Child Welfare Systems – Michigan, Arizona

  • Michigan foster care ‘a persistent and dire problem’, By Justin A. Hinkley, July 2, 2015, Lansing State Journal: “A girl was injured during an unsupervised visit with the parents she’d been taken away from. Kids with a history of inappropriate sexual behavior were placed in homes with younger children. A child ran away and police weren’t notified for days. A decade ago, the death of Williamston 7-year-old Ricky Holland at the hands of his adoptive parents revealed fatal flaws in the state’s safeguards for foster kids. Seven years ago, a class-action lawsuit in federal court mandated improvements.  Still, Michigan continues to fail hundreds of kids a year, court-appointed monitors say…”
  • Foster care will not be privatized, officials say, By Justin A. Hinkley, June 29, 2015, Lansing State Journal: “Despite official statements to the contrary, state employees and some private providers suspect Michigan is working toward fully outsourcing foster care services in the state. Currently, the more than 12,000 foster care cases in Michigan are split about evenly between private providers and the more than 700 foster care workers at the state Department of Health & Human Services. The division varies by county, but state employees and others look to Kent County — where recent legislation fully privatized foster care case management and established a pilot program for a performance-based funding model — as one of several clues that 100% outsourcing is coming down the pike…”
  • Arizona child-safety agency struggles with staff turnover, rising child removals, By Mary Jo Pitzl, June 28, 2015, Arizona Republic: “A year ago Arizona’s governor and a united Legislature agreed that to save the state’s troubled child-welfare agency, it had to be razed and rebuilt.  They pulled the child-welfare office out of the mammoth state Department of Economic Security and made it a stand-alone agency that reports directly to the governor. They also boosted its budget by $94 million to give it the firepower to reduce a backlog of 13,000 reports of child abuse and neglect, as well as to hire more caseworkers for the increasing number of new reports. And they made transparency a key criteria to hold the agency accountable…”

Global Child Poverty

Report: economic growth failing to help world’s poorest kids, By Katy Daigle (AP), June 23, 2015, Washington Post: “Global resolve to rescue impoverished children from lives of squalor, disease and hunger has fallen short, with economic development in many countries still leaving millions of the most vulnerable behind, according to a UNICEF report released Tuesday. The data show a bleak situation: The world’s poorest children are almost twice as likely to die before their 5th birthday as children from wealthier homes, and the proportion of those dying within days of being born is even increasing…”

Veteran Homelessness and Unemployment

An end to jobless vets? New VA job program raises hopes, By Gretel Kauffman, June 28, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “The US Department of Veteran Affairs has launched a new program which offers individualized assistance to the roughly 50,000 unemployed veterans living on the street. Through the Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services program, more than 150 community employment coordinators (CECs) will help veterans at VA locations across the country by identifying those who are job-ready and establishing relationships with community employers who may be able to find them jobs. The coordinators will also connect veterans with resources to help them succeed in their jobs once they find employment…”

Legal Aid Funding

Major law firms give little to legal aid, study finds, By Elizabeth Olson, June 29, 2015, New York Times: “While major law firms are enjoying record revenues — more than $100 billion last year — they are donating only a tenth of 1 percent of their proceeds for legal aid to low-income people, according to a new analysis released by The American Lawyer. Such institutional giving now accounts for only 7 percent of total legal aid funding, which comes from federal, state and private sources, the publication said…”

States and Rural Homelessness

States struggle with ‘hidden’ rural homelessness, By Teresa Wiltz, June 26, 2015, Stateline: “At the Micah Ecumenical Ministries, in the center of this quaint colonial town, Stella Dempsey sits in the waiting room, looking dejected. Ministry staffers offered her a bed at a shelter, but she says she can’t bear to go back. Still, she’s feeling desperate. She is homeless and jobless and sleeps in a tent in the woods. She’s got cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure, diabetes and a bad back. Two months ago, she said, she almost died. Now, she’s run out of all her medications, from her bipolar meds to her insulin. She is not eligible for Medicaid under Virginia law…”

Measuring Poverty in Schools

To measure poverty, states look beyond free lunch, By Amy Scott, June 23, 2015, Marketplace: “For years, the federal school meals program has been one of the most powerful forces in education. Not just because it feeds kids, but because the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals has been the main way schools measure poverty. That number, in turn, can impact everything from school funding levels to accountability programs.  But that’s changing. Massachusetts has introduced a new way of measuring poverty in its schools…”

Child Poverty in US Cities

Poverty rate for Buffalo children approaches 50%, the third-worst mark among major cities, By G. Scott Thomas, June 24, 2015, Buffalo Business First: “There are 32 major U.S. cities where the current poverty rate for children is 30 percent or larger — and Buffalo is high on that list.  So high, in fact, that it ranks third.  Nearly half of Buffalo’s children — 47.6 percent, to be exact — are living in poverty, according to a Business First analysis of the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau…”

