Pages tagged "Press Release"
Decline in rate misleading and Fast Facts about children, youth and homelessness
Government data released yesterday grossly undercount homeless children, youth and families, and set the stage for conflict over the proper direction of local, state and federal resources and policy.
The 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part I (AHAR), published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), estimates that 53,692 parents and children experienced homelessness during the agency’s January 2019 count.
Congress and local communities use HUD’s homelessness figures to help inform determinations about priorities for funding, services, and action. Yet educators, service providers, and child advocates say other data sources provide a more realistic picture of homelessness.
The HUD figures, derived from a “point-in-time” count, are significantly lower than those released by the Department of Education. Public schools identified more than 1.5 million homeless students in the 2017-2018 school year according to preliminary data from the Department of Education, a 10 percent increase since the previous school year.
In addition, the landmark 2017 study Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that 4.2 million young people experienced unaccompanied homelessness over a 12-month period.
HUD’s “point-in-time” count includes the people physically counted on the streets or in shelters during a single night in January. This street-count method misses the majority of families and youth experiencing homelessness, who typically do not stay in shelters or on the streets but instead are in motels or staying temporarily with others due to lack of alternatives.
The U.S. Department of Education uses a comprehensive definition and approach that more accurately reflects the fluid and inherently unstable nature of homelessness. Lack of appropriate shelter options, fear of child welfare authorities and the safety of shelters, and reductions in transitional housing explain why most families and youth who are homeless are not in shelter or on the streets. Extensive research indicates that homeless children and youth who are staying with others are just as vulnerable as those in shelters or even sleeping outside.
First Focus Campaign for Children, SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, and Family Promise support current efforts to align definitions of homelessness across federal agencies and to give communities more flexibility in determining the most appropriate uses of HUD homeless funding.
The bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA)/H.R. 2001 addresses these shortcomings in HUD’s counts and makes other improvements in federal policies to serve homeless families and youth. The legislation targets children and youth, but ultimately will reduce homelessness among all populations by helping keep today’s homeless children and youth from becoming tomorrow’s homeless adults.
In addition, the Senate unanimously adopted a bipartisan resolution sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) (S. Res 423) to recognize November as National Homeless Children and Youth Awareness Month. It is the first resolution to recognize both child and youth homelessness, from infancy to young adulthood and it includes information about the extent and impact of child and youth homelessness. The resolution also supports the efforts of businesses, organizations, educators and volunteers to meet the needs of homeless children and youth.
FAST FACTS ABOUT CHILDREN AND HOMELESSNESS
Most children and families experiencing homelessness do not stay in shelters or other official venues:
- Under the Department of Education, public schools identified over 1.3 million homeless children and youth in 2016-2017. Of these, 4 percent were unsheltered, and 6 percent were staying in shelters when they were first identified as homeless. The rest stayed in motels or with others due to a lack of alternatives. Children and youth move frequently between these situations.
- Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America estimated that 4.2 million youth aged 13 to 24 experienced homelessness. Nearly three-quarters of them stayed not in shelters, transitional housing or on the streets, but with others.
- Families and youth are more likely to stay temporarily with other people or in motels – situations that are very unstable, often unsafe, and put them at risk of trafficking. These more hidden forms of homelessness have been shown to have impacts that are equally negative as being homeless on the streets.
Most families with children and unaccompanied youth seek alternative shelter options because:
- Shelters and transitional housing are often full; do not serve families as a unit; do not accept unaccompanied minor youth, or simply do not exist in their communities.
- Parents fear having their children removed from their custody if they stay on the street or in other outdoor locations. Unaccompanied homeless youth fear interactions with authorities and exploitation by adults.
- Since 2010, HUD has reduced capacity to serve families and youth at shelters and transitional housing by 24,185 beds.
