Posts tagged as child poverty

State Budget “Starting Point” Leaves Kids With Catching Up to Do

Earlier this week, the Ways and Means committee co-chairs released a state budget proposal for 2017-2019. The accompanying statement declared the document a “starting point” from which the committee can begin their budget planning. If these proposed cuts become a reality, they will significantly harm the health, safety, and education of Oregon’s children.

The budget framework proposes deep cuts to programs that give kids a strong start in life. Funding for K-12 education and the Oregon Department of Human Services, both already under strain, would each be slashed by nearly $300 million below current service levels. Early learning programs, Farm-to-School funding, the Babies First! home visiting program, and in-home supports for abused children would be completely eliminated. Early learning HUBs, the Healthy Families and Preschool Promise programs, self-sufficiency supports for low-income families, and the Strengthening, Preserving and Reunifying Families program would receive less funding.

Reducing self-sufficiency supports and eliminating home visiting programs mean fewer struggling families would receive the help they need. Decreased funding for K-12 education risks larger class sizes and lower graduation rates for Oregon students. Cuts to supports for foster families would result in 487 children coming into foster care, staying longer periods of time, or returning to the attention of Child Welfare.

This is not the future we want for children and families in our state.

We all want every child in Oregon to thrive. The co-chairs’ budget is a “starting point,” and it’s up to us to make sure it is just that — a starting point for a deeper conversation about the revenue solutions needed to help Oregon kids reach their full potential. Contact your representatives and tell them that kids can’t afford to lose the programs currently on the chopping block. It’s time for increased investments in Oregon’s children and families, not cuts.

In Legislature’s Waning Days, a Final Push for Pro-Kid Bills

Several important – and truly historic – victories for Oregon’s kids have occurred during the 2015 Oregon legislative session when it comes to children’s education, economic stability, health, and safety. Most notably, lawmakers have approved paid sick days, expanded opportunity and independence for foster youth, increased access to free school lunches, and prevented domestic abusers from possessing firearms.

But our work on behalf of Oregon’s kids is not done.

There are still key areas where lawmakers can make a big difference in children’s lives yet this session–specifically, in their budget negotiations. Last week was the first public hearing for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) budget and this week lawmakers will discuss the early education budget.

Both budgets contain requests for additional funding for crucial children’s programs, yet there is immense budget pressure. Critical programs like Employment Related Day Care (ERDC), Home Visiting Programs, Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), and mixed delivery pre-school all seek increased investment for the next two years.

As we’ve highlighted previously, programs like Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) and Home Visiting are designed to help low-income families access affordable child care and to receive the evidence-based parental training that we know protects kids.

These programs are proven to reduce demands on future state budgets and increase each child’s opportunity to become healthier and more economically secure.  And as the 2015 Oregon Legislature hurtles towards a close, the need to improve the future for Oregon’s children continues.

Please tell your lawmaker that their work is not yet done and that you support additional investments in affordable day care, home visiting, TANF, and mixed-delivery pre-school for Oregon’s most vulnerable children.

Tax credits and tough choices

It’s a familiar scene for many families across Oregon: each month you sit down at the kitchen table to pay your bills. Then, you carefully analyze your family’s budget to determine how much money is coming in and how much is leaving. You decide where to put your hard-earned resources based on what your family needs most. When you go shopping, you consider each item carefully because in this economy, every purchase matters. Do you buy the extra items to the detriment of other things or do you make sure to leave enough for this month’s daycare bill?

The Oregon Legislature faces a similar choice in the coming weeks as it determines which tax credits to keep and which ones to dump.

Included in that choice is whether or not to keep reimbursing counties for the property tax breaks they give away – to one county in particular. In 2014 alone, the state of Oregon reimbursed Washington County to the tune of $37.8 million. That money came out of the state’s general fund, which is also used to fund services for kids, seniors, and people with developmental disabilities. The full program will cost the state of Oregon $95 million dollars over the next two years, unless lawmakers act.

