allows publicly-funded foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with non-Christian, unmarried or gay prospective parents due to religious objections. This legislation, along with a similar bill passed in South Dakota in March, rather than protecting children in foster care puts first the needs and wants of a specific group of adults and undermines the safety and well-being of all children involved in the child welfare system. This legislation specifically targets lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and gender expansive communities as well as prospective foster and adoptive parents who are single parents, non-Christian couples such as Jews, Muslims and interfaith couples.

When children and youth enter the child welfare system, the state child welfare agency has a responsibility to ensure that they are safe, placed in the least-restrictive, most family-like settings possible and supported in their development and well-being. When children and youth cannot reunify with their parent(s), all efforts are to be made to find and support a positive permanent relationship with another parent or caregiver. Already, child welfare systems across the country struggle to identify and maintain enough loving and supportive foster and adoptive homes and each year more than 20,000 young people “age-out” of foster care without ever being placed in a family or permanent home. Allowing publicly-funded agencies to prevent safe, loving and caring individuals and families from becoming foster and adoptive parents directly contradicts the mandates of the child welfare system and will have very real and harmful effects on all children in the child welfare system.

Further, we know that LGBTQ and gender expansive youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system and are disproportionally youth of color.  Many of these youth have entered foster care because they were rejected by their families due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This legislation sends a clear and powerful message that the public agencies charged with protecting youth who have been rejected by their families will further repeat that trauma and validate such rejection by not supporting or affirming their identities. This rejection and additional traumatization directly contradicts all that we know is considered good parenting, including the results of scientific studies showing that children raised by same sex couples experience healthy outcomes. It also discounts the fact that foster and adoptive parents of all religions have demonstrated the ability and commitment to provide loving and affirming homes to all children regardless of their religious affiliation.

Research shows that young people who identify as LGBTQ or who are gender expansive are more likely than their heterosexual, cisgender peers to experience multiple foster placements, be moved from their first placement at the request of the caregiver or foster family and be placed in congregate care settings. As many as one out of every four LGBTQ youth in a congregate care setting will exit care without achieving permanency. Young people who age out of care without achieving positive permanency are more likely to experience housing instability and homelessness, face poor educational outcomes and become involved with the criminal justice system. The cost to our families, communities and our country continue to mount with this kind of discriminatory legislation.

These outcomes are far from inevitable and many states and communities are moving forward to explicitly affirm and support LGBTQ and gender expansive families, youth and communities. To thrive, we know that all young people involved in child welfare need:

  1. safe and affirming placements in the most family-like settings possible
  2. safe schools and communities
  3.  appropriate medical and behavioral health care
  4. connections to family and supportive social networks;
  5.  external connections and support transitioning from care; and
  6.  connections to aftercare services.

Across the country, many communities, schools and allies, including those with deeply held religious beliefs are putting in place policies and practices that affirm and support LGBTQ and gender expansive children, youth and families. In addition to the 19 states and many local jurisdictions that have non-discrimination policies that include and protect LGBTQ and gender expansive youth, we have seen many recent positive pieces of state legislation:

  • Connecticut House Bill 6695, signed into law in May, 2017, bans conversion therapy
  • Illinois enacted enhanced Department of Children and Family Services procedures in May, 2017 that increase mandatory training for anyone working with LGBTQ youth and clarifies protections for transgender and gender expansive children in care
  • Nevada AB99, which was signed into law in April 2017, mandates training for working with LGBTQ youth, respecting a young person’s gender identity and placing LGBTQ and gender expansive young people in accepting homes

Policy makers, child welfare system leaders and practitioners must remain committed to their mission and mandate to achieve permanence, safety and well-being for all system-involved children and continue to advocate against discriminatory legislative proposals. Promoting safety and affirmation is critical to ensuring healthy identity development and positive outcomes for LGBTQ and gender expansive young people. We must ensure that all young people involved in child welfare are recognized, engaged, affirmed and loved to achieve well-being. This is best achieved through their in permanent loving, affirming families that we know exist across all faiths, sexual orientations, gender identities and family configurations.

This legislation and other similar efforts, such as the rescindment of federal guidance supporting transgender youth’s safety and well-being in school settings, undermine the safety and well-being of LGBTQ and gender expansive communities. CSSP promotes promising policies and practices that support the well-being of all children, youth and families. This legislation and similar proposals affirmatively hurts children, youth and families and runs counter to evidence and best practice in the field.  We call upon advocates and policymakers across the country to proactively work to protect all children and youth in foster care and reject such legislation and any other similar efforts.

