Capitol View on Kids: Federal Budget for Children Decreasing

Federal spending on children fell by $2 billion in fiscal 2011 in comparison to fiscal year 2010, according to a  report by the Urban Institute, “Kids Share 2012: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2011” ( http://www.urban.org/publications/412600.html ).

The report and its findings were part of a panel discussion on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, October 2.  Sponsored by Child Trends as the Sixth Annual Kristin Anderson Moore Lecture, the forum included presentations by Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO, Annie E Casey Foundation; C. Eugene Steuerle, Urban Institute; and Mindy R. Levit, Congressional Research Service.

The discussion focused on how to address the needs of children in the current and future budget battles. The report looks at spending trends over the past 50 years through federal spending and tax expenditures on children. The findings suggest that the size and composition of expenditures on children have changed considerably, but children have not been a budget priority.

Over the next decade, outlays on children are projected to decline from 10 to 8 percent of the federal budget.

The panelists discussed strategies to address the needs of children by focusing on evidence-based programs.  There was an acknowledgement that not all government programs have to meet that test.

Patrick McCarthy suggested a strategy that challenges people by asking what kind of a country we want and how we have been a country that focuses on the opportunity to advance.  In addition, he suggested we avoid the “multiplier effect.” He gave, as an example, cuts that contribute to child poverty which has a multiplier effect because we know children in poverty do worse in the long run and that investments in early childhood and children’s mental health can have a positive multiplier future benefit.

He also argued for shifting funds from programs that harm to programs that help children, and he cited incarceration of juveniles as one such example of poor investments.  Finally, he suggested it was important that future spending target investments in programs that leverage private and philanthropic funds and volunteers.

New Study Says Rates of Serious Child Abuse Injuries Up

New research released on October 1, indicates that the rates of serious injuries from child abuse have risen over the past decade.  According to the study, rates of abuse-related serious injuries such as head trauma and burns for children and adolescents under 18 rose 4.9 percent from 1997 through 2009, to more than six out of every 100,000 U.S. children. The research was released in a journal article, Incidence of Serious Injuries Due to Physical Abuse in the United States: 1997 to 2009.

The journal article mentions that national child protective services data showed a 55 percent decrease in national incidence of substantiated physical abuse from 1992 to 2009.  That data,is based on the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which is the annual report based on what states compile through their child protective services systems.

This study examined incidence of serious injuries due to physical abuse in hospitalized children from the period covered. The study was authored by Dr. John Leventhal and Julie Gaither, RN. Leventhal told Reuters. “We’re looking at the most seriously injured kids.  The kids who get hospitalized for physical abuse represent a very small proportion of all the children in the country who are physically abused, only two to four percent. “

He went on to say that his study highlights the difficulty in tracking such a complex problem. The research is based on an examination of hospital discharges, recorded in the “Kids Inpatient Databases” (KIDs) that has been updated every three years since 1997. Injuries included shaken baby syndrome, burns, fractures, wounds and brain damage; researchers excluded injuries caused by firearms, neglect or sexual abuse.

After reviewing injury codes that hospitals use to classify cases, the researchers found the majority of injuries were due to fractures (48. 5 percent of abuse injuries in 2009), followed by skin or open wounds and traumatic brain injuries. Burns, abdominal injuries and other injuries were less common, accounting for less than 10 percent of abuse injuries. While there was an overall increase in injury rates, for children younger than 1 year of age, serious injury from abuse climbed nearly 11 percent over the 12-year span. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/09/26/peds.2012-0922).

This Week’s Cliff Notes

The latest installment on how the budget and tax cliff (the set of automatic spending cuts and expiring tax cuts set to take place between the end of December and start of January)will be dealt with continued to evolve last week. More than a year ago a group of six senators, referred to as “the Gang of Six,” were working together to come up with a budget deal that would head off the debt ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011.

Those efforts failed but the group – including Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) – are back, and they are larger now. The gang is now eight, with Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).  At the invitation of Senator Warner, they are holding a secret meeting this week in Mount Vernon, Va.  In addition to this secret meeting, there was speculation that what may happen after the election is a short-term deal that allows some short-term budget cuts and tax increases that would push a final deal four months down the road.

It is the latest in a series of discussions going on mainly on the Senate side.  On the House side, some House Republicans feel they have made their decisions with the passage of their May 10, budget reconciliation package that had large discretionary budget cuts (including the elimination of the Social Services Block Grant/SSBG) as a way to protect the defense budget from any cuts.

