Child Welfare in the 21st Century

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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

CONGRESS SHOULD NOT PUSH CHILDREN OVER THE “FISCAL CLIFF”

Posted by lboyd544 on December 16, 2012

The looming “fiscal cliff” will result in automatic tax increases and spending cuts unless a deal is reached before year’s end. To not come to some resolution will do profound harm to Oklahoma’s children.

Nearly one-quarter of Oklahoma’s children live in poverty.  About two-thirds relied on either Medicaid or food stamps during 2011. The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, Unemployment Insurance and food stamps prevented thousands more Oklahoma families from falling further into poverty last year. Yet the automatic budget cuts scheduled to go into effect on January 1 would devastate these programs.

A single mother raising two kids in Oklahoma on a full-time minimum wage salary currently gets a $7,000 tax credit check thanks to the Earned Income and Child tax credit.  That check could disappear.  The additional burden would be equivalent to a $3.50 per hour pay cut.

Republican Congressman Tom Cole recently strayed from the position of House leadership when he said in a private meeting that we should lock in tax cuts for the middle class now and postpone fighting over tax increases for higher-income earners until later. Representative Cole should be applauded for being part of a serious discussion about a critical issue.

As important as it is to avoid the fiscal cliff, we must also make sure that any deal doesn’t ultimately do as much damage as the automatic cuts. The solution is a balanced approach that includes new revenue and spending cuts – as has been endorsed by at least two bipartisan deficit reduction commissions.

Several core principles should be reflected in any deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.  First, it must not exacerbate either poverty or income inequality.

Any deal must also eliminate the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would account for nearly half the projected growth in the nation’s debt for the foreseeable future.

There should be no harmful changes to the Medicaid and food stamp programs that are the safety net preventing even more Oklahoma children from living in poverty.

Congress should also be careful not to simply shift burdens to the states. Additional cuts should take into account the $1.5 trillion in reductions to non-defense discretionary spending that have already been made.

The fiscal cliff represents a monumental challenge for our nation, and spending cuts must be part of the solution.  But we must avoid cuts that will save a little now only to cost us far more in social, public safety, corrections, and education costs later.  We must be even more careful not to solve our fiscal problems on the backs of defenseless children who did nothing to cause the problems we confront today. We will need them healthy and well-educated to lead our country for many years to come and confront the long lingering challenges of getting the federal budget under control.

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“Pausing” is a Good Thing

Posted by lboyd544 on November 13, 2012

As of today, our nation is one week past election day. I was anxious to post last Wednesday. Had I done so, I would have pleaded with Americans to pull together and to respect and utilize our differences, not our wins or losses.  The urge to post continued and had I done so late in the week, I would have commented on the emerging skepticism that the initial kumbaya moment of national Party leaders was all but done. Had I posted on Sunday, I would have urged President Obama, yes our President whose office we must respect regardless of political affiliation, to lead with strength of conviction and clarity of purpose and not be mired in the thicket of political posturing by those who already are protecting themselves in the next election cycle.
I am glad I paused.
Indeed, each of the potential postings I did not write had merit, in my opinion. Then the sea wave of ‘urgency’ and robust media attention gravitated to the personal indiscretions of General Petraeus and as of today, potentially, General John Allen.
Again, I am glad I paused. President Obama will not be President four years from now; news mongers will latch on to the next soap opera by next week (if not sooner!); our elected leaders will confront the Fiscal Cliff in a bipartisan manner.
The most meaningful outcomes of last week’s elections will not be lost on whim or news cycles. For those of us who ever doubted, the people have spoken and have proven the honor to be trusted. The United States has changed (or returned to its founding principles depending on your point of view)! Minorities will have a place and a voice in America whether identified by ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, or ability/disability. Health care reform is underway. Voters do care and will turn out to make their votes count. Polling, robocalls, and to an astonishing – and welcomed – degree, money cannot buy elections. Parties are confronted to address their principles, not their talking heads. The greatness of America as the land of opportunity and diversity is reclaimed by the voters!
As a child growing up in North Carolina, I never expected society to confront the evils of tobacco nor the injustice of segregation. Eventually the people prevailed more powerful than the lobbyist and the partisan politician . Today the Hispanic child, the gay child, are the child of illegal immigrant families are surely wondering if America will be a place that addresses their circumstances fairly and legally. It is with confidence – from our voices and our votes last week – that I am know the answer is ‘yes’. America is strong and will remain so when the people speak.