For more information about policies that support LGBTQ and gender expansive youth in child welfare, please see our recent report, “Out of the Shadows: Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare through Cross-System Collaboration.”

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Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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New Resource: Youth Thrive™ Tip Sheet for Family Court Partners http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-resource-youth-thrive-tip-sheet-family-court-partners Wed, 31 May 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-resource-youth-thrive-tip-sheet-family-court-partners In 2011, in response to the troubling outcomes of young people in and exiting foster care, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) assembled recent research on resilience, positive youth development, neuroscience and trauma to examine how all youth, and specifically youth involved in public systems such as child welfare and juvenile justice, can be supported in ways that advance healthy development and build upon young people’s strengths. The result is a framework called Youth Thrive™, which identifies five protective and promotive factors that help mitigate risk and build youth well-being. The Youth Thrive™ framework is currently implemented in seven states and jurisdictions across the country. These child welfare and juvenile justice public agencies have adopted the Youth Thrive™ Framework and are using it as a lens to revise their policies and programming. For more information on the Youth Thrive™ protective and promotive factors, please visit: http://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare/youththrive

Recently, CSSP received requests from judges and other court partners to develop a guide on how to use the framework in the context of family court proceedings. The Youth Thrive™ Tip Sheet for Family Court Partners is designed to guide conversations about the five protective and promotive factors among partners in preparation for and during family court proceedings. It provides an introductory summary to the Youth Thrive™ framework for judges, guardians ad litem, lawyers, parents, CASA workers, agency workers and youth. The purpose of the tip sheets, which are divided by role, is to actively promote the building of the Youth Thrive™ protective and promotive factors by providing sample questions that can be posed to youth, parents, professionals and other colleagues to ensure that young people receive the services and opportunities they need to thrive.

Read and download the tip sheet here.

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Martha Raimon is a senior associate at CSSP.

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In the Footsteps of Giants http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-the-footsteps-of-giants Tue, 30 May 2017 11:27:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-the-footsteps-of-giants 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. 

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CSSP Welcomes Health Policy Expert to Young Children and their Families Team http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-welcomes-health-policy-expert-to-young-children-and-their-families-team Fri, 26 May 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-welcomes-health-policy-expert-to-young-children-and-their-families-team The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is excited to welcome Donna Cohen Ross as Associate Director, with responsibility for leading CSSP’s work related to Young Children and their Families. Donna has devoted her career to reducing poverty and improving access to public benefits for low-income children and families.

“Donna brings a wealth of experience and skills to CSSP, with depth in health policy finance, leading national policy campaigns, taking work to scale and bridging the worlds of health, early learning and nutrition,” said Frank Farrow, CSSP’s Director.

“Donna brings a wealth of experience and skills to CSSP, with depth in health policy finance, leading national policy campaigns, taking work to scale and bridging the worlds of health, early learning and nutrition,” said Frank Farrow, CSSP’s Director.

Donna comes to CSSP from Health Management Associates, where she focused on helping children’s programs — including maternal and child home visiting, early literacy and pediatric care programs — obtain support from Medicaid. From 2010 to 2015, Donna served as a Senior Policy Advisor and the Director of Enrollment Initiatives in the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS) at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. There she crafted guidance that helped jump-start Medicaid enrollment under the Affordable Care Act for individuals participating in the SNAP Program. She also directed Connecting Kids to Coverage, the first-ever federal outreach campaign to find and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. Prior to that experience, Donna led the outreach division at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities for 17 years.

Donna also brings to CSSP a background in other issues of importance to children and families, having worked early in her career with the Association for Children of New Jersey, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Newark Preschool Council.

As Donna joins the Center, Amy Fine, who previously led the Young Children and their Families team, will continue to move CSSP’s work forward as a Senior Fellow based in San Francisco.  She will focus on CSSP’s work in California and on new initiatives across the organization.

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Viet Tran is a communications mananger at CSSP. 

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Congressional Budget Office Report Says American Health Care Act Jeopardizes Recent Gains Made in Health Care Coverage http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/congressional-budget-office-report-ahca-jeopardizes-gains-health-care-coverage Thu, 25 May 2017 12:26:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/congressional-budget-office-report-ahca-jeopardizes-gains-health-care-coverage 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.

