Voices for Kids Blog

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This is the Week to Make Children’s Lives Great

| April 25, 2017 |

It’s shaping up to be an action-packed week in Washington, DC as the White House scrambles with Congressional leaders to pass a signature piece of legislation before Saturday, which marks the symbolic milestone of 100 days in office for President Trump.

Will they propose comprehensive tax reform? What about a second attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? On top of those challenges, lawmakers also need to find a way to keep the government in business past Friday, when current funding expires.

TAX REFORM: Help Children and Families

If and when a tax bill is introduced, we hope it will include improvements to family tax credits. It’s well known that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Children’s Tax Credit (CTC) result in tangible benefits to families with children, including improved maternal and infant health, higher test scores and academic achievement for students in elementary and middle school, and a greater likelihood of attending college and earning more money as an adult.

There is no shortage of good ideas to boost the standard of living for children and families using the tax code. With our allies in the US Child Poverty Action Group, First Focus published a blueprint, called, Family Tax Policy: A Path of Lifting Children out of Poverty. Check it out.

HEALTH REFORM: Do No Harm to Kids

If another bill to reform and replace the ACA comes up, we hope it won’t include the earlier legislation’s calamitous cuts to Medicaid, which 38 million American children rely on for access to health care. Medicaid is an essential lifeline for one-third of our nation’s children.

And if lawmakers and the White House are serious about helping children and families lift themselves out poverty, they should pass a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) before the July 4th recess. CHIP is an enormously successful bipartisan program that covers 8.9 million kids and, since its inception in 1997, has reduced the number of uninsured children by an astounding 68 percent. Congress should make a commitment to “do no harm” to children and not backtrack on all the progress that has been made over the last two decades.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN HURTS KIDS

Of course, a government shutdown would have a big impact on the nation’s children, especially those in low-income families where many parents work multiple jobs a week. Congress should do its job and find a way to keep the doors of government open.

BOTTOM LINE

In short, this could be a monumental legislative week on Capitol Hill. While First Focus and other groups are urging lawmakers to protect and defend the critical, successful programs that help millions of American children and families, we also urge them to consider opportunities for playing offense and taking the initiative to make life better for millions of children and families.

Now is as good a time as any for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground and fund proven, cost-effective, and innovative programs that help the smallest, but most valuable members of our society: children.


Making the Tax Code Work for Low-Income Families

| April 18, 2017 |

This was also published at Momrising.org.

Today is Tax Day, marking the deadline for Americans to file their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

For many families living below the poverty line, the arrival of Tax Day means they can usually count on receiving money back from the government to use for everyday expenses such as rent, groceries, transportation to work, and even necessities such as diapers for young children. Many families have already earmarked this money before they receive it to help catch up with unpaid credit card or medical bills, or to make necessary car or home repairs.

This money in the form of tax credits is critical to reducing child poverty in the U.S. and supporting a family’s economic mobility. It supports parents’ work participation and provides income that supports healthy child development. In fact, the tax code is one of the most powerful tools we have in combating child poverty. Combined, the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC) deliver over $120 billion in tax credits to families. In 2015, the EITC and CTC lifted 5.1 million children out of poverty.

New evidence points to the long-term benefits for families with children who claim these credits, which include improved maternal and infant health, higher test scores and academic achievement for students in elementary and middle-school and makes it likelier for a child to attend college and earn more as an adult.

Despite the power of these tax credits in combating child poverty, there are many reforms needed to the tax code to reach more children and better support families in their pursuit of economic mobility. This is particularly true for families living in deep poverty, who often receive a limited benefit through the tax code due to their low or zero tax liability, as well as families with young children, who face the highest expenses at the same time their young children are going through critical stages of development.

In March, the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) released the report Family Tax Policy: A Path Forward to Lifting Child out of Poverty, which offers lawmakers a blueprint for using the tax code to improve the standard of living for children in the U.S. and build upon the successes of the EITC, CTC and other credits, exemptions and exclusions.

Currently, there is a lot of discussion in D.C. around the potential for comprehensive tax reform this year. In theory, this presents an opportunity for improvements to family tax credits, but likely poses a larger threat that could result in harmful changes that end up reducing the after-tax income of families.

Tax credits for families have always been a bipartisan issue because their ability to support work participation and reduce poverty is clear. Child and family advocates from all sectors must come together to ensure that any tax reform package a) does no harm to children and families living in poverty and b) has the overall result of strengthening the tax code’s ability to reduce child poverty and boost family economic mobility.

Read the Family Tax Policy white paper to learn how tax code can be strengthened for low income families and children.

 


Why Psychology Is Essential to Building Healthy Communities

| April 5, 2017 |

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is part of a national awareness campaign week focused on healthy communities. Follow online with #HealthyCommunities.

Your house is on fire, and you call 911. When the firefighters arrive, they turn their hoses on all the houses in your neighborhood. Does this make sense? Not really. No fire department would show up to a fire and start dousing all the houses. They would target the house on fire.

That is the crux of the issue when it comes to confronting health disparities and creating health equity. Although the United States offers some of the most advanced health and mental health services in the world, not everyone in the country shares equally in these benefits. Not every house on fire gets the water.

  Read More


15th Annual National Healthy Schools Day

| April 4, 2017 |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is part of a national awareness campaign week focused on healthy communities. Follow online with #HealthyCommunities.

Today is the 15th Annual National Healthy Schools Day, an effort spearheaded by the Healthy Schools Network to celebrate programs in schools that promote healthy environments.

