Child Welfare in the 21st Century

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Archive for the ‘Human Services’ Category

As the sun rises….

Posted by lboyd544 on December 18, 2014

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

As we move to this most special time of year, we ‘close out’ chapters (Congress, fiscal year for many agencies, college semester for our kids and gran-kids, IRA contributions, charitable giving for 2014…) and we ‘open’ to the newness of 2015.  For each of us, we are one year wiser. We had successes and joys, ups and downs, smooth and rough days in 2014. 2015 will bring its own rhythm of emotions and opportunities.

So, I want to acknowledge the ‘how’ of what we do in child welfare and foster care. The ‘why’ is a longer answer, debatable day-to-day on many days.

“How” is not mysterious. Yet it is crucial.

The “how” is HOPE. We hope for a safer, healthier future for ourselves, our families and those we seek to aid. We hope for good days, new experiences,… a miracle even. We hope that the leaders of our world, our country, our state, and local governments and schools will have courage and wisdom and creativity as much as they have opportunity to make positive differences for those they serve.

What fuels us….what we allows us to greet a New Year…is HOPE. It is this hope that distinguishes the ‘rich’ from the ‘poor’.

May HOPE abound in you and yours. Thank you for your gift of HOPE in our work together…to me personally, to our causes and efforts everywhere.

See you in 2015!

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Posted in Child Welfare, Foster Care, Human Services | Leave a Comment »

Let reasonable minds prevail — on all matters.

Posted by lboyd544 on January 18, 2013

With all of the angst…and anger…expressed over the past months of confronting the federal budget and fiscal cliff, there is one program that escaped further harm about which we need to know and continue to protect. That program is SNAP.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as ‘food stamps’, is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program.

It may seem an unlikely comparison, but just as gun owners are clamoring today that we see who they really are and distinguish responsible owners from illegal and dangerous holders of weapons, so our society needs to see the reality of who those users of food stamps are. In Oklahoma, SNAP supports 16% of the state population (figures from September, 2012, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities). Sixteen percent translates to 1 in 6 Oklahomans, fulfilling its stated purpose of providing basic nutrition to low-income citizens. In Oklahoma, almost 75% of SNAP recipients are families with children.  Slightly less than 26% of those families also include an elderly or a disabled family member. Fully 44% of those receiving SNAP benefits are working families! These are wage earners who buy groceries where businesses hire workers who also pay taxes and spend money in communities. 

Yes, we may have seen an individual in the grocery buying soda, or some other frowned upon product, with food stamps. Just as we do know that some irresponsible gun owners exist — to return to that awkward analogy. (However, it fits for Oklahoma!) Yet SNAP has one of the most rigorous payment error measurement systems of any public benefit program and its error rates are at an all time low even during the recent recession. (Since we do not track gun ownership in this country, there is no comparison rate to suggest.)

Surely, politicians will continue their outrage in ensuring months over ‘entitlements’, public welfare programs, attacks on gun ownership, expanding Medicaid, etc. Let us seek the

Posted in Child Welfare, Human Services, Research and Reports | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted in Child Welfare, Events, Human Services | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Expanding Medicaid for Parents Helps Children

Posted by lboyd544 on September 15, 2012

Expanding Medicaid to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for working (full-time or part-time) and for unemployed parents is good for kids!
 
  • 1- Expansion has the potential to cut the rate of uninsured kids by 40%.  Most of that reduction comes from covering their parents and enrolling eligible kids at the same time.
  • 2- Children are more likely to receive preventive care and other health care services that they need to be healthy and stay healthy if their parents also receive health care.
  • 3- Parents’ health can affect children’s health and well-being, such as their ability to get to school ready to learn.
Regardless of party, age, geography, ethnicity and any other demographic, we all believe that America’s kids should be able to enter school – and stay in school – healthy and ready to learn. The future leadership of our country depends on a healthy populace for business and finance success, for human services and education, for transportation and manufacturing, for law and politics, and for all sectors of our economy and our society.
Expanding Medicaid is good business and good community sense!

Posted in Child Welfare, Data and Statistics, Human Services | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Good Business (and Community) Sense – part 2

Posted by lboyd544 on September 10, 2012

Last week I talked about the new money for Oklahoma (and most states) through expansion of Medicaid to 113% Federal Poverty Level.  This week let’s ‘drill down’ on that.