Affordable Housing

Report: Rental housing supply lags behind demand, By Talia Richman, June 20, 2015, Baltimore Sun: “For families that earn less than 30 percent of the median area income, buying a house is often out of the question. And for these low-income households, finding a place to rent can also be a struggle, the Urban Institute has reported.  Not a single county in the nation offered enough affordable housing to keep up with its extremely low-income renters, the organization said. In the Baltimore region, some counties have fewer available units than the national average of 28 units available for every 100 renter households…”

Child Poverty and Health

  • How to cut the cost of child poverty, to the health of kids and the community, By Brie Zeltner, June 16, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Cleveland is awash in poor, sick kids. Poverty and poor health go hand in hand, and they’re costly — to the children and the rest of the community.  Cleveland’s child poverty rate is 54 percent, second in the U.S. only to Detroit’s.  Poor kids face assaults to their health that begin in the womb, and can last a lifetime. Many never make it past their first year; in some East Side neighborhoods the infant mortality rate exceeds Third World levels.  They are more likely to be born premature; to die young; to be poisoned by lead, to suffer from asthma, diabetes and obesity…”
  • Cost-effective way to prevent chronic asthma in kids has Cleveland roots, By Brie Zeltner, June 17, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “For decades, some of Cleveland’s most vulnerable children — those with severe, chronic asthma — have been caught in an expensive cycle of fear and frustration.  They live in substandard housing surrounded by mold, cockroaches, dust, lead and secondhand smoke. They have expensive inhalers, drugs and breathing machines, but still they suffer potentially lethal asthma attacks…”
  • Home visits clean up triggers for kids with chronic asthma, By Brie Zeltner, June 17, 2015, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “It’s a cold day in mid-December, and Akbar Tyler stands in the kitchen of a two-story colonial in the West Side Brooklyn Centre neighborhood. He points to a line of white powder along the counter and floorboards.  Roach poison. The oven is on, its door hanging open, in an attempt to heat the drafty room. ‘This is a problem,’ he says. Tyler is the healthy housing manager at Environmental Health Watch, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Cleveland. For the past 15 years, he and a team from Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals, as well as local housing officials have used federal funding to help clean up breathing hazards in Cleveland homes…”

Summer Meal Programs

For low-income kids, meals aplenty this summer, By Jennifer Calfas, June 25, 2015, USA Today: “A chorus of ‘thank yous’ filled the room as each child reached for his or her packaged meal.  Breakfast at the Barry Farm Recreation Center was served: A nectarine, a muffin and a carton of milk for each kid.  ‘These are things that they probably don’t eat at home,’ said Swandea Johnson-Denson, a recreation specialist who works closely with the kids at the center each day. ‘When they’re with us, we know they’re eating at least twice a day, five days a week.’  With few school lunches easily accessible during the summer season, a number of non-profits across the U.S. are providing more meals for low-income children. The Barry Farm Recreation Center is one of many hosting sites across the country…”

UN Zero Hunger Challenge

A road map for eradicating world hunger, By Beth Gardiner, June 24, 2015, New York Times: “A lot has changed in Ethiopia since hundreds of thousands of people died in the famine of the mid-1980s. Rates of undernourishment have plummeted in the past 25 years, child mortality is down by two-thirds and 90 percent of children go to primary school. Now, the country whose name was once a byword for hunger is part of a global effort to end it entirely. Around the world, nations as varied as Brazil, Cambodia, Iran and the Philippines have reported progress toward the goals of the Zero Hunger Challenge, a campaign that the United Nations began in 2012. The campaign’s ambitious target of eradicating hunger, experts say, helps lend structure and clarity to efforts to ensure that even the very poorest have enough to eat and to make food systems more resilient in the face of climate change, droughts, floods and other pressures…”

Suburban Poverty – Twin Cities, MN

Poverty nearly doubles in Twin Cities suburbs, By Shannon Prather, June 21, 2015, Star Tribune: “Poor people living in the suburbs of the Twin Cities now significantly outnumber the needy in Minneapolis and St. Paul, an accelerating trend that is presenting many local governments with stark new challenges. Pockets of concentrated poverty have emerged across the metro suburbs, in places such as St. Louis Park, Coon Rapids and Shakopee. Meanwhile, in other suburban communities such as Richfield and Brooklyn Park, poverty that sprang up over the last decade has become a persistent issue. These are the findings of a seminal new Metropolitan Council report that says about 385,000 people live in poverty in the suburbs, compared to about 259,000 in the urban core…”

Paid Leave

New momentum on paid leave, in business and politics, By Claire Cain Miller, June 22, 2015, New York Times: “Oregon this month became the fourth state to pass a bill requiring that companies give workers paid sick days to care for themselves or family members. Chipotle said this month that it would begin offering hourly workers paid sick days and vacation days, joining McDonald’s, Microsoft and other companies that have recently given paid leave to more workers. And in a speech meant to preview her presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton put paid leave at the center of her platform. No one, she said, should have ‘to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.’  Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so…”

