Capitol View on Kids: Consumer Protection and Foster Youth

On October 18, the National Foster Care Coalition followed up its September in-person meeting with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the financial challenges faced by young people exiting foster care.  The Coalition held a lengthy discussion on the topic and the letter to the Bureau detailed some of that discussion.

The discussion began with some initial comments and observations by Sixto Cancel, of Foster Club, sharing his personal experiences while he was in foster care and Dr. Roque Gerald, Washingtonians for Children Foundation, who discussed some of the lessons they are learning in assisting youth in foster care to reach and stay in college.  Some of the challenges discussed at that meeting and in other settings:

-Identity theft when a foster child may have their Social Security numbers stolen by the many adults who have access to them during their placement

-Barriers in being unable to open a bank account
-Lack of documentation and identification; many young people in foster care are not provided an opportunity to obtain a driver’s license while in care, and birth certificates and proofs of residence are often difficult to obtain after years of moving around.

The coalition met with Desmond Brown and Patty Avery, both with the Financial Empowerment of the Consumer Education & Engagement division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The Consumer Protection Bureau is a result of the banking reform law enacted in 2010, also known as the Dodd-Frank law. To obtain a copy of the letter send a request to: nationalfostercare@gmail.com

Report on Country’s Children Gives a C-

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, First Focus and Save the Children released a joint report on how children are doing in the United States. “America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S.”assigned the nation grades in five key areas in a child’s life.  The grades were:

Economic security: D
Early childhood: C-
K-12 education: C-
Permanency and stability: D
Health and safety: C+.
Overall grade: C-.

The report was released by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and former Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who were joined by actress Jennifer Garner, who serves as an ambassador for Save the Children.

The report indicates that the grades in this report are subjective, but were created through a collaborative process of policy experts from First Focus, Save the Children, and the advisory board. The report states that they took into account factors such as how we compare internationally, how extreme the disparities are between racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups, and whether we have the knowledge to achieve progress and are failing to prioritize our resources. It found that in 2011, 21.9 percent of children under the age of 18 were living in poverty and 43.9 percent were living in low-income families.

Casey and Dodd urged Congress and other policy makers to partner with the private sector to find solutions to some of the most urgent issues. Sen. Casey said, “I think one of the things we can do in Washington, for both parties, is commit ourselves to being a really authentic and faithful friend to children.”

Dodd noted that, “It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans and Democrats could work together on these issues.” The report is online: http://www.firstfocus.net/library/reports/americas-report-card-2012-children-in-the-us

New Child Care Report Shows Regression

The same day that the First Focus/Save the Children report card was released, the National Women’s Law Center released their new annual survey on state childcare programs. The report, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, indicates that the situation in many states has not gotten better but worse for families in need of child care services.

The report indicates that families in 27 states are worse off under one or more key childcare assistance policies in 2012 than in 2011. Twenty-three states have waiting lists for childcare assistance and only one state pays rates at the federally recommended level, a sharp decline from 2001, when 22 states had rates at the recommended level.

The report looked at issues such as income eligibility for families; co-payments charged to families that qualify and the reimbursement rates for providers. The way that federal childcare funding flows, and because it is a block grant, states largely draw from the same funds to address a multitude of challenges.  Placing more money into quality improvements may mean less is available for subsidies, increasing the availability of service may be offset by paying providers less which in turn could reduce the supply of care.

The main analysis of the report is based on data from February 2012, but the report also includes some updates on cutbacks and improvements since February. The report says that the negative trends are likely due in part to the exhaustion by states of the $2 billion in additional funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for FY 2009 and FY 2010 provided by the stimulus package (the American Recovery and Reinvest­ment Act/ARRA).

Due to the way federal child care funds flow to the states and the nature of the ARRA funding states had to obligate all of the funds by September 2010 and expend those funds by September 2011.  The ARRA funding in early 2009 was also the first significant increase in child care funding in nearly a decade. To read a copy of the report go online: http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/NWLC2012_StateChildCareAssistanceReport.pdf

This Week’s Fiscal Cliff Notes

There were few new developments in regard to the post-election budget and tax debate that will come after the election is over. A group called the Financial Services Forum sent a letter to the President and Congressional leaders on Thursday, Oct. 18 urging them to reach a deal.  The group and the signatures come from the leaders in the financial services community.

Aside from this action there was further ongoing debate behind the scenes and an  acknowledgement that President Obama, regardless of the election results, will have the ultimate tool, the power of the veto, to force an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts.

How that power is used depends on the election results.  If the President is re-elected he will likely drive the negotiations.  If he loses, then all bets are off on the political scenarios.

Webinar on Child Welfare, Education, and the Courts

The Children’s Bureau and its National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) plan on holding a final webinar on some of the recent progress on coordination between child welfare, the courts and the education community on Monday, Nov. 5, from 3:00 to 4:30p.m.

It’s been nearly a year since leaders in the child welfare, education, and juvenile court systems for every state convened for the two-day meeting. Since that time, state teams comprised of leaders from the three areas have been working on achieving the goals outlined in the action plans developed during that meeting.

The efforts have resulted in numerous collaborations with some of these efforts leading to improvements in stability and continuity for children and youth in care. The plan is for the resource center to complete their round of technical assistance and awareness webinars with this final event.

During this webinar, leadership from all three systems (child welfare, education, and courts) will recognize the enhancements in educational well-being that have been achieved for children and youth in care due to this work.

Representatives from Nebraska will provide a special presentation on their work around one of the most consistently identified challenges across states – data sharing between systems. The webinar will include time for question and answers. The webinar will also include comments from Benjamin Muhammad, a young person who was in foster care.

Advance registration is required and will be closed by Friday, November 2, 2012 at 3:00 PM EST. For additional details, and to register go online: http://www.nrcpfc.org/teleconferences/2012-11-05.html

UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS

  • A briefing on the new report: “Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States,” Tuesday, October 23, 2012 from 9:30 – 10:30 AM,  The Senate Visitors Center 212-10, sponsored by  Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy,  National Crittenton Foundation, Human Rights Project for Girls, Campaign for Youth Justice, National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition, RSVP  jjadvocate@cfyj.org SO
  • 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
  • Child Welfare, Education, and the Courts: Achieving Educational Stability Milestones through Systems Collaboration, Monday, November 5, 2012, 3:00-4:30 PM EST,Webinar, Advance registration is required. Registration will close on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 3:00 PM EST. For additional details, and to register, please visit:http://www.nrcpfc.org/teleconferences/2012-11-05.html

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

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