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 In Memory of T. Berry Brazelton, MD http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-memory-of-t-berry-brazelton Wed, 14 Mar 2018 11:46:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/in-memory-of-t-berry-brazelton In Memory of T. Berry Brazelton, MD, 1918 – 2018

The world mourns the loss of a true hero. A groundbreaking pediatrician and scientist, T. Berry Brazelton, MD was a genius and a gift to parents and families everywhere. He guided and inspired generations of parents who learned to trust their instincts, listen to their infants and find joy in even the toughest moments of parenting. His Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale and acute observations forever changed the way we see infants and understand child development in the earliest moments of life.

Dr. Brazelton’s books, articles, television shows and Touchpoints training have revolutionized how parents can learn to appreciate and stimulate their babies from the first day of life. His cheerful, funny, happy voice was the sound of someone who never got tired of playing with babies or listening carefully to what parents were telling him. His lifetime of achievement is alive every day in the work and play of millions of children and families across the world. It will live on as children who benefitted from his care become the parents of the next generation, and as pediatricians, child care providers and other child and family specialists continue to use and spread his message and mission.

We join colleagues at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center and around the world in honoring the life of a great champion and offering heartfelt condolences to Dr. Brazelton’s family and friends.

Frank Farrow is the president at CSSP.

Press for Progress: Fight for Our Girls http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/press-for-progress-fight-for-our-girls Thu, 08 Mar 2018 14:22:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/press-for-progress-fight-for-our-girls Girls of color are fighting to survive and thrive every day – and young women of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are particularly at risk. In fact, girls of color have the highest rates of confinement to residential placement facilities due to status offenses – nonviolent behaviors like running away, missing school and violating curfew. 

Not nearly enough research has considered how the intersection of race and gender plays out in the lives of girls of color, especially those charged with status offenses. According to intersectionality theory, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status and other social identities create unique and often overlapping forms of oppression when combined. Thus, girls of color sit at the intersection of inequities caused by their race and gender at the very least. 

In recognition of International Women’s Day – a global event devoted to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – and this year’s theme, #PressForProgress, we are excited to release our latest video in the Fight For Our Girls series which takes a brief look at the challenges that young women of color who are systems involved face. 

CSSP and the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare has long worked to #PressForProgress by calling for a radical shift in the narrative surrounding girls of color and status offenses from a focus on delinquency and misbehavior to structural discrimination, trauma and youth well-being. Take a moment to watch the video and share it with your networks. It’s time we stop locking girls up for nonviolent offense that are too often the result of trauma. It’s time we #PressForProgress and recognize that girls of color need and deserve the opportunity thrive.


Tashira Halyard is a senior associate at CSSP.

Family First Act: Opportunities to Support Families, Children and Youth http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/family-first-act-support-families-children-youth Wed, 14 Feb 2018 14:53:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/family-first-act-support-families-children-youth Last week, as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (HR. 1892), Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which marks a significant step forward for child welfare financing reform by breaking the block on using federal child welfare funding for the range of preventive and treatment supports needed by families who come to the attention of the child welfare system. 

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

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

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

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

Until now.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susan Notkin is a senior vice president at CSSP.

Putting Equity into Action http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/putting-equity-into-action Tue, 30 Jan 2018 09:46:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/putting-equity-into-action Structural racism – and the persistent inequalities that follow – cannot be undone without significant commitment. More than a decade ago, in an effort to confront all forms of racism – particularly structural and institutional – CSSP committed to being an anti-racist organization. This commitment goes beyond the policy and practice work we do – and includes CSSP’s infrastructure and the policies and guidance we use to direct our work. 

All of our equity work is done in close partnership with the organizations and agencies we work with – our public policy partners, our accountants, the sites we work with and our funders. One such organization is the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Their publication Operationalizing Equity: Putting the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion Framework into Action, focuses on their own journey to promote race equity and inclusion, highlighting their experiences and sharing lessons learned for other foundations. Their experience is similar to CSSP’s and many others in the field - and we share their strong commitment to both internal and external efforts to advance equity and achieve their goals. As they highlight in this publication, the work is ongoing, always in progress and a journey that is not ever fully completed. Nonet Sykes, the Director of Racial and Ethnic Equity and Inclusion, emphasized this in her assertion that “Casey’s journey has been more like running a gauntlet than traveling a clear road.” 

As CSSP continues our journey toward advancing equity, inclusion and justice – we will continue to learn from and grow with others who share this commitment. We will continue to advance equity and work to reduce discrimination and disparity based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, ability and immigration status - and toward promoting optimal outcomes through policy and practice for every child and family.

Megan Martin is a vice president at CSSP.


Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting Recap: Working to Improve Outcomes for Youth Involved with Public Systems http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/youth-thrive-learning-community-meeting-recap-working-improve-outcomes-youth-involved-public-systems Thu, 21 Dec 2017 09:20:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/youth-thrive-learning-community-meeting-recap-working-improve-outcomes-youth-involved-public-systems Earlier in the month (December 4-6), CSSP hosted the third Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting in Clearwater, Florida. The convening brought together thought leaders, practitioners, administrators and youth advocates and challenged them to consider how to move from the concepts and research that undergird the Youth Thrive™ framework into specific strategies for improving outcomes for youth in foster care, juvenile justice or who had experienced homelessness.

Youth advocates and foster care alumni played key roles throughout the meeting, participating in plenaries, sharing opinions and leading concurrent workshops. Georgia EmpowerMEnt Youth Advocate Brittany Myers gave a thought-provoking and energizing speech to open the second day of the convening, speaking about the importance of adults getting to know youth in care to tailor casework to the young person’s specific needs.

CSSP Senior Fellow Steve Cohen reinforced Myer’s assertion during a presentation on CSSP’s “transformational relationships” research, which examines the type of relationships between adult workers and youth that promote positive change in the lives of youth. Leaders from Seneca Family of Agencies (Moses Santos) and Anu Family Services (Erin Wall)—two Youth Thrive exemplary initiatives—and Kaysie Getty, an MSW student at Rutgers and foster care alum, shared concrete steps to apply the research and discussed innovative hiring practices, supervisory supports and training opportunities that promote the development of meaningful relationships.

During his candid and inspirational keynote speech, Children’s Village CEO, Jeremy Kohomban, challenged the audience to consider the historical failures of the child welfare system. Kohomban spoke of our ability to continually improve practice, particularly by recognizing and addressing issues of implicit bias and by prioritizing a young person’s need for love and belonging.

Youth Thrive™ exemplary initiatives and sites got the opportunity to showcase how they are implementing the framework into policy and practices during the Gallery Walk Poster Session. Sites filled the hotel ballroom with colorful tri-fold boards showcasing their programs and initiatives for youth engagement, training, assessment and policy changes. These boards remained throughout the conference as a reminder of the positive and creative environment fostered by these leaders (lovingly referred to as “disrupters of the status quo”).

Representatives from Brevard’s Youth Leadership Academy closed out the convening on a high with a rap about youth voice and choice that reminded the audience why we do this important work.

Attendees of the convening are on the frontlines of creating better systems for youth moving forward. Learning from the past is critical in this effort. The Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting provided a rich environment for brainstorming about how to continue working to improve the futures of every child and family and drove home the message that no time is better than right now to bring home these strategies and apply them in practice.


Derick Gomez is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Words Matter: The Ripple Effect of Seven Banned Words http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/words-matter-ripple-effect-of-seven-banned-words Mon, 18 Dec 2017 11:20:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/words-matter-ripple-effect-of-seven-banned-words Late last Friday, news broke that senior staff at The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were notified by the Trump Administration that seven words (Vulnerable, Entitlement, DiversityTransgender, Fetus, Evidence-based and Science-based) were prohibited from use in official documents being prepared for the 2018 budget. The news sounded a national alarm, with widespread negative reactions on social media, in popular news outlets and in the form of protests taking place in the nation’s capital. It is rare that a single government action manages to so thoroughly unite people through its unpopularity – in large measure because this edict is so dangerous on so many levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Frank Farrow is the president at CSSP.

Out in the Cold: Support Children and Families by Extending CHIP Funding http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/out-in-the-cold-support-children-families-extend-chip-funding Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:43:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/out-in-the-cold-support-children-families-extend-chip-funding As we have shared, the deadline for extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) came and went on September 30th. Despite historical bipartisan support for the program and concurrence on CHIP policy moving forward, disagreement on where to find the money for CHIP halted efforts to keep the program alive. Now, a growing number of states are seeing the end of their resources. 

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

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

Donna Cohen Ross is a vice president at CSSP  

Twitter Chat Recap: Applying an Intersectional Lens to Girls of Color Facing Status Offenses http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fight-for-our-girls-twitter-chat-recap Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fight-for-our-girls-twitter-chat-recap Last month, CSSP hosted a Twitter Chat for our Fight for Our Girls initiative. The Fight for Our Girls initiative, which includes a series of issue briefs, was founded by CSSP’s Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare to radically shift the negative narrative surrounding girls of color and status offenses from a focus on delinquency and misbehavior to structural discrimination, trauma and youth well-being.