Health Insurance Coverage in the US

Fewer poor uninsured after health law, study finds, By Sabrina Tavernise, June 23, 2015, New York Times: “The share of poor Americans who were uninsured declined substantially in 2014, according to the first full year of federal data since the Affordable Care Act extended coverage to millions of Americans last year. The drop was largely in line with earlier findings by private polling companies such as Gallup, but was significant because of its source — the National Health Interview Survey, a long-running federal survey considered to be a gold standard by researchers. The findings are being released on Tuesday…”

Ex-Offenders and Health Care

Linking released inmates to health care, By Michael Ollove, June 11, 2015, Stateline: “Joe Calderon faced uncomfortably high odds of dying after his release from a California prison in 2010. According to one study, his chances of dying within two weeks — especially from a drug overdose, heart disease, homicide or suicide — were nearly 13 times greater than for a person who had never been incarcerated.  Despite suffering from hypertension during his 17 years and three days of incarceration, Calderon was lucky. He stumbled onto a city of San Francisco program that paid for health services for ex-offenders, and he was directed to Transitions Clinic, which provides comprehensive primary care for former prisoners with chronic illnesses. The clinic saw to all his health needs in the months after his release.  An increasing number of states are striving to connect released prisoners like Calderon to health care programs on the outside…”

Lifeline Program and Internet Access

The FCC wants to help America’s poorest pay for Internet, By Brian Fung, June 18, 2015, Washington Post: “Major upgrades are coming to a federal aid program that helps low-income Americans connect to basic communications services.  The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to consider how to allow eligible Americans to purchase Internet access using government funds, in a move that recognizes high-speed Internet as a key to pulling the poor out of poverty. The decision highlights the FCC’s fast-growing role in regulating broadband. In a 3-2 vote, the agency opened a process to expand its Lifeline program — a Reagan-era plan that gives $9.25 per month to Americans who meet income requirements or who already receive some form of federal assistance…”

State Unemployment Rates

Unemployment rates rose in half of US states last month, By Christopher S. Rugaber, June 19, 2015, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Unemployment rates rose in 25 U.S. states last month, driven higher in many cases by more people who began looking for work but didn’t immediately find jobs. Rates fell in 9 states and Washington, D.C., and were unchanged in 16 states, the Labor Department said Friday…”

Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA

  • L.A. moves closer to easing limits on seizing homeless people’s belongings, By Gale Holland, June 9, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “The city of Los Angeles moved closer Monday to making it easier to remove homeless people’s belongings from public parks, over opposition from City Councilman Gil Cedillo, who said it was a failed strategy. ‘We have pursued a strategy that does not work,’ Cedillo told the arts, parks, health, aging and river committee, which voted 4 to 1 to approve the new ordinance. ‘The overemphasis on policing is a fetter.’  In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled the city could seize and destroy transients’ possessions only if they posed an immediate threat to public health or were evidence of a crime. The court also required the city to give owners a chance to reclaim their belongings before they are destroyed…”
  • L.A. city homeless committee debuts with calls for restrooms, showers and shelter, By Gale Holland, June 19, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “The Los Angeles City Council’s new homeless committee kicked off Thursday with members calling for the city to provide showers, restrooms and emergency shelter to help indigents survive in the streets with dignity. At the committee’s inaugural meeting, members also discussed developing transitional and bridge lodgings for homeless people while they await permanent lodging, new storage facilities for their possessions and parking lots for people who live in their cars…”

Early Childhood Education

The education gap among America’s youngest students, By Aimee Picchi, June 17, 2015, CBS News: “An education disaster is in the making, and it’s starting before children even reach kindergarten. Poor American kids are arriving at kindergarten with lagging academic and ‘noncognitive skills,’ such as self-control and approaches to learning, when compared with children of high-income families, according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Those education gaps have grown increasingly noticeable in more recent generations, which may be due to demographic shifts in the American population, such as more children being born into poverty and more growing up in single-parent households…”

States and Prisoner Re-entry

States try to remove barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, June 18, 2015, Stateline: “Raymond Daughton has been out of prison for 36 days. When he got out he was homeless, had no clothes and no money. All his belongings from his old apartment have disappeared. Daughton, 31, doesn’t want to get into trouble again, so he is staying out of his old neighborhood—one of the roughest parts of Baltimore—and distancing himself from some friends.   The past month has been a struggle of moving from couch to couch, scrounging some cash for a suit and tie, and applying for as many jobs as he can. Getting a job consumes him. He doesn’t care what he does; he just wants to earn enough money to gain custody of his two boys and support them. But he’s worried no one will want to hire someone with a conviction for handgun possession who also served a previous prison sentence.  An estimated 70 million people are trying to navigate the world with a criminal record, according to the National Employment Law Project. Some states, concerned with the high costs of keeping people locked up, are reevaluating and removing some of the roadblocks that ex-offenders face when they are released. The goal: to increase the chances they’ll succeed in society and lessen the chances they’ll return to prison…”