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Children's health and well-being have been closely linked to the economic well-being of their families. Voices for Children works to support children and families by promoting policies that increase access to family support resources.

When families are economically stable and secure, children are more likely to succeed.

Poverty

Voices for Utah Children - Voices for Utah Children - Displaying items by tag: poverty

Voices for Utah Children works to make Utah a place where all children thrive. We start with one basic question: "Is it good for kids?" At Voices for Utah Children, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
  • Healthy and financially secure families are critical in helping end the cycle of intergenerational poverty. However, low-income families struggle to obtain health coverage that can provide the access to care and the financial protection that they need. While the vast majority of low-income families with children have at least one full-time worker, most do not qualify, or cannot afford, employer or individual market health insurance plans. Public health coverage programs can equally be out of reach. In most states, Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage to children and pregnant women, but largely exclude parents. However, an extensive body of research shows that when these programs provide coverage to both children and their parents, the entire family benefits. Download the printer-friendly version of the report here:A Two-Generation Strategy: Healthy Parents and Healthy Kids Obviously, covering low-income parents increases their own insurance coverage and access to care. But the benefits do not stop at mom and dad. When parents have access to Medicaid, their Medicaid and CHIP eligible children are much more likely to get enrolled in coverage. Further, parental Medicaid coverage leads to improved use of health care for children, such as preventive care. Parents living in states that have expanded Medicaid have seen nearly a 33% drop in the rate of parents living without health insurance. States that have not expanded Medicaid have seen no significant change in the rate of uninsured parents. Medicaid Expansion: Parents and Children Benefit Partly in reaction to this research, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required states to move from Medicaid’s old categorical and individual centric approach to a more family centric program that would provide coverage to low-income children and parents alike. The 2012 United States Supreme Court decision that upheld the overall constitutionality of ACA, changed this section of law. Instead of mandating that states provide adults Medicaid coverage, the Court gave states the option to provide Medicaid coverage. Over half of the states, including the District of Columbia, have expanded Medicaid for parents and other low-income adults. Unfortunately many states, including Utah, have not yet decided to expand Medicaid coverage to adults—and as a result, retained their individual centric Medicaid programs and higher rates of uninsured adults. How Expansion Would Help Utah Families Studies have repeatedly shown that health care coverage has a myriad of positive effects for families. Whether that coverage be private employer plans or a public Medicaid program, families’ financial security, ability to work, and the health of parents and children improve when adults have health insurance. People with Medicaid coverage fare much better than uninsured on measures of access to care, utilization, and unmet health needs. Children enrolled in Medicaid, for example, are more likely to receive well-child care and are significantly less likely to have unmet or delayed needs for medical care, dental care, and prescription drugs due to cost. Research suggests that Medicaid coverage has similar benefits for adults. Mothers covered by Medicaid are much more likely than low-income uninsured mothers to have a usual source of care, a doctor visit, a dental visit, and to receive cancer screening services. Adults covered by Medicaid are more likely than uninsured adults to report health care visits overall and visits for specific types of services. They are also more likely to report timely care and less likely to delay, or go without, needed medical care because of cost. Further, out-of-pocket spending would decrease dramatically for low-income uninsured adults—almost four-fold on average, if they had access to Medicaid. Recently, the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment has provided real life evidence about the positive impact of Medicaid coverage for low-income uninsured adults. Oregon had a lottery for a limited number of a slots in their Medicaid program for adults. This provided researchers the opportunity to look at the differences between adults who received Medicaid coverage and those who remained uninsured. Results from the Oregon experiment found that:• 70% of enrollees were more likely to have a regular place of care• 55% of enrollees were more likely to have a regular doctor • Catastrophic out-of-pocket spending (health costs that exceed 30% of income) was nearly eliminated• Any type of medical debt was reduced by more than 20% Expanding coverage could have a direct impact on the health of children as well. Low-income adults are generally sicker than higher income adults. They suffer from increased likelihood of depression and other health issues that can lead to greater risk of their kids experiencing toxic stress. Medicaid expansion may help reduce this risk. Unfortunately, low income adults in Utah are not experiencing these benefits of health coverage because the state has not yet chosen to expand Medicaid. The data shows this is a significant problem in Utah where the story of uninsured adults is starkly different than the story of uninsured kids. Thirty-nine percent of adults below 138% of poverty and 43% of adults below poverty are uninsured in Utah. This compares to an uninsured rate of only 19% for adults with incomes above 138% of poverty. The experience that states have had with children shows that providing access to Medicaid can dramatically reduce uninsured rates. The uninsured rate for children in Utah in households with incomes below 138% is only 18%. The impact of Medicaid expansion does not stop with the adults who would gain coverage. Although much of the advocacy efforts surrounding Medicaid Expansion have focused only on the individual adults who would gain coverage, the reality is that over half of the expansion population is in a family (two or more related individuals), and nearly 40% are parents of children under the age 18. Providing health coverage to these adults in families will have a positive impact on everyone in that family. Another misconception about the expansion population is their employment status. The fact is that 87% of families who would benefit from expansion include at least one working parent and 61.5% have at least one parent working full-time. Unfortunately these families either do not have an offer of employer sponsored coverage, or cannot afford the employer sponsored insurance that is available. Only 29% of adults below 138% of poverty are enrolled in an employer sponsored health insurance plan. Conclusion Expanding Medicaid in Utah will strengthen Utah families. The improved health and financial security from providing health coverage to parents will greatly improve the opportunity to stop the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Voices for Utah Children is proud to be a part of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network. The goal of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network is to mobilize empowered two-generation organizations and leaders to influence policy and practice changes that increase economic security, educational success, social capital, and health and well-being for children, parents, and their families. Learn more at http:/ /ascend.aspeninstitute.org/network

