Category Archives: Children

Early Childhood Program Evaluations: A Decision-Maker’s Guide

Source: National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, December 2007

Despite increasing demands for evidence-based early childhood services, the evaluations of interventions such as Head Start or home-visiting programs frequently contribute more heat than light to the policy-making process. This dilemma is illustrated by the intense debate that often ensues among dueling experts who reach different conclusions from the same data about whether a program is effective or whether its impacts are large enough to warrant a significant investment of public and/or private funds.

Because the interpretation of program evaluation research is so often highly politicized, it is essential that policymakers and civic leaders have the independent knowledge needed to be able to evaluate the quality and relevance of the evidence provided in reports. This guide helps prepare decision-makers to be better consumers of evaluation information. It is organized around five key questions that address both the substance and the practical utility of rigorous evaluation research. The principles we discuss are relevant and applicable to the evaluation of programs for individuals of any age, but in our examples and discussion we focus specifically on early childhood.

Finding Relatives for Children

Source: Nina Williams-Mbengue, National Conference of State Legislatures, LegisBrief, Vol. 16, no. 28, June/July 2008
(subscription required)

State child welfare agencies increasingly rely on placing children whose parents cannot or will not assume responsibility for them with grandparents and other relatives. These placements can improve stability for children, and state and federal policies give preference for placing children with relatives. Policymakers can support over-burdened state agencies by crafting legislation and recommending initiatives that help states to better identify and recruit relatives and other caring adults to provide for a child’s safety, well-being and permanency.

Health Insurance Coverage for Young Adults

Source: Laura Tobler, National Conference of State Legislatures, LegisBrief, Vol. 16, no. 29, June/July 2008
(subscription required)

Young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 are at risk of being uninsured more often than any other age group. Eleven percent of the nation’s children through age 18 are uninsured, while 30 percent of those between the ages of 19 and 29 lack coverage.

2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation, June 2008

Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book are now available in our easy-to-use, powerful online database, the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which allows you to generate custom graphs, maps, ranked lists, and state-by-state profiles; or, download the entire data set as delimited text files. The pull-down menus to the left also allow you to read the book online or view the book in PDF format.

From the press release:
National trends in child well-being taken together have improved slightly since 2000, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2008 Data Book also presents a clear path to reducing the number of children and youth in America’s justice system. The 19th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book indicators show:
• Five areas of improvement: child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, high school dropout rate, and teens not in school and not working;
• One area had no change: infant mortality rate; and
• Four areas have worsened: low-birthweight babies, children living in families where no parent has full time year round employment, children in poverty, and children in single parent families.

These national trends are not on par with the well-being improvements that were seen at the end of the 1990s, with little change since 2000. The report cites that more children are living in relative poverty in the United States than in any other economically advanced nation.

2008 Kids & Family Reading Report

Source: Scholastic, June 2008

A new study released today finds that 75% of kids age 5-17 agree with the statement, “No matter what I can do online, I’ll always want to read books printed on paper,” and 62% of kids surveyed say they prefer to read books printed on paper rather than on a computer or a handheld device. The Kids & Family Reading Report, a national survey of children age 5-17 and their parents, also found that kids who go online to extend the reading experience – by going to book or author websites or connecting with other readers – are more likely to read books for fun every day.
See also:
Press release
2006 report
To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence

U.S. Variations in Child Health System Performance: A State Scorecard

Source: The Commonwealth Fund

This report examines variations among states’ child health care systems, building on the State Scorecard published by The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System. Focusing on 13 performance indicators of access, quality, costs, equity, and the potential to lead healthy lives, the authors find wide variation among states, including distinct regional patterns. Across states, better access to care is closely associated with better quality of care. Top-performing states, such as Iowa and Vermont, have adopted policies to expand children’s access to care and improve the quality of care. While leading states outperform lagging states on multiple indicators, all states have opportunities to improve. National leadership and collaboration across public and private sectors are essential for coherent, strategic reforms to improve child health care in the United States.

Full Report (PDF; 8.7 MB)
Chartpack (PDF; 334 KB)

State-by-State Costs of Child Poverty in the U.S.

