PPC Home | Blogging4Children | Operation Restart Blog | Porch Light Project Blog
Focusing on a variety of education, health and youth development issues of importance to children and families in Pennsylvania.

How Medicaid Benefits ‘Aged Out’ Foster Youth

Medicaid has been helping to keep kids and families healthy since it was created 50 years ago this week, and among those who benefit from Medicaid are young adults who have aged out of foster care.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states are required to ensure continued access to Medicaid and health care services for former foster care youth until age 26. In Pennsylvania, this provision currently provides Medicaid access to nearly 1,300 former foster youth.

Why does this matter? Because children in foster care often face significantly greater health issues than their peers – issues that can follow them into adulthood. Research has shown:

  • Many children are placed in foster care because of neglect, physical or emotional abuse, parental substance abuse or abandonment, issues that often trigger or exacerbate chronic physical, developmental and/or mental health disorders.
  • Nearly 60 percent of children in foster care have at least one chronic medical condition and 25 percent suffer from three or more.
  • An estimated 50 percent to 80 percent of children in foster care suffer from moderate to severe mental health problems, and children in foster care use mental health services at a rate 15 to 20 times higher than the general pediatric population.

Medicaid coverage also is critical considering young adults who have aged out of the foster care system are at higher risk for experiencing homelessness, lack of physical and behavioral health care, unemployment and other adverse situations.

If you know of a former foster youth in Pennsylvania who needs health care coverage, please share this information with them. And they can visit the COMPASS website to sign up for Medicaid coverage.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

A Child Welfare Budget Update

Pennsylvania’s elected officials are still trying to negotiate a state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a spending plan sent to him by the General Assembly in late June.

The vetoed spending plan would have made severe cuts to county child welfare funding, reducing county funding by nearly $132 million, or 12 percent, from last year. This week, a new budget bill (HB 1460) was introduced in the House that still includes this reduced amount. While this new bill is simply a budget “vehicle” that will undergo revisions as budget talks continue, it’s important for the governor and lawmakers to understand why this level of cut isn’t appropriate.

Pennsylvania enacted 23 new child protection laws in the past two years and one more was recently signed into law. These bills were much-needed improvements in our efforts to protect children from abuse and neglect, but they also will require additional resources at the county level to keep kids safe.

We already are seeing an increase in the number of child abuse reports in Pennsylvania, and this means larger county caseloads and the need for more resources, not fewer. Without sufficient funding, counties will be forced to prioritize their limited staff resources to fulfill their statutory responsibilities in child protection and may be restricted in their ability to provide families the services and supports they need to safely care for their children in their homes.

A spending cut is heading in the wrong direction. We’re hopeful this will be addressed in budget negotiations and we encourage you to share these concerns with your legislators.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

An Update on PA Budget Talks

Pennsylvania is starting a new fiscal year today without a spending plan, after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a budget bill sent to him yesterday by the General Assembly. While the governor and legislative leaders are back at the negotiating table, here’s a recap of where things stand on several issues that impact the commonwealth’s kids …

EARLY LEARNING

One area of agreement is the need to increase funding for high-quality pre-k, though the amount of the increase remains to be determined.

Gov. Wolf had proposed increasing funding for Pre-K Counts by $100 million and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) by $20 million – investments that would allow an additional 14,000 of Pennsylvania’s 3- and 4-year-olds to benefit from high-quality pre-k in the coming school year.

The budget approved by the General Assembly includes an additional $25 million for Pre-K Counts and another $5 million for HSSAP, which would increase access to an additional 3,500 children and marks a positive step forward.

An increase in pre-k funding is badly needed, given more than 200,000 of our 3- and 4-year-olds lack access to high-quality pre-k. The more we can invest now, the more children we can reach with this once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity that has been shown to save money in the long run.

K-12

This is another area where all sides agree more money is warranted, but they haven’t yet agreed on how much.

The budget lawmakers approved includes an additional $100 million for basic education funding, though the governor is seeking an increase of $410 million. And while lawmakers approved an increase of $20 million for special education, Gov. Wolf wants a $100 million increase.

There also appears to be growing support for the funding formula developed by the Basic Education Funding Commission – a formula that includes many of the critical elements necessary to ensure all students have a chance to succeed no matter where they live. That’s hopeful news for students and taxpayers.

CHILD WELFARE

The vetoed spending plan would have made severe cuts to county child welfare funding, reducing county funding by nearly $132 million from last year. This is a troubling development given the bipartisan efforts we’ve made in recent years to better protect children from abuse and neglect.