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Election Day is upon us!

Posted by lboyd544 on October 31, 2012

Yesterday I attended a fascinating Forum sponsored by and for members of Leadership Oklahoma. The guest presenter for the afternoon was journalist Bill Bishop, author of the best selling book the Big Sort. In his book, Mr. Bishop uses demographic data from across the country to show how Americans have been sorting ourselves into extremely homogeneous communities in the past 30 years. Most disconcerting, he demonstrates how dangerous to the basic tenets of our country and to democracy this sorting is. We ‘sort’ on the basis of education, income, and lifestyle. We choose who and what we will believe, and we have become so ideologically inbred and polarized that we don’t understand or communicate with others who may live only blocks away, much less with those who are of different ethnic, religious, political, educational, or experiential backgrounds.

While we may think of the ‘world at our fingertips’ due to the advances of technology and the easy access to the web, smart phones, and TV channels, our worlds individually have actually shrunk to a few like-minded neighbors or civic groups who think like we do, choose like we do, and live like we do. As a result, extremism in ideology and politics has grown; tolerance of differences has diminished.

The most scary result of this sorting, which we see on any day of the year, is our inability as a nation to act collectively to tackle and resolve urgent challenges: budget, spending, health care, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and so on. The data supports this premise from Mr. Bishop that politics is no longer about solving the nation’s problems; it is about showing ideological commitment to a political party.

There is a crucial election next week. Will you vote on ideology? Will you educate yourself on the candidates thoroughly from various objective references, not your ‘favorites’? Will you study state questions that might be on your ballot?

Or will you vote, as we seem to be doing way too much, on innuendo, prejudice, emotion, party….fear….anger?

America is the land of opportunity. At least it was once. Yet if we are now ‘sorted’ and intolerant, and I believe we are, we must cast our votes for President and all candidates from a lens of who will listen to various voices, who will keep in mind those who seem to have no voice (the children, the poor…), and who will work from the center and reach out to all sides for discussion and consideration?

Sadly, being a ‘moderate’, i.e. governing from the middle, is rarely successful any more in elections. Ideology gets the money and the votes.

We need courageous and informed voters to secure our country’s future and to return us to a country welcoming differences as richness, not imposition. Please ‘go carefully into this dark night’.

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Obama/Romney: Who will stand up for kids?

Posted by lboyd544 on September 27, 2012

Next Wednesday, we are all awaiting the first of the Presidential debates. There is much for the candidates to discuss. Will vulnerable children and families get any notice on the national stage?

There has been little mention of this demographic thus far in any election speeches and dialogues. That is worrisome to child advocates, especially as we look at the federal budget and discussions of reducing Medicaid (vs. expanding Medicaid in the health care act). What about one of the most vulnerable populations: foster youth?  Has anyone heard any mention of the 400,000 foster youth nationally in state care?

According to Voices for America’s Children, children are mentioned only about 2% of the time in public campaigns and debates. Yet 22% of America’s children live in poverty. Surely “kids’ issues” warrant more than 2% of the discussion by the candidates.

Let’s go a step further. A new poll commissioned by the First Focus Campaign for Children shows that, among likely voters who have heard or seen the presidential candidates talk about children’s issues at all, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) feel the presidential campaigns should increase their focus on children’s issues. The survey also found that 82 percent will consider a candidate’s position on federal budget issues affecting children (and 40 percent to a significant degree), when casting their November ballots.