Child advocates issued the following statements in response to HUD’s release:
The experiences of families facing homelessness are diverse. Some are sleeping in their cars, some are doubled up, some are in motels, some are in shelter. However, all are vulnerable. Imposing definitions on this fluid dynamic underpinned by the core issue of housing instability is illogical, counterproductive, and cruel. We need to understand the entirety of the crisis and take actions that address homelessness and lead us to systemic change that will prevent it in the first place. -Claas Ehlers, CEO of Family Promise
“We cannot intentionally undercount and purposefully ignore the trauma that so many homeless children and youth are facing in our country. What we can do is take immediate steps by passing common-sense, bipartisan solutions like the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 2001), which would acknowledge their trauma and help them get the support they need.”-Bruce Lesley, president, First Focus Campaign for Children
“HUD’s data perpetuates a fundamentally dishonest conversation about homelessness. It keeps homeless children, youth, and families invisible, and ignores their growing ranks in public schools and early childhood programs. We won’t make a dent in reducing homelessness until we acknowledge how children and youth experience it, and reform federal, state, and local policies to meet their needs.” -Barbara Duffield, ED, SchoolHouse Connection
“HUD’s homelessness data is not accurate in determining the number of young people who experience homelessness annually and is inherently biased against youth who experience more hidden forms of homelessness. The federal government should not put out these numbers to characterize trends in overall homelessness when other research and federal agency data shows a much larger homeless population. The youth and family homelessness providers that we partner with are discouraged by government assertions that don't show the true need when they see increasing numbers of young people in need of services and housing options.” -Darla Bardine, ED, National Network for Youth
Family Promise is comprised more than 200 Affiliates in 43 states, with more in development. Family Promise programs involve more than 200,000 volunteers to address a national crisis at a local level. Affiliates provide homelessness prevention assistance to at-risk families, shelter and meals when families lose their homes, and comprehensive case management and stabilization initiatives for families once they have been rehoused. Family Promise serves more than 90,000 family members annually and has served more than 850,000 people nationwide since their inception 30 years ago. For more information, visit https://familypromise.org
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 a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.
SchoolHouse Connection is a national non-profit organization working to overcome homelessness through education. SchoolHouse Connection engages in strategic advocacy and provides practical assistance in partnership with early care and education professionals (including school district homeless liaisons and state homeless education coordinators), young people, service providers, advocates, and local communities. For more information, visit www.schoolhouseconnection.org
The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) has been a public education and policy advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of youth homelessness in America for over 40 years. As the largest and most diverse network of its kind, NN4Y mobilizes over 300 members and affiliates — organizations that work on the front lines every day to provide prevention services and respond to runaways and youth experiencing homelessness and human trafficking. For more information, visit www.nn4youth.org.
Statements from Local Family Service Providers on 2018 HUD Point-in-Time (PIT) Count
“Those of us who are committed to care for children must be concerned about the misleading nature of HUD’s PIT count process. Because the count process considers only shelters and visible street homelessness, the count of children and families is mostly reflective of system capacity, not true community need. When we undercount, we underplan and underserve – which increases trauma and perpetuates poverty and instability of the families.” -Carol Klocek, CEO, Center for Transforming Lives, Ft. Worth, TX, 817-484-1540, [email protected]
“Philadelphia’s PIT numbers under-report thousands of youth and families who experience homelessness. The School District identified 7,112 children and youth who experienced homelessness in the 2017-2018 School Year, compared to the 1,271 children under 18 years of age identified by the PIT count in FY 2018. As a result, Philadelphia devotes very few resources to addressing youth homelessness. In addition, the City “diverts” or “prevents” families away from accessing emergency housing, but does not consider that number in its PIT calculations. These experiences undermine Philadelphia’s ability to adequately address family and youth homelessness.” -Joe Willard, Vice President for Policy, People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia, PA, 215.840.5104, [email protected]
“HUD’s definition of homelessness are derived from a scarcity framework—one that misconstrues the severity of the issue in the name of limited resources. As a result, these numbers create a gross distortion that ignores the reality of homelessness and housing instability for millions of people across the country, especially young people. Ending youth homelessness hinges upon capturing its prevalence accurately and investing in its solutions proportionately. That starts with passing the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 2001).”-Melinda Giovengo, CEO, YouthCare, Seattle, WA, 206.204.1407, [email protected]
“Santa Barbara County’s most recent Point in Time count (2019) showed a 30 percent decreased in the number of sheltered homeless and a 26 percent increase in the number of unsheltered homeless, in part because a primary shelter provider for individuals has cut beds and will only accept people from the coordinated entry system, which has proven to be a significant barrier to service access. Even though our agency has a waiting list of families that are doubled up without lease protections, our Continuum of Care (CoC) refused to use this data because it does not meet HUD’s definition of homelessness. Once again, our CoC is painting an inaccurate picture of homelessness and making the problem worse while it scrambles to satisfy HUD requirements.”-Kathleen Baushke, Executive Director, Transition House, Santa Barbara, CA, 805-966-9668, [email protected]house.com
