Teens and Opting Out of Foster Care – Missouri

A way back for Missouri teens who opt out of foster care?, By Nancy Cambria, February 18, 2013, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When she turned 17, Mynecia Taylor had mapped out her life. First, she would leave foster care early. It would free her to live life her way without the obstacles and rules that she felt were holding her back. Once out of foster care, she’d return to her unpredictable mother — it would be a challenge, but she’d make it work. She’d keep going to Roosevelt High, the fourth high school she’d attended since she went into foster care four years ago. She would keep working part-time jobs to save money. She would graduate Roosevelt. She would go to college. A year later, like an estimated 20 percent of kids who leave foster care at 18 or younger, the soon-to-be Roosevelt senior class president was homeless. The night after her 18th birthday, she slept in an apartment building stairwell. As teens who lack permanent placements in foster care approach 17 and 18, many chafe to leave a system they did not want to be a part of in the first place. Emboldened by years of living apart from family, some think they can do better on their own. But once out, they find they have no safety net when things go wrong…”

Prison Sentencing and Poverty

Prison and the poverty trap, By John Tierney, February 18, 2013, New York Times: “Why are so many American families trapped in poverty? Of all the explanations offered by Washington’s politicians and economists, one seems particularly obvious in the low-income neighborhoods near the Capitol: because there are so many parents like Carl Harris and Charlene Hamilton. For most of their daughters’ childhood, Mr. Harris didn’t come close to making the minimum wage. His most lucrative job, as a crack dealer, ended at the age of 24, when he left Washington to serve two decades in prison, leaving his wife to raise their two young girls while trying to hold their long-distance marriage together…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • At Capitol, fight is on to expand Medicaid, By Chuck Lindell, February 17, 2013, Austin American-Statesman: “Adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had seemingly squelched efforts this legislative session to insure an additional 1.1 million low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act. But a determined campaign, targeting legislators with public pressure and private persuasion, has kept the issue alive by framing Medicaid expansion as an economic bonanza and tax-relief opportunity that would bring $79 billion in much-needed federal money over 10 years. The arguments, pitched to Republican ears, have carved out a small space in which lawmakers can work toward an agreement that once appeared impossible…”
  • Medicaid takes a back seat in the 89th General Assembly, By Andrew DeMillo (AP), February 17, 2013, Arkansas Business Online: “What happened to the Medicaid session? Despite all the talk before lawmakers gathered at the Arkansas Capitol that Medicaid’s finances and future would overshadow just about every other issue, there’s been scant attention paid to the $5 billion program and efforts to expand it under the federal health care law. Medicaid is instead taking a backseat to a growing number of conservative causes — new abortion restrictions, relaxed gun rules and voter ID, to name a few — that are easily winning support now that Republicans control the House and the Senate. As this year’s session enters its sixth week, those GOP-backed proposals have taken center stage, rather than discussions on whether Arkansas should expand the Medicaid program by 250,000 people under the federal health care law…”

Kids Count Report – Illinois

  • Group says child poverty on the rise, By Debra Pressey, February 14, 2013, Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette: “More than one in five Champaign County kids were living in poverty in 2011, according to the new Kids Count report released this morning. The county’s child poverty rate nearly doubled in 12 years, growing from 12 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2011. The child poverty rate in Vermilion County also grew in that same time span, from 19 percent to 35 percent. Done each year by the nonprofit, non-partisan Voices for Illinois Children, Kids Count takes a look at the health and well-being of children in the state…”
  • Kids Count: Economics at root of children’s issues in Illinois, By Deirdre Cox Baker, February 15, 2013, Quad-City Times: “The future of children in Illinois was a common worry Thursday as a group of professionals gathered in the Quad-Cities to announce the Illinois Kids Count 2013 findings…”
  • Kids Count report presents grim findings, By Pam Adams, February 14, 2013, Peoria Journal Star: “Illinois is a national leader in early childhood education, but state funding for pre-school programs has been cut substantially since 2010. The state has one of the lowest percentages of uninsured children in the nation, but childhood poverty rates keep increasing in the Tri-County Area…”

Earned Income Tax Credit – North Carolina

Low-income taxpayers could lose N.C. credit, By John Frank, February 15, 2013, Charlotte Observer: “Lawmakers appear unwilling to extend a tax break for low-income workers, in what critics are calling the third strike against the state’s least fortunate in the first 10 days of the legislative session. More than 900,000 low- and moderate-income taxpayers received the modest tax break last year under the state’s earned income tax credit or EITC. The state credit was established in 2007, but it is scheduled to expire at the end of 2013 unless legislators act to extend it…”

