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Bill aims to stem consequences of child poverty
August 29, 2011 - Mary Ann Heath
The Daily Press reported this winter that poverty among children has worsened dramatically in Michigan since 2000. Locally, the numbers are staggering. Around 17.1 percent of children in Delta County, and 24.9 percent in Schoolcraft County were living below the poverty line in 2008.
Even with the largest economy in the world, CBS news reported this month that 1 in 5 U.S. children live in poverty. Sad news.
It isn’t just poverty that we should focus on, but also the consequences of living in such conditions. Poverty doesn’t just take a toll on our children — it harms the future of the country, as well. Children that grow up in homes stricken by poverty are more likely to suffer academically, economically and socially. They are more likely to become parents raising children in the same situation they’re in.
According to our story:
• "The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2010: The Education Connection," released this year by the Michigan League for Human Services, details a rise in childhood poverty between 2000 and 2009.
• The statewide report also indicated a sharp rise — 25 percent — in the rate of confirmed victims of childhood abuse and neglect between 2000 and 2009. A federal report finds that 90 percent of the cases are due to neglect, often made worse by poverty.
• About 7.7 percent of children in Delta County and 14 percent of children in Schoolcraft County were found to be victims of abuse or neglect. This is an increase in both counties.
I’m choosing to focus on this because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to help change what is happening to many of our kids. Several argue over the necessity of some of what health care reform does. This part of the bill should be something we all recognize is needed.
Those who oppose the bill and the money it spends on programs like these may argue that we shouldn’t financially support “parents who aren’t helping themselves.” Though I would like to argue with many aspects of this sentiment, the most important point is this: the parents aren’t the ones that suffer — the children are.
Subtitle L of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act covers changes to “Maternal and Child Health Services.” The purpose of the section is to improve programs that aid children and women in at-risk communities. At-risk communities may include those where crime, poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and high rates of school drop-outs are prevalent.
The bill mandates that states must assess their needs and identify these at-risk communities.
The bill also sets forth requirements that state, tribal and other eligible entities in these at-risk communities must meet in order to qualify for grant monies. The funds enable such entities to deliver services through early childhood home visitation programs designed to improve prenatal, maternal and newborn health (pregnancy outcomes), as well as child health and development.
In order to attain funding, entities must make “quantifiable, measurable improvements in benchmark areas.” The program must demonstrate that it results in improvements for families participating in it. Of the following highlighted areas, the program must show improvement in at least four categories:
• Prevention of child injuries; child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment; reduction of emergency room visits.
• Improvement in school readiness and achievement.
• Reduction in crime or domestic violence.
• Improvements in family economic self-sufficiency
• Improvements in the coordination and referrals for other community resources and supports.
Entities are also required to submit a report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services detailing this information. Failure to do so results in the termination of grant monies.
Staying on top of programs like these is necessary. We cannot change our future without ensuring fewer of our children are neglected, abused — suffering academically and emotionally.
Ask yourself whether you take a hard line and treat “Obamacare” more like a political strategy than a potential means to actually do some good — like providing better options for at-risk youth in this country? Perhaps all 900+ pages of the bill aren’t perfect — but tossing the whole thing might literally be throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Mary Ann Heath has been reading and blogging about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since January. Her goal is to read all 906 pages of the bill.