Pages tagged "Press Release"
Bill paves way for cost-saving collaboration and better lives for vulnerable children and families
Washington, D.C. – The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and First Focus applaud Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden for his vision and commitment to improving the lives of those in the child welfare system.
“As a country, we cannot afford to let children fall through the cracks of the many systems that exist to serve them,” said Wyden. “By targeting our resources, improving collaboration, spurring innovation, and—above all—holding ourselves accountable, we can systemically serve the best interest of at-risk children, their families and communities, and the nation as a whole.”
The Promoting Accountability and Excellence in Child Welfare Act has the potential to save the federal government money (with current spending on foster care amounting to roughly 10 times more than that on prevention), establish concrete performance measures that emphasize significant results and encourage interagency and public/private collaboration - all to improve the well-being of children and youth. In addition, the bill provides strategies that maximize existing federal funding.
“It’s our nation’s responsibility to protect the best interest of our most vulnerable children. However, in today’s policymaking climate, solutions for addressing the challenges facing children in foster care are often missing from the conversations on Capitol Hill,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan advocacy group. “We applaud Senator Wyden for spearheading this much needed legislation that will promote the well-being of children and families in the child welfare system and spur broader reform of the current federal financing structure.”
The bill would help states continue their efforts to prevent youth from entering foster care and lessen a child’s time in the system, while also encouraging strengthened support services to children and youth so they do not fall behind their peers. The bill provides states with the flexibility to determine the specific methods through which improved outcomes for children and youth will be achieved, based on best practices and in collaboration with foster parents, biological parents, kinship caregivers and youth. These interventions not only protect a child, but they help contribute to their current and future well-being.
“The proposed legislation, among other things, would encourage and support states’ most innovative efforts to ensure that children in the child welfare system are healthy, successful in school and that their social and emotional health are attended to,” said Frank Farrow, director of CSSP. “It recognizes that child welfare agencies alone cannot provide everything a child and family need in order to thrive and creates incentives for partnerships between child welfare agencies and schools, housing and employment services and health and mental health agencies. And, it establishes strong performance measures so that successful innovations can serve as scalable models into the future.”
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Washington D.C. – Today, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI) introduced legislation to support young people who have dropped out of school in earning a secondary school diploma and attaining a 2-year or 4-year credential from a postsecondary institution. The Reengaging Americans in Serious Education by Uniting Programs (RAISE UP) Act seeks to give disconnected youth access to the professional skills they need in order to pursue a competitive career.
By creating community partnerships that integrate often disparate services into a comprehensive, cross-systems dropout recovery approach, the RAISE UP act will build dropout recovery systems at the local level.
“Dropping out of high school has a severe impact on the future livelihood of a teenager,” said Senator Stabenow. “High school dropouts earn $10,000 less per year than high school graduates, and $34,000 less than college graduates. If we make existing initiatives more efficient we can provide our youth better access to resources that will help them get back on track and attain the skills to compete in the global economy.”
“As a former teacher, I believe the best way to prepare our youth for professional success and strengthen our workforce is to provide every child with a quality education,” said Congressman Dale E. Kildee. “Sadly, many students leave school due to economic difficulties or because they lack a nurturing home environment, putting them at a professional disadvantage in our increasingly globalized economy. No one deserves to have their economic future restricted because of challenges they faced during their early years. That is why I joined Senator Stabenow to introduce the RAISE UP Act to support disadvantaged young people and help them reengage with their education.”
“We commend Senator Stabenow and Representative Kildee for demonstrating their support of disconnected youth by introducing the RAISE UP Act,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “While it is important to focus on prevention mechanisms to help raise student achievement and improve graduation rates, it is also critical that we create re-engagement strategies that locate disconnected youth, identify why they dropped out, and connect them to the supports they need to succeed in education and the workforce. Research and practice demonstrate the need to serve disconnected youth comprehensively. And while gaps still remain, the RAISE UP Act will provide education, workforce, and wraparound support services to place our youth on pathways towards self-sufficiency. For the sake of our young people as well as our nation, we can no longer ignore this vast pool of untapped talent. We look forward to working with Congress, national and state partners, and youth leaders to pass this important legislation.”