Early Childhood Education

In Alabama, a model for Obama’s push to expand preschool, By Motoko Rich, February 14, 2013, New York Times: “President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address to ‘make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America’ rallied advocates across the country who have long argued that inequity in education begins at a very young age. In details that emerged early Thursday, the administration proposed that the federal government work with states to provide preschool for every 4-year-old from low- and moderate-income families. The president’s plan also calls for expanding Early Head Start, the federal program designed to prepare children from low-income families for school, to broaden quality childcare for infants and toddlers…”

Access to Assistance Centers – Minneapolis, MN

Hennepin County moves social services out into community, By Julie Siple, February 13, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio: “A $40 million project in Hennepin County will bring government help closer to the people who need it. For two decades, county residents seeking assistance with food, money or health care have gone to the county’s main financial assistance center in downtown Minneapolis. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people visit the building every month. Hennepin County has a five-year plan to close that center and move services closer to clients by building six regional hubs, the first of which has been up and running for about four months in Brooklyn Center…”

Families of Prisoners and Long-Distance Calling

FCC considers limiting costs of long-distance calls for families of prisoners in Ohio, By Stan Donaldson, February 12, 2013, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “The price of long-distance calls for the families of inmates inside Ohio prisons could be coming down this year. The Federal Communications Commission has been looking into the calls’ cost in part to make it easier for prisoners and their families to keep in contact and continue to forge family bonds — bonds experts say are needed to help inmates re-enter society when they are released…”

Charter Schools – Washington, DC

D.C. debates growth of charter schools, By Emma Brown, February 10, 2013, Washington Post: “It’s the latest sign that the District is on track to become a city where a majority of children are educated not in traditional public schools but in public charters: A California nonprofit group has proposed opening eight D.C. charter schools that would enroll more than 5,000 students by 2019. The proposal has stirred excitement among those who believe that Rocketship Education, which combines online learning and face-to-face instruction, can radically raise student achievement in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods…”

Federal Minimum Wage

  • Raising minimum wage would ease income gap but carries political risks, By Annie Lowrey, February 13, 2013, New York Times: ” President Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25 and to automatically adjust it with inflation, a move aimed at increasing the earnings of millions of cooks, janitors, aides to the elderly and other low-wage workers. The proposal directly addresses the country’s yawning levels of income inequality, which the White House has tried to reduce with targeted tax credits, a major expansion of health insurance, education and other proposals. But it is sure to be politically divisive, especially given the weakness of the recovery and the continued high levels of joblessness…”
  • The impact of a $9 minimum wage, By Tami Luhby, February 13, 2013, CNNMoney: “After promising five years ago to raise the federal minimum wage, President Obama finally unveiled a plan to do so on Tuesday. In his State of the Union address, Obama pressed to raise the hourly rate in stages to $9 an hour in 2015, up from the current $7.25, and index it to inflation. The change, should it become law, would boost the wages of 15 million Americans, according to the White House…”
  • Minimum wage in Europe offers ammunition in U.S. debate, By Liz Alderman, February 13, 2013, New York Times: “Now that President Barack Obama has proposed an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, people on both sides of the debate in Washington might want to look to Europe for ammunition. Minimum wage policies vary widely across the Continent, and as Europe grapples with the austerity measures that governments have imposed to help overcome its long-running debt crisis, the issue — especially the way minimum wages affect growth and competitiveness — is as important as ever…”
  • Obama’s call for higher minimum wage could have ripple effect, By Marilyn Geewax, February 13, 2013, National Public Radio: “So maybe the Great Recession really is over. After more than five years of recession and painfully slow recovery, President Obama has sent a powerful signal that he thinks the U.S. economy is now in much better shape — good enough, at least, to provide workers with raises. In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama called upon Congress to boost the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015, up from the current $7.25. The wage would rise in steps, and after hitting the maximum in two years, would thereafter be indexed to inflation. In the president’s first term, the unemployment rate was very high, peaking at 10 percent in October 2009. And during those four years, Obama never seriously pushed Congress for legislation to force employers to pay more…”
  • Reaction mixed to Obama’s bid to hike minimum wage, By Don Lee and Shan Li, February 14, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “President Obama’s new proposal to set a higher floor for wages faces an uphill battle in Congress — and the fight may well boil down to a matter of timing. Obama, in his State of the Union address, called for increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25 in gradual stages by 2015. He said it was aimed at lifting families above the poverty line and putting more money in the pockets of consumers, which would end up helping companies. While unions and labor advocates praised the proposal, Republican leaders and business groups immediately lined up against it, calling it an anti-jobs idea…”
  • Obama, business groups differ on minimum wage plan, Associated Press, February 14, 2013, Ventura County Star: “President Barack Obama says raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and tying future increases to inflation will boost the incomes of millions living in poverty and spur job growth by pouring more money into the economy. But business groups are not so sure. They complain that increasing the federal rate from $7.25 an hour would discourage employers from hiring new workers, hurting the very people Obama aims to help. Obama pointed out in his State of the Union address Tuesday that 19 states and the District of Columbia already have minimum wages set above the federal rate of $7.25, creating a vast wage disparity across the country…”