“Not counting youth who are unstably and inappropriately housed as homeless drastically undercounts the number of youth who are, in reality, homeless. Young people who are couch surfing are extremely vulnerable to all sorts of trauma, including human trafficking. In our programs funded through Fairfax County and the US Department of Health and Human Services, we can serve these youth, and those programs are full with waiting lists. Our average wait list each and every month is approximately 30 young people who want a safe home and the help they need to move forward in life. If we don’t’ provide that help, we are fueling the next generation of chronically homeless adults.” – Judith Dittman, CEO, Second Story, Fairfax, VA, 703.506.9191, ext. 100, [email protected]
“In 2017 and 2018 we served over 200 families, which represents some of highest numbers in our organization’s thirty-three-year history. In 2019, we’ve had almost 700 families call for services, with 113 families currently on our waitlist. Our shelter capacity is limited to 23 rooms and there simply is not enough housing to resolve the homelessness. These children and families remain in the shadows, just outside the reach of supportive services. The real difficulty is, we will serve over 200 families this year, yet 800 plus families will call for services. How many of those 800 families will end up in any system-wide count? The PIT is problematic at best, but especially problematic for families and youth who are doubled up and couch surfing. Those populations will never be fairly represented in the PIT count.”-Jaymes Sime, Executive Director, MICAH House, Council Bluffs, IA, 712.323.4416, [email protected]
“We get as many as 175 calls in a month from homeless women seeking shelter. Over half are women with children. Sadly our family program is small, and in Baltimore many of the available shelter programs to families have shut their doors in past years. I worry that these women and their children are forced to stay in unsafe conditions and with unsafe people due to the lack of resources in our community. I am sure most of them are living among the hidden homeless and not being ‘counted’ in our local PIT count.” -Katie Allston, Executive Director, Marian House, 410-467-4121 x229,[email protected]
First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) is pleased that Congress has produced an appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) that includes important investment decisions for our kids and several policy provisions benefitting children.
“We applaud the bipartisan effort to finalize an appropriations package that prevents another disastrous government shutdown while making crucial investments in America’s children,” said FFCC President Bruce Lesley. “As we head into the new year, we urge Congress to prioritize children and address the unfinished business left from this deal.”
We support the spending package for meeting the overall target of funding for non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. The legislation makes crucial investments in early childhood programs, including the generous increases in the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start. Other areas gaining important increases in funding for children include USDA’s food and nutrition programs, education programs, Health and Human Service’s health and mental health services for kids, juvenile justice initiatives and job training programs.
FFCC also supports several other key provisions benefitting children within the package. For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health will receive money to research the impact of gun violence. Congress has allocated $7.6 billion to adequately conduct the Decennial Census effort, which has historically severely undercounted young children. The legislation also adopts the Family First Transition Act and provides a five-month extension for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. However, we still recognize that substantive reforms to TANF are paramount to making it more effective at reducing child poverty.
The spending package addresses a wide range of policy issues as well, including expiring healthcare and tax provisions. While FFCC welcomes some of these provisions, there were still glaring missed opportunities to improve the lives of America’s children. We are pleased that the package eliminates the pending Medicaid funding cliff caused by Medicaid block grants to the territories but disappointed that the agreement limits Medicaid relief for Puerto Rico and the other territories to only two years. This failure to protect American citizens in the territories rejects a more generous bipartisan proposal and highlights the extensive inequities, rationing of care, and financing problems caused by Medicaid block grants. FFCC also is disappointed that the final package did not include an agreement to extend the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program with a doubling of the funding for four years. The legislative package also does little to address our concerns for the treatment of children at the border, and it does nothing to restrict the administration’s practice of transferring funds to pay for the wall or more immigrant detention, therefore putting at risk essential resources that may benefit our nation’s children.
FFCC welcomes the legislation’s repeal of the “Cadillac Tax,” a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was intended to limit the growth in private-sector health care costs but was crafted in a way that would have incentivized employers to increase out-of-pocket expenses on family and dependent health coverage, particularly children. Americans are not suffering from having too much insurance coverage. Instead, many families are increasingly harmed and negatively impacted by underinsurance from high deductible health plans, overly exclusive in-plan networks, and high copayments.
