State Budget Cuts – Nevada

Mergers, program cuts recommended to trim state budget, By Cy Ryan, October 29, 2010, Las Vegas Sun: “Merging agencies, shifting programs to local government and cutting benefits to low-income residents are among proposals to save millions of dollars as the state faces a financial crunch. The fiscal staff of the Legislature on Thursday outlined more than 20 ideas for efficiencies and savings in the upcoming budget. State agencies have produced initial budgets with 10 percent reductions. The legislative financial division has additional suggestions the 2011 session might consider…”

Welfare Reform and Single Mothers

Welfare reform failing poor single mothers, By Melinda Burns, October 28, 2010, Miller-McCune: “The women at the bottom in America, single mothers on public assistance, are sometimes called ‘drawer people,’ the subjects of case files that stay in the welfare manager’s drawer, year after year. They are mothers who quit work or can’t work because they are ill or disabled, or illiterate, or victims of abuse, or the sole caregivers for an elderly parent or chronically sick child. These so-called hard-to-serve single mothers may include women who fail to apply for the 70 jobs in one month required to qualify for a federal cash grant. They may want to go to school full time, which is against welfare rules in some states. They may be approaching the five-year lifetime limit for cash assistance that most states impose. Or they may simply not own a car…”

Infant Mortality Rate – Philadelphia, PA

Researchers fight to save the region’s tiniest babies, By Josh Goldstein, October 25, 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Delivered by cesarean section 11 weeks early, Quinzel Kane Jr. was so tiny that his 1.6-pound body nearly fit in his father’s hand. A week later, the child developed a leaky bowel – a common problem in underweight babies – and was rushed to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Over the next few months, specialists there would fight to keep him from becoming part of a grim statistic: the high infant mortality rate in pockets across the region. Philadelphia’s infant mortality rate stands among the nation’s highest – rivaling Detroit’s and Baltimore’s – and is on par with those of Uruguay in South America and Bosnia in eastern Europe. But the rates are high too in some suburban towns, such as Upper Darby and Norristown. And while murders grab far more attention here, the number of infant deaths is actually greater across the region…”

Teen Birthrate – Milwaukee, WI

City’s teen birthrate heading downward, By Karen Herzog, October 28, 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Milwaukee’s teen birthrate – the second highest in the nation less than a decade ago- is dropping at a pace that could put it near the much lower state average by 2015, according to data released Wednesday by public health officials.
‘We know there’s much work to get done, but we should all feel encouraged this trend is going in the right direction,’ said Bevan Baker, Milwaukee’s health commissioner. Baker is co-chair of a United Way of Greater Milwaukee advisory committee that set a goal in 2008 of reducing the city’s teen birthrate, which hovered in 2006 at 52 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 17. By 2015, the goal is 30 births per 1,000 teens in that age group. The committee targeted new pregnancy prevention efforts starting with fourth-graders because they would turn 17 in 2015…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Enrollment

Recession officially over, use of food stamps stays at record high, By Husna Haq, October 26, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “Before the recession, Mary Ellen Hayden was living an active New York City life. She worked days at a corporate job, nights as a professional singer, taught as a substitute on occasion – and all as she was finishing her certification in secondary English education. Then the recession hit and Ms. Hayden found herself out of a job and living on a shoestring budget in the most expensive city in the US. ‘Things were drying up left and right,’ says Hayden, who had completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at private universities in the Northeast. When a friend told her she could qualify for food stamps, she hesitated, but not for long. ‘I was surprised it existed for me,’ says Hayden, who moved recently to more-affordable Rochester, N.Y. ‘And embarrassed because I’d never done it before. You think, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope no one sees me.’ It’s a humbling experience for someone who’s never been on it before.’ The recession introduced millions of Americans to food stamps – many of them, like Hayden, for the first time. Now, more than a year after the recession is officially said to have ended, more Americans than ever are on food stamps, and the trend is higher still…”