  1. The Medicaid Expansion will help free up state and local spending that now goes to uncompensated care. State and local governments help offset the cost of care that is provided to uninsured patients who cannot afford to pay—paying an estimated 30% of the cost of uncompensated care. In Oklahoma, uncompensated care would be reduced from $886M annually to $277M, a drop of $609M or 69%. (figures from OHCA)
  2. The Medicaid Expansion will reduce state spending on mental health services for lower-income, uninsured patients. This includes spending on state mental hospitals, hospital emergency rooms and community health clinics. This spending has been growing over time, with state and local governments covering 42% of the cost of state mental health expenditures by 2009. Full Medicaid Expansion is estimated to save between $11 and $22 billion in funds states will otherwise spend on mental health programs from 2014-2019.
  3. The Medicaid Expansion will enable states to continue using health care provider assessments as part of their state matching funds. Although federal Medicaid funding to states is open-ended (i.e. a state entitlement), it is limited by a states’ ability to raise its matching share. Oklahoma has taken advantage of federal provisions that place assessments on hospitals and other health care providers that are then used to match (and draw down additional) federal dollars. In fact, this effort was led by the Oklahoma Hospital Association. Without the Medicaid Expansion, hospitals and other providers may be unwilling or unable to pay these assessments, resulting in the loss of federal funds and a negative impact state revenues.
  4. (One of my biggest concerns as a taxpayer!)The Medicaid Expansion will keep residents’ federal taxes flowing into our State. Almost every state resident pays federal taxes, and federal dollars will fund the Medicaid Expansion. Taxpayers residing in states that do not implement the Expansion will be paying out dollars to states that do expand, states like CA, CT, CO, DC, MN, MO, NJ, WA, which have already obtained approval for Medicaid Expansions.

Please talk to your legislators about this cost savings measure. This is more than ‘politics’ or Obamacare. This is about real money, real savings, ….real people!

More next week….

Posted in Data and Statistics, Human Services | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The ACA is upheld in its entirety. Huge win for children!

Posted by lboyd544 on June 28, 2012

Given that the law is now upheld there are major wins for children!
No change to Pre-existing Coverage Exclusions for Children – Insurance companies can not deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, giving their families protection if their children need extensive care.

No Reduction in Coverage Through the Children’s Health Insurance Program –  Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that was extended through September 30, 2015 to provide states with additional funding ensures children have access to this successful program.

Continuation of Pediatric Benefit Package that Includes Oral and Vision Coverage for All Children – The law requires coverage of not only basic pediatric services under all new health plans, but also oral and vision needs, starting in 2014. Many health plans do not provide coverage for needed child health services, and 12 percent of children have not had a doctor’s visit in the past year.

· Continuation of the Effort to Improve Quality of Care for Children – The law develops children’s quality priorities and promotes children’s quality measurement and reporting to improve care. A recent study found that children receive recommended care less than half of the time.

· Coverage to Families without Employer-Based Care – The law provides health insurance choices through state-based health insurance Exchanges to families without job-based coverage and provides tax credits to those who can’t afford it. Expanding insurance to all children will enable them to access needed care, which is proven to enhance their development and learning, laying the foundation for a healthy life. Children who are uninsured have decreased access to well-child care, immunizations, basic dental services, and prescription medication.

· No Lifetime Caps on Coverage – The law ends all lifetime limits on how much insurance companies cover if beneficiaries get sick, and bans insurance companies from coverage when they get sick. The Act also restricts the use of annual limits in all new plans, and existing employer plans this year, until 2014 when all annual limits for these plans are prohibited. Two-thirds of middle class families with access to employer-based coverage said their child remained uninsured because they could not afford the health plan.

·  Extension of Coverage up to the Age of 26 – The law allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26. Millions of young adults continue to have coverage as a result of this law.

Posted in Child Welfare, Human Services, News and politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Novel idea!? ….duh and ‘shame on us’?

Posted by lboyd544 on June 24, 2012

Last week while in Washington, DC, I attended a briefing on Capitol Hill recognizing June as Reunification Month. You see, we have Adoption Month (April), Foster Care Month, (May), and now Reunification Month.

Why? You may wonder…as did I at first. However, I am now a vocal proponent!
Indeed, when children are adopted, we celebrate. Families, nuclear and extend, cheer and gather to celebrate and announce this new family! As they should! Judges close the courthouse to other business of litigation and ‘consternation’ to protect the excitement and success of an adoption process. As an adoptive mother, I have always been a vocal proponent.

But what about those families whose children were taken from them for some action (or inaction) on the part of the parents, and for some recognition of lack of safety for the child to remain in their home.

It is at least as difficult a path to be able to reunify a family, perhaps more so, than to adopt. Consider that parent who is now gainfully employed and providing for their family as best they can, or the parent who has ceased substance abuse and is working a daily program. What about the parent who left a situation of domestic violence and is learning to make healthy, independent decisions for self and children. What about the parent with mental health issues who is faithful to their treatment program no matter how difficult the day-to-day may be.

Our courts and our public child welfare systems see more reunifications in a year than they do adoptions. And just imagine the work involved for those parents who do earn the right to have their children returned.
Surely, we should be celebrating these victories! In our courts, in our offices, in our homes, in our communities. I will be suggesting to our judges that they can (and should) close court proceedings to celebrate these ‘renewed’ families in the same way they celebrate adoptions. I will be encouraging foster care agencies – public and private – to create opportunities to gather families and celebrated these successes.

These ARE successes! Hard won, most times! They deserve our applause also…not our judgement. Let’s get involved!

Posted in Child Welfare, Foster Care, Human Services | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Families Matter! (and) Family matters?