Jobless Benefits – North Carolina

North Carolina lawmakers move to slash unemployment help, By Michael A. Fletcher, February 12, 2013, Washington Post: “North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday moved to drastically slash jobless benefits, joining the ranks of states that have decided they can no longer sustain the growing financial burden of the unemployed. Despite having one of the nation’s highest jobless rates, North Carolina’s government took steps to enact some of most severe benefit cuts in the country. The measure would shrink the maximum period of time someone could receive state jobless benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks and reduce the maximum weekly benefit to $350 from $535. The state Senate gave preliminary approval to the proposal on Tuesday, and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has promised to sign it into law, which would take effect July 1. The reduction in benefits has another dire consequence for North Carolina’s unemployed. Unless they collect at least 26 weeks of unemployment checks from the state, they are disqualified from getting jobless benefits from the federal government, which add up to an additional 47 weeks of aid…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Health law’s Medicaid expansion moves forward, but with many questions, By Tony Pugh, February 12, 2013, Sacramento Bee: “In the largest one-year enrollment bump in program history, 8 million Americans are expected to gain health insurance in 2014 through Medicaid under the nation’s massive health care overhaul. The Medicaid expansion is a signature provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will mark a symbolic turning point in the controversial public and private effort to provide health insurance for all Americans. Yet questions about the cost of the expansion, whether states will cooperate and a potential shortage of care providers has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the move as the nation’s rapidly evolving health care system readies for this rare jolt of newly insured patients – and whatever surprises come with them…”
  • Medicaid decision awaited from 12 GOP governors, By Kelly Kennedy, February 13, 2013, USA Today: “Twelve Republican governors considering expanding their states’ Medicaid programs are being lobbied by hospital companies seeking extra revenue and weighing financial benefits that economists and health care experts say are too good to ignore. The six Republican governors have said they would participate in the expansion of the federal-state health care program for low-income residents are from Arizona, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Nevada. An additional 11 Republican governors have declined to participate, and 12 others have not announced a decision…”
  • Walker rejects Medicaid expansion, proposes alternate plan to cover uninsured, By Mary Spicuzza, February 13, 2013, Wisconsin State Journal: “Republican Gov. Scott Walker announced Wednesday that he is rejecting the federal Medicaid expansion. But he said he would work to expand coverage for Wisconsinites with a alternate plan relying on private health care exchanges. Walker said his plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 224,580 people, but said he would do so by moving people into private exchanges rather than Medicaid…”
  • Walker rejects full Medicaid expansion, says 224,000 more to be covered, By Jason Stein, February 13, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The state would turn down a full expansion of the BadgerCare program under the federal health care law but 224,600 more state residents would still gain coverage through state and federal efforts, under a proposal unveiled by Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday…”
  • Colorado survey shows expanding Medicaid saves money,  By Kelly Kennedy, February 13, 2013, USA Today: “Colorado economists say it would cost their taxpayers nothing to expand the state’s Medicaid program through President Obama’s health law — and it would likely bring in $128 million in local tax revenue…”
  • Study: Expanding Medicaid would infuse $3.4B into economy, By Chris Sikich, February 11, 2013, Indianapolis Star: “Expanding Indiana’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act would create up to $3.4 billion in economic activity, according to a report released today by the University of Nebraska Medical Center for Public Health…”
  • Medicaid expansion profitable for state?, By Tom LoBianco (AP), February 13, 2013, South Bend Tribune: “A study released Monday by the Indiana Hospital Association estimates that expanding Medicaid would generate billions of dollars in economic growth for the state, a stark contrast from the budget-busting projections cited by former Gov. Mitch Daniels. The hospital association’s study estimates that using the federal expansion to cover an additional 406,000 residents would cost Indiana $503 million but pump several times that amount back into the economy over the next seven years. An actuary hired by former Gov. Daniels’ administration found the expansion would cost a budget-busting $2.6 billion over the same time frame…”