  • On August 28 2014, economist Sven Wilson testified before the Utah Legislature's Health Reform Task Force about the complex question of whether the economic benefits of Healthy Utah outweigh the costs.  Showing a chart of costs and benefits with benefits marked in green and costs in red, he said,"Notice there is quite a bit more green than red." Healthy Utah would benefit poor individuals by providing them with health insurance. It would benefit the healthcare industry by preventing uncompensaated care and would benefit other industries though economic expansion. It would benefit state and local governments by reducing public assistance costs and increasing tax revenues as the economy expands. The program costs to the state government would be relatively small. He went on to add, "This is a really boring policy analysis problem because the answer is painfully obvious."

  • Chronic Absence is a Two-Generation Problem Policies that help parents keep kids in school, such as family leave polices and effective transportation systems; coupled with programs that help the child, such as attention to bullying; and improved policies at the school level, such as collecting the right data and working with families to identify barriers to school attendance will ensure that every child succeeds. "The reality is an absence is an absence, excused or not,and that child is not in that classroom benefiting from the instruction on that day. We have to work in our community, with our schools and our families to build a culture of attendance." Ralph Smith, Executive Vice President, Annie E. Casey Foundation Download the printer-friendly report:Attendance and the Early Grades: A Two Generation Issue   Chronic absence, missing 10 percent of the school year or more, is an early warning indicator of academic trouble for students and later;dropout. Excused and unexcused absences easily add up to too much time lost in the classroom. Students are at risk academically if they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days. Once too many absences have occurred, it affects learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. The map below shows the percent of elementary school students who were chonically absent in school year 2013. On average, no district had less than 90 percent of their students absent on a given day, despite exceptionally high rates of chronic absence in some schools and districts. Clearly, average daily attendance can mask a chronic absence problem. Reducing chronic absence can help close achievement gaps. Chronic absence especially affects achievement for low-income students who depend more on school for opportunities to learn. Because they are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school, low-income children, many of whom are children of color, have higher levels of chronic absence starting as early as kindergarten. A 2012 research brief by the Utah Education Policy Center that looked at the percent of chronically absent students by school year, found that kindergarten and first grade students tended to be chronically absent more often than their older elementary school peers. Further, on average, being chronically absent in one grade increased the odds of being chronically absent in the next grade by nearly 13 times. For each year that a student was chronically absent, his or her odds of dropping out nearly doubled. Studies from multiple states have shown that chronically absent high school students are less likely to graduate. Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective but often overlooked two-generation strategy for ensuring that students are on-track to learn and succeed, and to decrease the chance of living in poverty as adults. Chronic absence does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction for other students, who must wait while the teacher repeats material for absentee students. This makes it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach. CHRONIC ABSENCE IS A RESULT OF A COMBINATION OF FACTORS: SCHOOL, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY All schools enroll some students who have injuries or illnesses leading to frequent absences, and schools should know who these students are and design individual strategies to support them. Schools where five percent of students are chronically absent do not have systemic attendance failures. However, in schools where 20 percent of students are chronically absent, the extent to which schools, families and communities each might play a contributing role needs to be considered. While illness is a leading factor in chronic early absence, others such as poverty, teenage parenting, single parenting, low maternal education levels, unemployment, poor maternal health, and household food insecurity all can affect school attendance. The 2012 Utah Education Policy Center Policy research brief found that students from low-income homes were 90 percent more likely to be chronically absent. Students who are absent from school miss opportunities to learn and develop positive relationships within the school community. During the early elementary school years, children develop important skills and approaches to learning that are critical for ongoing school success. Through their experiences in K-3 classrooms, children build academic, social-emotional and study skills. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten show lower levels of achievement in math, reading and general knowledge in first grade. Children who are homeless or formerly homeless experience poor educational outcomes related to school absenteeism and mobility. Other families may be dealing with serious problems (e.g. mental illness, child or domestic abuse, incarceration of a parent, etc.) that make school attendance difficult because family life has been disrupted and public agencies and schools lack a coordinated response. Chronic absenteeism also can result from poor quality education, ambivalence about or alienation from school, and chaotic school environments, including high rates of teacher turnover, disruptive classrooms and/or bullying. Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective but often overlooked strategy for ensuring our students are on-track to learn and succeed. While addressing some attendance barriers- such as health, poor transportation, and unstable housing- can require longer-term strategies, everyone can make a difference by helping students and families understand that going to school every day and avoiding absences whenever possible is critical to realizing success in school and success in life. Voices for Utah Children is proud to be a part of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network. The goal of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network is to mobilize empowered two-generation organizations and leaders to influence policy and practice changes that increase economic security, educational success, social capital, and health and well-being for children, parents, and their families. Learn more at http:/ /ascend.aspeninstitute.org/network

  • The Healthy Utah Poll was commissioned by a group of Utah civic groups interested in gauging support for Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan. The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates on a sample of 623 Utah voters during May and June, 2014. The full data and methods were then shared with Notalys for independent analysis. Notalys also consulted with the Dan Jones project leader on the development of the survey instrument. This report is the first set of research findings based on the poll. Complete poll results are found in this report along with a description of methods and an analysis of the results. The poll gives a clear and compelling summary of how Utah voters see the Healthy Utah plan, particularly in comparison to other options, such as a full Medicaid Expansion. Download the complete report: Healthy Utah Poll   Key findings from the poll analysis Widespread Support When compared with the option of doing nothing, 88% of Utah voters prefer the Healthy Utah plan, and 70% prefer Healthy Utah compared to a full Medicaid expansion. Healthy Utah has strong support across the state and among all demographic groups. Support is high for all age, education, race, gender, education and income categories. No Partisan Divide Conservative Republicans support Healthy Utah. Among voters who identify as Republicans, 64% of those who are “very conservative” support the Governor’s plan, while just 13% oppose the plan. In general, support among Republicans is higher for Healthy Utah than it is among Democrats, since more Democrats favor Medicaid expansion. Support for Affordable Health Care About 9% of likely voters are currently uninsured, even after healthcare.gov went into effect. A majority (54%) of voters know someone who is uninsured. Utahns think health insurance is very important, and, more surprisingly, 83% believe “all legal Utah residents should have access to affordable health insurance.” Utah voters believe that individual responsibility is important when it comes to insurance, but they are also supportive of government assistance for those who cannot afford coverage. Of the 65% of voters who agree that “individuals and families should generally be responsible for meeting their own healthcare needs,” 80% also agree with the statement that “individuals who are unable to afford health insurance should receive help from government sources.” Utahns are not opposed to a federal role in health care. 71% believe it is appropriate for the state to accept federal assistance in health care. Support for Healthy Utah Plan Features A significant majority of voters are interested in the issue of health care, but only about 40% have heard of the new Healthy Utah plan thus far. When the details of the plan are provided, voters are in strong support. Utah voters strongly support the individual features of the Healthy Utah plan. Respondents say that the following features of the plan make them more likely to support it than they would otherwise: 59% are more likely to support the plan because it requires individuals to pay premiums and co‐pays (10% are less likely). 59% are more likely to support the plan because it provides private health insurance for people with low incomes rather than enrolling them in traditional Medicaid (14% are less likely). 68% are more likely to support the plan because it allows greater flexibility for how Utah spends federal dollars than allowed under traditional Medicaid (10% are less likely). Opposed to Inaction  The strongest consistency in the poll is that voters are very opposed to the status quo of doing nothing. Democrats are more inclined to do a Medicaid expansion, while Republicans support Governor Herbert’s plan. But both groups oppose the status quo. In a three‐way comparison, only 6% of the state voters prefer doing nothing. If Healthy Utah is rejected by federal officials, 65% would support a new Utah‐specific solution, and 28% support a Medicaid expansion. Only 7% would favor doing nothing. And, 54% of voters indicate they would be more likely to vote for legislators who support Healthy Utah. Only 14% indicate they would be less likely to vote for a legislator who supported the plan. Poll Take‐Aways Utahns are overwhelmingly supportive of the features of Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan. Utahns value individual responsibility, but both Republicans and Democrats are strongly supportive of a government role in assisting low‐income individuals to obtain health insurance. What Utahns are against, more than anything, is doing nothing.  

