News on Human Services Programs, Legislation & the People We Serve – September 16, 2016
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Editorial: Landmark foster care bill requires some work | Los Angeles Times | September 10, 2016
Counties form the front lines of child protection in California, but it is Congress that provides much of the funding and the rules for spending it, so legislation shaped in Washington has an outsize impact on children and families here — for good or for ill. As it begins its final weeks in session, the 114th Congress is taking up a bill known as the Family First Prevention Services Act that, if passed, would help keep children with their parents, or with extended families when their parents become temporarily unable to care for them. It would take an important step away from an outmoded and largely discredited funding model in which federal reimbursements for foster care gave states and counties a perverse incentive to remove as many children as possible from their homes despite mounting evidence that they do better in school — and in life — when kept with family… It is tempting to hold firm to the admonition to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and to urge lawmakers to pass this bill. But as correct as the philosophy behind the proposed legislation is, its flaws are glaring and would undermine progress that California and a handful of other states already have made toward better care for abused and neglected children. If the choice is between passing or rejecting the bill as is, it would be better if it were rejected. But that need not be the choice. Although time is short, there remains enough of it to make thoughtful adjustments and to adopt a properly amended version.
Poverty & Inequality
While U.S. household incomes rose and poverty levels dropped, U.S. census figures released Tuesday show that many Americans — particularly those in high-cost housing states like California — continue to struggle. The income gains, the largest since the U.S. Census Bureau began recording such figures in 1967, signaled a key turning point in the American economy as it continues to recover from the punishing recession of nearly a decade ago. Health insurance rates also improved across the country, particularly in California, the census data show. But the figures also show the improvements aren’t shared equally. “When you factor in our high housing costs, what you find is California has the highest poverty level in the nation,” said Alissa Anderson, senior policy analyst with the California Budget and Policy Center in Sacramento.
Californians Worry About Poverty, Income Inequality, Poll Finds | KQED | September 12, 2016
A majority of Californians believe poverty is a serious problem, but they disagree over what to do about it. That’s according to a survey conducted for our California Counts public radio collaboration. The CALSPEAKS survey asked hundreds of voters and some nonvoters across California how they feel about a range of economic issues, from home ownership and job security to wage disparity and upward mobility. “More feel scared than say that they feel hopeful,” said Sacramento State University political scientist David Barker, who directed the CALSPEAKS survey. The poll asked Californians to weigh in on a laundry list of issues relating to the November election.
Here’s how one program helps get people off food stamps | McClatchy News Service | September 13, 2016
An award-winning Fresno program led by former business executive Pete Weber could help other communities improve employment and training opportunities for the nation’s neediest, lawmakers suggested Tuesday. With a combination of high praise and pragmatically detailed questions, House Nutrition Subcommittee members made clear their interest in Weber’s Fresno Bridge Academy. More of the same might be planted in the next congressional farm bill… The 6-year-old Fresno Bridge Academy enrolls recipients of CalFresh assistance, which formerly was known as food stamps. Through nine Fresno County locations, the academy puts the volunteer participants through a comprehensive 18-month program aimed at getting them off public assistance. This year, more than 1,500 families have been enrolled, and the program is expanding to San Joaquin, Madera and Napa counties… Using funds authorized by the 2014 farm bill, the Agriculture Department last year selected the Fresno Bridge Academy as one of 10 nationwide grant recipients.
Dignity Health Trains Providers to Recognize Trafficking Victims | California Health Report | September 6, 2016
In 1992, when Holly Austin Gibbs was 14-years-old, she met a man at a New Jersey shopping mall who convinced her to run away from home. He told her she was pretty enough to be a model, and promised to help her find a glamorous job in Los Angeles. It only took two weeks of compliments and coercion before Gibbs agreed to leave with the man. Sadly, rather than finding fame, the self-described shy and insecure teen was quickly forced into prostitution in Atlantic City, New Jersey… Gibbs felt strongly about helping other victims of trafficking. At first, she began sharing her story and educating first responders. In 2014, she wrote a book about child sex trafficking in America. A year later she joined the Dignity Health Foundation, based in San Francisco, as their patient care services program director. In her new role, Gibbs educates health care providers and implements protocols for Dignity Health staff to identify and effectively respond to victims of human trafficking….The new Dignity Health Human Trafficking Victims Program hopes to change this by educating all health care professionals at their 39 hospitals, about what human trafficking is, how to identify its victims, and how to handle suspected trafficking cases.
Social Work’s Gender Problem | Governing | September 15, 2016
Protests across the nation have forced us to confront toxic relations between police departments and the citizens they are sworn to serve. With many troubled urban communities being primarily black and their police departments being overwhelmingly white, “we/they” thinking hampers cooperation, heightens police officers’ fear and defensiveness, worsens the risk of police over-reaction, and leaves many citizens feeling abused and mistreated. We are beginning to see the importance of diversity and inclusiveness as an antidote. We are coming to understand that we need more black police officers, especially in police work with black citizens. With that in mind, this seems an opportune time to take notice of a similar and intricately connected problem that needs to be put on the stove at least to simmer. It may be even tougher to digest than the problem between citizens and police. But the lack of gender diversity among America’s social workers is an issue of profound importance for our communities that gets little attention. State and local departments of social services are like police departments in important ways. Both enforce policies and regulations that can have lasting and deeply emotional impact on the people they deal with. Both have discretion and must use good judgment in handling the cases they face. Both are vulnerable to having their actions and decisions swayed by stereotypes and bias. And both have a diversity problem. Social work’s diversity problem may be even worse than law enforcement’s. While minorities make up more than 27 percent of police departments nationwide, men make up barely 16 percent of the ranks of social workers, according to federal data.
Studies Discredit State Policies That Punish Poor People for Saving Money | Governing | September 13, 2016
Last year, Maine Gov. Paul LePage took action to stop people who he believes were getting government assistance before they really needed it. Under a new rule, childless adults in Maine can no longer get food stamps if they have at least $5,000 in their bank accounts or own certain assets, such as a second car. ”Most Mainers would agree that before someone receives taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings,” LePage said in a written statement. “Welfare is a last resort, not a way of life.” LePage isn’t alone in this belief. Last year, Maine and Louisiana joined a group of 14 states that already imposed a so-called asset test for food stamp users. Such limits are even more common in another federal program administered by states — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). All but eight states restrict TANF participation based on a person’s assets. Proponents of strict asset limits argue that they save states money by reducing not just the number of people on welfare but the length of time they’re on it. But three recent studies call those arguments into question. Research from the Urban Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts and SAGE Open, an online peer-reviewed academic journal, suggests that eliminating or relaxing asset limits neither increases welfare rolls nor the time people spend on them. In fact, it could help states lower their administrative costs.