Thursday, December 30, 2010

Health Insurance Premiums Rise Faster than Wages

According to the latest Commonwealth Fund report:
  • Premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance increased an average of 41 percent across states from 2003 to 2009, more than three times faster than median incomes. 
  • Yet,insurance is paying for less. The analysis found that deductibles per person rose 77 percent on average. 
Their conclusion was:
  • If these trends continue at the rate prior to enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the average premium for family coverage will rise 79 percent by 2020, to more than $23,000. 
  • If reforms succeed in slowing premium growth by 1 percentage point annually in all states, by 2020 employers and families together will save $2,323 annually for family coverage, compared with projected trends.

Learn more about YOUR state by checking out their Interactive Map.

Source: C. Schoen, K. Stremikis, S. K. H. How, and S. R. Collins, State Trends in Premiums and Deductibles, 2003–2009: How Building on the Affordable Care Act Will Help Stem the Tide of Rising Costs and Eroding Benefits, The Commonwealth Fund, December 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How Much Does It Cost Us NOT to Invest in Emancipating Foster Care Youth?

Cost Avoidance by Investing in Transitional Foster Care Youth

A cost analysis by Cutler Consulting in 2009 estimated that the involvement of former foster youth in the criminal justice system costs in excess of $4 billion over the lifetime of each annual cohort of youth exiting foster care.

The cost associated with a higher than average pregnancy rate for youth aging out of foster care is 15 years X $7,708,490 (the cost per year) = $115,627,350 for each cohort year.

Raising the graduation rate of one year’s cohort of youth aging out of foster care to the national average would result in increased earnings and lowered public costs of more than $1 billion.

Source: Cost Avoidance Bolstering the Economic Case for Investing In Youth Aging Out of Foster Care. Cutler Consulting, 2009.

States Can Achieve Better Outcomes, Lower Costs by Supporting Youth Transitioning From Foster Care to Adulthood

The NGA Center for Best Practices is the nation’s only dedicated consulting firm for governors and their key policy staff.

Their recently released report, The Transition to Adulthood: How States Can Support Older Youth in Foster Care (December 2010), explores the following strategies:
  • Promoting educational attainment
  • Connecting youth with employment and career training
  • Enhancing access to safe and stable housing
  • Helping youth access and manage health care
  • Helping youth build stable, lifelong relationships
As NGA Director John Thomasian states, "Because states continue to face austere budget conditions, many of the strategies described in this report have little or no cost; involve getting existing systems, such as education and health, to work more collaboratively; and leverage available federal and private funding in new or different ways."

This report demonstrates that successful state supports not only improve the outcomes for foster youth, but reduce costs to states that result from negative outcomes such as criminality, low educational attainment, lack of medical insurance, homelessness and an increased need for public assistance like food stamps.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Standing On Shaky Ground

The recession of 2008 and early 2009 took an economic toll on 93 percent of American households, according to a new report from the Rockefeller Foundation and Yale University, the first to detail how economic insecurity affects the well-being of Americans.

The Worst of Times: Increase in Extreme Poverty from 2008-2009

A new Southern Foundation study, The Worst of Times: Extreme Poverty in the United States in 2009, reveals that:
  • Americans living in extreme poverty (below 50 percent of the official poverty threshold) were the fastest growing income group in America last year.
  • In 2009, 18.8 million people, including nearly 6.5 million children, were living in households with income below 50 percent of the poverty threshold.
  • Half of the additional 2.1 million persons who fell into extreme poverty in 2009 resided in only seven states: Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, and Ohio.
  • Between 2008-2009, the number of persons in extreme poverty in Ohio increased with an additional 87,420 people.

In the meantime, the Republican members of the House of Representatives have proposed cutting this fiscal year’s non-defense discretionary spending back to 2008 levels and also rescinding any unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money.

My Christmas Wish

Kids shoudn't have to live on the street. Help us bring them inside. Donate.

Covenant House was founded 38 years ago with the mission to help homeless teens and young adults get off the street and into productive lives.

They serve as a refuge to:
  • young people who are running from abuse at home
  • youth who've been kicked out of the house (often because of their sexual orientation)
  • young people who "age out" of the foster care system at age 18 and face the adult world alone.
Covenant House connects these young people with:
  • Shelter, including a transitional housing program
  • Access to medical care
  • Coaching in basic life skills 
  • Opportunities to finish high school
  • Resources for job skill development
Staff work with youth on developing a long-term plan for their lives.

Covenant House's Transitional Housing Program: Youth pay rent to Covenant House for their apartment, and after 12-18 months when they graduate from the program, they are given ALL of their rent to help them to put a deposit on an apartment and set up a household.

My Christmas wish: No kid sleeping on the street this winter. Can you help Covenant House make it real? Donate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 UNICEF Report on The Children Left Behind

UNICEF's new report, The Children Left Behind, reveals that the United States ranks among the worst of 24 of the world’s richest nations when it comes to child well-being.

To quote from Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."