Researchers estimate that the number of disconnected youth range from 2.3 million to 5.2 million. Disconnected youth encompass a broad population that may include high school dropouts, teenage parents, homeless and runaway youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, or youth who have aged out of the foster care system.
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Child Advocates call on Congress to Address Economic Issues around Jobs, Child Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness
Washington D.C. – Today, as Congressional leaders and White House officials race to pass legislation to avoid a default on the national debt, the First Focus Campaign for Children reacts to the bipartisan compromise reached last night, specifying what the deal means for America’s children.
While the details of the spending cuts outlined in the proposal remain unclear, whether through Congressional spending caps, the newly created Super Committee, or via sequestration mechanisms, the agreement would impose $1.2 trillion in cuts on discretionary spending over the next decade. That could translate to wide-ranging cuts affecting essential children’s programs, primarily education and housing programs. In fact, children’s programs represent about 20 percent of the non-defense discretionary spending in the federal budget.
The agreement also calls for another $1.5 trillion in budget cuts from a newly created Super Committee, with a backup trigger, or sequestration of funding, from federal programs to reach the reduction target in the case that the Super Committee or the Congress fails to make the cuts themselves. Essential programs, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be subjected to cuts in negotiations, but fortunately would be exempt from the sequestration. Yet, other critically important children’s programs will be left all the more vulnerable.
Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan child advocacy organization, issued the following statement:
“While we commend our nation’s leaders for their commitment to protect Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program from being subjected to sequestration or automatic cuts in the debt ceiling agreement, we fear the proposed $1.2 billion in spending cuts to discretionary programs will disproportionately impact children, and the additional $1.5 billion in budget cuts to be considered by the Super Committee could impose harm to Medicaid and CHIP. While tough times may call for tough measures, reducing spending for essential programs for children is misguided and will drastically affect the ability of a generation of children to reach their full potential.
“Moreover, the American electorate strongly agrees with this concern. Results from a recent public opinion survey prove that protecting programs that improve the well-being of children is immensely important to voters. When provided a battery of potential cuts some have considered in the budget debate, voters clearly protect children. In fact, the least popular cuts were those to K-12 education programs.
“As the President and Congressional leaders continue their negotiations to stem the debt ceiling crisis, we urge them heed the priorities of the American public and refuse reductions on the backs of children.
“In addition, we are deeply concerned that the process agreed upon in last night creates an agenda for Congress that will once again require this conversation around the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills, the newly created Super Committee process, potential congressional votes on recommendations by the Super Committee, and potential sequestration processes.
“Instead of this non-stop focus on budget cuts, our nation must make jobs and the economy our top priority. We know that a growing economy would reduce the federal deficit faster than the austerity measures being discussed. We also know that the most effective way to reduce federal spending on programs like Medicaid and SNAP is to reduce poverty in America. And yet, the crisis of child poverty, homelessness, education, and economic opportunity is completely ignored in our nation’s federal policy discussions, despite the fact that more than one in four American children are living in poverty, one in four is dependent on food stamps, and 1.3 million students drop out of school every year.
“No child in this country should go to bed suffering from the pangs of hunger or wondering where they’ll find a bed to sleep in tonight. We urge Congress to begin the critically important conversation about the economic crisis that includes jobs, child poverty, hunger, and homelessness.”
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Nearly 100 Advocacy Organizations Urge Policymakers to Hold Children Harmless in the Debt Ceiling Deal
Washington D.C. – Today, a coalition of nearly 100 national, state, and local advocacy organizations expressed their deep concern to the President and top Congressional leaders about the implications of not raising the debt ceiling on fate of America’s next generation. The group urged our nation’s leaders to protect children from harm as they continue to negotiate debt ceiling solutions.
In a letter delivered today to President Obama and Congressional leadership, the coalition of organizations wrote, “If we fail to raise the debt ceiling, the effects for children and families will be catastrophic. The federal government will have to choose between providing funding children’s health insurance and paying military families the benefits they have earned. Interest rates will rise, making it more difficult for families to acquire mortgages or borrow money to send their children to college. Businesses will incur higher expenses, making it will be more difficult to generate and sustain well paying jobs. Finally, the costs of everyday items, such as fuel and food will rise, making it even more difficult for working parents to provide for their children.”