  •   Download and print the issue brief here: A Two Generation Strategy: Right from the Start This is the second in a series of issue briefs focused on two-generation strategies to reduce poverty supported by Ascend: the Aspen Institute. The first issue brief in this series is available here: A Two-Generation Approach to Ending Poverty in Utah   Full Text   Children raised in poverty are likely to be poor as adults. Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty necessitates a two-generation approach that meets the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together. Evidenced-based and effective interventions which promote a healthy pregnancy and lifestyle, effective parenting, parental education and training, self-sufficiency and early education can improve the economic prospects for the family, reduce child maltreatment and toxic stress, and improve long term educational and life outcomes for the child. A two-generation, multi-intervention strategy for single, first-time pregnant women in poverty is being developed by Salt Lake County. The three proposed interventions are:• Nurse Family Partnership• Education and training for the mother, and• Two years of high quality preschool for the child beginning at 3 years of age This combination of interventions is intended to improve the health of the mother and baby, reduce toxic stress, improve child welfare, economic self-sufficiency and the long term life prospects of the child. COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION Salt Lake County, the largest in Utah with a population of 1,032,2261, is planning to expand access to the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP). According to the County, approximately 1,100-1,500 women meet the eligibility requirements for NFP. However, only 100 women are currently being served. Nurse Family Partnership is an evidenced-based community health program that provides ongoing home visits from pregnancy through age 2 of the child by a registered nurse to low-income, first time mothers to provide the care and support that they need to have a healthy pregnancy, be a responsible and caring parent, and to become more economically self-sufficient. Outcomes associated with NFP include long-term family improvements in health, child welfare, education and self-sufficiency. More than 35 years of evidence from randomized, controlled trials prove this maternal health program’s effectiveness guiding low-income, first-time moms and their children to successful futures. By developing strong family foundations, the Nurse Family Partnership establishes better, safer, and stronger communities for generations to come. NFP assists clients in returning to their local high school, alternative high school (which usually offers childcare services), or obtaining a GED. They help them with their college applications and suggest ways to finance schooling either through scholarships or PELL grants. NFP also works with the Utah Department of Workforce Services (DWS) Education and Training programs. The nurses encourage their clients to utilize programs which assist financially with completion of a high school diploma, GED, or ESL. NFP encourages participants to use DWS career planning services, take advantage of DWS financial incentives for setting and achieving educational goals, as well as assistance with childcare whilecompleting their education. To supplement the education and training referrals performed by NFP, Salt Lake County plans to collaborate with the public libraries to offer Career Online High School to NFP participants in order to promote higher educational attainment and economic self-sufficiency. Career Online High School offers students the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma while learning real-world career skills. An accredited, private online school district, Career Online High School is specifically designed to re-engage adults into the education system and prepare them for entry into post-secondary education or the workforce. It is committed to preparing students for careers and post-secondary career education by delivering high-quality, supportive, and career-based online education. Career Online High School gives students the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma and credentialed career certificate. Students graduate with the tools to take the next step in their careers or career-education. COLLABORATION BETWEEN SALT LAKE COUNTY AND THE DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES Salt Lake County and DWS will partner to expand access to Nurse Family Partnership, as well as education, training and employment opportunities for the participants. Through the intergenerational poverty focus of DWS, eligible women in Salt Lake County and those classified as living in “intergenerational poverty” will be the target population for the expansion. Additionally, DWS is interested in using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to increase access to NFP for this population. FINANCING STRATEGY Currently, funding for NFP in Salt Lake County is provided by County funds, Title