At this most precious time of year for families everywhere and for Christians in particular, we are grateful and celebratory of the birth of the Christ-child.
Ironically, First Focus (Washington, D.C.) released a new publication today on the status of children in our country as impacted by the recession we are enduring. The report finds:
- 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011, compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children;
- 3 million (47% of those living with an unemployed parent) lived, during a typical 2011 month, with a parent unemployed six months or longer;
- 8 million more additional children relied upon SNAP for food in 2011, compared to 2007, bringing the total number of children receiving SNAP to 21 million (one in four) nationwide;
- 16 million children (more than one in five) currently live in poverty
- At least 8 additional states became high child poverty states (where more than one-in-five children live in poverty) during the recession, pushing the total number of high child poverty states to 22
As we are mindful of that Babe born on Christmas Day in minimal physical conditions for thriving, let us be mindful also of the children of America and our duty to care for them.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,
I have been encouraging child advocate leaders in each state to monitor and become involved in the work of their own state’s development of the new “health care exchanges”, which the Affordable Care Act requires of all states beginning 2014. Simultaneously, my work nationally with the Foster Family-based Treatment Association has included my participation as part of a national child advocacy coalition working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as they study development of an Essential Benefits Package (EBP). We have advocated strongly for needs of foster youth to be addressed by CMS in the benefits package, including both biomedical health needs and behavioral health.
Friday Dec. 16, HHS published ‘guidance’ announcing a framework of benchmarks each state will be allowed to consider in developing their own EBP. This does not give the federal protections we were seeking with our efforts. Instead, it requires that child advocates must actively engage with legislative, state insurance department personnel, and Medicaid administering bodies with the focus of bringing representation for impoverished and/or custody youth into the discussions.
We will continue our work nationally. You are encouraged to identify those leaders in your state who have responsibility for establishing your state exchange and developing the Essential Benefits Package. That work is well underway now. Your investment of time and energy early in the New Year is encouraged.
While you are bustling about this holiday season, be mindful as well of the latest US Census figures that report more than half of all American children at or below federal poverty level…and 1 in 3 Americans overall.
It is no surprise to anyone that all states have a shortage of foster homes for the youth we need to serve. There are shortages at the traditional level of foster care and obviously at the higher levels of therapeutic foster care as well. As a result, children in state custody are often sent to ‘higher’ levels of care (i.e. congregate settings, group homes) when their individual needs could be served in a home setting in their own communities….if only we had more foster parents and more foster homes.
Last week Oklahoma took a big step that may ameliorate some of this shortage for this state. The legislatively appointed Foster Care Improvement Task Force approved recommendations for the next legislative session. One recommendation is to expand the state/tribal/private collaborations in the state around therapeutic foster care – which is contracted 100% to private licensed child placing agencies in partnership with the Department of Human Services. This expansion would allow child placing agencies to expand their services to all placement needs of foster youth: traditional foster care, emergency foster care, therapeutic foster care and kinship foster care.
It is the belief of the provider community and the Task Force that such expansion would increase community investment in ALL foster youth and allow private agencies to recruit more effectively for all levels of care. Goals of this expansion are to achieve shorter time to permanence, stability in placement, improved education and developmental achievement while in care, and develop greater involvement of local community resources in addressing the needs of foster youth.
The responsibility for ‘next steps’ now lies with the Legislature (and child advocates!) to advance such a proposal.
Good work by the volunteer Task Force! Exciting possibilities!