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PPC Releases In-Depth Formal Kinship Care Report

Last week PPC released an in-depth report focused on the important role formal kinship care has in our state’s child welfare system to keep families connected when children must be removed from their homes.

Kinship Care in Pennsylvania: Creating an Equitable System for Families provides several examples of kinship issues within the system, analysis of other state systems, as well as PPC’s policy recommendations to improve Pennsylvania’s kinship system. Kin voices are elevated throughout, lending true-life experiences to the policy analysis.

It was an honor to collaborate with these dedicated advocates across the child welfare spectrum on the drafting and release of the report:

  • Kathleen Creamer, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Services
  • Heidi Redlich Epstein, Director of Kinship Policy and State Projects, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law
  • Lucy Johnston-Walsh, Clinical Professor, Director of Children’s Advocacy Clinic, Penn State Dickinson Law
  • Karissa Phelps, Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow, Temple Legal Aid Office
  • Jennifer Pokempner, Senior Attorney, Juvenile Law Center

Together, we have outlined policies and practices that, if implemented, can make Pennsylvania a national leader in formal kinship care. Those recommendations are based on guidance from kin who have been involved with the system.

Family connections that help children and youth thrive, provide identity and security, and tie them to culture and traditions are necessary for the heathy development of every child. We will update you on our work to create a fairer system for families with improved, family-centered policies and practices.

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Passage of Federal Stimulus Package from U.S. House on the Brink

Weeks after the inauguration of President Biden, Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has indicated it will fast-track legislation containing the administration’s priority pieces around economic stimulus and pandemic recovery. At this point it appears the legislation – costing $1.9 trillion in total - is poised to move out of the chamber by the end of this week. Several provisions of interest to PPC are Included in the package:

  • $150 million in stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting;
  • $40 billion in funding for child care;
  • $130 billion into K-12 schools;
  • $880 million in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
  • Extends the 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit through September, which currently expires at the end of June; and
  • $350 billion into state and local aid.

How much these elements or amounts might change is unknown in the Senate, with its 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. However, in Pennsylvania, Republican majority leaders in the state House and Senate will be closely watching how much federal aid is received from Washington as they look to use those funds as a means to approach our own FY 2021-22 state budget.

Regarding timing, many observers believe the goal is to wrap the stimulus package up by March 14th before the next unemployment insurance supplement expires.


NEW! Childhood Begins at Home Shows Benefits of Evidence-Based Home Visiting

As a founding partner of the statewide home visiting coalition Childhood Begins at Home, we are pleased to share this new video we helped produce that shows the many benefits of voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services for the children, families, and expecting mothers they serve.

In this brief video you can see for yourself the amazing work of the six state-funded evidence-based home visiting models operating in Pennsylvania, and how they deliver services to meet the unique needs of families. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, home visitors have been a tremendous source of support for families facing isolation, stress, unemployment and lack of resources, and PPC is committed to ensuring policymakers support the programs at the federal and state level.

We will be working with policymakers to realize a pragmatic investment in the 2021-22 state budget to provide more pregnant women, children and families with needed evidence-based home visiting services. While the governor’s proposed FY 2021-22 state budget level-funds home visiting services, we will be advocating for a reasonable increase to expand these much-needed supports.

Federally, this week the campaign sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation in the US House of Representatives asking for a vote in support of the current stimulus package, which is expected to receive a full vote in that chamber perhaps this week. In exciting news, current language of the bill contains $150 million in stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting. To date, home visiting has not received federal stimulus support.


National WIC Association Releases Inaugural State of WIC Report

The National WIC Association released its inaugural The State of WIC report, which takes an in-depth look at the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and makes policy recommendations for strengthening the program and reversing declining participation. The report also provides national and state profiles with various data points regarding the WIC program – the most recent data shows there were more than 232,000 WIC participants in Pennsylvania, more than half of whom are children. Forty percent of infants born in the commonwealth participated in WIC in 2017, however, during that same year, less than half of all eligible individuals participated in the program. 

Pennsylvania has seen steady declines in participants in recent years, and Pennsylvania’s Prenatal-to-Age-Three collaborative is working closely with advocates, WIC providers and the Department of Health’s WIC Bureau to modernize the program and increase participation.

In addition to the release of the report, the collaborative sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives – similar to what was done for home visiting – advocating for inclusion of stimulus funding for WIC in the package coming up for a vote imminently in that chamber. Specifically, the letter calls for support of the $880 million in funding included in the legislation, with $390 million of that allocated for modernization initiatives and $490 million to increase the allotment provided for the fruit and vegetable benefit package – ensuring participants are offered more nutritious options.


Celebrating Career and Technical Education

February is National Career and Technical Education Month, and PPC is proud to recognize and celebrate the educators and programs that support students in becoming career or post-secondary ready. Career and technical education (CTE) programs provide students with pre-apprenticeships, on-the-job skills, and higher education credits all before graduating high school. CTE also is a critical piece of the school-to-workforce pipeline that supports our economic development, and the return on investment is immeasurable.

It is disappointing that the economic contributions of CTE was not in the Governor’s proposed budget, given the ever increasing need to strengthen and rebuild the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers should prioritize increased funding for career and technical education in the final 2021-22 state budget by making a $10 million investment, with $3 million allocated through the formula-driven Career and Technical Education Equipment Grant line, and $7 million appropriated through the Career and Technical Education subsidy.

Additionally, the legislature recently enacted SB 109, which allocated $20 million in GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief) funding for career and technical centers in the state.


In Case You Missed It...

  • This week the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to states on assessments for the 2020-21 school year, offering a menu of options in administering them in lieu of providing waivers. The Pennsylvania Department of Education quickly followed-up by publishing an online draft communication to the federal government indicating its intention to delay the 2020-21 school year assessments until September 2021. The department indicated its intent to file the communication by February 26th. PPC will keep you posted as this issue continues to develop.

  • Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families found that Child Medicaid Enrollment Grew by 10% during the pandemic in 2020. This includes Pennsylvania data showing a 9.6% increase of children enrolled in Medicaid between February 2020 and December 2020.
  • In response to the lack of inclusion of teachers and school employees in the states vaccination plan, Pennsylvania State Education Association and several other education association groups responded with a letter to the Department of Education and Department of Health to emphasize the need for prioritization. 
  • A recent Health Affairs blog, Biden Justice Department Formally Changes Positions in California v. Texas, notes a global challenge to the Affordable Care Act. While unlikely to have an impact on the forthcoming decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department’s new position is that the individual mandate, even with a $0 penalty, remains constitutional.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
200 North Third Street 13th Floor | Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101
(717) 236-5680 | info@papartnerships.org

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