V-Maternal and the Child Health Block Grant, a grant from the Department of Child and Family Services through the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) federal funding, and the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. To fund the expansion of NFP, Salt Lake County is exploring a blended funding strategy utilizing County funds, federal TANF funds through the collaboration with DWS, and investor funds through an innovative strategy called “Pay-for-Success” or social impact financing. Under a “Pay-for-Success” financing model, there is an arrangement between one or more government agencies and an external organization where the government specifies the outcomes and promises to pay the external organization a pre-agreed amount if it is able to achieve the outcomes.3 Private commercial and philanthropic investors provide the upfront capital through the external organization to expand services for proven interventions with effective track records that either achieve desired outcomes and/or reduce the cost of later services to government. Outcome measures, such as reduction in preterm births and the spacing of second births, as well as reductions in other areas such as child maltreatment and criminal justice, in the case of NFP, are established and agreed upon by the parties. If the performance measures are achieved, the County would pay back the investors with interest. However, if the outcomes are not achieved, the investors may lose all or some of their investment. Several states, including North Carolina and New York State, and local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, are exploring the expansion of NFP through social impact financing. Salt Lake County participated in a proof of concept Results-Based Financing contract (a local term for Pay for Success) for high quality preschool in Utah for the 2013-2014 school year. Six hundred children who were identified as economically disadvantaged were funded through a Pay-for-Success contract. Goldman Sachs Bank and J.B. Pritzker provided the upfront investment. The United Way of Salt Lake and Salt Lake County provided the funds to repay the investors based on the performance metric of reducing the number of children funded through the contract who will need special education services in k-6. The project was announced during the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in June 2013. It is the first social impact loan in the U.S. to finance preschool. THE PAY FOR PERFORMANCE ACT On July 30, 2014, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Pay-For-Performance Act. The legislation is a companion bill to the Young-Delaney Social Impact Bond Act in the House of Representatives. The Pay-for-Performance Act directs resources to states and local communities to support innovative public-private partnerships to tackle social and public health challenges, while ensuring a smarter, more efficient use of tax dollars. “The Pay-for-Performance Act gives policymakers a critical, evidence-based strategy for dealing with major societal challenges. By connecting the tools of impact investing to a ‘what works’ approach, this bill takes us one step closer to a smarter, leaner, results focused government. Senators Bennet and Hatch should be commended for providing a bi-partisan, national blueprint for cross sector investments in the outcomes our communities and country need.” Melody C. Barnes, former Director, White House Domestic Policy Council. CONCLUSION Although every birth is a major event and every child warrants special attention, home visiting for first time, low-income expectant mothers and their infants is especially beneficial because it provides information and support early in family formation and improves a woman’s ability to effectively parent. Combining home visitation with additional educational and improved employment opportunities leverages positive outcomes for both the mother and the child. Additionally, implementing or expanding home visiting programs may reduce costs and increase the efficiency of care delivery for managed care organizations (MCO’s) and other health insurance providers. Evidence based home visiting programs have been shown to reduce health care costs by preventing complications in pregnancy, reducing injuries and maltreatment, enhancing maternal and child health through prevention and early detection and promoting efficient use of the health care system. Two-generation approaches such as Nurse Family Partnership that include providing education and training for mothers are examples of strategies to meet the needs of vulnerable children and their parents.     Voices for Utah Children is proud to be a part of the Aspen Institute Ascend Network. The goal of theAspen Institute Ascend Network is to mobilize empowered two-generation organizations and leadersto influence policy and practice changes that increase economic security, educational success, socialcapital, and health and well-being for children, parents, and their families.Learn more at http://ascend.aspeninstitute.org/network                                