“There is no question that tough times call for tough measures, but reducing spending on programs that protect the future of our next generation is not the way to solve our deficit problem,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, the bipartisan child advocacy organization spearheading the letter. “While the American people want our nation's deficit to be addressed, they oppose balancing the budget on the backs of children. When provided a list of potential cuts to the budget, voters firmly and overwhelmingly reject the idea of making major federal budget cuts to K-12 education, child nutrition, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Head Start, and student loans. We urge our nation’s policymakers to heed the priorities of their constituents and understand that cutting programs for low-income and other vulnerable children will not only hurt the next generation, such cuts will increase our long term costs, as well as damage our economic and global competitiveness.”
The letter states, “Inaction is not an option. However, deficit reduction cannot and should not be accomplished on the backs of children. Spending on children makes up less than 10 percent of total federal spending. A cut from this small slice of spending will barely dent the deficit, but will have dire consequences for the people who need the biggest helping hand.”
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Bill Threatens the Safety and Well-being of Children and Family Values
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act (HALT Act), a bill introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) that would suspend critical discretionary forms of immigration relief until January 21, 2013.
The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, voiced its strong opposition to the bill as it would limit the Administration’s ability to respond to humanitarian crises and directly threaten the safety and well-being of children and families.
Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, issued the following statement:
“In America, we believe in putting children first and keeping families together. That is why we have policies in place to provide immigration relief for humanitarian purposes and in cases where the best interest of a child is at stake. One such child is Christela, a young Haitian orphan with HIV who nearly lost her life following the 2010 earthquake. A few weeks following the earthquake, the U.S. granted Christela humanitarian parole, enabling her to unite with her adoptive family and receive the life-saving medications she so urgently needed. Without humanitarian parole, which the HALT Act would suspend, Christela may not be with us today.
“The HALT Act is irresponsible legislation that directly threatens children and families in the most need and does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. Ultimately, it benefits no one to deport a young person who was brought to the U.S. as a child, to separate a terminally ill child from a parent, or to deny Americans the ability to respond to humanitarian crises overseas involving orphaned children like those in Haiti. In fact, it defies common sense. As advocates for children, we firmly believe that the Administration must retain discretion to grant common sense and humanitarian immigration relief that is consistent with the family values our nation cherishes.”
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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Representative Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced legislation to lower the barriers that stand between America’s children and educational success. The Developing Innovative Partnerships and learning Opportunities that Motivate Achievement (DIPLOMA) Act authorizes states to help local school districts build community-wide partnerships to address nutrition, health, personal safety, family stability, and other factors that determine how well children can perform in school.
“When children have to deal with issues such as hunger, instability at home and poor nutrition outside of school, it makes it even more difficult for them to receive a good education while in school,” said Representative Loebsack. “As someone who grew up in poverty, I know what it is like to face hardships outside the classroom, and I want to ensure kids can break through the barriers that will allow them to learn.”
“Many students face insurmountable learning obstacles through no fault of their own. If we don't address the obstacles outside school walls, we'll never turnaround what goes on within them. We need to do a better job of helping students with wraparound services like tutoring, extending learning services, health care and social support,” said Representative Chu. “When students are provided the right kinds of support and opportunities to help them learn, nothing can stop them. The DIPLOMA Act ensures that America’s next Nobel Prize laureate can come from any background or community.”
The DIPLOMA Act draws on successful models including the Community Schools Initiative and Promise Neighborhoods Initiative, to promote a shared, systemic, and comprehensive approach to education. Recognizing that schools alone cannot be expected to address every factor that influences student achievement, the legislation provides resources to local consortia to engage families and the public in strengthening student achievement, coordinating existing services, and filling gaps in services ranging from tutoring and extended learning to health care and social supports.