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

You can view highlights of the Twitter Chat here: https://storify.com/CtrSocialPolicy/fightforourgirls-twitter-chat

Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Beyond a Vigil: Why Solidarity with the Transgender Community Needs to Take Place 365 Days a Year http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/beyond-a-vigil-why-solidarity-with-the-transgender-community-needs-to-take-place-365-days-a-year Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:08:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/beyond-a-vigil-why-solidarity-with-the-transgender-community-needs-to-take-place-365-days-a-year Every November, communities of transgender individuals from across the U.S. organize awareness-raising and educational events and protests in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, which culminates in a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). The first TDOR was held by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. TDOR has grown to memorialize all transgender and gender expansive individuals who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Annual vigils often include a reading of a list of names of the transgender and gender expansive individuals who were killed that year. The number of transgender individuals who are murdered each year continues to climb at alarming rates. HIV/AIDS continues to claim transgender lives. Public policies continue to target and disenfranchise transgender people. The transgender community is at the center of an epidemic of violence. TDOR plays an important role in raising public awareness of hate crimes against transgender individuals and the transgender community at large. TDOR also ensures that our transgender siblings are remembered in a world that tries to forget and erase them. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

U.S. Children are More Diverse than Ever: Our Policies Should Reflect This http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/u-s-children-are-more-diverse-than-ever-our-policies-should-reflect-this Mon, 13 Nov 2017 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/u-s-children-are-more-diverse-than-ever-our-policies-should-reflect-this Throughout our history, immigration policy in the U.S. has been notoriously ambiguous and largely shaped by race and/or ethnicity. Early immigration to the U.S. was greatly encouraged as it helped alter the racial composition of the country – diminishing the number of Native/Indigenous people who were already here and later seeking to suppress the rate of enslaved population growth amongst those who were forced to migrate as a means of free labor.

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

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

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

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

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

Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Proposed Tax Bill Takes a Cut at Children http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/proposed-tax-bill-takes-a-cut-at-children Tue, 07 Nov 2017 17:25:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/proposed-tax-bill-takes-a-cut-at-children On November 2, 2017, Representative Brady (R-TX) introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1), a tax reform plan which includes significant changes to the current tax code. The proposed bill includes several provisions that, if passed, would undermine the well-being of large numbers of children and families across the country. The tax bill’s provisions acutely affect low-wage working parents and strike a particularly hard blow to the U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents.

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

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

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

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

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

Alexandra Citrin is a senior policy analyst at CSSP.

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

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

Supporting Families in Stressful Times http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/supporting-families-in-stressful-times Wed, 25 Oct 2017 13:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/supporting-families-in-stressful-times In the Fall 2017 issue of Kansas Child, published by Child Care Aware of Kansas, CSSP Senior Associate Cailin O’Connor describes concrete actions early care and education providers can take to support families in their programs when they are going through a stressful time. 

This brief article suggests steps providers can take related to each of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors, to support young children and their families when a family is going through a challenging time. 

“Early care and education providers can be some of the most important figures in young children’s lives,” said O’Connor. “When a family is under stress, there are a lot of things the child’s teacher or care provider can do, not just to ease the child’s stress, but to help parents cope and connect them to other supports. Looking at it through the lens of the Protective Factors Framework can help providers understand what families might need.”

For more information on Strengthening Families, please explore www.strengtheningfamilies.net

To read Cailin’s full article in the issue of Kansas Child magazine, please view here.

If you would like to customize a similar article for early care and education providers in your state or community, please contact Cailin O’Connor.

 Viet Tran is a communications manager at CSSP.

An Accelerating Change Awardee Profile: PathWays PA http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-pathways-pa Mon, 23 Oct 2017 13:43:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-pathways-pa On September 27th, CSSP announced three winners of the 2017 Accelerating Change Award. Each of the awardees have demonstrated a commitment to reaching and serving diverse populations of young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk of involvement in public systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the other Accelerating Change awardee profiles here:

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

Gwen's Girls

Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP. 

An Accelerating Change Awardee Profile: Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-delores-barr-weaver-policy-center Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-delores-barr-weaver-policy-center On September 27th, CSSP announced three winners of the 2017 Accelerating Change Award. Each of the awardees have demonstrated a commitment to reaching and serving diverse populations of young women and girls of color who are involved or at risk of involvement in public systems.

“It is an honor to receive this award. We want to thank the Center for the Study of Social Policy for seeing the girl and helping us move the needle toward justice to ensure equitable treatment of justice-involved girls,” said Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, the President and CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center was founded in 2013 to advance the rights of girls and young women, and those who identify as such, especially justice-involved girls. The Policy Center emerged out of a movement during the late 1990s to stop legislation that threatened to eliminate statewide programming for girls involved in the juvenile justice system. Bearing witness to how significantly policy can either hurt girls and young women or help them, the Policy Center has always been committed to implementing political science strategies that integrate the lived experiences of girls in juvenile justice and child protective systems. With girls and young women as equal partners, the Policy Center aligns research, public policy advocacy, training and direct services to influence significant justice reforms for communities on the First Coast (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns Counties) and statewide.