  •   [View the story "Are Utah kids today better off than kids 25 years ago?" on Storify]

  • The 2014 KIDS COUNT rankings of child well-being are out. Utah is currently ranked #11. Reference A Eleven is a reasonably good ranking. We didn’t make the top ten but we are doing better than lots of other states. It is nice to see that we are finally moving upward in the rankings after dropping for five consecutive years between 2009 and 2013. Reference B But is “reasonably good” the best we can offer Utah children?  Shouldn’t we make Utah the best place in the nation to be a kid?  Why isn’t Utah number one for child well-being? What would it take to get there? In 2013, when Utah received its lowest child well-being ranking of the decade, Terry Haven, the Voices for Utah Children Deputy Director, investigated the source of the decline. She found that the problem was not necessarily that Utah kids were faring worse than they were in 2009, when Utah ranked #3, but that other states were progressing in ways that left Utah behind.  “We are not seeing significant changes in our indicators. But, what we are seeing is other states making much needed investments in children – and reaping the benefits.” Reference C A closer look at Utah’s weakest KIDS COUNT domain, education, illustrates how we fall behind when we fail to progress. High school graduation rates have been on the rise nationally; only 19% of American students didn’t graduate on time in 2011-2012, compared to 27% of students in 2005-2006.  During that same time period, Utah worsened slightly from 21% not graduating in 2005-2006 to 22% in 2011-2012. Reference A Today, Utah graduation rates are below the national average.  Utah also trails behind the national average in another education domain indicator: preschool enrollment. Sixty percent of Utah three and four-year olds did not attend preschool in 2010-2012, compared to 54% nationally. The Casey Foundation reports that “the research is unequivocal that high-quality early childhood programs...are essential for building a strong educational foundation for low-income children and narrowing the achievement gap.”  Reference A  Utah kids are disadvantaged compared to their peers nationally in health insurance coverage.  Only 7% of children nationwide lacked health insurance in 2012 but 10% of Utah children were uninsured.  In 21 states, the percentage of children without health insurance was 5% or less.  Reference A  Currently, Utah exceeds or ties with achievement nationally in all of the indicators in the Economic Well-being domain, but the results for every economic indicator worsened in Utah between 2005-2008 and 2012. Haven noted ways that states that outperform Utah in the KIDS COUNT rankings are protecting their children:  “Quality preschool for at-risk kids, enthusiastic outreach efforts to enroll eligible kids in CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and Medicaid, state EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) programs.”  Reference C KIDS COUNT calculated the number of children Utah would need to help to rise to number one in the rankings. We know what we need to do. Do we have the will to do it? View or download the complete Utah KIDS COUNT profile, with results for 16 indicators of child well-being.      