While the tax amendment wisely corrects a 2017 tax law “Gold Star/Kiddie Tax” provision that resulted in higher taxes on military survivor benefits, it sadly and unacceptably failed to include an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to reach low-income families and children, despite bipartisan efforts to do so. An expansion of the CTC would help to address the vast inequities and problems caused by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that failed our children. We know the TCJA widened income and racial disparities, which makes this massive legislative package’s inability to reverse this trend a regrettable missed opportunity for a bipartisan effort to build a tax code that is fairer and more equitable toward struggling families and children.
First Focus Campaign for Children applauds budget progress
Urges lawmakers to ensure timely resources for children
The budget caps and debt limit deal reached by Congressional leadership and the Administration this week eliminates the threat of economic disaster stemming from the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations as well as deep programmatic cuts that would have been triggered under the Budget Control Act of 2011. We applaud this progress and urge the White House and lawmakers to continue working to make certain that vital federal resources are available in a timely manner to meet the growing needs of America’s children.
“We are very relieved that this deal avoids disastrous spending cuts,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “But the fact is that the share of federal spending on children has been declining for nearly a decade and continues to decline. Congress must prioritize children as it moves forward with funding decisions on FY 2020 appropriations bills.”
With the beginning of the new fiscal year just weeks away, the White House and Congress should keep the communications channels open to ensure timely enactment of the annual appropriations bills and limit stopgap funding measures. Such measures fail to keep pace with inflation and create unpredictable funding levels for important programs serving children and families. It is vital that Congress provide robust funding for appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over a large number of children’s programs. This is especially pressing given the need for adequate funding for an accurate, comprehensive and fair decennial census — without which we risk missing children and short-changing their representation and program funding.
First Focus Campaign for Children applauds Congressional leadership and the Administration for reaching a deal that will avoid what would have been unrealistic and unworkable cuts to NDD spending. As work on these bills moves forward, we urge all parties involved to also consider revenue-raising measures that will improve our long-term fiscal outlook and support investment in children, who are our nation’s future.
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 a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.
Today, the Trump Administration has proposed yet another rule that will make it harder for families with children to put food on the table. The administration is seeking to limit state options for Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE), which is an important tool that reduces red tape and administrative burden for low-income families enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if the family is eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance. SNAP is a critically important support that helps families afford groceries when they are struggling to make ends meet, benefitting more than 18 million children who make up more than 43 percent of the program’s participants.
Thanks to BBCE, states can choose to eliminate or relax burdensome asset testing requirements and expand eligibility to families earning between 130 and 200 percent of the poverty line. Through this option, hundreds of thousands of low-income children have gained access to SNAP and received direct certification for free school meals. By limiting these options, the proposed rule for Categorical Eligibility is a direct attack on those children and their families with increased bureaucratic barriers that threaten their access to healthy, nutritious food both at home and at school. By the administration's admission, this rule would result in 7.4 percent of participating households with children to lose access to SNAP. The consequences of implementing this rule would be devastating, which is why Congress less than a year ago rejected a similar legislative proposal on an overwhelming bipartisan basis. Instead, they passed a Farm Bill that preserved access to SNAP—and free school meals—through this important tool.
“The administration is blatantly ignoring Congressional intent, and kids will undoubtedly be harmed,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus on Children. “At a time when one-in-six children live in households with uncertain access to enough healthy food, this rule is a step in the wrong direction. First Focus Campaign for Children will do all it can to fight this administratively burdensome barrier.”
For more information or to schedule an interview with Bruce Lesley, text or call Michele Kayal at 703-919-8778.
First Focus on Children is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.
Press Release: First Focus Campaign for Children applauds passage of H.R. 3300 as a positive first step toward cutting child poverty in half
A second bill, on child care, also provides vital supports for families
WASHINGTON—The Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R. 3300), passed yesterday by the House Ways and Means Committee, offers the most important poverty-reducing tax measures in at least a decade for residents of all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. This legislation also takes an important first step toward cutting child poverty in half within a decade: expanding the refundability of the Child Tax Credit and increasing it from $2,000 to $3,000 per year for qualifying children under age four.
“We already know that we can cut child poverty in half within a decade if we only have the political will to make it happen,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “Increasing the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 for kids under four combined with other enhancements in this bill illustrates the kind of federal commitment needed. We applaud Chairman Neal, Congressman Davis, and the Committee for putting children first. We hope Congress will continue to build upon this progress to create a tax code that is more fair and equitable toward low-and-moderate income families and children.”