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President's Budget Will Harm Families' Health and Increase Inequities http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/presidents-budget-will-harm-families-health-and-increase-inequities Tue, 23 May 2017 16:37:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/presidents-budget-will-harm-families-health-and-increase-inequities As details about the President’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY 2018) budget have emerged, concerns about how the needs of families – particularly those facing the greatest barriers to opportunity – will be met in an equitable and effective manner have intensified. When the President’s proposed “skinny” budget was released in March with limited details, it was clear that the health and well-being of children and families were at-risk. Now, the full version of the proposed budget, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” makes it even more apparent that the cuts proposed by the President would increase the challenges facing families who experience poverty, food insecurity, homelessness and other forms of compounding disadvantage – disproportionately children and families of color. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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American Health Care Act (AHCA) Passes the House: A Significant Step-back in Health Care Coverage and Advancement in Health Equity http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/american-health-care-act-ahca-passes-the-house-a-significant-step-back-in-health-care-coverage-and-advancement-in-health-equity Thu, 04 May 2017 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/american-health-care-act-ahca-passes-the-house-a-significant-step-back-in-health-care-coverage-and-advancement-in-health-equity Today, the House voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – including an amendment crafted by Representatives Mark Meadows (R - NC) and Tom MacArthur (R - NJ) – representing continued efforts to dismantle the current structure of providing health care to Americans. The AHCA is a significant step back and jeopardizes recent gains made in health care coverage, which is a foundation for healthy development and well-being. The AHCA’s changes will reduce individuals’ and families’ access to health care services, weakening coverage or making it less affordable. Its changes to Medicaid will also devastate state budgets, reducing child welfare, juvenile justice and education spending and services – all of which now effectively leverage Medicaid dollars to promote healthy development and well-being for children and youth. Specifically, the AHCA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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CSSP Releases Building Neighborhood Capacity Program Practice Brief Series http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-releases-building-neighborhood-capacity-program-practice-brief-series Sat, 29 Apr 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/cssp-releases-building-neighborhood-capacity-program-practice-brief-series Concluding its role as technical assistance provider for the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP), the Center for the Study of Social Policy is releasing a four-part series of practice briefs reflecting on program learnings. Highlighting guidance and examples from the four BNCP sites in Flint, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; and Milwaukee, WI; the briefs focus on:

Launched in 2012 by the Obama Administration, BNCP aimed to catalyze community-driven change in neighborhoods that have historically faced barriers to revitalization. The program focused on building the capacity of residents, community organizations, and city-level stakeholders to work together to make progress on neighborhood priorities. BNCP was supported by a federal interagency partnership, with funding from the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, and additional partnership from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The first two BNCP practice briefs, originally released in September 2016, discuss the program’s focus on engaging residents and partners to develop local knowledge to inform results-focused revitalization strategies. Exemplifying an action-learning approach to capacity building, sites were encouraged to conduct “learn-by-doing” projects that provided an opportunity for participants to make a difference in the community while developing knowledge, skills, and relationships that could be applied to longer-term planning and revitalization efforts.

The second two practice briefs discuss what it takes to advance community-driven priorities in neighborhoods that have been historically disconnected from resources and power. The briefs underscore that differences in outcomes rooted in place are closely tied to generations of racial and economic segregation that have limited where people can live and work. As described in the third brief, bringing together people to tackle these disparities requires engaging residents and partners to communicate and collaborate across differences in race, class, and power. The fourth brief takes an in-depth look at efforts to transform relationships between neighborhoods and citywide leaders in particular, focusing on how the cities of Fresno and Memphis approached aligning resources, increasing investments, and changing practice or policy to respond effectively to the aspirations of BNCP neighborhoods. 

While federal funding for BNCP has concluded, local teams in each city are working to build on the foundation of progress to date. In doing so, they seek to sustain a focus on working across neighborhood and city boundaries, while engaging residents and partners to apply ongoing capacity gained to propel the long-term efforts and investments needed to create neighborhood of opportunity for everybody.

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Lauren Wechsler is a senior program analyst at CSSP.

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Family Stress, Family Strengths and Children's Well-Being http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/family-stress-family-strengths-and-childrens-well-being Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:06:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/family-stress-family-strengths-and-childrens-well-being Recent efforts to cut back on social spending, dismantle existing programs and widen the gaps in the safety net for Americans are concerning on many levels. As a society, we should be doing more – not less – to help families living in or near poverty, families facing racial bias and micro-aggressions on a daily basis and families who feel unsafe in their neighborhoods. When we fail to do so, parents, children and communities all suffer.