Child Welfare System – Nebraska

Privatizing child welfare near, By Martha Stoddard, October 26, 2010, Omaha World-Herald: “Department of Health and Human Services officials hope to take a first step this week in replacing child welfare workers with private contractors. Agency spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said Monday that the agency’s staff is working on documents justifying the change. The documents are expected to be submitted to the Department of Administrative Services for approval ‘within the week,” she said. The justification is required by a 1995 state law. But some legislators are questioning the agency’s plans and its timeline. State Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha, a former state caseworker, said she is concerned that the change is being rushed through without legislative oversight. She said numerous questions need to be answered in light of the problems experienced already in the move toward privatizing care of state wards…”

College Graduation Rates – Michigan

  • Colleges aim to boost low grad rates; many students unprepared, By Lori Higgins, October 24, 2010, Detroit Free Press: “Colleges today face a dilemma: They can get students in the door. But keeping them enrolled, and getting them to graduate, is a tough task. In Michigan, just a little more than half the students who enter college as first-time students graduate within six years. At individual universities, the rates are even lower: 32% for Wayne State University, 38% at Saginaw Valley State University, 40% at Eastern Michigan University. The rates are worse for minorities. The reasons: too many academically unprepared students, financial struggles forcing students to drop out, part-time students who take longer to graduate. Officials are working to turn around the numbers with tutoring, mentoring and academic counseling…”
  • Report: ‘Horrendous’ black-white gap at Wayne State, By Lori Higgins, October 24, 2010, Detroit Free Press: “Graduation rates overall show a need for improvement, but they’re particularly dismal for some minority groups. In Michigan, about 59% of students who enrolled in 2002 graduated within six years, but the rate is only about 36% for African-American students. In contrast, white students have a graduation rate of about 61%. Similar gaps can be seen between white and Hispanic groups at some universities, though the overall rate for Hispanic students, 56%, is more comparable to that of white students…”

Effects of Recession on Youth and Children

  • Recession’s reverberations keep pummeling the young, By Don Lee, October 24, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “As the nation struggles with the aftermath of the Great Recession, few groups have suffered greater setbacks or face greater long-term damage than young Americans – damage that could shadow their entire working lives. Unemployment for 20- to 24-year-olds hit a record high of more than 17% earlier this year. Even for young adults with college degrees, the jobless rate has averaged 9.3% this year, double the figure for older graduates, according to the Labor Department. Adding to the impact, surveys by the Pew Research Center indicate, a greater share of workers in their 20s lost hours or were cut down to part-time status than any other age group. And their incomes have fallen more sharply, even as they are far more likely than others to say they are working harder than ever…”
  • Recession in midstate hitting children hardest, By Diana Fishlock, October 24, 2010, Patriot-News: “Dauphin County is seeing its youngest children get hit hardest by the recession. Among Dauphin County families with children all under 5 years old, more than 20 percent were living in poverty in 2009. That’s up from about 15 percent just two years before, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Families with children under 18 saw poverty increase during the same time. Nearly half of the county’s single mothers with children under 5 lived in poverty. Those on the front lines of providing social services say they see more younger children exhibiting signs of anxiety and parents worrying about providing enough food. In surrounding counties, families with children generally saw poverty decrease from 2007 to 2009, according to census estimates…”

Corruption Perceptions Index

  • The world’s most corrupt countries, By Mike Blanchfield, October 26, 2010, Toronto Star: “The No. 1 recipient of Canadian taxpayers’ foreign-aid dollars is the second-most corrupt country in the world, a new report says. Afghanistan tied with the military dictatorship in Myanmar as the second-most corrupt country on the planet, according to the yearly audit by the Berlin-based group Transparency International. Somalia won the dubious distinction as most corrupt on the organization’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index. On the least-corrupt scale, Canada inched up to sixth from eighth from a year earlier in the ranking of 178 countries. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore topped the list as the countries with the most virtuous public sectors…”
  • Russia most corrupt among global powers, study says; U.S. ranking also worsens, By Will Englund, October 26, 2010, Washington Post: “Corruption in Russia has grown even more blatant over the past year, according to a report issued Tuesday by Transparency International, and the country has fallen from 146th place to 154th on the organization’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Russia tied with Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea and several African countries, and was ranked most corrupt among the G-20 nations. For the first time since Transparency International began issuing its annual list 15 years ago, the United States dropped out of the top 20 least-corrupt nations, because of financial scandals it has endured. The United States fell from 19th place to 22nd, behind Chile…”