Young women and girls of color— especially those involved in public systems— face a unique and alarming trajectory that puts them at risk of poor outcomes. The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center works to disrupt this trajectory through advocacy that targets the needs of girls and young women. Examples of these initiatives include intervention in the suspension of girls in elementary school, training and technical assistance to enhance communities’ responses to girls and young women and recommendations to judges for therapeutic alternatives to incarcerating girls and young women. 

In addition to advocacy, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center addresses the needs of girls and young women through their unique direct service approach. The Policy Center operationalizes girl-centered principles in its direct service work by partnering with the girls it serves to co-create programs. The inclusion of girls’ voices in the creation of the Policy Center’s programming has resulted in a team of psychologists who provide girls and young women with individualized care and psychoeducational groups, as well as clinicians and care managers who are available to girls and young women 24 hours, seven days a week. The Policy Center delivers service at all points of the justice continuum— school, diversion programs, detention centers and probation.

The advocacy and direct service performed by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center has resulted in a 67 percent reduction in the incarceration of girls in Duval County and an overall 48 percent reduction in the incarceration of girls across the First Coast.

PBS NewsHour Weekend, The Clinton Health Foundation Activation Summit and the Georgetown University Journal of Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy have all recognized the Policy Center’s work as the national replication model for justice system reform.

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

To learn more about the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, please go to www.seethegirl.org

Check out the other Accelerating Change awardee profiles here:

Gwen's Girls

PathWays PA

Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

New CSSP Brief: Religious Refusal Laws in Child Welfare - Harming Children and Stunting Progress http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-cssp-brief-religious-refusal-laws-in-child-welfare-harming-children-and-stunting-progress Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:36:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/new-cssp-brief-religious-refusal-laws-in-child-welfare-harming-children-and-stunting-progress Last week, after announcing the reversal of a three year old Justice Department policy that protected transgender employees from workplace discrimination, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued two memos addressing the federal interpretation of religious liberty. The memos broadly interpret religious liberty to allow businesses covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including federal service providers, to refuse to serve people on the basis of the employer’s religious beliefs. This decision follows the trend initially set by the Trump Administration through a leaked draft of an executive order on religious liberty and picked up by several states across the country that have passed religious refusal legislation that allow publicly-funded child welfare agencies to refuse to serve individuals based on their deeply-held religious belief. While religious refusal laws may be intended to provide religious child placing agencies protection from adverse action for discriminating against prospective foster and adoptive parents who are LGBTQ or gender expansive, they will have numerous, far-reaching and harmful consequences for all young people involved in child welfare.

This week, CSSP released a new brief, “Religious Refusal Laws in Child Welfare—Harming Children and Stunting Progress”, examining the impact of religious refusal legislation on children and families who are involved in child welfare. As we discuss in the brief, religious refusal laws will have tremendous negative consequences for all children and families involved in child welfare that directly contradict not only the basic principles of child welfare but also the significant gains made by child welfare systems across the country to recruit and retain quality foster and adoptive homes. These consequences include:

  • A reduction in the number of available homes for children and increased time in foster care. Agencies could reject otherwise qualified unmarried couples, individuals who are single or divorced, people of a different faith than the agency, interfaith couples, families and individuals who do not belong to a religious practice or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LBGTQ) or gender expansive individuals or couples because they do not adhere to an agency or individual worker’s beliefs. This would result in children remaining in foster care rather than being placed in a loving, capable and qualified adoptive home. It could also increase referrals to group and congregate care facilities due to lack of available foster homes.
  • Educational disruption. Religious refusal laws increase the likelihood that children entering foster care will have to move further away from their home school for their placement and experience education disruption. Research shows that educational disruption has a number of long-lasting, detrimental effects on students’ academic achievement, brain growth, mental development, psychological adjustment and likelihood of high school completion.
  • Disconnection from family and other supportive social networks. Religious refusal legislation would allow an agency to refuse to place a child with an otherwise qualified relative or family friend for multiple reasons related to the agency or individual worker’s religious beliefs and instead place the child in non-relative foster care or in a group or congregate care facility.
  • Lack of access to appropriate medical and behavioral health care. Limiting potential foster and adoptive placements increases the likelihood that children in foster care will experience disruptions in their medical or behavioral health care. Moreover, an agency could deny children and young people necessary medical care, such as vaccinations, reproductive care or access to contraception, which runs counter to the work of jurisdictions throughout the country to ensure that all children in foster care are vaccinated, receive regular medical and dental care and are screened and receive access to any identified mental health care.
  • Additional harm for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender and gender expansive young people in foster care. By allowing agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ or gender expansive foster or adoptive parents, religious refusal laws send 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. In addition, placement of young children in non-affirming homes can result in abuse and failed adoptions later when a child comes out in that home.