We actually know a lot about policy and programmatic strategies that can build on families’ strengths and promote children’s well-being. Unfortunately, many of the proposed policy and regulatory changes at the federal and state level this year threaten to increase stress levels for families who are already overloaded. From a child well-being perspective, there are immediate and obvious consequences of these policies, such as more children going to bed hungry, missing visits to the doctor or facing homelessness. But there are also longer-term and less apparent effects that are of equal concern. We know that children are affected by stress – their own stress and the stress of their parents.

We can’t afford the effects of cutting back on social spending, which will be seen in increased child abuse and neglect, behavioral problems and mental health challenges for today’s children and tomorrow’s adults. Instead, we should be investing in reducing family stress and helping families to build their strengths. We know how.

Among those who work with and on behalf of young children and their families, CSSP’s Strengthening Families protective factors framework provides a common language to describe five characteristics that all families need to support optimal child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. With the universal, research-based Strengthening Families framework, we can recognize how our own family’s strengths and challenges have shaped our lives – and we can see those strengths and challenges in other families, even when their race, culture, family structure or specific needs may be different from ours. The Strengthening Families approach then helps us to look at how various policies, programs, bureaucratic procedures and everyday actions affect families, through the lens of these protective factors.

Concrete support in times of need is the protective factor that tells us the most about the connection between child well-being and policies that affect families’ financial resources or the availability of supports in the community. We define concrete supports as “Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges.” All families need this kind of support to varying degrees at different points in their lives, and these needs can sometimes be met through social networks. A friend who picks your child up from preschool when you have to work late is one form of “concrete support,” as is a family member who lends you money when you unexpectedly need to replace your refrigerator or furnace. (Social connections is another protective factor in our framework, because of the concrete and other forms of support we get from our social networks that help both parents and children thrive.) But many families rely on formal services or programs to meet at least some of their concrete needs, and many rely on benefits like paid sick leave which may or may not be provided by their employers depending on local and state laws. Families are likely to need more of the formal type of concrete supports when they are living in poverty, or living paycheck to paycheck. Families also need these supports to be delivered in a way that is respectful, accessible and culturally appropriate in order to meet their needs and reduce the stress that directly and indirectly affects the children.

Another closely related protective factor in the Strengthening Families framework is parental resilience, defined as “Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma.” Of course, concrete supports and social connections make it much easier for anyone to continue functioning well under stress, and for parents to continue providing the kind of nurturing care their children need even when times are tough. There is more to resilience than that – the ability to recognize the challenges we are facing and our own emotional responses, a belief in our ability to solve problems and that things will get better – but all of those things are easier to develop and hold on to when we have support for meeting our families’ basic needs. Resilience is also strengthened when parents feel recognized and respected for who they are, which includes celebrating the diversity of families and communities in this country and supporting them to find policy and community solutions that will work for them.

A substantial body of research shows us that a wide range of policies can have a positive or negative effect on the prevalence of child abuse and neglect, an outcome we should all care about and one that reflects how well we are helping families manage stress. The CDC’s recent technical package on Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect highlights policies and strategies that move the needle in the right direction. They include strengthening economic supports to families; changing social norms to support parents and positive parenting; providing quality care and education early in life; enhancing parenting skills to promote healthy child development; and intervening to lessen harms and prevent future risk. In one very concrete example reported by the CDC, the rate of hospitalizations for abusive head trauma (also known as shaken baby syndrome) among infants in California was found to drop following the introduction of paid family leave, while rates in other states without paid family leave rose over the same years. 

The evidence is overwhelming that children fare better when their parents are under less stress and have more support. This is why it is so concerning to hear about rising levels of family stress when I talk with service providers and system leaders around the country these days, and to know that many of the policy changes on the horizon will move us in the wrong direction. Families already stressed are getting fewer concrete supports when we know they need more. Parents’ resilience is being undercut as we make it harder for them to be the parents they want to be. Let’s all work together to find ways to build family strengths, starting with investing in supports for families rather than cutting them back.


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Cailin O'Connor is a senior associate at CSSP.

 

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The Ongoing Fight for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/the-ongoing-fight-for-lgbtq-youth-in-foster-care Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/the-ongoing-fight-for-lgbtq-youth-in-foster-care 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.

