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Trump Administration Rescinds Program for Children Seeking Safety

| August 17, 2017 |

Credit: Kate Gardiner / Flickr

Credit: Kate Gardiner / Flickr

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended the Central American Minors (CAM) Parole Program. The Federal Register notice stated that DHS, “will no longer provide special consideration of parole for certain individuals denied refugee status in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras under the CAM Parole Program.”

This special parole consideration was given on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security for urgent humanitarian reasons. It has served as a safety net for thousands of children who were denied refugee status under the CAM Refugee Program.

In 2014 the U.S. Government recognized that children were fleeing their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to escape gang violence, gang recruitment and horrific violent crimes against women and young girls. This program was created in response to the surge in these migrant children and helped to create a legal pathway for those who qualified.

By ending this program the Trump Administration is revoking more than 2,500 conditional offers that have been made to Central American children and family members who have not yet left their countries. These children, who have risked their lives by simply applying for refugee status, are now in danger of retribution. Rescinding this pathway to safety will force families and children to seek help from those who would prey on their vulnerability. This is in direct contradiction to the Trump Administration’s stated goal of protecting kids from human smuggling and trafficking.

This decision along with other recent immigration decisions by the Trump Administration, including the attack on sponsors of unaccompanied minors, does not reflect a commitment to protecting children and strengthening families. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program also faces uncertainty as President Trump has not stated definitively if he will continue the program after September 5th of this year. Bipartisan members of Congress introduced the Dream Act of 2017 in response to this threat.

With children of immigrants being the fastest growing segment of the U.S. child population, it is in our best interest as a country to implement policies that will ensure that all our children have the ability to achieve their full potential.

To read more about Protecting Refugee Children from Central America click here

Click here to read the official statement from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Click here for the Dream Act of 2017 Fact Sheet

The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act is the Wrong Direction to Reduce Child Poverty

| August 11, 2017 |

The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act, introduced in June by House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Mark Meadows, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan, and Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, would impose harsh new requirements on recipients of on anti-poverty programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, as well as reduce funding for federal housing assistance through transforming it into a block grant.

These new requirements would be impossible for many program participants to meet, resulting in millions of households with children losing access to nutrition, cash and housing assistance. It would require states to mandate strict work requirements for SNAP and TANF participants without any funding for child care or job training to help parents meet these requirements. And by transforming housing assistance into a block grant, funds would remain fixed at the 2016 funding level and would result in a $35 billion loss of funds by 2028.  Read More

Young Children Experiencing Homelessness

| August 1, 2017 |

Editor’s Note: This guest post was originally published here, and has been republished with the author’s permission.

Last month in D.C., I had the opportunity to participate in the NAEH (National Alliance to End Homelessness) Conference. More than 1800 attendees focused on children, families, youth and adults experiencing homelessness. Although the conference focuses mostly on housing and shelter, I worked with Sharon McDonald to plan a workshop on helping young children and families in need. The following day, I was invited to attend a briefing hosted by First Focus to hear Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted and a panel on eviction from research, philanthropy and legal aid. My head was spinning after those two days! It would be too challenging to tell you about all of it so I will share a few highlights:


Loophole Disguises How the Budget Control Act Endangers Kids

| July 27, 2017 |

Crucial resources to help children have suffered from a steady tide of divestment in federal spending in recent years. The dozens of children’s groups that make up the Children’s Budget Coalition (CBC) believe the caps on non-defense discretionary spending mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) present a major obstacle to more spending on initiatives to improve the lives of kids.

Congress itself seems aware that current spending levels aren’t sufficient. That’s why they frequently rely on a budget gimmick allowing them to appropriate above BCA limits: Changes in Mandatory Program Savings (CHIMPS).

Appropriators utilize CHIMPS by setting “spending limits” in mandatory programs whose previous authorizations overestimated future spending (the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Crime Victim’s Fund are two frequent targets). Under scorekeeping rules, the “savings” generated by these caps are then allowed to offset discretionary spending above BCA caps.   Read More

Senate Health Bill Violates Principle to ‘Do No Harm’

| July 27, 2017 |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally published on Medium.