Pennsylvania enacted 23 new child protection laws in the past two years and one more bill (HB 1276) just passed the General Assembly with overwhelming support. We already are seeing an increase in the number of child abuse reports. This means larger county caseloads and the need for more resources, not fewer, so a spending cut is heading in the wrong direction. We’re hopeful this will be addressed in budget negotiations.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH

A bill (HB 857) reauthorizing Pennsylvania’s CHIP program for two more years (extending it through 2017) awaits a final Senate vote after the House unanimously approved it in April. Given the longstanding, bipartisan support for CHIP since it was launched more than 20 years ago, we expect this bill to be enacted without any issues. The deadline for passage is Dec. 31, 2015.

We’ll keep you updated in the days ahead on how budget talks are progressing and how you can help us speak up for Pennsylvania’s children.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

 

Tags:

Did You #MeetTheKids?

In case you missed it, the 23rd Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference was held this week in Lancaster. The three-day event drew hundreds of child welfare professionals, current and prospective foster or adoptive families, kinship care providers and others focused on child welfare and permanency.

The conference theme this year was “Meet the Kids” (and you can find more info and photos from the conference by looking up the hashtag #MeetTheKids on Twitter and other social media).

Among the takeaways from this year’s conference:

  • The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) has helped facilitate more than 38,000 adoptions since it began in 1992.
  • About 15,000 Pennsylvania children are in the foster care system on any given day.
  • There were 1,861 adoptions and 602 permanent legal custodianships in Pennsylvania last year alone.
  • More than 2,500 Pennsylvania children are currently waiting to be adopted.

To learn more about SWAN, visit www.adoptpakids.org or call 1-800-585-SWAN.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

Supreme Court Ruling Preserves Health Coverage for PA Children

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a ruling that gives the Affordable Care Act – and the health coverage it has provided to millions of Americans – a strong, definitive endorsement. In a 6-3 decision, the high court ruled that the ACA was designed to provide a tax credit to any American who qualifies, regardless of whether that tax credit is obtained through a state marketplace or the federal HealthCare.gov site that we use in Pennsylvania.

More than 380,000 Pennsylvanians who qualify for such a tax credit have coverage now and could have gone uninsured if the court ruled the other way. This decision is good news for many Pennsylvania children, since research shows that children who live in families where their parents are insured are more likely to be insured themselves. Today’s court ruling helps those families stay insured, which increases the likelihood of their kids being covered, too.

There are still about 147,000 Pennsylvania children without health insurance - representing about 1 in 20 of our kids - but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, we are close to reaching the finish line for quality care for all kids.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

Basic Education Funding Report Goes to Lawmakers

Efforts to create a better way to fund Pennsylvania’s public schools took a big step forward today.

Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding Commission unanimously approved a set of recommendations for equitably funding our public schools, including a proposal for a basic education funding formula that accounts for critical factors such as students living in poverty and each school district’s size and wealth. The recommendations now go to the General Assembly for action.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is pleased to see this important development, given Pennsylvania is among just three states that lacks a basic education funding formula. And federal data shows Pennsylvania’s state and local per-pupil spending in its poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than per-pupil spending in the wealthiest districts, by far the largest such spending gap in the country.

All of this adds up to inequities that are taking away opportunities for all of Pennsylvania’s children to receive a quality education. Pennsylvania needs a predictable, sustainable way to fund its public schools, and the commission’s report is a solid step toward achieving that goal.

Of course, a formula alone isn’t a definitive fix to our school funding problems. As PPC President and CEO Joan Benso noted: “Long-term solutions also require an ongoing, unwavering commitment by state leaders to ensure public schools are adequately funded so students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom. Adequate funding needs to happen every year, not just once in a while.”

And while the commission addressed some important funding elements in its recommendations, there are additional funding challenges - such as the existing racial disparities in how we fund schools - that require further attention.

To tackle these ongoing challenges, we joined with other organizations from across the commonwealth to form the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. If you believe our students and schools deserve adequate, equitable funding now and in the years to come, please join the effort.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

PA Head Start Alumnus: ‘I’m Living Proof’ Early Learning Pays Off

Want to know the difference high-quality early learning opportunities can make in a child’s life? Consider the story of Mark Durfee, who grew up facing what he calls “the challenges of poverty” in rural Crawford County, Pennsylvania:

“I grew up in a farming family … raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. My mother, who was one of the first to graduate high school in her own family, valued education and wanted to ensure I was given every opportunity to achieve a better life. As soon as she could, she enrolled me in the local (Conneaut Valley) Head Start program to ensure that I would be fully prepared to enter kindergarten ready to succeed.”

Mark recalls Head Start teachers who “got me excited about learning and gave me the important emotional support I needed as my family faced the challenges of poverty at home.” He benefitted from wellness screenings and much-needed interaction with other young learners that helped build his social and emotional skills, and he credits Head Start with building a strong foundation for his school readiness.

“I am living proof of the incredible difference quality teachers and early learning can make in a young life,” Mark says.