These outcomes are far from inevitable. We call upon policymakers and advocates to join the many states and communities who are rejecting religious refusal laws that provide publicly-funded agencies with a license to discriminate and are instead working to ensure that child serving agencies focus on promoting the best interests of all children in their care through inclusive nondiscrimination laws and providing them with capable, loving and stable homes.

For more information on the harmful consequences of religious refusal laws in child welfare, read our brief available here.

For more information on strategies for child welfare systems to better support healthy sexual and identity development for all children and youth in the child welfare system, see resources from CSSP’s getREAL (Recognize, Engage, Affirm Love) Initiative.

 Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

Fight For Our Girls: Applying an Intersectional Lens to Girls of Color Facing Status Offenses http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fight-for-our-girls-applying-an-intersectional-lens-to-girls-of-color-facing-status-offenses Thu, 12 Oct 2017 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/fight-for-our-girls-applying-an-intersectional-lens-to-girls-of-color-facing-status-offenses CSSP’s Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare’s second brief in the Fight for Our Girls series centers the importance of crafting a more holistic narrative for girls of color who are involved in public systems. The brief suggests this narrative can be achieved by systems applying a trauma-informed approach and intersectional lens when developing programs, policies and practices.

Public systems often subject girls – disproportionately girls of color– to harsher punishments for lower-level crimes and status offenses. In fact, girls who commit these behaviors - such as running away, missing school and violating curfew – can be narrowly defined as social problems that require intervention at the individual level. It is important to avoid conceptualizing status offenses as individual problems or as social problems. Instead, a trauma-informed approach should consider what underlying factors may be leading girls to these behaviors. For example, behaviors like running away, truancy and violating curfew are often methods of survival and are likely caused by underlying trauma such as abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and family conflict.

In addition to the high likelihood that girls are committing status offenses as methods of survival is the challenge of adults’ perceptions of girls, especially on girls of color. The latest Fight for Our Girls brief outlines research conducted by Lisa Pasko, which found that girls, and disproportionately girls of color, face added challenges such as biases, stereotypes and historic oppression when coming in contact with public systems. Pasko’s research, which consisted of interviews with probation officers, social workers, therapists and residential placement staff, revealed that system stakeholders have a hyper focus on policing girls for their perceived sexuality rather than focusing on their overall well-being.

Adultification is yet another challenge that arises for girls of color that can be attributed to adult perception. The recently released Girlhood Interrupted report cites adultification of Black girls as problematic beliefs that they need less nurturing, less protection, less support, less comfort, are more independent and that they know more about sex and other adult topics.

Fight for Our Girls points to recent research to uncover the racial, ethnic and gender biases that may be leading girls of color to be subjected to disparate treatment for status offenses.

Juvenile justice and child welfare systems must work to address the structural inequities and trauma that so often contribute to girls committing status offenses in order to fully support the ability of girls of color to thrive. The latest Fight for Our Girls brief highlights successful organizations that are working to change this narrative and puts forth the following recommendations: Public systems should (1) collect and report data that captures the involvement of youth in child welfare systems for status offenses, (2) develop meaningful cross-systems partnerships, (3) implement community-based prevention models that promote youth stability and placement in the community, (4) utilize youth advisory boards and youth engagement strategies to inform effective program development and implementation, (5) fully implement the reauthorized Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, and (6) create safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ youth and transgender girls of color.

To learn more, read the full brief here.

Don’t forget to join us on Thursday, October 26, 3-4 p.m EST for our #FFOG: Fight For Our Girls Twitter Chat.


Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

An Accelerating Change Awardee Profile: Gwen's Girls http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-gwens-girls Tue, 10 Oct 2017 13:19:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/an-accelerating-change-awardee-profile-gwens-girls

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

“We are honored to receive CSSP’s 2017 Accelerating Change Award and to be recognized by an entity that is so dedicated to racial equity for girls. We are of the belief that positive impact only happens when we work together,” said Amy Yeu, a program coordinator at Gwen’s Girls. “We are proud to join hands with those accomplishing the same goal: to lift girls out of at-risk situations and into their potential.”

