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Focusing on a variety of education, health and youth development issues of importance to children and families in Pennsylvania.

Good News on Efforts to Fix Pennsylvania's School Funding

We wanted to share some great news with you. Today, the state House of Representatives approved legislation (House Bill 1552) that adopts the funding formula recommended last year by Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding Commission. Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children supports this formula and is pleased to see it head to the governor’s desk.

“For too long, Pennsylvania has needed a predictable, sustainable way to fund its public schools, and today’s vote is a historic step toward that goal,” said PPC President and CEO Joan Benso. “Of course, any formula - no matter how comprehensive - is only as effective as the money that goes into it. Looking ahead, we now need a state budget for fiscal 2016-17 that puts adequate funding behind a formula and helps drive out that funding in a way that helps ensure every child has the resources to succeed in the classroom.

“We are hopeful the governor and state lawmakers can now work together to continue to make significant annual investments in our schools over multiple years to close the adequacy gap that leaves too many children without the resources they need to learn,” Benso added.

“We look forward to continuing to work with policymakers and other interested parties to build on today’s action and help create an adequate and equitable system of funding Pennsylvania’s public schools for years to come.”

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Family-based Foster Care: A Smarter Financial Choice

Every child deserves to grow up in a home where they are a part of a loving and nurturing family. In the unfortunate instance where a child is removed from the home due to abuse or neglect and placed in the foster care system, there are two primary options for placement: a family-based setting or a group home or institution, often referred to as “congregate care.”

Research shows family-based care is a better option for children placed in foster care, as well as less costly for the child welfare system. Congregate care placements cost child welfare systems seven to ten times more than family-based placements and those costs can be even higher when children require additional behavioral health services. Congregate care placement costs place a further strain on a child welfare system already facing budgetary challenges.

To learn more about why family-based care is a better choice for our children and the commonwealth, check out our latest report, Congregate Foster Care in PA.

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PA Pediatricians Call for Stronger Pre-k Investments

A group of pediatricians from across Pennsylvania visited the Capitol this week calling for stronger investments in high-quality pre-k. Their visit coincided with the release of a new report from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PA AAP) that details the role high-quality pre-k can have in a child's healthy development.

These medical professionals know the years before a child enters kindergarten are a critical window for healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. They also know too many of Pennsylvania's at-risk children - young learners who could benefit from the supportive, nurturing environment of a quality pre-k classroom - miss out on pre-k because we aren't investing enough in it.

Dr. Susan Kressly, president of the PA AAP, notes adverse social or economic conditions can be detrimental to a child's healthy development and lead to "toxic stress" - the type of extreme, frequent and persistent stress that can actually alter a child's brain development. One way to mitigate the impact of toxic stress is to provide young children with caring relationships and stable, supportive environments. "Those are exactly the kinds of positive relationships and environments found in Pennsylvania's high-quality pre-k programs," Dr. Kressly says.

That's why the PA AAP supports Pre-K for PA's request for a $90 million increase in high-quality pre-k funding for fiscal 2016-17. It's a common-sense investment that can help more young learners be healthier and better prepared for success in school and beyond.

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The Advantages of Family-Based Foster Care

At Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, we believe every child deserves to grow up in a home where he or she feels safe and part of a loving, nurturing family. In the unfortunate instance where a child is removed from a home due to abuse or neglect and placed in the foster care system, there are two primary options for placement: a family-based setting or a group home or institution, often referred to as "congregate care."

Our latest report – Congregate Foster Care in PA – details why family-based care is a better choice than congregate care for the child and the commonwealth.

The report explains how children and youth living in family-based foster care settings tend to have better short-term and long-term outcomes. And from a financial standpoint, congregate care placement is seven to 10 times more expensive than family-based placements - an additional cost that can place further strain on child welfare systems already facing budgetary struggles.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania has made solid progress in recent years to shift away from congregate care and towards family-based placements. The report offers recommendations on how Pennsylvania can continue this positive movement.

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Eliminating APPLA in PA

Pennsylvania has made laudable progress to strengthen permanency efforts for foster children and youth in recent years, but more needs to be done to eliminate the least desirable court-ordered goal available - known as Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement, or APPLA.

Too often, APPLA translates into long-term foster care instead of a permanent home for children and youth in foster care. Other options - like placement with relatives, family reunification, legal guardianship or adoption - typically result in better outcomes for foster youth.

The good news is there are targeted practices and policies Pennsylvania can implement to deter, and ultimately eliminate, the use of APPLA. We take a look at some of these options in our latest report, Eliminating APPLA for All Children.

If we work together, Pennsylvania can ensure every child in foster care eventually finds a permanent home. Our children and youth in foster care deserve nothing less.

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More Evidence CHIP Works for Kids, Families

A recent national report to Congress confirms what families who benefit from Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program already know: CHIP is a cost-effective way to keep kids healthy.

The report analyzed out-of-pocket spending for children with coverage through the health care marketplace compared to those covered by CHIP. It found CHIP requires less out-of-pocket spending, on average, than marketplace coverage in every one of the 36 states analyzed, including Pennsylvania. While CHIP limits out-of-pocket expenses to be no more than 5 percent of family income, marketplace coverage provides no such protection.

While the Affordable Care Act is working to make health care coverage more affordable and accessible, the findings underscore that CHIP remains a good deal for kids and families. It also means that if CHIP is not funded by the federal government beyond Sept. 30, 2017, families benefitting from CHIP now could end up paying higher out-of-pocket expenses if they have to buy coverage though the health insurance marketplace.