At the same time, lawmakers are deciding whether or not to improve several family-friendly tax credits that impact thousands of Oregonians. Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer has proposed the renewal and expansion of two tax credits, which help families with costs like childcare. Her plan would combine the two credits into one new and improved tax credit that would allow low-income families to get back even more of the taxes they pay to the state and let them put that money toward the things their families need most.

There’s also another proposal to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program specifically for families with young children. Expanding EITC would mean hundreds of dollars more per year for struggling families.

With limited funds up for grabs, the legislature must choose where to spend the general fund dollars: on tax credits that help families pay for vital services like child care or for one county’s corporate tax breaks.  If this were your family, which would you choose?

Home visiting programs empower parents and invest in our future

As a parent, the experience of holding your child in your arms for the first time is difficult to put into words. The young life you cradle seems so fragile and yet, your bond so strong. So many thoughts and feelings swirl through your head and your heart, and perhaps even a moment of panic sets in as you think to yourself: I’m not ready for this.

Parenting doesn’t always come naturally and it certainly doesn’t come with an instruction manual. For some, parenting can be confusing and overwhelming. For others, they may lack the financial resources, family stability, or skills to build positive, nurturing relationships with their young children.

Those circumstances can sometime lead to the neglect and abuse of a child. Preventing abuse before it happens is critical. Some of the most important brain development happens in the first year of life, when abuse rates are at their highest. And Oregon’s abuse rate is only 2% lower than it was in 2003, despite a 25% reduction nationwide over the same period.

Home visiting programs can make a big difference. That’s why advocates are asking Oregon lawmakers to invest an additional $10 million in Healthy Families Oregon, Oregon’s statewide family support and coaching program. Currently only 15% of low-income children are served by the program. An additional investment would allow the home visiting professionals to train and support more parents and serve many more children.

“Voluntary home visiting programs such as Healthy Families Oregon reduce child abuse and neglect, prepare kids for school, and increase the positive connections between parent and young child,” says Martha Brooks, the Oregon State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and ReadyNation.

Home visiting programs support families with children from birth to age three by helping them access resources, set goals, and develop skills they need to raise children who are on track developmentally and emotionally. Families who participate are visited regularly by trained home visitors who bring tools and activities, track progress, provide support and practice skills with families.

“The programs help increase family self-sufficiency, lower health care costs and prevent child abuse and neglect. They also lead to reduction in crime and domestic violence,” says Marina Merrill, Senior Research and Policy Advisor at Children’s Institute. In fact, home visiting has been shown to save at least $2 in future spending for every $1 invested in the programs.

“Decades of research on home visiting programs show that these programs work,” adds Merrill. “The services focus on the critical first few years of a child’s life.”

That may not be an instruction manual for struggling parents, but it’s a pretty good start.

New report shows Oregon children face significant barriers to success, but solutions exist

Today, our friends at Children First for Oregon announced the release our 2015 Progress Report, an annual data-driven analysis on the well-being of kids in Oregon. You can view the full report here and you can explore the data here.

The report shows that Oregon’s children continue to face significant barriers to success. Despite slight improvements in some areas, progress for kids is largely stalled.

But Oregon has a long history of a pioneer spirit – both in people and public policies. We are trail blazers. And now is the time to be pioneers again. To unite on behalf of kids and make meaningful long-term change. That’s why the report includes concrete policy solutions currently under consideration, like a higher minimum wage, more early childhood education, and expansion of the home visiting program. 

These solutions come directly from policy experts at organizations and coalitions like The Urban League of Portland, Children’s Institute, Center for Intercultural Organizing, ReadyNation, Family Forward Oregon, and many more.

To make true progress we need to work together as advocates and Oregonians, hold lawmakers accountable, and build power for our kids. By highlighting the problem and uniting around these solutions with the urgency and determination shown by so many great pioneers before us, we can and we will make Oregon the best place to be a kid.

If you believe kids should a top public policy priority, join us today!