“Our nation needs, and our children deserve, a comprehensive approach to education,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization. The DIPLOMA Act encourages our schools and communities to work together in order to guarantee that each child has an opportunity to learn and succeed. The collaborative framework that this legislation implements will build community ownership and strengthen results for children and youth across the country. We strongly urge Congress to incorporate this proposal in ESEA reauthorization. We commend Representative Chu and Representative Loebsack for their leadership on the DIPLOMA Act and look forward to working with Congress to pass this important legislation.”
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) re-introduced the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act. The legislation would implement critically needed reforms to protect children and families impacted by immigration enforcement. The First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, voiced its strong support for the legislation, which includes key provisions that will safeguard child well-being and family unity.
“The ramifications of our broken immigration policies are evident every day, and far too often it is our children who suffer the most. Thousands of innocent children are needlessly separated from their parents due to their parent’s detention or deportation, and some are unnecessarily ending up in the child welfare system,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “Separation from a parent is detrimental to the life-long physical, social, and mental health of any child. With the HELP Separated Children Act, Senator Franken and Representative Woolsey are standing up for children and families by sending a clear message that our immigration enforcement policies must take into account the best interest of children and respect the fundamental principle of family unity. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this important legislation which will ultimately help protect all children and keep families together.”
“We can’t leave young children to fend for themselves – sometimes for long periods of time – if their parents are caught up and detained by our immigration officials,” said Senator Franken. “This legislation would ensure that we don’t see any more cases like the second-grader in Worthington who had to take care of his two-year-old brother for a week after his parents were detained by immigration authorities.”
While the two versions of the bill differ slightly, both would ensure that parents and guardians apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or its surrogates are identified in a timely manner and provided the opportunity to make care arrangements for their minor children upon apprehension. The Act would prevent prolonged parent-child separation or the unnecessary termination of parental rights by ensuring that parents and guardians are able to regularly communicate with their children, child welfare staff, and family courts following any enforcement activities. Ultimately, the legislation would minimize the hardship on children and reduce the likelihood that children will be placed unnecessarily into the foster care system.
Specific provisions of the HELP Separated Children Act include:
• Screening to identify parents and guardians by child welfare staff and NGOs.
• Timely notification of local authorities, schools, child welfare agencies, and NGOs regarding enforcement actions.
• Access to free, confidential phone calls for parents and guardians to make care arrangements for their children and throughout the immigration process.
• Collaboration between ICE and child welfare agencies to ensure that parents have regular contact with their children and are able to meaningfully participate in family court proceedings, including the ability to make arrangements to bring children with them to their country of origin if they so choose.
• Consideration of the best interest of children in all decisions regarding the detention, release, and transfer of a parent or guardian.
• An annual report documenting the impact of immigration enforcement policies on U.S. citizen children.
The HELP Separated Children Act has the support of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as well as over 170 national, state, and local organizations.
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WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Representative Dave Loebsack (I-IA) introduced the Working to Encourage Community Action and Responsibility in Education (We CARE) Act (H.R. 2565). By amending Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the bill requires states and local educational agencies to assess the nonacademic factors affecting student academic performance. They then must work with other public, private, nonprofit, and community-based entities to address those factors.
The WE CARE Act also requires annual report cards issued by states and local education agencies to include additional performance data, including information on their efforts to increase community and parent involvement in students' education.
“I grew up in poverty, so I know the big difference community supports can make in a student’s life,” said Congressman Loebsack. “I would not be where I am today without the support of my community, and I want to work to ensure that all students have access to the services they need to reach their full academic potential.”
Research has shown a strong correlation between areas with high levels of poverty, crime, family mobility and low student achievement. Despite these challenges, studies also show that supportive neighborhoods can mitigate the harmful effects of economic disadvantage on students and form the foundation for high academic achievement.
“We commend Representative Loebsack for introducing legislation to strategically engage the community in the education of our students,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan advocacy group. “Strengthening school-community partnerships allows schools to build capacity beyond the instructional time allotted in a school year to address the comprehensive and non-academic needs of children and youth. The WE CARE Act ensures that schools and communities work together with families to provide the necessary wraparound supports students need to excel in the classroom.
