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State Of Child Welfare Report Highlights Stresses Placed on Under-Resourced Child Welfare System 

Today we released our 13th annual State of Child Welfare report. This year's report provides a 5-year analysis of how Pennsylvania fares with practices around child safety, placement, and permanency and includes county-level data and statewide and geographic trends to improve the child welfare system.

The statewide report shows Pennsylvania's child welfare system is exhausted, unable to adequately respond to the needs of children, youth and families, or the racial disparities and disproportionality in the system. It includes child protective services (CPS) data—reports of abuse such as physical, sexual, and serious physical neglect, among others, and general protective services (GPS) data—reports with less-severe findings, often focused on indications of neglect and can include parental substance use disorders, truancy, and homelessness, among others.

In 2021, there were 38,013 CPS reports, an increase of over 5,000 from 2020. However, the substantiation of reports declined somewhat from the previous year. Cases of repeat child abuse and neglect also slightly increased in 2021, with the highest rate of reports in the last five years.

Children and youth are entering the foster care system for many non-abuse reasons, raising concerns about the appropriate use of placement, specifically for allegations under GPS. While GPS allegations can present a risk to a child's safety, with community-based support and intervention, a child can remain safely in their own homes without needing placement.

In 2021, there were 161,709 GPS referrals, marking an increase of over 9,000 reports from 2020. Additionally, the substantiation rate of GPS reports is the highest in five years, with 27.1% being valid.

Disparities occurring in entries to the child welfare system and foster care system include Black children were nearly 4.5x more likely to re-enter foster care and more than 4x more likely to remain in foster care than white children. Children of two or more races additionally experienced significant disparity compared to white children, including being 4x more likely to be in foster care and 3.5x more likely to have a first-time entry.

Read the State of Child Welfare report and press release for more information.


PPC Honors Rep. Cephas with Be Someone for Kids Award 

Last week we presented State Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) with our annual Be Someone for Kids award to recognize her work as a fierce advocate for women's health care and expanding early care and education opportunities for children.

At the event, Kari King, President and CEO of PPC, said Cephas is a champion of the Thriving PA campaign and its work to ensure Pennsylvania extended Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers from 60 days to 12 months.

Rep. Cephas added, "I am honored to accept the 2022 'Be Someone for Kids' award from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. I will remain focused and vigilant in my work addressing the maternal mortality rate in the commonwealth, an issue that disproportionally impacts women of color. Together with the advocacy community, we can create a safe and healthy environment for every Pennsylvanian."

We thank the following for their generous support of the policymaker event: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Customers Bank, Highmark Blue Shield, Independence Blue Cross, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, Amerihealth Caritas, and Penn State Health.


MIECHV Reauthorization Takes Important Step

Last week the U.S. House took a critical step in reauthorizing MIECHV. The Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize MIECHV, was passed unanimously on Wednesday. The bill includes many of the policy recommendations we have been advocating for, including:

  • Reauthorizing MIECHV for 5 years
  • Increasing base funding by $100 million starting in the fiscal year 2023
  • Phasing in additional federal matching funds beginning in the fiscal year 2024
  • Doubling the tribal set-aside
  • Dedicating funding for workforce support, retention, and case management
  • Allocating funding for research, evaluation, and administration as well as technical assistance
  • Continuing virtual home visiting options with model fidelity

Further activity occurred this week with the release of language providing for a Continuing Resolution, or CR, for the federal government for FFY 2023. This will fund the government in the short term and allow for further progress in the passage of MIECHV reauthorization while keeping the program operational in the interim.

MIECHV program authorization ends on Friday. Despite these advances, the program will likely lapse. Still, we are hopeful it will not last as long as the last program reauthorization of 2017-18, where programs and families faced uncertainty for nearly five months. PPC has been urging members of the Pennsylvania delegation to co-sponsor and support the passage of the legislation so more families can receive evidence-based home visiting services. We are pleased to note six delegation members are currently co-sponsors: Reps. Boyle, Evans, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Smucker and Wild.