Changes to the tax code are critical to reducing child poverty. H.R. 3300 would benefit the families and children who most need tax assistance but largely were left behind in the 2017 tax law. In addition to critical expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), this legislation takes positive steps by improving the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) and providing matching funds for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and CTC in Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories. Families also will benefit from the Committee’s passage yesterday of the Child Care Quality and Access Act of 2019 (H.R. 3298), which increases mandatory child care funding by $1 billion, helping more families afford the child care they need in order to go to work or school.
A recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, called A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, found that increasing the CTC to function as a $3,000 per child peryear child allowance would yield the largest reduction in child poverty — 5.3 percentage points over ten years — and is by far the most effective policy for reducing deep child poverty. The study also concluded that converting the CDCTC to a fully refundable tax credit, concentrating its benefits on families with the lowest income and with children under the age of five, supports parents in the workforce and helps reduce child poverty by 9.2% over 10 years.
The study also supports yesterday’s actions on child care funding. It found that guaranteeing assistance from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) for all eligible families with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line would help reduce childhood poverty by 0.6 percent, and would increase labor force participation, especially for low-income mothers.
Children are 62 percent more likely to experience poverty than adults. They also disproportionately experience deep poverty, which severely impedes their healthy development and long-term outcomes. These children are likely to be living in households and communities with characteristics such as racial and income segregation, lower quality schools, and lack of infrastructure, all of which perpetuate intergenerational poverty. Tax credits and benefits designed to reach these communities and families would have positive, long-term effects for child well-being and help to address intergenerational poverty.
“If we want a country that will continue to be strong and successfully compete in a global economy, we must make investments and policy changes that improve the lives and outcomes for all of our children,” Lesley added. “We know that investments in children and education today create jobs for the future, ensuring that they will be prepared to compete and innovate.”
Statement: In support of The Protecting Immigrant Families and Improving Immigration Procedures Act of 2019
The First Focus Campaign for Children applauds the introduction of S. 1733, The Protecting Immigrant Families and Improving Immigration Procedures Act of 2019 by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
As our national shame and crisis continues to unfold at the U.S. southern border, Sen. Feinstein’s legislation would help shield children from imminent danger. “Time and time again the Administration’s enforcement-only approach to immigration reform uses children as collateral damage and even bait for enforcement practices,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the bipartisan child advocacy organization First Focus Campaign for Children. “We continue to urge the Administration, as well as Congress, to put the best interest of children first in any policy proposals regarding the forced migration of children and families. This bill is a great first step in protecting children who are both in the custody of our federal government as well as those seeking protection at our borders.”
Sen. Feinstein’s bill meets our request by preventing the needless separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border, protecting the vital Flores Settlement agreement that prohibits children from being detained for prolonged periods of time, and providing legal counsel for unaccompanied children.
S. 1733 also provides a necessary counterweight to legislation introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). FFCC strongly opposes the misnamed Secure and Protect Act of 2019, whose only goal seems to be to harm children. This bill would extend detention for children to 100 days, end state licensing requirements for detention facilities, expand requirements for abused children to seek special immigrant juvenile status, and send unaccompanied kids back to their home countries without due process or regard for the dangerous situations from which they have escaped.
As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, all proposals must first protect the children caught in this complex and politically motivated debate.
First Focus Campaign for Children 2018 Congressional Scorecard ranks child protectors
2018 was a terrible year for children. It was the year they were caged at the U.S.-Mexico border and that two of them died in U.S. custody. That the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reportedly fell by more than 840,000. And that the Center for Homeland Defense and Security recorded 56 children — the highest number in any single year — killed in their classrooms at the hands of a shooter.
First Focus Campaign for Children, the leading multi-sector bipartisan children’s advocacy group, has identified 120 members of Congress who had the courage to put children first. These lawmakers introduced bills to safeguard children’s programs, supported beneficial measures and voted against those that would harm children. Some even defied their party leadership to protect children’s interests.
“Kids don’t vote and they don’t have political action committees,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “That’s why it’s up to lawmakers to protect their interests. We commend these 120 members of Congress for defending children and hope they will inspire their colleagues to do the same.”
First Focus Campaign for Children honors these members of Congress in the Champions and Defenders of Children 2018 Congressional Scorecard, which rates actions that occurred in the 115th Congress. The 33-page report outlines key votes on health-related bills and tax legislation amendments, including two House votes on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), two Senate votes on child tax credit amendments, and four votes between the two chambers on the Affordable Care Act.