Mental Health System – Ohio

  • ‘An illusion of treatment’, By Alan Johnson and Catherine Candisky, October 24, 2010, Columbus Dispatch: “Ohio’s mental-health system, once a national model, is on the verge of collapse as the state careens toward the biggest budget crisis in memory. Thousands have been slashed from the mental-health-care rolls. Others might have to wait months to see a psychiatrist. State funding for mental-health services has been decimated, Medicaid is gobbling up scarce local dollars, and hundreds of small group homes for the mentally ill have closed. Prisons, nursing facilities and homeless shelters are the new homes for thousands of mentally ill Ohioans, advocates say…”
  • 1988 act worked well, for a few years, By Catherine Candisky, October 24, 2010, Columbus Dispatch: “July 1, 1988, wasn’t a holiday, but Maureen Corcoran didn’t sleep the night before. ‘It was like New Year’s Eve because July 1 was the beginning of the Mental Health Act,’ said Corcoran, now Ohio’s Medicaid director, then a deputy director for the Department of Mental Health and former executive assistant to former Gov. Richard F. Celeste. ‘Nothing happened on July 1, but that’s how excited we were.’ The Mental Health Act of 1988, signed by Celeste on March 28 that year, was a watershed in Ohio’s treatment of the mentally ill. After decades of inadequate treatment, marked by tragic stories of patients unserved, mistreated or chained in hospital wards, the state was dawning a new day. Patients could leave the hospitals (or avoid going there in the first place), return to their home communities, and receive treatment, housing, transportation and other services coordinated by 53 community mental-health boards. Most important, the state funds that had paid for their hospitalization would follow them home, assuring the availability of critical restorative services…”

Recession and Western States

Tough economic times head West after recession, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), October 22, 2010, Washington Post: “A delayed decline in home prices and drops in manufacturing and tourism have caused unemployment in western mountain states to rise faster in the past year than in any other region. The jobless rate in the eight-state Mountain West region has jumped to 9.3 percent from 8.7 percent a year ago. That’s still lower than the 9.6 percent national average. But the gap is narrowing with the rest of the nation. The jobs crisis in regions with higher unemployment has mainly stabilized. The lagging pace represents a sharp turnaround for a region that had been growing at a healthy pace before the recession. And it illustrates how broadly the Great Recession and its aftershocks are affecting the country…”

Incarcerated Mothers

Report faults state prisons’ treatment of mothers, By David Crary (AP), October 21, 2010, Miami Herald: “The number of women in America’s state prisons has reached a record high, yet many states have inadequate policies for dealing with the large portion of them who have children or are pregnant, according to a new 50-state survey. The report, being released Thursday by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, analyzes policies in three areas – prenatal care, shackling of pregnant women during childbirth, and community-based alternatives to incarceration enabling mothers to be with their children. Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an A…”

Child Homelessness – Washington

  • Homeless students on the rise throughout Washington, By Carol Smith, October 24, 2010, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “School districts around the state are grappling with how to help growing populations of homeless students, even as budget cuts further slash their ability to meet their federal obligation to do so. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, school districts are required to identify and report homeless students and to guarantee those students transportation so they can stay at their original schools even if they have been forced to find emergency shelter outside the district. Being homeless can affect how children learn, can lead to depression, and can be misdiagnosed as learning disabilities, labels that stick with a child for years…”
  • Homelessness can cause mental problems in kids, By Carol Smith, October 24, 2010, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “The truest victims of homelessness are young children, who have no control over the decisions that put them there, and no power to change their circumstances. The typical homeless families in the country are headed by young women in their 20s, typically with two children. Nearly half those kids are under age 5. The consequences of homelessness can be devastating and long-lasting for young children. By age 8, one in three homeless children has a mental health problem that affects their functioning, said Karen Hudson, social worker with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a national expert on homeless children…”

