CFK Weekly: December 5, 2007

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Bringing you the
most up-to-date and relevant news, research and policy developments affecting children,
youth and families.

December 5,
2007
 

In This Issue
New
on Connectforkids.org
Foster
Care News and Resources
Kids
& Politics: What to Watch in Congress
Education
News
Health
and Well-Being
Immigrant
Families
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Editor's
Note
This week, child and youth organizations are watching
to see how many items Congress will manage to cross
off its To Do List before the scheduled adjournment
on December 14. Will Congress extend the State Children's
Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to keep states from
having to refuse eligible children? Will they reach
a compromise with President Bush on domestic spending?

One thing Members of Congress can congratulate themselves
on -- after five years of struggle, the Head Start reauthorization
bill is done and ready for President Bush to sign into
law!

Also this week: the U.S. ranks low on a new international
comparison of science and math understanding among 15-year-olds.
A separate global comparison found there are no gains
(but no losses, either) among fourth-graders' reading
comprehension skills.

Check out the health news, foster care resources and
what's being done to reach immigrant families and
children.

Keep up the good work, everyone!
Caitlin Johnson
weekly@connectforkids.org

New
on Connectforkids.org

"In
the first place, why on earth is the city government involved
with foster care?"

December 5 -- In keeping with our promise to track the
responses the New York Times had to its "A History
of Neglect" series on foster care in New York (see
below), CFK and our partner ChildAdvocacy360 have selected
a core question from the fourth and final week of responses.

Next week, our Voices & Views feature will include
an interview with Betsy Krebs of The Youth Advocacy Forum,
on the "aging out" of foster care issues raised
by the New York Times
series.

Foster
Care News and Resources

CWLA logoCWLA
Calls for a White House Conference on Child Welfare in
2010

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is calling
for the next president to host a conference on child abuse
and neglect, with the aim of establishing national goals
for improvement in the subsequent 10 years. In addition,
CWLA is circulating a sign-on letter and individual letters
to presidential candidates.

Who
Controls Foster Care Programs and Purse Strings?

Who pays for foster care services? States cover roughly
half of foster care costs, the rest comes from the U.S.
government -- in the form of numerous funding streams
under many jurisdictions. The Journalism Center for Children
and Families at the University of Maryland offers an in-depth
chart identifying the federal spending programs and the
entities that oversee them.

foster careFoster
Youth Career Development and Employment Summit (January
8-9, Sacramento, CA)

California's first Foster Youth Career Development
and Employment Summit will bring together representatives
from all systems that touch the lives of foster youth
to examine solutions and innovative work at the national,
state and local levels. The focus is on programs that
demonstrate specific outcomes in areas such as career
development for foster youth, connection to education
and workforce programs, and transition support. Register
online by December 14.
For more information, contact
Lisa Elliott at lelliott@newwaystowork.org.

politicsKids
& Politics: What to Watch in Congress

Congress, newly back from its Thanksgiving recess, has
quite a few items on the agenda before it adjourns on
December 14. Here are just a few that youth-serving organizations
are watching.

A
Shift in the SCHIP Showdown?

"Just because you can't fix it, doesn't mean
you should break it more," might be the new motto
of some child advocacy organizations. Several groups are
calling on Congress to temporarily halt efforts to strengthen
the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
and instead try to pass a short-term extension that fully
funds the program so that states won't have to make
cutbacks. Right now, SCHIP has been extended through December
14 at last year's funding level, which falls short
of what states need to cover eligible children currently
enrolled -- $6.6 billion short of avoiding a 2008 shortfall
in states, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The Kaiser Network has the details.

See also:

  • First Focus has an action
    alert
    to weigh in on this issue with elected officials.
  • Getting a little lost in all the debate? The Kaiser
    Foundation has a new
    brief
    that outlines the differences between the
    latest SCHIP bill and the version President Bush vetoed.

Head
Start Reauthorization Ready for President's Approval

After nearly five years of debate to reauthorize Head
Start -- the comprehensive early childhood program that
has served more than 24 million children since 1965 --
Zero to Three reports that President Bush is expected
to sign into law the Head Start for School Readiness Act
(HR 1429). The bill strengthens quality, accountability,
and workforce training and boosts funds for Early Head
Start for infants and toddlers.