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gwen’s Girls was founded in 2002 by the late Police Commander Gwendolyn J. Elliott. Commander Elliott became the first Black woman to serve as a commander on the Pittsburgh Police force in 1986. During her tenure on the force, she witnessed the struggles of young women and girls involved with law enforcement. Her experience fueled her determination to ensure that all young women and girls could lead successful and fulfilling lives. Commander Elliot’s legacy of determination to help young women and girls continues to live through Gwen’s Girls’ mission of providing young women and girls with gender-specific programs, education and opportunities to foster leadership and joy.

Young women and girls of color – especially those involved in public systems – face a unique and alarming trajectory that puts them at risk of poor outcomes. Gwen’s Girls works to disrupt this trajectory through its programs which address the needs of young women and girls in a holistic and comprehensive manner using a strengths-based approach. The programs at Gwen’s Girls build on each young woman and girl’s personal strengths and provide opportunities and experiences for her to be successful.

Gwen’s Girls advocates for the holistic care of young women and girls through its community programs, strengths-based prevention services and various outreach initiatives and trainings. Fifteen years after its inception, Gwen’s Girls continues to service 300 young women and girls a year through residential care, community education, after school and summer programs, STEM, health and wellness and workforce development programming. The organization also provides opportunities for young women and girls to participate in community advocacy and activism within Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Through Gwen’s Girls various programs and services, many of the organization’s participants achieve academic success, lack of re-involvement in the justice system, and reduced incidences of unplanned pregnancies.

Continuing in the footsteps of its founder and her experience on the Pittsburgh Police force, Gwen’s Girls recognizes the importance of addressing how public systems respond to the needs of young women and girls. In 2016, Gwen’s Girls’ inaugural Equity Summit was a catalyst for the creation of the Black Girls Equity Alliance, a grassroots movement comprised of over 50 organizations and community members, which intends to help affect lasting change for Black girls in public systems.

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

To learn more about Gwen’s Girls, please go to www.gwensgirls.org

Check out the other Accelerating Change awardee profiles here:

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

PathWays PA

Victoria Efetevbia is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

Gender, Sexuality and Parenting http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/gender-sexuality-and-parenting Wed, 04 Oct 2017 12:02:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/gender-sexuality-and-parenting We are living in a time of rapidly evolving social norms and understanding of the spectrum of human experiences with sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). (See the Genderbread Person image for an explanation of what is meant by each of these terms and how they make up each individual’s SOGIE.)

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

Progress, Opposition and the Real Cause for Concern

From the legalization of gay marriage to greater acknowledgement and acceptance of transgender people in schools, places of business and the media, progress on these issues is apparent across our society. The scientific and human services communities have kept pace with this evolution. Gender clinics now exist to support parents who are trying to understand and support their children who are finding their way along this spectrum. Organizations such as Gender Spectrum based in Berkeley, California provide resources and supports to children, youth and families.

While this evolution has moved in a progressive, thoughtful and supportive way to ensure healthy development of children, youth and families, not everyone has responded well to these changes. Some individuals and organizations view greater acceptance as wrong. Some see it as an attack on their values and their view of our society. Some families have been reported to child protective services, and many more have faced criticism or harassment, due to others’ concerns about how they respond to their young children’s gender expression. Other parents face scrutiny or legal obstacles to parenthood due to their own sexuality or gender identity. And despite greater acceptance in our society as a whole, too many LGBT and gender non-conforming children and adolescents still face hostility, bullying and rejection from their families and peers.

Strict enforcement of gender norms and rejection of children and adolescents’ true selves has an unacceptable cost in terms of teen suicide, high numbers of runaway/homeless youth, juvenile incarceration and sex trafficking. Many young people end up in the child welfare system because their families have rejected them due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Children and youth experience this in their birth families as well as in foster families and adoptive families; tragically, some experience it more than once.

Pushing strict gender norms is not only harmful to children who are questioning their gender or sexuality. It also perpetuates the effects of a gender binary frame, which has contributed over time to incidents of domestic violence, bullying and other behaviors grounded in an unhealthy belief that power and control are priorities. Everyone benefits when we move beyond that binary thinking.

What Does Good Parenting Look Like?

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

This is actually a good approach to parenting regardless of a child’s SOGIE. All children need unconditional love and support from their families, and all children benefit from an open and accepting approach that encourages them to express their emotions, follow their interests and explore all aspects of their own identity. Parents who allow their children that freedom – without enforcing strict norms of masculinity or femininity – will see their children grow and thrive.