Back in January, First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) signed a letter with all the other major leading child advocacy groups urging the House and Senate to adopt principles to ensure any legislative process improves the health of our nation’s children and, at the very least, commits to “do no harm.” Both the House and Senate have failed this simple principle.

  Read More

School Choice Perpetuates Segregation, Keeps Graduation Rates Stagnant

| July 26, 2017 |

In 1959, Prince Edward County in Virginia shut down all of its public schools in a drastic move to avoid desegregation.

White communities used public funds to create a voucher system which allowed them to send their children to all-white private schools while black communities were left with few options. Although some black families were able to cross state lines so their kids could receive a formal education, most did not have the means to do so. The seniors who lost the opportunity to graduate from high school during the shut-down were famously referred to as the “Lost Class of ‘59.” When schools finally opened up again in 1964, there were 10-year-old children who didn’t know how to a hold a pencil – they were never taught.

In theory, voucher programs are designed to give low-income students more educational opportunities by allowing parents to use state education funds to enroll their children in private schools. However, studies have shown that, despite the best intentions, school vouchers have actually increased segregation in schools. American schools are more segregated now than they were in 1968.  Read More

Children and Families Facing Eviction Briefing

| July 21, 2017 |

“Kids often go without enough to eat because the rent eats first,” said Dr. Matthew Desmond at a briefing on Capitol Hill earlier this week.

On Wednesday, July 19th, First Focus with honorary co-host Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) hosted sociologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted, Dr. Matthew Desmond for a Congressional briefing entitled Children and Families Facing Eviction. The briefing focused on the experience of families facing evictions in the U.S. and the negative implications of housing instability and homelessness for children and families.

Three major themes that arose from the day:

  • Children and families are disproportionately affected by eviction;
  • There is a need for a cross-sector approach to find solutions;
  • Policies must address why families are evicted as well as the instability that eviction brings.

  Read More

Senators Give Emotional Call to Stand with DREAMERS

| July 21, 2017 |

In a joint press conference on Thursday, July 20th Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced the reintroduction of the DREAM Act, a bill to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for certain long-term residents who entered the U.S. as children. This bill is a bipartisan effort to create a way for nearly 800,000 undocumented children and adults (known as DREAMers), who were brought to the U.S. at no fault of their own, to gain permanent legal status and to pursue their educational and employment goals without threat of deportation.

Senators Durbin and Graham were in complete agreement about the importance of this legislation in their joint appearance. For a moment, they set aside their political differences and worked together for a shared interest—an interest in the lives of young people who have grown up singing the star spangled banner as well as the interest of growing our national economy.

  Read More

Creating a Roadmap to Help Children & Families Facing Eviction

| July 19, 2017 |

(left to right) Dr. Matthew Desmond, US Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), Bruce Lesley at Capitol Hill briefing on children and families facing eviction (July 19, 2017)

Today, the First Focus Campaign for Children released a set of recommendations to address the barriers to stability faced by the millions of children and families who have experienced an eviction. [Read the report: Children and Families Facing Eviction: Policy Recommendations to Support Stability]

They acknowledge that this is a complex problem, and policy solutions must address both the causes of evictions, as well as the trauma experienced because a family was forced out of their home. Families with children who are evicted often face high rates of mobility and unstable living environments that result in negative consequences for their children’s education, physical health, mental health and interpersonal relationships.

This means that while increasing the supply of affordable housing in the U.S. is critical, affordable housing alone cannot address all of the underlying contributions of evictions, such as job loss, lack of access to civil legal services, substance abuse, mental health issues, and domestic violence.  Read More

Better Care for Victims of Child Trafficking

| July 14, 2017 |

Housing solutions are key component of bill providing protections for foster youth victims of trafficking

Victims of human trafficking tend to be the most vulnerable members of society. Sadly, kids in the child welfare system are especially targeted by traffickers, according to a report from First Focus and the State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center.

According to the report, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of child victims of sex trafficking were once involved with child welfare services.

The circumstances that led to these children being placed in foster care in the first place are usually the same ones traffickers exploit to coerce them into their custody, according to a brief by the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Traffickers perniciously use young people’s need for family and stable relationships to gain their trust, before subjecting their victims to the violence of sex trafficking.  Read More