Early Childhood Development – New Orleans, LA

Fewer kindergarteners in high-poverty New Orleans neighborhoods ‘developmentally vulnerable,’ study finds, By Danielle Dreilinger, February 8, 2013, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “A new study has unexpected good news for New Orleans’ education system: Several high-poverty neighborhoods are sending a relatively low number of children to kindergarten who are considered ‘developmentally vulnerable,’ according to data released this week by the Orleans Public Education Network. Children entering elementary school with certain social and intellectual deficits are likely to struggle academically. The findings come from the Early Development Instrument, an internationally respected survey that measures kids’ health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, communication and general knowledge. Children are considered developmentally vulnerable if they score in the bottom 10th percentile in at least two of the five areas. The measure is strongly tied to how well 4th-graders score on standardized tests…”

Child Care Subsidies – Kentucky

Advocates: Child-care subsidy cuts will force parents from jobs and close care centers, By Beth Musgrave, February 6, 2013, Lexington Herald-Leader: “Big cuts to a program that helps low-income families pay for child care will probably force many single parents to quit their jobs and shutter some child-care centers, warn advocates who will rally Thursday in the Capitol. In Martin County, between 60 percent and 75 percent of children at the county’s only licensed child-care center, Martin County Kiddie College, receive a state child-care subsidy, owner Brenda Bowen said…”

Early College Programs

  • Pathway from poverty: Pioneering program helps low-income children get degrees, IBM jobs, By Celia Baker and Mercedes White, February 9, 2013, Deseret News: “By the time Trudon Exter walks through the metal detectors at the front doors of Brooklyn’s Paul Robeson High School, he’s been commuting for more than two hours. To get to school by 8 a.m. from his home in Queens, he rides two buses and a subway through some of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods. Trudon, 14, is a little small for his age and carries an enormous backpack stuffed with school supplies, snacks and a change of clothes for gym class. There are fleeting moments when he wishes he was back in Queens in his neighborhood school’s ninth-grade class with his old friends and not in Brooklyn. But some of his friends have already given up on high school. As he walks the three blocks between the subway and the school he sees kids about his age stumbling out of the neighborhood’s abandoned row houses. He wants something better. To help kids like Trudon reach their goals, a college in New York City has teamed up with IBM to create an innovative program that fuses high school and community college under one roof…”
  • A path forward: Finishing high school with college degree, By Benjamin Wood, February 9, 2013, Deseret News: “In May, Travis Butterfield will earn his associate degree from Salt Lake Community College with credits to spare, a milestone on his path to a planned career in reconstructive surgery. Assuming, of course, that he graduates from high school first. ‘I still need to finish high school gym,’ he said. ‘It’s the only thing holding me back from graduating.’ Butterfield is a senior at ITINERIS Early College High School, a charter school located on the Jordan campus of Salt Lake Community College. There, Butterfield and his classmates split their time between courses at ITINERIS and college classes across the parking lot at the college, earning their way to a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously…”
  • Talented teens get a head start on college life, By Mará Rose Williams, February 10, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Danielle Doerr spent her morning studying calculus and conducting nanostructure research here on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University. Now, in the afternoon, she sits in the lobby of her dorm wearing headphones, soaking up lectures on quantum physics and neuroscience by Massachusett Institute of Technology professors…”

US Teen Birth Rates

  • Teen birth rates hit historic low in U.S., By Ryan Jaslow, February 11, 2013, CBS News: “Teen birth rates appear to have reached historic lows. A new study from researchers at the government’s National Center for Health Statistics shows the U.S. teen birth rate has continued its recent declines to hit a record low of 31.3 births per 1,000 women in 2011. That’s good news, considering teen pregnancy could increase health risks for both mom and baby. Teens who are pregnant are more likely to experience complications like pregnancy-induced hypertension, anemia, preeclampsia and premature birth…”
  • U.S. birth rate hit historic low in 2011, CDC says, By Michael Smith, February 11, 2013, ABC News: “Americans had fewer babies in 2011 than in any year before, according to an annual summary of vital statistics. In 2011, 3,953,593 babies were born in the U.S. — 1 percent fewer than in 2010 and 4 percent fewer than in 2009, according to Brady Hamilton, PhD, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues at the agency and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. That number, combined with population data, yielded a crude birth rate of 12.7 per 1,000 people, the lowest rate ever reported for the nation, they reported online and in the March 2013 issue of Pediatrics…”

