Section 8 Housing Vouchers – Pittsburgh, PA

For those with Section 8 vouchers, finding suitable housing difficult, By Kate Giammarise, June 20, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “It can take years to get a Section 8 voucher in Pittsburgh. But it takes just four months to lose it. Pittsburgh’s voucher waiting list has about 5,000 families on it, but once a family gets one, the clock starts ticking. The recipient must find a qualified residence within 120 days and, because of a shortage of units and willing landlords, that’s often very difficult. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is the largest federal program for assisting low-income people to find affordable housing in the private rental market…”

Social Services in Schools – Pittsburgh, PA

  • Schools step up social services in hopes of improving education, By Eleanor Chute, September 6, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “When Cornell superintendent Aaron Thomas interviews a potential administrator, he wants to know if the candidate will drive a school van. Administrators, including the superintendent, sometimes need to drive a parent to a teacher conference or a child to a doctor appointment.  At Grandview Upper Elementary School in the Highlands School District, it’s not unusual for principal Heather Hauser to find a bag of groceries on her desk, left anonymously by a staff member. The school started a food pantry after a student one Friday said he didn’t have anything to eat at home…”
  • Educators can spot emotional baggage, By Mary Niederberger, September 7, 2015,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “When Grace Enick, now 25, was in a Christian elementary school, no one noticed her behavior after she was raped in second grade. ‘All I wanted was for someone to ask me what was wrong,’ she said. No one did.  In recent years, educators have become more aware that some students are carrying emotional baggage that can interfere with their ability to learn…”
  • Parents’ involvement at home key for students, educators, By Clarece Polke, September 8, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “An unlikely catalyst inspired Milton Lopez to go back to school to earn a GED diploma.  Mr. Lopez, now 40, of Coraopolis dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and has worked full time ever since. His young son inspired him to finish his diploma more than a decade after leaving school…”
  • First-generation college students face hurdles, stigmas, By Bill Schackner, September 9, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Teireik Williams wanted to be like other students at Penn State University, but reminders that he was different were everywhere on the flagship public campus where the cost to attend rivaled his family’s total income. It was obvious to the South Oakland resident whenever he saw students driving cars paid for back home or heard them discuss exotic travel. But his sense of isolation wasn’t simply economic — or exclusively because he is an African-American at a largely white university. Since neither of his parents holds a college degree, he differed from peers in another way: He could not count on advice and reassurance from adults back home who already had been through the academic pressures he was facing…”

Suburban Poverty – Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh suburbs suffering poverty at high rate, By Mary Niederberger, November 17, 2013, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Poverty is growing at a faster rate in the suburbs than in the cities, and the Pittsburgh area is ahead of the curve — but not in a good way. Nationally, about 55 percent of the population living in poverty is outside of cities, but in Allegheny County, 61 percent of people living in poverty are in the suburbs, and the number rises to 79 percent when the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area is measured. That area includes Allegheny and its six surrounding counties…”

Infant Mortality Rates

Tackling infant mortality rates among blacks, By Timothy Williams, October 14, 2011, New York Times: “Amanda Ralph is the kind of woman whose babies are prone to die. She is young and poor and dropped out of school after the ninth grade. But there is also an undeniable link between Ms. Ralph’s race – she is black – and whether her baby will survive: nationally, black babies are more than twice as likely as white babies to die before the age of 1. Here in Pittsburgh, the rate is five times. So, seven months into her first pregnancy, Ms. Ralph, 20, is lying on a couch at home as a nurse from a federally financed program listens to the heartbeat of her fetus. The unusual attention Ms. Ralph is receiving is one of myriad efforts being made nationwide to reduce the tens of thousands of deaths each year of infants before age 1. But health officials say it is frequently disheartening work, as a combination of apathy and cuts to federal and state programs aimed at reducing infant deaths have hampered progress, with dozens of big cities and rural areas reporting rising rates…”

Child Welfare Systems – Pittsburgh and Milwaukee

  • Milwaukee child welfare system can learn from Pittsburgh area, By Gina Barton, December 14, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ That line is repeated over and over by child welfare advocates across the country. But officials in Allegheny County, Pa., have done more than just talk. They have spent the past 13 years building that village one neighborhood at a time. ‘The first step has to be: Your child welfare agency has to build trust. You’ve got to prove you’re not simply there to take people’s kids away. Then people will be more prone to get on board and band together,’ said Richard Wexler, executive director of the Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. Because Allegheny County – which includes Pittsburgh – has achieved that goal, the county’s child welfare system has transformed ‘from a national disgrace to a national model,’ Wexler often says. As the State of Wisconsin works to reform the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare with a focus on prevention, Pittsburgh holds lessons for how to implement effective reforms. Although the number of children in out-of-home care in Milwaukee County has dropped dramatically since the state took over child welfare in 1998, Milwaukee’s rate of removal remains relatively high, experts say…”
  • $15 million computer system makes agency more accountable, By Gina Barton, December 14, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Eleven years ago, the computer systems used by Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services were a mess. Ninety-six different applications couldn’t ‘talk’ to each other. Workers didn’t know how to find information in any of them. Clients were entered into the systems multiple times, so officials couldn’t figure out anything about the people they served – or even how many there were…”
  • Youth support partners have learned from experience, By Gina Barton, December 14, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Ashley Hartman was raped by her best friend’s brother when she was 13. She dropped out of school, so child welfare officials came to the house where she lived with her drug-addicted father. A year later, now a ward of the state, Hartman was addicted to drugs and living in a shelter for teens when she got pregnant – with twins. The babies’ father was 21. Today, at 19, Hartman is a high school graduate, living on her own and raising her daughters. She works full time for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. Her job is to help other teens survive the child welfare system…”
  • Support centers give families a place to interact, By Gina Barton, December 14, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Christine Hyatt walked to the Hilltop Family Care Connection center to pick up baby formula through the federal Women, Infants and Children program. While she was there, one of the workers told her about a free play group for her 1-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn Kotvas. Now, Hyatt and Kaitlyn come to the group every week. Hyatt, 24 and pregnant with her second child, also attends a new moms support group and an early-literacy program that provides her family with free books…”
  • Program empowers families to make decisions, By Gina Barton, December 14, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “When 14-year-old Lavante was shot and left a quadriplegic, his family started falling apart. His mother couldn’t eat, and her health declined to the point where she couldn’t get to the rehabilitation hospital to see her son. His father stopped at a bar every night after work. His three teenage siblings ran wild. To make matters worse, Lavante’s doctors called in a neglect complaint to Allegheny County’s Office of Children, Youth and Families. Lavante’s mother wasn’t visiting enough, they said. Further, they thought she was illiterate and were concerned about whether she would be able to care for her son…”