Pages tagged "Child Abuse & Neglect"
By Bruce Lesley
It's great that Carlsbad businesses are stepping up to help foster kids ("Pizza fundraiser to benefit kids in foster care," Feb. 24). But kids need a double-slice of leadership from Congress, too.
Federal foster care funding's shrinking pool covers less than half of foster children today, and fewer by 2024...
“When I was arrested by law enforcement for prostitution, I was made to feel like a criminal, like a juvenile delinquent. I felt stupid, ashamed, and ostracized by society. Days later, alone in my bedroom, I felt so abandoned, so forsaken by society, that I attempted suicide. I wish I could travel back in time to tell this young girl that, years later, advocates and legislators all across the country would be standing up for her, that they would demand better protection and services for kids like her.” -Testimony by Holly Austin Smith
These words by Holly Austin Smith, a victim of sex trafficking in the United States, echoed in the Capitol yesterday during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, Human Trafficking in the United States: Protecting the Victim. The hearing was in response to a letter spearheaded by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and signed by all 20 women currently serving in the Senate requesting Chairman Grassley to hold a hearing on the need to combat sex trafficking in the United States. The letter cited that human trafficking is a $32 billion criminal enterprise and that 83 percent of sex trafficking victims in the United States are American citizens.
The hearing comes on the eve of Senate consideration of several bills aimed at addressing the prevalence of child sex trafficking in the United States. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S. 178) provides more resources for victim services, and increases supports for law enforcement- both to catch perpetrators but also for training to better serve victims, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (S.166) incentivizes states to implement safe harbor legislation so victims are not criminalized for prostitution and the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act which includes services at homeless shelters for trafficked victims and extends the length of stays for runaway and homeless youth in emergency shelters. The bills are expected to be marked up by the Committee on Thursday and will likely be called for a full vote sometime next week.
In a show of solidarity and bipartisan support, several of the senators who requested the hearing testified and spoke on different aspects of the needs victims face. Senator Collins (R-ME) highlighted the issue that many of the youth who are trying to escape their traffickers and rehabilitate themselves have nowhere to go and often become homeless. Therefore partnerships between housing providers and other service providers are critical. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) emphasized that buyers should be held strictly liable for their crimes and that families, schools and the foster system are failing these children and Senator Ayotte (R-NH) drew the correlation of drug trafficking with sexual exploitation of children as well as the need for prevention services. Finally, Senator Mikulski (D- MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee stressed the need for all the Committees to work together to pass the important pieces of legislation that would provide resources for the victims.
Panelists also discussed the issue of deterring traffickers and buyers at length. Malika Saada Saar the Executive Director for the Human Rights Project for Girls pointed out that penalties for those who rape minors are higher than those who pay to rape minors. She also stressed that often the buyers need to be held accountable so that the demand for trafficking is reduced. Michael Ferjak an Iowa Criminal Investigator discussed the training of law enforcement officers in investigating traffickers and buyers and guiding victims to appropriate services.
This hearing was unique and encouraging because broader systemic issues were discussed that lead to children being sexually trafficked. The link between homeless youth and trafficking is an important one as traffickers often prey on this vulnerable and desperate population. However, equally important was the point made by Jayne Bigelssen that as many as 50% of these youth have nowhere to go. Shelters are at capacity and unless more funding and resources are put into homeless and housing programs, these children will remain at-risk for trafficking. Similarly, Holly Austin Smith spoke on the need to recognize that LGBTQ youth are trafficked at significant rates, but have fewer resources available to them. It is important that these topics are not overlooked in legislation that is aimed to end the exploitation of children.
We are hopeful that this robust discussion will ensure passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act and the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act through the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate floor and that Congress will continue to engage in this issue until trafficking of children is completely eradicated.
More than eight million children will be born in the United States during the 114th Congress. The decisions Congress makes about issues ranging from education to tax and immigration policy will shape their lives. Whether the next two years accelerate or impede the healthy development of those children is up to them.
First Focus Campaign for Children recommends this policy agenda to address the most pressing problems facing America’s children. The agenda is made up of six broad categories: ensuring a healthy future, ensuring every child a safe and permanent home, reducing child poverty, expanding opportunity through education and early childhood, valuing children and families, and investing in children and reforming government. Within each category is a list of goals and actions Congress can take to improve the lives of our children.
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) have introduced bipartisan legislation to improve foster care services for thousands of America’s most vulnerable youth. The Family-Based Foster Care Services Act increases access to quality care by clarifying Medicaid policy that directly affects foster children with special behavioral health needs and/or medical disabilities, as well as vulnerable children living with kinship and biological caregivers.