Quotes from the report:
  • Using gross (pre-tax) household income, the income available to the child at the 10th percentile in the United States is approximately 70% below the income available to a child at the median.
  • The heaviest costs are paid by the individual child. But the long list of problems cited above also translates into significant costs for society as a whole. 
  • Unnecessary bottom-end inequality prepares a bill which is quickly presented to taxpayers in the form of increased strain on health and hospital services, on remedial schooling, on welfare and social protection programmes, and on the police and the courts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jesus, Stephen Colbert, and Helping the Poor in 2011

Quotes from Stephen Colbert in response to recent comments by Bill O'Reilly regarding exactly what society owes to the have-nots:
  • "What I like best about Bill's  argument is its complete factual inaccuracy. Because it would be inconvenient for guys like us to repeat what Jesus actually said."
  • "For instance, if someone wants your coat, give them your cloak as well. Rich people should sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor. Plus, the fact is, Jesus was WAY beyond self-destructive; he was SELF-SACRIFICIAL."
  • "Plus, Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor - but not once did he call for tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Romans."
  • "And don't forget - Jesus hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes - and no good Conservative would be caught dead with tax collectors."
  • "What really frightens me about this is now we've got a liberal Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father...
  • "Because if this is gonna be a Christian nation that DOESN'T help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus is just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition - then admit that we just don't want to do it."

Monday, December 13, 2010

College Success After Foster Care

Speaking as a former foster child myself, there are many myths, misconceptions and misinformation regarding former foster youth and our pursuit of college.

Myth #1: Former foster youth can afford any college we want.

FALSE. Enrolling in college and succeeding in college are two different things.

In order to actually graduate from college, we've got to think about the cost of college textbooks, transportation, and where we are going to live.

It's important for every emancipated foster care youth to know how to apply for ETV funds, and how to fill out the FAFSA as an independent student.

But the journey doesn't end there. It's only just beginning...

There is rent to pay and there are textbooks to purchase. There can be unexpected crises, like health problems, and delays in receiving ETV funds. If you decide to invest in a car, you'll have to worry about insurance, gas and, sooner or later, car repair.

Here are some things that worked for me when I was in college:
  • Applying for grants and scholarships, but trying to avoid loans
  • When I received my refund check, I immediately used the money to pay for books and, whenever possible, I paid my rent three months ahead of time
  • I didn't own a car during college and grad school, because it's tough to afford both a car and an apartment at the same time when you lack family support. Many of the young people I know have been forced to choose between one or the other.
  • Building a relationship with Financial Aid staff so that they knew me by name.
Additional Resources:
  • Reduced price textbooks available at
  • Contacting the county you "aged out" of to see if they offer any aftercare services
  • Emancipated foster care youth in Ohio are eligible for Medicaid until age 21 (but it's a battle to actually access it)

I think there's room to partner with the faith community on this issue:
  • UK Wesley Foundation: A Methodist dorm that waited until I was able to pay rent, rather than kicking me out when I had a rough semester and lots of medical issues (and yes, I paid all my rent as soon as I could)
  • FCAA Ohio chapter met with the Cincinnati faith community in March 2010, to ask if churches might be willing to invest in helping emancipated foster care youth in pursuit of college with the cost of textbooks (no progress in moving this forward yet...)

Here in Ohio, we have a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college, called Ohio Reach:

Inviting YOU to share YOUR insights about this issue....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2025 Vision for African American Males

The 2025 Campaign for Black Men and Boys today has released a new report, We Dream A World: The 2025 Vision for Black Men and Boys with recommendations aimed at drastically altering life outcomes for black men and boys.

Among this report's fundings...
  • African  American men are less likely to be working than any other demographic in the United States
  • African American men between ages 16-24 fare the worst
  • The time between ages 16-24 often established a person's earning trajectory for a lifetime.
     Barriers to Attaining Employment:
    • At every educational level, African American males are less likely to be employed and earn less than their Caucasian peers.
    • Caucasians with comparable  credentials were 50% more likely to receive calls from prospective employers.
    • Research by the University of Chicago indicates that having an ethnic-sounding name is a job interview deterrent.

    Thursday, December 09, 2010

    Multi-State Study on Psychotropic Medication in Foster Care

    According to the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute:
    • Psychotropic medication use in youth has increased significantly over the past decade
    • Rates of use are much higher for youth in foster care (estimated between 13 and 52 percent) than for youth in the general population (4 percent).
    In an effort to address this trend, Tufts researchers surveyed key staff in State child welfare and affiliated agencies between March 2009 and January 2010 to gather current policies and guidelines on psychotropic medication use in foster care and examine challenges and innovative solutions implemented by States.

    The results have been published in a new report,Multi-State Study on Psychotropic Medication Oversight in Foster Care.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Upside Down: 53% of Tax Benefits Go to Most Wealthy

    The federal government spent nearly $400 billion in 2009 on policies that help our nation's wealthiest individuals buy homes, save money, start businesses, pay for college and retire comfortably, while doing little to help working families who most need the financial cushion.

    According to Upside Down: The $400 Billion Dollar Asset-Building Budget, a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Annie E. Casey Foundation:
    • 53 percent of American tax benefits went to the top 5 percent of earners: households making over $160,000.
    • The wealthiest Americans (those earning over $1 million annually) receive more than $95,000 in tax benefits while middle income families receive a few hundred dollars and poor families relying on public benefits actually face penalties for saving.
    • Eight out of 10 of the wealthiest families saved approximately one-third of their household income in 2009, while one-third of low-income households earned too little to make ends meet, much less save for the future.
    • About 80 percent of the value for mortgage and property tax deductions accrued to the top 20 percent of taxpayers. In fact, many homeowners don’t take the mortgage deduction because they do not earn enough income or incur enough of a tax liability to warrant itemizing their deductions.
    The report details these specific tax policies and asks Congress to pursue more equitable ways of delivering assistance to low and middle income families.