Through getREAL, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to help (or in some cases encourage) public systems and agencies to update their policies and practices so that they can better serve, and not further harm, all of the young people they serve. While there may not be a lot we can do in the policy realm to ensure that birth parents will love their children unconditionally, systems can take steps to reduce the likelihood of failed adoptions or foster placements based on lack of knowledge or unwillingness to accept a child’s SOGIE. For example, they can educate potential foster and adoptive parents, ask them about their commitment to keeping a child in their family regardless of the child’s emerging gender identity and sexual orientation and provide access to gender clinics and other supports as needed.

What About Parents’ SOGIE?

Some people have a related concern about how parents’ SOGIE affects their ability to raise children – or how it should affect their rights to do so, as we see in recent moves by some state legislatures and faith-based organizations to limit the rights of LGBT adults to become foster or adoptive parents.

An adult’s SOGIE, relationship or marital status has no bearing on their ability to raise a child – in fact, research indicates that children of gay and lesbian parents are less likely to be abused or neglected, and more likely to thrive, than other children. (See a summary of relevant research: Patterson, C. J., & Farr, R. H. (2015). Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents: Reflections on the Research–Policy Interface. The Wiley Handbook of Developmental Psychology in Practice: Implementation and Impact, 121.There is no justification for keeping LGBTQ parents from bringing children into their families – through foster care, kinship care, adoption, surrogacy or otherwise.

What Kinds of Support Do Families Need?

CSSP’s Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework describes characteristics that all families need to support optimal child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect, while our Youth Thrive framework describes a parallel set of protective and promotive factors that young people need to thrive. All families and youth need support to build and maintain these protective factors throughout their lives.

Through the lens of these protective and promotive factors, it becomes easier to understand some of the challenges that families and youth can face, as well as the types of support they might need as they navigate issues of SOGIE. What support can we provide so that all families can love, affirm and support their children to become their authentic selves, able to love and embrace all aspects of their identity?



Parental and youth resilience: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma Parents may question their own ability to parent their children who are questioning their sexuality or gender orientation, being bullied at school or otherwise struggling. Parents may benefit from support groups such as PFLAG.

Young people who are questioning their sexuality or gender orientation, or who are being bullied, need reassurance that they will be loved and supported regardless of their SOGIE. Resources like the It Gets Better Project can help young people see a positive future for themselves despite their current situation.
 Social connections: Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, instrumental and spiritual support

Young people may benefit from connecting with peers who are similarly developing. Parents, too, benefit from connecting with others who are facing similar parenting situations. 

For both parents and youth, acceptance and support from their extended families and friends is also critical. 
 Knowledge of parenting and child development: Understanding child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development  Parents need additional knowledge about SOGIE if their child is gender-nonconforming or gay; young people also need access to this information about their own development. Books such as Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s Gender Creative Child can be very helpful.
Concrete support in times of need: Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs and help minimize stress caused by challenges   Access to supports such as gender clinics and parent support groups is critical when a young child says their gender is different than their sex at birth or when a youth is questioning their sexual identity or says they think they are gay.
Young people whose families are not accepting of their SOGIE will need additional concrete supports, up to and including housing and financial support if their families reject them. 
Social and emotional competence of children / Cognitive and social-emotional competence of youth: Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions and establish and maintain relationships   Parents need to understand the impact of family acceptance vs. rejection behaviors on health outcomes for children and strategies to support their child’s social-emotional development. (See familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications.) 

Young people need to experience love, affirmation and acceptance – from their families, friends, teachers and other supportive adults – to support their own development and self-esteem.

Cailin O'Connor is a senior associate at CSSP and Bill Bettencourt is a senior fellow at CSSP.

Congress Missed the Deadline to Reauthorize CHIP: What Happens Now? http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/congress-missed-the-deadline-to-reauthorize-chip-what-happens-now Tue, 03 Oct 2017 12:24:44 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/congress-missed-the-deadline-to-reauthorize-chip-what-happens-now Saturday came and went and Congress failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a popular health program that provides coverage to the 9 million children who rely on it. The urgency to reauthorize CHIP was not news to Congress as advocates have been voicing the strong and unified message on the need for a five-year extension of the program for some time. Yet Congress allowed the funding for CHIP to lapse, having spent the better part of the year attempting instead, to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Now it appears that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning to take up a package tomorrow, the same day that the Senate Finance Committee is expected to consider The Keeping Kids Insurance Dependable and Secure Act (S. 1827) - a bipartisan bill to extend funding for CHIP for five years. The House package will include, in addition to a five-year reauthorization of CHIP, funding for community health centers and for Puerto Rico over a two-year period, in addition to other health-care extenders. While there will likely be movement on CHIP this week, there are a few sticking points. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has identified its pay-fors for the package but the Senate Finance Committee has not. Also, no Democrats have yet signed on to the House bill. 