Source: Population Reference Bureau

From the article:
Research has shown that growing up in poverty leads to negative health, social, and economic consequences for children that often continue in adulthood. Compared with other children, children living below the poverty line are less healthy, have lower educational achievement, and are more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system. As adults, they are less likely to attend college or hold a steady job.

In 2006, an estimated 13.3 million U.S. children were living in poverty, and at risk for such lifelong problems. But the individual hardships brought by poverty also exact a staggering financial toll on broader society. One recent estimate has suggested that growing up in poverty costs the United States $500 billion annually in lost potential earnings, involvement with the criminal justice system, and the costs associated with poor health outcomes.

Taking its cue from that cost estimate, as well as campaigns in some states designed to reduce poverty, the KIDS COUNT project in Washington state (affiliated with the University of Washington’s Human Services Poverty Center) has produced state-level estimates of the costs of child poverty. By taking the national estimate of child poverty costs and applying it to the estimated the number of poor children in each state in the 2006 American Community Survey, the study estimates the amount that each state would save annually if child poverty were eliminated.

In 14 states, child poverty yielded an annual cost of more than $10 billion, according to the fact sheet issued by Washington KIDS COUNT. Not surprisingly, the most populous states tended to have the highest annual costs (see map)–mainly because they tend to have the largest numbers of children in poverty. California, with an estimated 1.7 million poor children in 2006, had the highest cost of $63.9 billion, followed by Texas at $57.5 billion and New York at $33.4 billion. Even in the smallest state, Wyoming, growing up poor yields an annual cost of about $500 million.

Medicaid Managed Care for Children in Child Welfare

Source: Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.

Children in the child welfare system have an extremely high prevalence of physical and behavioral health problems. This issue brief examines the complex physical and behavioral health care needs and associated costs for children in child welfare and outlines critical opportunities and challenges within Medicaid to better manage care for this high-risk, high-cost population.

Full Document (PDF; 147 KB)

Covering Uninsured Children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

Source: Congressional Budget Office (Testimony)
SCHIP has significantly reduced the number of low-income children who lack health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) estimates, the portion of children in families with income between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level who were uninsured fell by about 25 percent between 1996 (the year before SCHIP was enacted) and 2006. In contrast, the rate of uninsurance among higher-income children remained relatively stable during that period. The difference probably reflects the impact of the SCHIP program.

The states’ outreach efforts and simplified enrollment processes for SCHIP appear to have also increased the share of eligible children who participate in Medicaid–and contributed to a decline in the percentage of children living below the poverty level who are uninsured.

The enrollment of children in public coverage as a result of SCHIP has not led to a one-for-one reduction in the number of low-income children who are uninsured, however. Almost any increase in government spending or tax expenditures intended to expand health insurance coverage will displace private coverage to some degree. In the specific case of SCHIP, the program provides a source of coverage that is less expensive to enrollees and often provides a broader range of benefits than alternative coverage. As a result, the program displaces–or “crowds out”–private coverage to some extent. On the basis of a review of available research, CBO has concluded that for every 100 children who gain public coverage as a result of SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.

CBO’s analysis of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, as passed by the House of Representatives, suggested that the legislation would result in 5.8 million children gaining coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP in 2012. Of that increase, CBO estimated, 3.8 million children would otherwise have been uninsured, and 2.0 million children would otherwise have had private coverage. In other words, about one-third of the children who would be newly covered under SCHIP and Medicaid would otherwise have had private coverage. That crowd-out rate is probably about as low as feasible for a voluntary program to increase coverage among children, given the size of the proposed expansion. (Policies to reduce the rate below that level would most likely also reduce the number of children enrolled in the program who would otherwise be uninsured.)

Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities: Statistics and Interventions

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

From the factsheet:
Despite the efforts of the child protection system, child maltreatment fatalities remain a serious problem. Although the untimely deaths of children due to illness and accidents have been closely monitored, deaths that result from physical assault or severe neglect can be more difficult to track because the perpetrators, usually parents, are less likely to be forthcoming about the circumstances. Intervention strategies targeted at solving this problem face complex challenges.