“In this, our 15th year of celebrating healthy schools, we are focused closely on two core problems,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network: “that too many schools and child care facilities are in poor condition and that there is no public health support for children in harm’s way.”

Across the US, there are 130,000 public and private K-12 schools enrolling some 55 million children and employing about 7 million adults. In all, about 20% of the total US population works or is learning in school every day.

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Community Programs Reduce Asthma Triggers at Home

| April 3, 2017 |

Pathways to Medicaid Reimbursement for Pediatric Asthma Services

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is part of a national awareness campaign week focused on healthy communities. Follow online with #HealthyCommunities.

About 1 in 10 minors in the U.S. have asthma – that’s roughly 6 million children. Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalizations for children under 15. At 13.8 million missed school days, it is a leading cause of school absences due to a chronic disease. Tragically, while most deaths caused by asthma can be prevented, this disease still claims the lives of 3,500 Americans each year. Children in inner-city areas are more likely to visit the emergency department or be hospitalized due to asthma attacks. Black children are six times more likely to die from asthma.

Asthma is a treatable and manageable disease, yet children are still regularly visiting the hospital with aggressive symptoms because they lack the resources and services to effectively reduce the triggers of severe attacks. To reduce the high rate of hospitalizations and ER visits, especially in low-income areas, communities have been exploring prevention measures such as in-school programs and home visits by nurses and community health workers. Community-based asthma programs also help families reduce asthma triggers by providing pest management services, hypoallergenic bedding, dehumidifiers, and special vacuum cleaners.  Read More


Fostering Advocates Arizona Day

| March 31, 2017 |

This was originally published at YouthGoingPlaces.org.

During our Fostering Advocates Arizona Day at the Legislature, I spoke on a panel to an audience of lawmakers. My hope is they will have a better understanding of the struggles and barriers youth in foster care face, especially as it pertains to normalcy, and consider our recommendations for improvement.

Obtaining a driver’s license enables youth who have experienced foster care the chance to have a normal adolescent experience, like those of their non-foster youth peers. Additionally, a driver’s license provides a means of transportation for youth to attend school, maintain employment, and participate in extra-curricular activities. If I didn’t have my driver’s license at the age of 16, I would not have been able to attend my chosen high school, participate in student organizations or maintain employment. All of the above were crucial stepping points in mapping out my future and carrying me to where I am today, a student at Arizona State University.

Although Arizona Senate Bill 1341 does not solve all of the problems relating to normalcy, nor does it grant all foster youth access to a driver’s license, it does begin a conversation around the importance of a driver’s license, and the barriers that youth in foster care must overcome to obtain one. The bill allows us to examine current legislation and determine ways in which we, as a system, can provide the needed skills and training critical to success in adulthood.

In all, we cannot do this alone! I am grateful for the opportunity to act as a voice for my fellow peers in foster care; however, we will need support and more legislative champions to continue this work and to truly impact change.

Breanna Carpenter is a member of Fostering Advocates Arizona Young Learning Adult Leadership Board and is a student at Arizona State University.


California Lawmakers and Advocates are Prioritizing Child Poverty

| March 28, 2017 |

The child poverty rate in the U.S. remains extremely high: nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. are living below the poverty line and children are 69 percent more likely to be living in poverty than adults. Yet among the many pressing social issues facing our country, child poverty often gets overlooked.

That is why it is notable that in California, state legislators, advocates, and researchers have come together to prioritize reducing the number of children and families experiencing poverty in California.  Read More


Tax Credits: A Crucial Weapon in the Fight Against Child Poverty

| March 22, 2017 |

This was originally posted at Spotlight On Poverty.

If a topic like comprehensive tax reform could ever be the rage in Washington, now would be the moment. President Trump has pledged to deliver “big league” changes to taxes, particularly cutting corporate taxes. Standing room-only sessions on Capitol Hill have debated the previously obscure proposal for a ‘border-adjusted’ tax to boost American jobs.

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Children of Immigrants Forced into the Shadows

| March 21, 2017 |

Image Credit: Max Pixel

President Trump’s new immigration enforcement policies have widened the definition of priorities for deportation. Mothers and fathers who are now targeted for deportation through this expanded definition rightfully fear sudden separation from their U.S. born children. This fear drives immigrant children and families away from the normalcy of their daily lives and into the shadows.

There have been many reports of parents seeking help to make alternative arrangements in case their children are suddenly without guardians. According to an article in the L.A. Times parents are “finding trusted people to sign power of attorney papers to ensure their U.S.-born children could continue to thrive in the country if they’re deported.” Although the number of deportations under the Obama Administration was high, there were still protections in place that required Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to work collaboratively with child welfare systems to ensure smoother transition arrangements for families with children. The trauma of losing a parent to deportation has been documented to have severe negative impacts on a child’s well-being.  Read More


Strong Families Make a Strong Nation

| March 16, 2017 |

Today you have the opportunity to invest in the future of our nation by joining forces with a national effort to strengthen America’s families and our nation. We are proud to say that the national Home Visiting Coalition is leading this vitally important effort.

The national Home Visiting Coalition, a group consisting of nearly 50 advocacy and home visiting programs, is thrilled to announce the launching of its website (homevisitingcoalition.com) and campaign to urge Congress to reauthorize and expand the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Currently funded at $400 million annually, MIECHV provides funding to 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia, and numerous Tribes and tribal organizations to expand evidence-based home visiting programs. But, funding for this important program will expire this September without action by Congress to reauthorize it.  Read More