You can help. Email the moderators of the debates and ask them to pose a question to the candidates directly. Here is the issue. Here is a recommended question. Send it on to the moderators. Do it now.

Issue: Nearly 5.9 million children nationwide are reported abused and neglected each year.
Question: What are your plans to keep children safe, strengthen their families ‘ability to care for them, and best serve those children in the foster care system?

First Presidential Debate – October 3, Denver, University of Colorado
Jim Lehrer, moderator, domestic issues
 
First Vice Presidential Debate – October 11, Danville, Kentucky, Centre College
Martha Raddatz, moderator, all issues
 
Second Presidential Debate – October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, Long Island
Candy Crowley, moderator, town hall format

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Important Re-post: Everyone’s future is on-the-table.

Posted by lboyd544 on September 6, 2011

Three essentials for the deficit panel’s proposal

By James E. Clyburn, Published: September 5

Since I was named to the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “supercommittee”) charged with getting our nation’s financial house in order, the reactions I have received from South Carolinians and others have been encouraging and remarkably enthusiastic. So much so that I have, on occasion, found it necessary to reflect on having grown up in a parsonage as a minister’s son, and cautioned that my 11 colleagues and I are not the “chosen 12.”

I am entering the committee’s negotiations with a clear vision, an open mind and a willingness to find common ground. I have always said that if the distance between my opponents and me is five steps, I don’t mind taking three. Real deficit reduction, however, must have three components: jobs, cuts and revenue.

Jobs: During the August recess I held a town hall meeting on the campus of Voorhees College, in Bamberg County, S.C. Bamberg has an unemployment rate of 17.5 percent. The neighboring counties of Barnwell, Orangeburg and Allendale have, respectively, unemployment rates of 17 percent, 17.7 percent and 19.8 percent. People didn’t want to hear about cuts or revenue; they wanted to hear about jobs. We cannot get the economy back on track until we put people back to work. Job creation will generate tax revenue and reduce the need for government assistance.

Cuts: Targeting waste, fraud and abuse; eliminating unnecessary and duplicative spending; and ending military adventurism need not be accompanied by slashing essential services such as education and shredding our social safety nets — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Just last week, the Commis sion on Wartime Contracting identified at least $31 billion, and possibly $60 billion, in waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. This spring the Government Accountability Office identified 34 areas where federal agencies or offices offer overlapping and duplicative programs.Streamlining could save billions.

Revenue: While I think our current tax code is unfair and in need of massive overhaul, the supercommittee does not have the time or resources to sufficiently reform the tax code. But we do have time to reduce inequities, close loopholes, and eliminate outdated and unnecessary tax subsidies. The evidence is clear and convincing. There is a growing wealth gap in this country that is squeezing the middle class and pushing millions into poverty. We need to work together to address these urgent priorities.

This leads me back to my youthful days in the parsonage. I am the oldest of three boys. One day my brothers and I were having a disagreement that turned physical. Our minister father, who loved to teach through parables, called us over when he thought our altercation had gone on long enough. He gave a piece of cord string to my youngest brother, Charles, and asked him to break it. Charles couldn’t. He then gave it to my brother John and asked him to pop it. John couldn’t. Finally he gave it to me and told me to break the string. I couldn’t. Our father placed that piece of cord string between his palms and started rubbing his hands together. The more he rubbed, the more friction he created, and the cord string started to unravel — into three pieces. He gave one to each of us and told us to break them. This time when we tried, we succeeded. Then, dad gave us the lesson: “Don’t you let the little disagreements that crop up among you create so much friction that it separates you, because if you do, the world will pop you apart and you may never realize why.”

We, as a supercommittee, cannot let our differences cause too much disagreement. Debt and deficit reduction should be wrapped into a strong cord of job creation, budget cuts and revenue raisers. Pursuing them separately will weaken our efforts and could doom our mission.

The writer, a U.S. representative from South Carolina, is assistant Democratic leader in the House.

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