We look forward to working with Congress, national and state partners, to pass this important legislation. Together, we can promote legislation that leverages resources from the community to help meet students’ non-academic needs and prepare them for success in the classroom.”
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Washington D.C. – Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives approved devastating cuts to important nutrition supports for hundreds of thousands of low income infants, children, and pregnant and postpartum women by passing the fiscal year 2012 House Agriculture Appropriations bill.
The bill drastically slashes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), resulting in low-income women, infants, and children losing much needed nutrition assistance. Ironically, these cuts will force more people to rely on local charities for food assistance, yet at the same time, the legislation reduces support for emergency food providers, such as food banks, faith-based pantries, and other local agencies. The House approved bill also under funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) reserve fund.
WIC provides a nutritious monthly food package to 8.9 million low-income pregnant and nursing women, infants, and young children at nutritional risk. The nutrition that WIC provides reduces the incidence of low-birth weight and associated health costs. Furthermore, for every dollar spent on pregnant women enrolled in WIC, there is a savings of $3.50 in health care costs. The fiscal year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill approved by the House of Representatives would fund WIC at $6.048 billion dollars, a reduction of $686 million dollars below the fiscal year 2011 level in which WIC had already faced a significant cut. As a result of the inadequate 2012 funding level, between 200,000 and 350,000 low-income mothers and young children are expected to be cut from this vital program. Over the past 15 years, Administrations and Congresses on both sides of the aisle have made it a priority to provide enough funding to serve all eligible women, infants, and children who apply. The proposed cut would break that 15-year bipartisan commitment.
“We applaud Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for her efforts to restore some of the funding for WIC in the full Appropriations Committee markup,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a bipartisan advocacy group. “We also commend Members of the House of Representatives who, in a bipartisan manner, voted against two harmful amendments that ultimately failed, including amendments by Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) to cut the WIC program by 10 percent and another by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), which would have resulted in an additional cut of $82.5 million from the WIC program.
“Last year Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle came together to pass a strong child nutrition reauthorization. It is imperative that as America continues to recover from the economic downturn, our nation’s leaders provide adequate funding to ensure that all eligible children are able to benefit from the federal nutrition safety net. Doing so is critical to the health and well-being of America’s next generation. As the United States Senate moves forward with their appropriations process, we urge Senators to fund WIC at $6.83 billion in order to keep pace with rising food prices, and to ensure that WIC is able to serve every eligible mother and child in need.
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Washington D.C. – Today, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of children employed in agriculture work from working longer hours, at younger ages, in more hazardous conditions than children in other working sectors. The legislation amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) by correcting inequities in current labor law.
Entitled the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), the legislation was introduced at a press conference this morning where Representative Roybal-Allard was joined by actress and activist Eva Longoria, who is also the executive producer of a new documentary The Harvest/La Cosecha.
Bruce Lesley, president of bipartisan child advocacy organization, the First Focus Campaign for Children, issued the following statement:
“We applaud Congresswoman Roybal-Allard for introducing the CARE Act, which would address the plight of 400,000 farmworker children across the country. For too long, children laboring in U.S. agriculture have been denied the protections they deserve to ensure their health and well-being. Farmworker children are exposed to extreme weather conditions, hazardous machinery, and dangerous pesticides. Furthermore, in addition to the threats to their health and safety, farmworker children are estimated to drop out of school at four times the national rate.
“The U.S. has long been a leader in fighting child labor around the globe, yet our own labor laws continue to expose young farmworker children to extremely dangerous conditions and fewer safeguards. It simply makes no sense that current law prohibits a 15-year-old from working in an air-conditioned movie theatre for more than three hours on a school day yet simultaneously allows a child as young as twelve to work unlimited hours in the fields on a school day. The CARE Act would correct this serious flaw by ensuring that children working in agriculture are provided with the same age and hour limits, as well as equal protections, as children working in other sectors. The bill would also strengthen provisions for pesticide exposure to take into account the unique risks posed to children.
“We look forward to working with Congress, the Administration, and national and state partners to pass this important bill, which is a critical first step in improving the lives of farmworker children and their families.”