After graduating high school and serving in the U.S. Army, Mark went on to college and earned master’s degrees in business, education and history. Today, he teaches 8th grade U.S. History at South Belton Middle School in Belton, Texas, where more than 60 percent of students come from low-income families, many of whom benefitted from Head Start programs.

“I only truly realized the impact that Head Start had on the trajectory of my own life after I began my career,” Mark recalls. “From a lack of access to medical care, to limited exposure to literacy tools, many students are entering school with enormous barriers to success. I can see the difference in those students who were lucky enough to attend Head Start.”

There are many more children like Mark Durfee across Pennsylvania, and they all deserve the chance to create their own success story. We can help give them that chance by strengthening our investments in high-quality early learning programs.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

 

Tags:

Join Us for June 23 Rally for Education Funding

On Tuesday, June 23, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children will join with hundreds of parents, students, teachers and community leaders from across the commonwealth to rally for fair education funding at the state Capitol. We’d like you to be there, too.

Our message to state leaders is simple: Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be enacting a new system that provides sufficient funding for public schools so every child has an opportunity to learn. In addition, state funding MUST be driven out to districts using a formula based on the real costs of delivering services to students.

WHAT: The Campaign for Fair Education Funding Rally for Fair Funding

WHERE: State Capitol, Harrisburg

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23 (noon press conference in Rotunda)

WHY: We cannot afford to let our students fall behind

 

Please pass along this message to your family, friends and neighbors and ask them to join our efforts. If they want to know why they should care about fair funding for our schools, here are 10 reasons you can share.


LEARN MORE AND FOLLOW THE CAMPAIGN AT

www.fairfundingpa.org

Twitter

Facebook

 

Tags:

PA is Making Progress in ‘Kinship Care’

Some promising foster care statistics came out last week from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), which noted a marked rise in the use of “kinship care” in recent years.

Specifically, kinship care placements in the commonwealth’s foster care system rose 24 percent from 2012 to 2014. Of the more than 19,200 children under the court’s supervision last year, about 18 percent – or roughly 1 in 6 – were in kinship care, according to the AOPC.

Kinship care - a practice in which a child in foster care is placed with extended family members or close family friends - is generally better for a child’s well-being than other forms of foster care placement. When birth parents cannot care for a child, relatives can offer an existing relationship and connection that can make an eventual return home easier.

The use of kinship care has helped fuel an increase in the use of family-based settings in general, which are preferable to placing foster youth in group homes or institutions (placements typically referred to as “congregate care”). Our latest “State of Child Welfare” report noted congregate care has been declining in recent years, accounting for about 1 in 6 foster care placements now versus 1 in 4 in 2010. That’s a good sign.

To help further encourage the use of kinship care, the state courts have produced a video that explains how kinship care works and its benefits for children. We encourage you to watch it and share it to help spread the word about the benefits of kinship care.

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

Every Kid Needs a Family

There are more than 14,000 Pennsylvania children and youth living in foster care on any given day, and a national report issued today underscores the need for the commonwealth to do more to help these young people find safe, loving and permanent families.

The latest Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® policy report, Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, urges policymakers, child welfare agencies and the courts to work together in exhausting all means to find family-based settings for kids in foster care and remove barriers that would keep kin from being licensed and financially supported as foster parents.

The report is a much-needed reminder that kids placed in foster care do best in family-based environments, and it reinforces many of the findings in PPC’s annual State of Child Welfare reports:

  • Overreliance on group placements – or congregate care - hinders children’s well-being and unnecessarily drains taxpayer resources. Children and youth in group placements often lose their familiar routines from school, activities and their neighborhoods. Group placements also cost seven to 10 times the cost of placing a child with a relative or foster family.
  • Keeping kids connected to immediate or extended family whenever possible is best. When birth parents cannot care for a child, relatives can offer an existing relationship and connection that can make an eventual return home easier. So-called “kinship care” is better for a child’s well-being that group placements.
  • Foster families are the next best option for children when kin are not available. Children report overwhelmingly positive experiences with the foster parents who care for them, but foster parents must be supported with resources and services. Nationally, 40 percent of the families who leave foster parenting do so primarily because of inadequate agency support.

Every Kid Needs a Family recommends how communities can widen the array of services available to help parents and children under stress within their own homes, so that children have a better chance of reuniting with their birth families and retaining bonds important to their development. And it shows ways in which residential treatment – a vital option for the small percentage of young people who cannot safely live in any family during treatment – can help those young people return to families more quickly and prepare them to thrive there.

More information on PPC’s child welfare work can be found at our Porch Light Project website, porchlightproject.org.  

###   

Stay on top of the latest news affecting Pennsylvania's children by following us via social media:

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tags:

More Entries

Comments from readers of Blogging4Children do not necessarily represent the views of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.