Working Families and Food Assistance

More working families getting government food aid, By Mark Niesse (AP), October 22, 2010, Kansas City Star: “Lillie Gonzales does whatever it takes to provide for three ravenous sons who live under her roof. She grows her own vegetables at home on Kauai, runs her own small business and like a record 42 million other Americans, she relies on food stamps. Gonzales and her husband consistently qualify for food stamps now that Hawaii and other states are quietly expanding eligibility and offering the benefit to more working, moderate income families. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reviewed by The Associated Press shows that 30 states have adopted rules making it easier to qualify for food stamps since 2007. In all, 38 states have loosened eligibility standards. Hawaii has gone farther than most, allowing a family like Gonzales’ to earn up to $59,328 and still get food stamps. Prior to an Oct. 1 increase, the income eligibility limit for a Hawaii family of five was $38,568 a year…”

US Teen Birth Rates

  • Highest teen birthrates are in the South, October 21, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “The highest teenage birthrates in the U.S. are clustered in Southern states and the lowest in the Northeast and upper Midwest, government researchers said Wednesday. Birthrates fell to an average of 41.5 births per 1,000 female teens in 2008 from 42.5 in 2007, with 14 states seeing declines. That followed an increase from 2005 to 2007, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The differences are important because teen parents are less likely to pursue higher education, their children are less likely to be healthy, and they earn less on average than people who have children later…”
  • State’s lower teen-pregnancy rate doesn’t tell whole story, By Carol M. Ostrom, October 20, 2010, Seattle Times: “Teen pregnancy is associated with all sorts of bad things – physical risks to babies, interrupted education for moms, and lower lifetime incomes all around – so it’s good news that Washington, overall, has a significantly lower rate than the U.S. average. But the statistics released Wednesday morning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t tell the whole story. Buried inside the big-picture statistics about Washington are numbers that reveal pockets of teen pregnancy, often in nearby high schools and middle schools…”
  • Teen birth rate low, but racial disparities persist, By Elizabeth Dunbar, October 21, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio: “New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Minnesota has the eighth-lowest teen birth rate in the nation, but the rates are much higher among teens of color. Nationally, the CDC found that the worst disparities between black teens and the general population occurred in the South and the Upper Midwest. Minnesota was among the 10 states with the highest teen birth rate among black teens…”

State Budget and Human Services – Illinois

In Illinois, late payments fray the safety net, By Daniel C. Vock, October 19, 2010, Stateline.org: “On weekday afternoons when schools let out in Humboldt Park, a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, dozens of children, ages 6 to 16, head to a community center known as the Youth Service Project. When they arrive at the center’s activity rooms, the children must do their homework first. Then they’re allowed to play, read books about sharks, throw balls at each other or just hang out with friends. It’s a safe place in a neighborhood troubled by gang violence. Two years ago, two participants at the Youth Service Project were killed, and two more were injured, in the fighting. The youth at the center, which runs an arts education program, responded to the deaths by painting an indoor mural of their memories of that summer’s events. It shows a SWAT team van, a church cross against a blue sky and a funeral home – although the center’s staff, fearing that the funeral home would be a distressing image for the kids to see every day, have moved a bookshelf in front of it. The center plays an important role in the life of Humboldt Park. Indeed, the state of Illinois, which provides 95 percent of the Youth Service Project’s funding, expects the center to provide all of the services under its contract. The catch is that, with all the state’s fiscal troubles lately, no one knows when the state will actually hand over that money…”