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A Simple Act That Could Save a Child

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so we’re asking you to take a few seconds to do one simple thing …

Put this number into your phone contacts: 1-800-932-0313.

It’s a toll-free number for ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and reports can be made anonymously.

Once the ChildLine number is in your phone directory, pass the number along to friends, family and colleagues who might not have it in their phones. Remind them that anyone can (and should) report suspected child abuse or neglect.

If you are among Pennsylvania’s mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect, remember that you can either call ChildLine or make a report online.

It’s our collective responsibility to help keep all children safe from harm.

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A Proactive Approach to Child Safety

A federal commission that spent the past two years reviewing issues related to child abuse and neglect fatalities is calling for a “public health approach to child safety” that puts a stronger emphasis on prevention.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) issued a report on March 17 that makes a series of recommendations, including:

  • Calling on states to undertake a five-year retrospective review of child abuse and neglect fatalities to identify family and systemic circumstances that led to fatalities.
  • Having states review their policies on screening reports of abuse and neglect to ensure children most at risk for fatality - those under age 3 - receive the appropriate response and their families are prioritized for services.
  • Holding programs such as Medicaid and home visiting accountable for ensuring their services are focused on reducing abuse and neglect fatalities.
  • Enactment of federal legislation that sets a minimum standard designating which professionals should be mandatory reporters of abuse or neglect.

Dr. David Sanders, the executive vice president of Casey Family Programs and the chair of the commission, said the current network of child abuse services and supports “does not adequately ensure safety for children because much of it is reactionary after a death has occurred.”

“Over the long term,” he said, “we need to dramatically redesign our approach to ensure children and families in crisis receive the supports and interventions they need to address the complex issues impacting families and prevent harm before it occurs. Based on what we learned as a commission, I am convinced that we have the knowledge to reduce the number of children who will die today, tomorrow and in the future.”

The full report is available on the commission’s website.

As we head into April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we hope Pennsylvania officials will use the commission’s report to consider ways the commonwealth can improve its child welfare system and further strengthen our proactive approach to ending child abuse and neglect.

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A Budget Season Update from PPC

With another budget season underway at the state Capitol, we wanted to fill you in on how Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is busy building the case for stronger investments in the commonwealth’s 2.8 million kids.

As legislative hearings on the state budget continue, we’ll be in the halls of the Capitol making sure the interests of Pennsylvania’s children are being represented – and we’ll ask you to lend your voice to the cause.

We hope you’ll join us in speaking up for kids. Stay tuned …

OTHER NEWS

Is Pre-k Available Where You Live?

As part of our work with Pre-K for PA campaign, PPC has put together county-level fact sheets detailing the lack of pre-k availability across the commonwealth and highlighting the many benefits of high-quality pre-k. Learn more …

State of Child Welfare

One of our goals at PPC is to strengthen the child welfare system to improve conditions for children and youth in foster care and help create healthier family relationships. A critical part of that work is compiling our annual “State of Child Welfare” data, which we’ve recently updated. Learn more …

Mark Your Calendar for Fair Funding

The Campaign for Fair Education Funding will host a press conference at the Capitol on March 8 to coincide with budget hearings related to Pennsylvania’s education spending. You can join in on social media if you can't be there in person. Learn more …

Helping Kids by Reducing ‘Churn’

Many Pennsylvania children and families rely on public benefits programs like Medicaid or SNAP, yet these benefits are sometimes needlessly lost due to the “churn” that can occur when recipients lose benefits because of procedural issues - despite still being eligible for the benefits - and have to reapply. There are simple, cost-saving steps Pennsylvania can take to streamline public benefits programs and reduce “churn.” Learn more …

 

 

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Check out our latest ‘State of Child Welfare’ data

One of our goals at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children is to strengthen the child welfare system to improve conditions for the children and youth in foster care and help create healthier family relationships. A critical part of that work is compiling our annual “State of Child Welfare” data, which helps gauge the performance of Pennsylvania's child welfare system in meeting the needs of the children and families the system serves.

Each year, we gather comprehensive data for each of the 67 counties, including information on foster care placements, children leaving or re-entering foster care, and efforts to reunify children with parents or relatives.

Just this month, we released the 2016 State of Child Welfare data. Among the notable findings:

Reports of Child Abuse
Overall reports of suspected child abuse have increased 18.9 percent since 2010. While this increase can at first seem alarming, the passage of over two dozen child protection laws between 2013 through 2015 has increased public awareness and responsibilities of mandated reporters of child abuse.

Congregate Care
The proportion of Pennsylvania foster children remaining in a congregate care setting has decreased from 20 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015. This downward trend is important for foster children because research shows that children living in family care settings have better educational outcomes and are more likely to exit foster care into a permanent family setting.

APPLA 16-20
About 1 in 5 youth age 16-20 had a permanency goal of Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) in 2015. APPLA is generally recognized as the least desirable permanency goal for foster youth and should only be considered if other options such as reunification, adoption or legal guardianship have been ruled out. During 2015, 76 percent of children leaving foster care with a goal of APPLA exited to non-permanent arrangements.

Looking ahead, PPC will be using some of this data to help shape public policy regarding the use of congregate care and APPLA, with the goal of improving the foster care system to better serve children and families.

You can learn more and review comprehensive data for the commonwealth and each of its 67 counties by visiting PPC’s website.

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