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

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 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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Rep. Watson Receives ‘Be Someone for Kids’ Award

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children today honored Rep. Katharine Watson (R-Bucks) with our annual “Be Someone for Kids” award in recognition of her work to improve public policies that benefit the commonwealth’s children.

As chair of the House Children and Youth Committee, Watson played a critical role in recent years in helping to enact numerous laws to better protect kids from abuse and neglect.

PPC worked closely with Rep. Watson over the past several legislative sessions on comprehensive changes to the state’s Child Protective Services Law. Her efforts helped lead to the enactment of two dozen pieces of legislation aimed at better protecting children, including measures that broaden the threshold of what defines child abuse and make comprehensive changes to the list of individuals mandated to report child abuse and obtain clearances for employment or volunteer duties.

Rep. Watson also sponsored legislation (Act 94 of 2015) that limits the use of one of the least desirable options for finding a permanent home for a foster youth. The option, known as Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA), is often used by the courts when better options - such as family reunification, adoption, kinship care or legal guardianship - have been ruled out. APPLA, however, is a permanency goal that often results in long-term foster care instead of a permanent home.

PPC launched the “Be Someone for Kids” award in 2015 as a way to honor those who have made extraordinary efforts to help Pennsylvania’s nearly 2.8 million children. This year’s award was given to Rep. Watson by Benso during a ceremony at the state Capitol attended by several of her legislative colleagues, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and children’s advocates.

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The Case for Pre-k in PA

Across Pennsylvania, there are more than 175,000 3- and 4-year-olds who are at risk of educational failure, yet 70 percent of these at-risk young learners – more than 120,000 children statewide – had no access to publicly funded pre-k last year.

This lack of access is especially troubling given high-quality pre-k can have the greatest benefits for at-risk children in terms of preparing them for academic success.

The good news is we know how to fix this problem. As part of our work with the statewide Pre-K for PA campaign, we just released a new report – “The Case for Pre-k in PA” – that outlines a multi-year investment strategy Pennsylvania can implement to provide high-quality pre-k to most at-risk children, as well as some middle-income children.

Our report finds that if Pennsylvania were to increase state funding for high-quality pre-k gradually over this fiscal year and the following three years, we could make high-quality pre-k available to more than 40 percent of the commonwealth’s 3- and 4-year-olds, compared to fewer than 20 percent who benefited in 2013.

We released the report in a statewide tour – including stops in Erie, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre and York - with the help of United Way officials, philanthropic leaders and other pre-k advocates from around the commonwealth, who joined us in calling on Pennsylvania to increase its commitment to making high-quality pre-k more accessible.

How accessible is high-quality pre-k in your county? In addition to our new report, we’ve put together this local data to help you find out.

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A Big Win for Kids’ Health

Cross this one off Harrisburg’s to-do list: Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been renewed for two more years.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation that reauthorizes CHIP through Dec. 31, 2017. The program, which provides health care coverage to more than 150,000 children, was set to expire at the end of 2015. But in a show of strong bipartisan support that has been a hallmark of CHIP since it began in the 1990s, the state House and Senate unanimously voted to keep CHIP going.

This good news get even better. The CHIP reauthorization measure the governor signed also requires the commonwealth to use “express lane eligibility” to streamline enrollment in CHIP and Medicaid.

In simple terms, express lane eligibility means using existing databases - such as children enrolled in state-subsidized child care or in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - to determine a family’s eligibility for CHIP or Medicaid and letting that family know their child can be insured. This can be an important tool for reaching the more than 139,000 Pennsylvania children who still lack health insurance. PPC has advocated for such streamlined enrollment and we’re pleased to see it become a reality.

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It’s #GivingTuesday. Be Someone for Kids!

Today is #GivingTuesday, a great day to be someone who makes a difference for kids by supporting Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children!

At PPC, we’re committed to developing long-lasting policy solutions in early learning, k-12 education, children’s health care and child welfare. Here are just some of the ways our work is making a difference:

  • Learning opportunities: We worked to make pre-k and other early learning investments a key topic in last year’s race for governor and this year’s budget negotiations. In Washington, reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant means continuation of Pennsylvania’s largest single source of support for early learning. And PPC helps lead the statewide, nonpartisan Campaign for Fair Education Funding so we can erase Pennsylvania’s shameful mark as one of the worst state’s for school funding fairness and promote a funding formula unanimously recommended by a bipartisan state commission.

  • Children’s health: PPC keeps working to maintain strong bipartisan support for children’s health care coverage, even in tight fiscal times, so we can reach the 139,000 Pennsylvania children who still need and deserve coverage.

  • Child welfare: PPC helped achieve enactment of more than 20 new Pennsylvania child protection laws in the last legislative session, including laws to improve reporting of suspected abuse and hold abusers to the same legal standards no matter where abuse occurs.

These are important achievements for kids, but make no mistake: There is much more to be done. Sadly, Pennsylvania slipped from 16th in the nation for child well-being to 17th in the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Our goal is getting Pennsylvania into the top 10 states to be a child and raise a child. It takes work, and frankly, it takes money.

PPC doesn’t seek or receive any government funding. Instead, our efforts are funded through the generous support of people like you who agree that someone needs to speak up for children and families.

This #GivingTuesday, will you please join us and  who makes a difference by making an online donation to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children?

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Two Things That Work

We know from years of research that high-quality pre-k works. It helps prepare kids for kindergarten, reduces the need for costly special education and remedial learning programs, and puts kids on a solid track to years of academic success.

You know what else works? Your voice in growing Pennsylvania’s pre-k investments.

Over the past several weeks, supporters of the nonpartisan Pre-K for PA campaign (to which we proudly belong) have been calling and emailing the governor and legislative leaders to help ensure the overdue state budget, once it’s finalized, will have significant new investments in high-quality pre-k.

Unfortunately, a final budget deal is not likely to come together until December, and pre-k providers have gone without state support since summer. The result is many providers are struggling to keep their doors open and, sadly, some have been forced to close because of the budget impasse.

The coming days will be crucial to the Pre-K for PA campaign’s efforts. Help us amplify the call for pre-k by joining the campaign. Or if you’ve already joined, recruit a few friends and family over the holiday weekend.

We’re thankful for your support!

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