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Promoting the Use of Data to Advance Equity http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/promoting-use-of-data-to-advance-equity Tue, 21 Mar 2017 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/promoting-use-of-data-to-advance-equity Data collection and analysis are critical components of – and frequently the first, foundational step within – strategies to advance equity for children and families. However, recent efforts to undermine and eliminate national data tools and mechanisms will restrict the ability of policymakers and communities to fully understand differences among life experiences and impact of policy on promoting well-being and positive outcomes. These data are necessary to ensure sound decision-making and to assess the effectiveness of many policies and programs. Policymakers should not only preserve existing data strategies but should promote additional uses of data as well. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Amelia Esenstad is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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Creating Opportunities for Young Fathers: Recommendations for Child Welfare System Policy and Practice Change http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/creating-opportunities-for-young-fathers-recommendations-for-child-welfare-system-policy-and-practice-change Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:54:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/creating-opportunities-for-young-fathers-recommendations-for-child-welfare-system-policy-and-practice-change Research shows that the relationship between fathers and their children is essential to the healthy development of children and the well-being of families, however little attention is paid to the importance of engaging young fathers under age 26 who are involved with child welfare systems. CSSP recently published a set of policy recommendations, Changing Systems and Practice to Improve Outcomes for Fathers, Their Children and Their Families on how systems can better focus on engaging young fathers and creating opportunities for them to succeed and thrive. CSSP presented on the report at the 18th Annual National Fathers and Families Coalition of America Conference. The conference draws multi-systemic professionals, researchers, advocates and state and federal representatives; highlighting policy innovations and evidence-informed practices.

During the conference presentation, participants discussed opportunities for child welfare systems to improve engagement with young fathers. Participants shared successful practice strategies as well as systemic barriers. The need for multi-systemic partnerships in father engagement arose as a consistent theme, specifically among child welfare, child support and workforce development systems. There was an urgent call to work collaboratively across systems to reduce systemic barriers faced by young fathers and improve well-being outcomes for young fathers, their children and families.  Participants walked away from the presentation with a renewed commitment to fostering multi-systemic relationships within their local jurisdiction and creating opportunities for data sharing. 

To read the full Changing Systems and Practice to Improve Outcomes for Fathers, Their Children and Their Families report, click here.

To hear from young fathers in child welfare, watch this video.

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Alexis Grinstead is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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Dividing Families: The Department of Homeland Security's Plan to Separate Children from Parents http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/dividing-families-dhs-plan-separate-children-from-parents Fri, 10 Mar 2017 12:05:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/dividing-families-dhs-plan-separate-children-from-parents On Monday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly mentioned in an interview that DHS was considering separating children from their parents when they are apprehended at the U.S. border in an effort to deter families and their children from travelling to the United States to seek safety. This practice would needlessly separate children from their parents and would have drastic consequences for child safety and well-being.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can download this as a fact sheet here

Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP. 

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We Are Asking the Wrong Questions About the So-Called Preschool "Fade-Out" Effect, and Children and Families May Pay the Price http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/we-are-asking-the-wrong-questions-about-the-so-called-preschool-fade-out-effect-and-children-and-families-may-pay-the-price Thu, 09 Mar 2017 11:42:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/we-are-asking-the-wrong-questions-about-the-so-called-preschool-fade-out-effect-and-children-and-families-may-pay-the-price 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. 

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The Racial Implications of Proposals to Restrict Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/the-racial-implications-of-proposals-to-restrict-medicaid-chip-and-aca Tue, 07 Mar 2017 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/the-racial-implications-of-proposals-to-restrict-medicaid-chip-and-aca 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.



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Stepping Up Efforts to Build Communities Where Young Children and Families Can Thrive http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/stepping-up-efforts-to-build-communities-where-young-children-and-families-can-thrive Tue, 28 Feb 2017 09:55:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/stepping-up-efforts-to-build-communities-where-young-children-and-families-can-thrive This is the first in a series of blogposts that the Center for the Study of Social Policy is launching to recognize, document, share and celebrate the innovations taking place at the community level to promote healthy child development and support families. We are delighted to kick off this series with a post by Joan Lombardi, the widely recognized expert on early childhood development and a longstanding leader behind the movement to create communities that care about young children and families. Over the next year, we will be hearing from other national experts as well as mayors and local leaders doing pioneering work, foundations that are seeding innovation, and researchers who confirm the urgency of using expanding knowledge now to make a difference for this generation of children. - Frank Farrow, Director 

Something is happening across the United States, and in a growing number of communities around the world. Backed by the science that recognizes the importance of the early years to long-term health, learning and behavior, the movement to focus on early childhood development has continued to grow. The innovative edge of this movement goes beyond a single program; instead it leans in to involve the whole community in efforts to help children and families learn and thrive.