  • But Poverty is on the Rise, Says 25th Edition of KIDS COUNT Data Book Salt Lake City, UT –The Annie E. Casey Foundation has completed twenty-five consecutive years of tracking children’s well-being across four domains: economics, education, health, and family and community. Voices for Utah Children is proud to have partnered with the foundation and has been the KIDS COUNT grantee in Utah for almost 20 years. The 25th edition of the foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that Utah children are less likely to give birth during their teen years and more likely to survive to adulthood than children twenty-five years ago. However, today’s Utah children are more likely to live in poverty. Over twenty-five years, Utah has seen some major shifts in children’s well-being: The Utah teen birth rate dropped by 52 percent, from 48/1,000 females ages 15-19 in 1990 to 23/1,000 in 2012. The Utah child and teen death rate dropped by 37 percent, from 38 deaths/100,000 children and teens ages 1-19 in 1990 to 24/100,000 in 2010. The percentage of Utah children in poverty rose by 25 percent, from 12 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2012. The percentage of children living in households that spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing rose by 55 percent, from 22 percent in 1990 to 34 percent in 2012. prevent 60 teen and child deaths, prevent 600 low birth weight births, prevent 1,000 births to teenagers, bring 18,000 children out of poverty, offer preschool to 24,000 additional children,  employ the underemployed parents of 38,000 children, help the parents who lacking high school diplomas of 45,000 children obtain their degrees, provide health care coverage to 81,000 uninsured children provide housing to 160,000 additional children in affordable homes. Similar trends were observed at the national level. The Casey Foundation attributes the fall in child death rates nationwide over the past quarter century to medical advances and improved safety measures, such as more widespread use of seat belts, car seats and bike helmets. According to the Utah Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, 27 percent of Utah high school students never or rarely wore seatbelts in 1991, compared to 8 percent in 2011. “Utah policymakers have passed a number of safety-related bills over the past two decades that are saving children’s lives,” said Terry Haven, Deputy Director for Voices for Utah Children. As examples, she cited graduated drivers licensing and primary enforcement of child restraints, booster seats and seatbelts for minors.  In Utah and nationally, higher proportions of children are living in poverty today than 25 ago.  “Poverty is the single greatest threat to a child’s well-being,” said Haven. Since the Utah legislature passed the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act in 2012, Voices for Utah Children has been working with the Department of Workforce Services to reduce poverty through two-generation strategies. After ranking third in the nation in overall child well-being in 2009, Utah’s ranking dropped for five consecutive years, bottoming out at 14th in 2013. This year, Utah finally began to recover lost status, rising back to 11th place. Utah’s strongest KIDS COUNT domain is family and community, with Utah ranking second behind New Hampshire. Utah’s weakest domain is education; the state ranked only 29th among the fifty states for education, due to lower high school graduation rates and lower preschool enrollment rates than the national averages. Between 2005 and 2012, the nation improved in the percentage of students graduating on time, while Utah worsened slightly. To become the highest-ranking state for overall child well-being in the nation, Utah would need to prevent 60 teen and child deaths, prevent 600 low birth weight births, prevent 1,000 births to teenagers, bring 18,000 children out of poverty, offer preschool to 24,000 additional children,  employ the underemployed parents of 38,000 children, help parents of 45,000 children obtain their high school degrees, provide health care coverage to 81,000 uninsured children provide housing to 160,000 additional children in affordable homes. Voices for Utah Children is the KIDS COUNT grantee for Utah. A copy of the full report can be found on the Casey Foundation website.

  • A large crowd gathered at the State Capitol building yesterday for the Utah legislature's Health Reform Task Force meeting—the tenth meeting of its kind to discuss Medicaid expansion. This meeting focused on the governor's Healthy Utah plan, an alternative for closing the coverage gap that is popular with Utah voters.   Utah Likes the Healthy Utah Plan: A new poll shows strong support for Governor Herbert's Healthy Utah Plan.     Michael Hales and Nathan Checketts of the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) provided an overview of the governor's proposed Healthy Utah plan. (If you are not familiar with the Healthy Utah plan, this 2-minute video by the University of Utah is a great way to brush up.)   The UDOH officials pointed out that covering all of the people in the coverage gap is the best economic option for Utah government and businesses. Dr. Norm Waizman of the University of Utah, Department of Economics presented a demographic report about the 103,000 uninsured people under 133% of poverty level who would benefit from the Healthy Utah plan or Medicaid expansion. Most come from working families. Dr. Vivian Lee, CEO of University of Utah Health Systems, testified that charity care expenses are rising and uninsured Utahns arrive at the emergency room when their illnesses are too advanced for inexpensive care. The Healthy Utah plan could provide means for Utahns to get preventive, early treatment. (This 1 1/2 minute video explains more about the University Healthcare perspective.)   Paul Gibbs, a filmmaker who survived a life-threatening medical condition, presented an excerpt of a film he made about the experiences of Utahns suffering without treatment for their medical problems because they fall within the Medicaid coverage gap. He named the film Entitled to Life because he believes that everyone should have the right to stay alive.   David Heslington, a Mormon bishop, spoke about members of his congregation who are not getting healthcare until it is too late. "The status quo is not humane," he said, asking lawmakers to act quickly to adopt the Healthy Utah plan or expand Medicaid coverage. Accompanied by her two children, single parent Melanie Soule told lawmakers of the struggles she experienced when she became too ill to perform her job. Soule is profiled in this Salt Lake Tribune article: Advocates call for Medicaid expansion or for Herbert's alternative plan as thousands learn they earn too little—or too much—to qualify for aid.    

  • [View the story "Utah Likes the Healthy Utah Plan" on Storify]

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