September Legislative Session Days End Without Surprise

The state Capitol was quiet during the last legislative session days of the month, where the House was in session for six voting days, and the state Senate convened for five days. The House Children and Youth Committee held a voting meeting on multiple bills we have been following. SB 522 by Sen. Baker (R-Luzerne) would require all children under 2 and at-risk pregnant mothers to receive a blood lead test; the bill was amended and passed unanimously from the committee. PPC and the Lead-Free Promise Project support the bill. Also passed from the committee was HB 2400 by Rep. Mehaffie (R-Dauphin). This bill would allow teacher experience to be used instead of higher education for child care centers seeking to reach a higher Keystone STAR level, which PPC opposed along with multiple early care and education advocacy organizations in the Start Strong PA child care campaign and Pre-K for PA campaign. Two bills were passed unanimously by the committee: HB 2174 by Rep. Major (R-Armstrong), which addresses child abuse reporting, and HR 228 by Minority Chairwoman Delissio (D-Philadelphia), which requires the Joint State Government Commission to review all laws and regulations in the Human Services Code that have exacerbated trauma in children and families. The final action taken by the committee was to adopt a letter to the IRRC asking for a review of the 3,700 regulations that pertain to foster care families to update the code.

This month, a flurry of activity around HB 1155 by Rep. Jozwiak (R-Berks) also occurred. The bill would amend the definition of "child care center" in the Human Services Code to remove certain municipally operated recreation programs. Early learning advocates fear this change could implement alternative child care standards, especially for young children participating in municipal day camps. An informational hearing on the bill was held on September 12th, and the bill was voted from the Senate Aging and Youth Committee on September 21st.

Only two more session weeks remain before the mid-term elections on November 8th. PPC's top priority during the remaining days of session is final passage of HB 1866 by Rep. Boback (R-Luzerne). The bill would codify steps that county child welfare agencies must take to assist older youth in achieving permanency and a successful transition to adulthood.

Stay tuned for further legislative updates from PPC as the 2021-22 session winds down.


New American Community Survey Data Released  

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new set of estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) for the year 2021, providing new data for a variety of demographic and economic topics for the nation, states, and other areas with populations of 65,000 or more.

Here are a few indicators that caught our attention in the latest release:

  • Over 126,100 children or 4.4% under 19 years are uninsured
  • Over 445,500 or 16.9% of children under 18 live in families below the federal poverty level (100%)  

We are currently updating the KIDS COUNT Data Center with the 2021 data. Watch for an update in our October 11th newsletter!


In Case You Missed It...

  • OCDEL is currently collecting responses to its 2022 Market Rate Survey that allows licensed child care providers to submit information about their tuition rates and the cost of care to help inform future programming and policy decisions, including the Child Care Works rate setting. The deadline to apply is October 11th. Learn more about the survey, including how to submit and incentives for participation.
  • Children First and the Reinvestment Fund, with support from Start Strong PA, are conducting a survey to determine the wages of early childhood educators. Workforce shortages in the child care sector are at a crisis level, and Start Strong PA is looking for data to help better advocate for higher wages for workers. All information provided is confidential, and any data collected will only be reported in the aggregate. There is also a raffle for 20 survey participants to win a $50 Amazon gift card!
  • The Urban Institute recently released a report exploring the capacity of child care subsidy payment rates and practices to expand the supply of quality child care options. The report found that despite child care subsidies playing a key role in helping families afford care, the subsidy system only accounts for a small fraction of financing the overall child care market. In fact, subsidy payments covered less than half of all child care enrollments in Pennsylvania this year. This suggests that while child care subsidies are important, their ability to improve the overall child care market is likely limited. Therefore, policymakers must produce alternative strategies for resolving the current childcare crisis.
  • Community Legal Services outlines how the child abuse registry causes lifelong harm to families, especially those of color.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680

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