Granite State Rumblings – Putting Families First
From our friends at Talk Poverty is this article by Megan Martin and Shadi Hoshyar.
3 Safety Net Improvements That Could Help Keep Families Together
There is a common narrative about the families who are involved with child welfare systems—one that portrays parents as abusive and unfit (or unwilling) to care for their children. But reality is more nuanced than that. The truth is, nearly half of the families who have children removed from their homes cannot meet their basic needs and require additional supports in order to provide for their children.
This is especially true for the parents of young children. The birth of a child is one of the leading triggers of poverty in the United States, and since young children have unique costs—like diapers, formula, and child care—poor families often struggle to make ends meet.
Research continues to confirm what we already know: children do best when they are raised by their families and in their communities, as long as it is safe. The trauma children experience when they are removed from their parents unnecessarily can have significant and life-long effects, which can be particularly damaging for young children.
Current safety-net programs—including income support and child care and nutrition assistance—are essential for low income families, but if they were modified to be more family-centered, responsive, and flexible, we could prevent unnecessary system involvement and make it easier for families to care for their children safely at home.
Three key strategies could improve existing programs so that they better meet the needs of young children and families.
1. More flexible funding sources to support families facing multiple barriers
Most safety net funding is narrowly focused on providing a specific service, such as food, rent, or utility assistance. These programs are crucial, but the limited focus of each results in gaps across the safety net that can leave families vulnerable.
Nearly half of the families who have children removed from their homes cannot meet their basic needs.
For example, one of the most common reasons that families become involved with child welfare is because caregivers are often forced to leave children at home—without adequate supervision—so that they can go to work or appointments. If families had cash resources to provide for unexpected costs such as backup child care, parents of young children could juggle multiple demands and attend work, school, or appointments while still keeping their children safe.
Funding sources that provide benefits to families through tax programs and direct cash transfers help meet this need. That’s why the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, which lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty in 2013, are so crucial for millions of low- and moderate-income families. Child allowances, which provide cash benefits to families with young children, would provide even greater flexibility —and have the potential to significantly reduce poverty.
2. Coordinate between the programs that are designed for young children and families
For families who are navigating multiple benefit programs, overlapping, duplicative, or contradicting eligibility requirements can make it difficult to access the supports they need. For instance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirements are often not aligned with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). That can make it difficult for families who rely on TANF to participate in WIOA work or training opportunities, since they do not always “count” as work for TANF work participation rates.
In addition, data sharing across programs—along with other information technology enhancements—would help families get the most out of safety net programs. Many states now use document imaging systems to save and file household verifications, and provide call centers for clients to call in and report changes to their status or benefits needs. This can simplify the eligibility determination process and allow states to create a single process for determining eligibility across a number of programs.
Several states participating in the Work Support Strategies demonstration project have implemented these strategies to better integrate various procedures for major safety net programs including Medicaid, SNAP, and child care subsidies. These states are improving coordination on intake, verification, and periodic redetermination of eligibility to create a more cohesive and easy to navigate set of work supports.
3. Make services available in locations that are convenient for families
Providing services and supports in the places where families already spend time—such as child care centers, libraries, schools, and pediatricians’ offices—makes it more likely that families will receive the essential services that they need.
For example, Project DULCE provides parents of infants with support in addressing stress, building resiliency, and developing a nurturing relationship with their young child, while simultaneously linking families to legal and other community resources—all during the course of standard well-child visits. An evaluation of Project DULCE has shown that the intervention contributes to improvements in preventive health care delivery and accelerated access to concrete supports, such as nutrition or utility assistance, among low-income families.
Safety-net programs that are flexible enough to meet the needs of families, are well-coordinated, and offered in environments that are comfortable and convenient are critical to ensuring that children can thrive at home with their families.
Did You Know…
Families living in poverty have a significantly higher likelihood of experiencing crises. While the majority of poor families never come to the attention of the child welfare system, poverty is still the greatest threat to child well-being and the best predictor of abuse and neglect. Source: Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress.
What’s Happening in New Hampshire?
Friday, September 9th, 6:30pm-8:00pm – Colin Van Ostern House Party, 4 Sandy Circle, Pelham, NH 03076
Growing Up Granite
During the month of August Every Child Matters in NH had canvassers out in communities knocking on doors and talking to voters. The message our canvassers were delivering was how Granite State children are faring in the areas of:
- economic opportunity,
- access to affordable, quality early learning/childcare and after school programs,
- access to health insurance and,
- the need for all children to have a safe environment at home, in school and in their neighborhoods.
They also asked those who answered their doors if they were registered to vote at that address and whether or not they planned to vote in the upcoming state primary and November general election. Those who said they intended to vote were asked to sign a Pledge to Vote card. They will be sent a reminder to cast their ballot on September 13th and the pledge card will be mailed back to them prior to the November 8th election. Information about where and how to register to vote, their voting location, and ECM-NH materials were left at every address on the canvassers’ list.
I also knocked on doors and talked to potential voters. What I was not expecting to find was the number of people who told me that they did not intend to vote this year. Some of them were angry because they felt that their elected officials in Washington have let them down, some said they did not care for the candidates at the top of the ticket, and others said that they felt their vote didn’t matter anyway. The other thing that stood out was the number of people who did not realize that we have a State Primary next Tuesday, September 13th.
Because our canvassers were given a script for the door they could not respond to these comments. These voters were simply marked as “Not Voting.”
But you and I can respond. It is crucial to explain to our friends, relatives and others who say they are not voting that they should reconsider. Next week’s primary is important because it will determine who moves forward to the general election on November 8th.
The November 8th ballot will contain many more races than just the Presidential race.
We will also be voting for our members of Congress. Our United States Senators and Representatives write and vote on bills that can impact the amount of taxes we pay, the confirm executive appointments, and they can influence how much federal money for the programs vital to children, families, and seniors comes into New Hampshire, among other things.
The candidates further down the ballot are the ones who have the greatest immediate impact on New Hampshire residents – Governor, Executive Council, State Senator and State House. These are the candidates who affect us much more than we may realize. They determine how much funding our public schools get, control the administration of important programs like Medicaid expansion, and determine whether or not there will be an increase in the minimum wage, paid family leave, and influence the quality of life for all Granite Staters.
Whether you are angry, feeling let down, or not on board with some of the candidates, staying home instead of going to vote does not send much of a message to politicians. It says Apathy. And that is something we cannot afford this year.
New Hampshire Director
Every Child Matters Education Fund