Haiti Cholera Outbreak

  • Cholera reported in several areas in Haiti, By Donald G. McNeil Jr., October 22, 2010, New York Times: “A cholera outbreak in a rural area of northwestern Haiti has killed more than 150 people and overwhelmed local hospitals with thousands of the sick, the World Health Organization said Friday, increasing long-held fears of an epidemic that could spread to the encampments that shelter more than a million of Haitians displaced by the January earthquake. Even as relief organizations rushed doctors and clean-water equipment toward the epicenter – the Artibonite, a riverine rice-producing area about three hours north of the capital, Port-au-Prince – Haitian radio reported that cholera cases had surfaced in two other areas: the island of La Gonâve, and the town of Arcahaie, which lies closer to the capital. In addition, a California-based aid group, International Medical Corps, said they had confirmed cases in Croix-des-Bouquet…”
  • Haiti’s first cholera epidemic in a century kills scores, By Rory Carroll, October 22, 2010, The Guardian: “Haiti’s first cholera epidemic in a century has swept a region north of the capital Port-au-Prince, killing dozens and overwhelming health services. At least 142 people have died and more than 1,500 were stricken by diarrhoea, fever and vomiting in the worst public health crisis since the January earthquake. Authorities and aid agencies scrambled to contain the outbreak in the largely rural Artibonite region before it reached tent cities housing vulnerable quake survivors…”

Unemployment Rate and Jobless Benefits

  • Unemployment rate drops in 23 states in September, By Christopher S. Rugaber (AP), October 22, 2010, USA Today: “Nearly half of U.S. states reported drops in their unemployment rates in September from a month earlier, the best showing since June. But job creation was weak in most areas of the country. Unemployment fell in 23 states and Washington, D.C., rose in 11 states and was unchanged in 16 during September, the Labor Department said Friday. The declines were nearly double the number reported by states in the previous month…”
  • For some, jobless benefits trump a job, By Allison Linn, October 21, 2010, MSNBC.com: “You know the economy has become truly screwy when it pays more to collect jobless benefits than to get an actual job. The economy is so weak and jobs are so scarce that some people are finding that it isn’t worth it to work. These workers say that’s because the only jobs available are part-time or low-wage gigs that would not only be a big step down from their previous careers but also would not even pay enough to cover their expenses. About 8 million people are now collecting some form of unemployment aid, but how much they take home varies widely depending on what state they live in and how much they made previously. In Massachusetts, for example, the maximum benefit is $943 per week, including an allowance for dependents, while in Mississippi it is just $235 a week. In August, the average weekly benefit was $293.54, according to U.S. Department of Labor. On average, unemployment pays about 47 percent of what people were making before they lost their jobs, according to the department’s latest data from 2009…”

Child Care Subsidies – California

Proposal would restore state funding for child care, By Patrick McGreevy, October 19, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Upset that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed $256 million in child-care money for the poor, the state Assembly leader announced a proposal Monday to go around the governor and restore funding until a new chief executive takes office in January. The program pays child-care costs for working parents who take jobs to move off welfare but can’t afford day care. The governor’s action means child care for 60,000 families will end Nov. 1 unless a stopgap measure is found. It would cost $60 million to extend the program through Jan. 1, after which the new Legislature could try to pass a measure to restore full funding, according to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles)…”

Graduation Rates at Community Colleges – California

Community colleges not preparing California’s future workforce, study says, By Carla Rivera, October 20, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Seventy percent of students seeking degrees at California’s community colleges did not manage to attain them or transfer to four-year universities within six years, according to a new study that suggests that many two-year colleges are failing to prepare the state’s future workforce. Conducted by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento, the report, released Tuesday, found that most students who failed to obtain a degree or transfer in six years eventually dropped out; only 15% were still enrolled. In addition, only about 40% of the 250,000 students the researchers tracked between 2003 and 2009 had earned at least 30 college credits, the minimum needed to provide an economic boost in jobs that require some college experience…”