“This commonsense bill will allow vulnerable children to have better access to high-quality foster care,” Portman stated. “By improving health care and mental health services for kids with unique needs, we will provide a sense of stability for these children and better equip foster parents to care for them.”...
A report by PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia calls into question the reliability of federal systems for the collection of child abuse and neglect data. This letter asks senior members of key congressional committees to review these discrepancies and consider specific potential policy solutions.
Washington – The White House today released a federal budget proposing increased investments benefiting nearly every aspect of a child’s life. Key elements of the president’s budget for children include:
- Increased funding to make quality child care affordable for more working families, plus expanded reach for the federal child care tax credit and a new “second earner” credit to help dual-income families manage child care costs;
- Stronger investments in early learning, including a more intensive Head Start initiative, increased preschool development grant funding, and continued funding for evidence-based voluntary home visiting;
- Extending funding for the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program through 2019;
- A renewed commitment to public schools, with additional funding for teacher preparation, incentives to eliminate school funding disparities, and funding for school-community partnerships designed to help disadvantaged students succeed;
- Funding to reduce the incidence of youth violence and support states’ work with youth offenders;
- Increased funding for family housing vouchers;
- Supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), which allocates nearly half of its funding to children in homes affected by hunger;
- Repealing federal budget sequestration, ending arbitrary budget caps for a wide range of children’s initiatives;
- Increased funding for child abuse and neglect prevention, as well as a new initiative to reduce the incidence of over-prescription of psychotropic medications to children in foster care
Reacting to the president’s budget proposal, the First Focus Campaign for Children released the following statement from its president, Bruce Lesley:
“From child care to high school, quality health care to preventing abuse and neglect, President Obama’s budget represents a real reinvestment in America’s children. Whether or not Congress adopts these specific proposals, the president’s budget is a model for a federal budget that makes kids a priority, not an afterthought.”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit campaignforchildren.org.
As the new Congressmembers were sworn in and the new session began, former House majority leader Eric Cantor made the plea, “I hope the president and members from both parties will keep one number in mind: 8,053,000. That is an estimate of the number of new Americans expected to be born between now and the end of this Congress and President Obama's second term two years from now.”
Cantor recognizes there’s a lot at stake for those 8,053,000 children in the policies and the priorities of the new Congress. That’s the right idea, but his priority for these kids is a growing economy, trade promotion authority, patent law reform, and expanding charter schools. As we wrote in our response on CNBC, what Cantor misses is that there are a sweeping range of issues before Congress that will more fundamentally impact the lives of these kids.
Data from the nonpartisan Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Center paints a clear picture of the future for these 8,053,000 children if Congress does not make children’s policies a real priority:
- More than 1.7 million will live in poverty (tweet this)
- More than 73,000 of those children will be abused or neglected (tweet this)
- More than 560,000 will not have health coverage (tweet this)
- More than 3.3 million will be the children of immigrants, many living in fear that the government will take their parents away (tweet this)
- 4 million will not be enrolled in pre-kindergarten (tweet this)
By Bruce Lesley
It's encouraging that Wisconsin is making progress on child abuse ("Annual report finds fewer Wisconsin child abuse deaths in 2013," Jan. 5). But accelerating progress requires action in Washington as well as Madison.
The biggest federal child abuse and neglect funding source is restricted to offsetting states' foster care costs. That shrinking funding stream covers less than half of foster children today, and it's projected to drop 45% by 2024. States tap other social services funding to cover the shortfall, but that just shifts resources from one set of kids and families to another. Worse yet, today's federal funding system shortchanges prevention efforts that help parents manage mental health, substance abuse, financial distress and other factors that contribute to abuse and neglect...
By Bruce Lesley
Montana has important work to do on child abuse and neglect ("Let's strengthen Montana's child safety net," Jan. 4). But progress requires action in Washington, too.
The biggest federal child abuse and neglect funding source is restricted to offsetting states' foster care costs. That shrinking funding stream covers less than half of foster children today, and it's projected to drop 45 percent by 2024. States tap other social services funding to cover the shortfall, but that just shifts resources from one set of kids to another...
By Bruce Lesley
Former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor did something in his Monday commentary ("Here's what Congress needs to do in 2015") most politicians never do: put children first. His observation that 8,053,000 children will be born during this Congress is a powerful reminder about the consequences of congressional action or inaction. Those consequences aren't just measured in news cycles dominated, elections won, and legislatures controlled. They're measured in children's lives.
What's missing from Congressman Cantor's commentary is the sweeping range of issues before Congress with the potential to fundamentally impact America's children. But, using data from the nonpartisan Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Center, that's a picture we can paint...