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New federal budget package has big wins for kids

By Bryan Boroughs, Vice President, Institute for Child Success

Over the last several days, Congress completed some important work for America’s young children.  That news was overshadowed in major news outlets by the controversies around the spending bill, DACA, and a government shutdown.  But as part of that broader bill, Congressional leadership included five components that are aimed at seriously improving outcomes for kids.

Photo credit: Paul David via Flickr Creative Commons license.

Those include:

Renewing MIECHV for 5 years: MIECHV -the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting – is a non-partisan program that improves health, welfare, and early learning outcomes for young children across the country. The federal support for the program lapsed in September, and programs have been in limbo since then. While many had contracts that allowed them to continue for a few months beyond September, all were faced with winding down operations in a few short months, barring Congressional reauthorization.  Last night’s legislative action was especially exciting for this community.

Renewing CHIP for 10 years: CHIP – the Children’s Health Program – provides access to basic medical care for lower-income children across the country, and is one of the most widely supported health programs in Congress.  A few weeks ago, they were able to renew this program for 6 years, and last night extended that to 10 years.

Passing the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA): As most of our followers know, we work a lot with Pay for Success – a tool that can help some communities finance the expansion of services that improve outcomes for kids.  SIPPRA allows the federal government to engage in these projects in more meaningful ways, including as a potential outcomes payor.  This is a bill we’ve been working on since its inception  in 2014 (back then, it was called “SIPA”), and we are very thankful to all of the partners who have been working on it with us since then.

Passing the Family First Act: Family First provides a broad restructuring of how the federal government supports states’ responses to child abuse and child neglect (often called “child welfare” among advocates and lawmakers), with a particular focus on driving resources to evidence-based practices.  This particular bill was first negotiated in 2016, with broad – but not universal – support from providers, advocates, and Congressional members.  One area of controversy is that it alters how group homes, or congregate care facilities, receive support.  Given those concerns, we recognize that the details of implementation could determine whether or not this provision is viewed as a net positive in the years to come, and we look forward to working with local authorities on those issues.

Renewing support for Community Health Centers for 2 years: Community Health Centers provide a continuum of services to the families they serve; and one in ten children receive care at a CHC.  Federal support for these centers has been critically important, and the 2-year renewal provides some relief to mounting anxiety that the support would not be renewed.

 

Several of our readers have teamed up with us since at least 2014 on many of these provisions.  We’re all experiencing a bit of a jolt from having so many of them reach this point in a single wave.  Our work is not done – from implementation to continued legislative work to maintain this momentum, we have much to do still – but today is a very good day for kids across the country.  Congress, its leadership, and its staff all have our deep thanks for their work on these initiatives.

UPDATE (3/29/18): Doubling support for CCDBG: CCDBG stands for the Child Care and Development Block Grants, which provide support to states to help them increase access to high quality early care and education centers across the country. The program especially helps lower income and foster-care children access a quality start to early learning, but it is woefully under-resourced. In South Carolina, for example, CCDBG can only afford to support about 10-15% of eligible children. While this almost made it into the agreement on February 9, it did get enacted a month later as part of the budget compromise on March 22. This provision nearly doubles the resources (an increase of $2.37 Billion per year) for two years, providing a significant boost to these important services

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