Some key takeaways from the 2018 Scorecard:
- Women were nearly three times as likely as men to be Champions or Defenders.
- Percentage of delegations who are Champions or Defenders breaks along regional lines:
- 40% of lawmakers from Western states are Champions or Defenders
- 33% of lawmakers from the Northeast are Champions or Defenders
- 23% of lawmakers from the Midwest are Champions or Defenders
- 13% of lawmakers from the Southwest/Plains states are Champions or Defenders
- 10% of lawmakers from the Southeast are Champions or Defenders. Without Florida, this figure drops to less than 5% of lawmakers from the Southeast.
- States with the poorest child outcomes according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count 2018 Data Book also have the lowest support from their Congressional delegations.
It’s hard to believe we’re here again.
Apparently, the inhumane treatment enforced by the Department of Homeland Security under departing Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was not inhumane enough for the Trump Administration, which reportedly is once again considering family separation as a policy option. The so-called “binary option” would force families seeking legal asylum in this country to waive fundamental Flores Settlement protections, clearing the way for the government to warehouse them in unlicensed detention facilities or to force them to turn their children over to the federal government. This is a false choice as both options would cause immense harm to children.
“We call on the President to guarantee that any new secretary — whether acting or confirmed — shall first Do No Harm to children, whether it’s by separating them from their parents or by detaining them,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the advocacy group First Focus Campaign for Children. “The Administration must stop using children as pawns in pursuit of a policy to waylay asylum-seeking families and must only act in the best interest of the child. This cruel and abhorrent strategy violates basic human rights and is not the way a great nation treats children.”
The Administration only recently revealed that it will take two years to reunite the families it broke apart during previous separations under the horrific “zero tolerance” policy. Those separations drew international attention for prying babies from their mother’s arms before deportation and have been deemed “government-sanctioned child abuse” by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They should never be repeated.
In addition, we urge President Trump to abandon calls to eliminate the crucial protections for children offered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 and the Flores Settlement Agreement. These protections are not “loopholes,” as administration officials have called them. Without them, children will suffer horrific prison-like conditions and risk being returned to the dangerous situations from which they fled.
Undocumented youth who were brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, and families dependent on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections must be given relief from the fear and uncertainty for their future that they have experienced since the Trump Administration rescinded DACA and TPS protections in 2017. While we are encouraged by ongoing litigation efforts and judicial proceedings to protect these families, there must be a permanent solution that only Congress can provide. Therefore, First Focus Campaign for Children applauds today’s introduction of H.R. 6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Yvette Clarke.
The Dream and Promise Act would:
- Provide Dreamers with conditional permanent resident status for 10 years and an extended pathway to gain full lawful permanent residence (LPR) status. Additionally, this bill helps to ensure Dreamers continue to pursue their dreams of becoming productive U.S. citizens through advancing their education via access to federal financial aid and access to professional and commercial licenses.
- Grants LPR status to individuals with TPS or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and provides relief from removal proceeds if the individual was eligible prior to September of 2016. Additionally, this bill requires that the Secretary of Homeland Security provides an explanation of any decision to terminate a TPS designation that includes the quantitative and qualitative methods used to assess the conditions of the designated country.
These families are an intrinsic piece of our modern American story, and we believe that Congress has the responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being. Collectively, Dreamers and TPS recipients have nearly 500,000 U.S. citizen children. As an organization that advocates for the health of all children living in the United States, we believe that it is in the best interests of these children to be free from the toxic fear of being separated from their parents and loved ones.
On March 6, 2019, lawmakers introduced the American Family Act of 2019--our statement below:
“I applaud the leadership of Congresswoman DeLauro and Congresswoman DelBene, as well as Senators Bennet and Brown to introduce the ‘American Family Act of 2019’ that would create a child allowance, significantly extending the current child tax credit to reach the families who need it most. The bill would increase the benefit substantially, make it fully refundable, establish a young child tax credit, authorize advance payments on a monthly basis, and adjust the benefit for inflation.
The introduction of this legislation comes on the heels of the release of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty that concludes a child allowance policy of $3,000 per child per year would produce the largest child poverty reduction, and it would also address the goal of reducing deep child poverty."
-Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children
First Focus Campaign for Children wholeheartedly supports the ‘American Family Act of 2019’ and thanks these lawmakers for continuing to be strong champions for children and families.