Posted by lboyd544 on June 15, 2012

It is estimated that approximately 400,000 children and youth are in foster care placements in the US. However, there is an equally important statistic that is unfortunately overlooked too often.
There are more children in TANF kinship care settings then there are children in foster care! 450,000 are estimated to be in kinship foster care placements, according to testimony on Thursday, May 17, before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Ways and Means Committee. These are foster youth also, albeit youth living with ‘kin’ vs. non-kinship foster placements, as we typically think of foster care.
We must be cautious, however. Recent data do not show significantly better outcomes for youth in kinship foster placements when it comes to measures of mental health needs and access to services. Yet earlier data suggested that children do better in the long-term when placed with kin. And of great concern should be additional recent reports that services from the public child welfare field do not provide the same levels of support, frequency of visits, or access to services for kinship placements as is available to regular foster placements. The mythology is that “Grandma will handle it”. We know that Grandma MAY handle it a bit longer without support than a ‘stranger’ foster family might. But Grandma (and any relative ) faces the same challenges from children entering her home, her own age and need requirements, finances, etc., that other foster families face. She, too, needs support and services!

It would be inappropriate and non-productive to simply blame the public child welfare system. Almost all states experience high case loads and over-worked public child welfare staff. The research data is changing. Fewer children are in foster care in many states, but those same states often show increases in kinship foster care placements. Adoption numbers are increasing; however services to these same youths and families post-adoption are scant and pose families for future pain and potential disruption as children and relationships evolve in a new family structure.

As always, these youth, whether foster youth or kinship placements, and their families (foster families, kinship families, adoptive families) are the families of OUR communities. As communities, it is incumbent on us to look around, extend a hand, offer support, encourage leaders and policy makers, ….and offer a smile, a cup of coffee, or an hour of respite to these heroes trying to make a difference in a vulnerable child’s life.

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I am angry….and scared.

Posted by lboyd544 on September 22, 2011

Many of you read the new poverty statistics released last week both nationally and for each state.
“A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the organization that studies the state of children throughout the world, found that the child poverty rate has jumped 18 percent from 2000 to 2009. Other reports now show that 49 percent of the nation’s children are growing up in families who qualify for help from the Women, Infants and Children program.”

In Oklahoma alone, 60% of the babies born in 2010 were born on Medicaid! Almost 20% of the state population has NO insurance. 1 in 3 children grow up in homes of parents under age 30 who are below the federal level of poverty.

And we worry about education, obesity, taxes (68% of Oklahomans want taxes lowered by the Legislature in 2012 even if it means FEWER government services)! If you have read my prior blogs, you know I have been focusing on some of these issues as well.

Clearly, I, too, have missed the boat!  How can we worry about obesity when all families can afford is mac-and-cheese. Even those of us supporting church and community food pantries are personally limited to high carb and high calorie donations.  I’ve worried about the quality of education offered our children or families that don’t get their kids to school and help with homework. What about the child who simply can’t learn because hunger and worry about his/her family’s hunger keeps him occupied mentally and emotionally elsewhere!

The national “talk” is about how the next generation could be strapped with huge national debt, and unable to sustain this country as they take on a growing aged population with their own smaller census of workers.

Talk about off-the-mark! How dare we skip the reality of today to focus so exclusively (even with justification) about tomorrow. These youth may not LIVE to inherit the earth: debt-laden or debt-free. These children cannot develop their bodies for the future when robbed of nutrients and health care today. These future workers will not become the engineers or the highway workers who maintain our infrastructure, so necessary to a vibrant economy, if their minds have not been nurtured with the opportunity and ability to achieve at least a basic education.

Yes, I’m scared…..and angry. Now is the time to refocus attention, discussion, and action. Please join me.

Posted in Child Welfare, Data and Statistics, Human Services, News and politics | Leave a Comment »

People: Our most valuable resource?

Posted by lboyd544 on September 9, 2011

AARP released a new survey yesterday: 2011 State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers. Sadly, Oklahoma ranks 48th overall. Most alarming is that Oklahoma ranks 49th in Quality of Life and Quality of Care and 51st (DC is included) in Support to Family Caregivers.

As those reading my blog know, my life’s focus has been on children and families. I am not an expert on aging and disabilities….other than the daily knowledge I am gaining through passing my 60th birthday!

Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Hawaii all rank highest. What have those states done that Oklahoma hasn’t? Why, once again, are 7 of the lowest ranking states located in the southeast of the US?

The report accompanying the scorecard is nicely detailed about possible answers to the above and is offered as a benchmark and set of recommendations for states.

As Oklahoma tackles our design of health care reform and the creation of  a state health care exchange, this report is timely. All citizens, young and old, need a government that weaves individual choice and control (obviously with age-appropriate limitations for the young) with a framework of community well-being in which public structures support access and affordability to needed services for quality living.  That certainly sounds like populist Oklahoma to me.

Let’s hope our legislators working on these issues read the AARP report. Let’s hope our citizens notice the needs of their neighbors just a bit more. Let’s act in some way – big or small – to make a difference.

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-09-2011/ltss-scorecard.html

Posted in Data and Statistics, Human Services, Research and Reports | Leave a Comment »