These initiatives are emerging from small neighborhoods, to big cities, from rural communities to statewide efforts to promote local action. While they may reflect a variety of names, they often share a common goal: to create communities that are responsive to the needs of young children and their families — families who today are too often struggling alone, without traditional supports so important to the success of all of us.

A number of key interrelated concepts are driving this movement, among them: 

  • The ecological systems model that recognizes that children grow up in families, which are influenced by the communities around them and in turn by policies at all levels.
  • The two generation [i] movement that acknowledges the importance of empowering the adults in children’s lives, which in turn affects healthy child development.
  • The life-course approach to service delivery which calls for us to start early and assure continuity across the early years and beyond.
  • The concept of nurturing care that integrates health, nutrition, early learning, responsive caregiving and security and safety.[ii]
  • The belief in the empowerment of families and mutual respect for the richness of cultural, ethnic and racial diversity.
  • The idea that we can impact child development by reducing risk factors (including poverty) and increasing protective factors.
  • The movement towards collective impact, rather than focusing on impact from a single program.
  • The use of population-based data to drive towards results. 

So if a mayor or other municipal leader, or a group of concerned citizens or a business or foundation official, asks what can we do together to make a difference for our youngest children and their families, we need a way to get started. While there is no neat formula for making change happen, I offer the following steps forward for discussion, debate and dialogue; each community will have to find its own unique direction.

Getting Ready

The best way forward is to just jump in — call a meeting, demonstrate leadership, begin to vision how the community can be more supportive to the families with young children. You can start by:

1. Bringing together a planning group across sectors (health, education, family support)
2. Assuring strong and meaningful community participation
3. Defining the mission and setting goals
4. Mapping community assets

Assuring a pathway to success

We are gaining new insights into the need to assure continuous and high quality services for young children and families from the prenatal period through the primary grades. Providing good maternal and child health, nutrition and mental health services; assuring family support; developing early childhood services from home visiting to quality child care, from Early Head Start to Head Start – taken together, these can all contribute to healthy child development and in turn to success later in life. But families and services do not live in isolation.  They need an infrastructure of support to help assure quality, to make connections, to track results. In your planning efforts, consider:

5. Establishing a focal point or hubs to help early childhood providers assure quality services to children and support for families, as well as support for the the early childhood workforce.
6. Creating a mechanism to connect families to each other and to services, and provide ongoing networks of support.
7. Promoting strong linkages between community early childhood services and schools that are ready to support young children and families.
8. Developing integrated data systems and community data dashboards to track results and inform improvements and expansion

Reaching out to the broader community

Research tells us that what makes a difference to families goes beyond their ability to access services.  We know now that the overall climate of a community – the social, economic and physical context – has an impact on children and families. We have to involve everyone in a community to make a difference. We all have to row in the same direction by:

9. Strengthening the social fabric of the community (creating social networks religious institutions, civic organizations, businesses, law enforcement, higher education institutions).
10. Utilizing physical spaces to support young children and families (places to play and learn).
11. Assuring ongoing efforts to support family and community economic development (housing, transportation, asset development, job opportunities).
12. Promoting new financing mechanisms and advocating for state and national policies that support young children and families. 

In closing, we hear a lot these days about what divides us. This movement to create “caring communities” is something that can unite us. It can heal, and it can bring us together towards a common goal: strong families and healthy, happy and successful children.

 

1 For more information on the two generation approach see Ascend at the Aspen Institute.  www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/ascend.
2 Advancing Early Childhood Development from Science to Scale: An Executive Summary for the Lancet’s Series, 2016. www.thelancet.com/series/ECD 2016

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In Harm's Way: Protecting Immigrant Children and Families in the Wake of Recent Executive Orders http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-harms-way-protecting-immigrant-children-families Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:40:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-harms-way-protecting-immigrant-children-families An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the United States. They are valued members of communities, employers, employees, parents and children. More than 5 million children, over 4 million of whom are U.S. citizens, have at least one undocumented parent. These children make up 7.3 percent of U.S. students enrolled in grades K-12. The ways in which immigration enforcement activities are conducted have a great impact not only on undocumented persons and their families and communities, but on overall child health and well-being and the safety and stability of communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

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Now is the Time to #getR.E.A.L http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/now-is-the-time-to-getr-e-a-l Thu, 23 Feb 2017 09:28:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/now-is-the-time-to-getr-e-a-l

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

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