See also:

Also
on Capitol Hill: A Round-Up from NWLC

The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) has a great
round-up of current Congressional battles and victories
affecting children and families:

  • The President vetoed a key
    appropriations bill
    that increased funding for
    Head Start, child care, after-school programs, the
    Title X family planning program, low-income energy
    assistance and other vital services for families.

You can track more bills, get the latest news and sign
up for legislative alerts on NWLC's Action
Center homepage
.

second harvestConcerns
for Key Nutrition Programs

As
Congress works to reach a compromise on the
domestic spending bill, Second Harvest and other
groups are
concerned that nearly 500,000 low-income
mothers and children could be cut from the Special Supplemental
Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
At the same time, lack of movement on the Farm Bill
has left food banks feeling the pinch.

Education
News

NCESU.S.
Lags in Science and Math

The results of the 2006 Program for International Student
Assessment (PISA) are in -- and the U.S. did not stand
out. In science understanding, American 15-year-olds scored
an average of 489 on a scale of 1 to 1000: the international
average among industrialized nations is 500. Far from
the top 10, the U.S. ranked 17th out of 30. In math, American
students scored 24 points below the international average.

Education Week
has a great article, U.S.
Students Fall Short in Math and Science
, that summarizes
the results in context.

U.S.
Fourth-Graders Hold Steady on International Reading Test

A separate report from the National Center for Education
Statistics shows that, on average, U.S. fourth-graders
scored higher on reading comprehension than 22 of the
44 other countries and educational systems that participated
in the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy
Study (PIRLS). The U.S. scored lower than 10 and about
the same as 12 other countries or educational jurisdictions.
That's statistically the same as our 2001 average
score, despite hopes for gains.

Heads
Up: Release of 2007 Brown Center Report on American Education
(December 11, Washington, D.C.)

The Brookings Institution Brown Center on Education Policy
will release its Report on American Education. The 2007
report will examine how well American students are learning
in math and reading, the enrollment patterns in private
and public schools, and whether more time spent learning
math increases achievement. RSVP online.

Health
and Well-Being

UNL panelWhere
Do We Go From Here? Children's Mental Health Services
in School and Community Settings (December 7, Lincoln
Nebraska)

Two million of America's youth experience significant
social, emotional and/or behavioral needs that cause difficulties
in their ability to learn and function in schools and
other environments. This panel at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, will discuss evidence-based interventions and
"what we know (and don't know) about how schools
are addressing students' mental health needs."
Limited seating; please RSVP to hsexton1@unl.edu.

Drops
in Smoking Rates Stall; Rise Among Teens

After 40 years of decline, smoking rates have stabilized
over the past three years and are even rising slightly
among high school students, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Read the National Academies
summary and then click to purchase the report, or skim
sections online for free.

Early
Childhood Vaccination Rates Have Stalled

Preschoolers' vaccination rates have stalled since
2004, according to a Child Trends analysis of recently
released data from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. The proportion of children ages 19 to 35 months
receiving the "combination series vaccine" increased
from 69 percent to 83 percent between 1994 and 2004, but
remained at 82 percent in 2005 and 2006.

Immigrant
Families

NLCReaching
and Serving Immigrant Families AudioConference (December
13)

Free AudioConference, 12:30
p.m. Eastern.
This National League of Cities'
YEF Institute call will highlight cities that are responding
to demographic change by building more inclusive communities.
Elected officials and senior municipal staff will discuss
their work to connect immigrant residents and local government;
forge partnerships to improve public safety; and support
access to child care, educational opportunities, mainstream
financial institutions and other services.
Register by December 11.

Impact of Immigration Raids
on America's Children: Sign-On Letter

The recent National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the
Urban Institute report, Paying
the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's
Children
, found
that for every two immigrants who are arrested in immigration
raids, one child is left behind who is under the age of
ten and usually a U.S. citizen. Despite the best efforts
of schools, community organizations and churches, the
data show that these children experience profound psychological
distress and disruptions in their schooling.

NCLR has a sign-on letter calling for Congressional hearings
to consider this impact. This letter will be sent to House
and Senate leadership and the following committees'
chairs: Education and Labor, HELP, Judiciary. For more
information or if your organization is interested, contact
Amy Goldwasser at agoldwasser@nclr.org.
Deadline to sign on: Thursday,
December 6.

 


Caitlin Johnson and Thaddeus Ferber
Connect for Kids and the Forum for Youth Investment