While we wait for Congress to act, States are now planning internally for the end of CHIP funding, with some states beginning to shut down their programs within a few months – leading to significant disruptions in children’s coverage. Aside from being compelled to impose enrollment freezes which would barre new applicants from obtaining coverage, states must also begin the process of informing families that their children will be dis-enrolled from healthcare coverage. While many States have funding through the end of the year, they have to immediately begin making system changes to prepare for shutting their programs down. 

As States look ahead to freezing enrollments and shutting down programs, they continue to make difficult day-to-day decisions, for instance, around vaccine purchases. These decisions must be made early. As we head into flu season, states buying vaccines on a quarterly basis will have to decide now whether to buy vaccines for winter 2017-18. Without funding certainty, many states will find it difficult to make these decisions and could be forced not to purchase vaccines.  For low-income families, access to such preventative services is essential. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, at least 10 states are expected to exhaust their CHIP funds by the end of 2017 and 32 states project they will exhaust federal funds as of the end of March 2018. The states likely to be hardest hit are Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Texas, West Virginia and Nevada. Of these, Utah has stated that it will run out of funding by the end of the year and is making plans to close the program and Nevada is preparing to freeze enrollment on November 1 and to end coverage altogether on November 30. 

CHIP must stay strong so that health care remains accessible and of high-quality for families with young children facing barriers to coverage. As this week unfolds, Congress must move quickly to enact a five-year extension of CHIP.

Shadi Houshyar is a senior associate at CSSP and Rhiannon Reeves is a policy analyst at CSSP.

SNAP at 40: Alleviating Hunger and Lifting Families from Poverty http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/snap-at-40-alleviating-hunger-and-lifting-families-from-poverty Fri, 29 Sep 2017 11:54:00 -0500 http://www.cssp.org/media-center/blog/snap-at-40-alleviating-hunger-and-lifting-families-from-poverty Today is the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which set the framework for the current Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). As SNAP and other social programs face potential structural changes or reductions in funding in current reauthorization and budgetary proposals, it is important to take a step back to evaluate how SNAP has worked to alleviate hunger and lift families from poverty over the past 40 years.

SNAP Combats Food Insecurity. SNAP has long functioned as a critical food assistance program for individuals and families facing food insecurity.[1] In 2015, SNAP helped more than 45 million individuals and families afford nutritionally adequate food. SNAP also has a significant impact on the well-being of children – with research showing that SNAP benefits can reduce food insecurity among children by 20 percent and improve their overall health by 35 percent. Another study found that SNAP participation reduced households’ food insecurity by about five to ten percentage points and reduced “very low food security,” which occurs when one or more household members have to skip meals or otherwise eat less due to lack of money, by about five to six percentage points.

SNAP Reduces Poverty. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, after Social Security Income and refundable tax credits, SNAP is the most effective federal program in lifting families out of poverty, lifting  3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016. SNAP is also structured so that families with the greatest financial need receive the most benefits. Research shows that 93 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line ($19,377 for a single parent with two children in 2016) and 58 percent go to families in deep poverty whose incomes are below half the poverty line ($9,689 for that same family in 2016). Research also shows that SNAP reduced the number of families with children living in extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 per person per day, by more than 48 percent and cut the number of children living in extreme poverty by more than half in 2011. Individuals with low incomes have to spend all of their monthly income meeting daily necessities, including shelter, food and transportation. Every dollar provided through SNAP to low income individuals and families for food allows them to spend an additional dollar on other necessities.

SNAP is Critical to the Safety Net. SNAP is one of the only federal means-tested benefit programs that is broadly available to almost all low income households. SNAP is able to respond quickly and effectively to support low income families and communities during times of increased need because of its structure as an entitlement program, meaning that anyone who qualifies under the program can receive benefits. Research shows that during times of economic downturn, enrollment in SNAP expands while enrollment declines when the economy recovers. Other than unemployment insurance, SNAP has been shown to be the most responsive federal program in providing assistance to low income families and communities during times of recession.

As we mark this anniversary – it is important to think not just about SNAP itself – but of the countless children and families who are better off because of it. There are few more basic needs than having adequate, healthy food. The SNAP program helps families meet that need during their toughest times – and is structured so that eligible families are not turned away. At CSSP, we are committed to ensuring that families have every possible opportunity to be healthy and successful – and access to healthy food is absolutely essential to that goal.

For more information on SNAP and its impact on supporting children and families, please see our publications Food Insecurity in Early Childhood and Supporting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Through SNAP.

[1] The concept of “food security” is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to measure a household’s social and economic ability to access adequate food. Food insecurity of any degree indicates a lack of resources needed to meet basic needs, and a risk of poorer health and wellness outcomes due to lower quality nutrition.


Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.