Medicaid and Dental Care – Colorado

Dental treatment not reaching most Medicaid-eligible youth, By Jeffrey A. Roberts, February 10, 2013, The Coloradoan: “When she was 3, Torrie Smith tripped on an uneven sidewalk, fell face down onto some steps and broke four front teeth. An emergency room doctor stopped the bleeding and gave her something for the pain, but Torrie didn’t get to a dentist for six months — her first time ever to a dentist — because her parents didn’t have dental insurance and didn’t have cash to pay for an examination. Now 4, Torrie’s dental problems are so severe she has to go to an operating room, not a dentist’s chair, to have them fixed. While she is under anesthesia, an abscessed incisor will be pulled and nine other cavity-ravaged teeth will be pulled or treated. Torrie’s toothaches, along with the risk and high cost associated with curing them, probably could have been avoided. She is like many children in low-income families in Colorado who rarely, if ever, see a dentist even though they can go for free…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Some GOP politicians drop their resistance to Medicaid expansion, By Dave Helling, February 6, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Cracks continue to develop in the Republican Party’s concrete opposition to Obamacare’s state expansions of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. Whether those fissures will crumble Medicaid opposition in Kansas and Missouri, though, remains very much in doubt. On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan became the sixth GOP governor out of 30 to recommend expanding Medicaid eligibility in their state…”
  • Medicaid expansion divides GOP governors, By Paul West, February 7, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “Some of the nation’s most prominent Republican governors have moved to embrace a key feature of President Obama’s healthcare law, providing a significant boost to the administration and highlighting a fissure inside the GOP on an emerging campaign issue. At stake is the goal of expanding health insurance under the Medicaid program, one of two main ways the law is to provide coverage to those who lack it. Starting in 2014, the law broadens Medicaid to cover people who earn up to about $15,500 a year, but under last year’s Supreme Court decision upholding the law’s constitutionality, states have the option of rejecting the expansion and the federal money that comes with it…”

Kids Count Report – West Virginia

  • W.Va. has 10th-highest teen birth rate in US, By Shay Maunz, February 5, 2013, Charleston Daily Mail: “West Virginia’s teen birth rate has improved over the last year, but the gap between the percentage of teen mothers in the state versus the country is bigger now than ever. For years, the number of teen births in West Virginia was trending slowly but steadily down, right along with national figures. But in 2006, the teen birth rate in West Virginia began to worsen while the national rate continued to improve. The disparity between the two became worse than ever. New data from Kids Count, a child advocacy group, shows that in 2011, West Virginia’s teen birth rate was 46.3 per 1,000 teens. That’s far worse than the national average of 37.5 for every 1,000 teens…”
  • W.Va.’s teen birth rate down, Kids Count data says, By Lori Kersey, February 5, 2013, Charleston Gazette: “Fewer West Virginia teenagers had babies in 2010 than in 2009, but the state still ranks among the 10 highest in the country for children born to teenage mothers, according to a study released to Tuesday from Kids Count West Virginia. The teen birth rate for West Virginia and the nation had been on the decrease for decades until 2006 and 2007, when both rates increased. In 2008, the national rate declined again, while West Virginia’s rate continued to increase. But the latest data shows that in 2010, West Virginia’s teen birth rate fell to 45 births per 1,000 teenage girls. That’s down from 50 births per 1,000 teenagers in 2009. Officials are hopeful, but they aren’t sure what to make of the decline…”

Child Welfare System – Colorado

Colorado announces sweeping reforms to child welfare system, By Jordan Steffen, Christopher N. Osher and Jennifer Brown, February 6, 2013, Denver Post: “Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday revealed sweeping reforms to the state’s child welfare system, including a multipart plan that will create a statewide hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect, new training on how to assess those reports, and a study of workloads and caseloads of child protection workers. The plan also will steer resources to troubled families before actual abuse and neglect occur by delivering services through nurses, parenting classes and additional resources…”