Last week, the Tax Policy Center calculated the complete tax effect of the fiscal cliff.  According to their study, http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=412666  90 percent of Americans would face a tax increase with taxes increasing by a collective $536 billion and increases ranging from $412 for the lowest wage earners to an increase of $120,000 for the top one percent.

While much of the tax discussion focus has been on what are labeled the George W. Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003, there are a number of other provisions that will also expire.  These include the expiration of the cut in the Social Security/Medicare tax commonly referred to as the payroll tax. This tax reduction resulted in the payroll tax going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent.  It is paid by every wage earner on the first $110,000 of wages.

This is a tax restoration that neither side has said should be extended after Jan. 1, largely because it drains funding from the Social Security and the Medicare hospital trust funds. But in addition to these tax cuts that will expire, there is the little-noticed tax cuts included by President Obama as part of the stimulus package, including more generous tax credits for having children, more generous earned income tax credits and credits to help cover the cost of a college education. In addition the alternative minimum tax (ATM) temporary relief, which gets an annual extension rather than a permanent fix, is also set to expire at the end of the year.

The Tax Policy Center study only examined the impact of the tax increases; it did not look at the impact of the $110 billion program cuts also set to hit early in January or the extension of unemployment insurance for the long term unemployed. Ultimately, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has calculated that the cliff would at once reduce the federal deficit significantly and then increase some of that deficit because the tax increases and spending cuts reduce the budget gap but then the severity would create a second recession over the long run.

National Campaign Updates Teen Factsheets

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has updated two items on their Why It Matters Fact sheets series.  One is on teen mothers (http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters/pdf/Childbearing-Education-EconomicWellbeing.pdf ); the second is on single parenthood and father involvement (http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters/pdf/Childbearing-SingleParenthood-FatherInvolvement.pdf )

Among the new statistics:

-30% of teen girls who have dropped out of high school cite pregnancy or parenthood as a reason.

-67% of teen mothers who moved out of their own families’ household live below the poverty level.

-Children born to mothers younger than 18 years old score significantly worse on measures of school readi­ness including math and reading tests.

– A majority of teen mothers (88% in 2010) were unmarried when their child was born.

-Of teen mothers who were not married when their child was born, only about one-third (34%) went on to marry by the time their child reached age five.

-More than one-third (38%) of teens who were married when their child was born split up by the time their child reached age five, and 42% of those who were cohabiting when their child was born split up by then.

Senators Look For Support on Stamp Bill

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) are looking for additional Senate cosponsors for the Families for Foster Youth Stamp Act (S. 3231). The legislation would create what is called a “semi-postal” stamp that raises revenue when people purchase it through the US Postal Service.

Funds will be split between the Adoption Opportunities Program and the State Court Improvement Program (CIP). Funds going to the Adoption Opportunities Program will go toward programs specifically targeting improvement in permanency outcomes for youth in foster care through adoption, guardianship, or kinship care.

The CIP supports states in their efforts to improve their child welfare court programs. Efforts may include improved quality of legal representation for the children, reduced caseloads, updating systems to be more efficient, and overall steps to improve the court’s role in achieving safe, stable and permanent homes for children.

Supporters are asked to email or call their senators, and ask senators to become a cosponsor of S. 3231, the Families for Foster Youth Stamp Act.

If you need to find your Senator’s go to: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.  or call the Capitol Operator at 202-224-3121and ask to be connected to his or her office. Then ask to speak the legislative assistant that works on child welfare, foster care or adoption issues.

UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS

  • Kinship Care: Challenges and Opportunities, Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 12-1:30 p.m., 345 Cannon House Office Building,James P. Gleeson, Ph.D. Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Sharon McDaniel, MPA, A Second Chance, Pittsburgh, PA, Mary Bissell, J.D.,ChildFocus, Pat Owens, GrandFamilies of America, Becky Shipp, Senate Finance Committee, RSVP in the affirmative only to Women’s Policy, Inc. by calling (202) 554-2323, or e-mailing leah@womenspolicy.org
  • From Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) to Success for Young Mother Led Families, Wednesday, October 24, 10:00 am to Noon, Capitol Visitors Center (SVC – 212-10), the National Crittenton Foundation. RSVP to Jessie Salu at: Jessie@NationalCrittenton.org

John Sciamanna is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email