Jul 5, 2022, 2:00 PM, Posted by
Charles Bruner, Martha Davis
We identified exemplary practices to help foster the nurturing, stable environments that children need from birth through adolescence to thrive.
The United States has the most advanced medical care system in the world and spends the most per capita on healthcare. Yet we lag behind other developed nations on important health indicators, including infant mortality, child wellbeing, adult disability, and overall life expectancy. The status quo is failing our kids, denying them a healthier and brighter future. More kids than ever face the prospect of growing up less healthy and living shorter lives than their parents. Children are more likely than any other age group to be poor and live in medically underserved and socially vulnerable communities. Unless we collectively take significant steps to improve our children’s health and development, we will face adverse consequences for years to come.
There is growing evidence on how to improve children’s wellbeing. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Integrated Care for Kids-InCK Marks Initiative spent the last six years bringing together pediatric practitioners, health administrators, policy experts, and advocates. InCK Marks’ advisors assessed pediatric healthcare practices and innovations, metrics, finances, and culture to identify tangible solutions that advance a culture of health for kids.
This work continually pointed us to—and eventually rooted us in—the value of early investments in preventive health and health promotion. While the return on investment may not be immediate, the dividends are lifelong, with ripple effects into all facets of life. The needed investments encompass more than just medical treatment; health systems must respond more proactively to the determinants that play a lasting role in children’s health, including economic (housing, food, and basic income) and social (relational supports and opportunities) factors.
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Apr 18, 2022, 8:45 AM, Posted by
Monica Hobbs Vinluan
The expanded Child Tax Credit was one of the best policies enacted in generations. As we look to the future, we should continue what works.
For children and families, last year’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit provided crucial support, helping them afford basic needs like food, clothing, and housing. Yet this historic policy achievement that almost immediately reduced child poverty was fleeting. Just six months after the first payment went out, the opportunity to help children thrive abruptly ended. The expanded policy was never extended, and these families are now right back where they started.
Research shows that long term, sustained cash assistance has the greatest impact, confirming that this policy should be permanent. As we mark Tax Day here are four reasons why the expanded Child Tax Credit should be permanent:
1. Reduces the number of children living in poverty. (That should be reason enough).
Even in a nation as wealthy as the United States, 10 million children experience poverty. The damaging effects of the conditions of poverty are relentless: hunger, homelessness, substandard schooling, and a lack of access to healthcare and child care. The populations hit hardest by the pandemic are the same ones experiencing the highest poverty rates: Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous children and their families.
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Mar 24, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Child-welfare systems and policies shouldn't create so many unjust barriers for children growing up in nontraditional families.
Life is harder than it has to be for families where grandparents or other relatives step up to care for children when their parents can't. Our family-supportive policies and systems were designed to serve “traditional families,” with services aimed at “parents” and foster families, not relatives who step up. These families face unnecessary barriers to getting the support children need to thrive. This is especially true among Black and American Indian families, who make up a disproportionate share of the 2.6 million families in the United States where children are growing up without parents in the home. The pandemic has made things worse. COVID-19 has robbed thousands of children of their parents and sent them into the care of relatives.
What happened to the Brown family of Baton Rouge, La., helps to tell the story of grandfamilies, also known as kinship families, which form when children are separated from parents through life events like death, illness, incarceration, or deportation. After a horrific onslaught of gun violence killed four members of their family, Robert and Claudia Brown took custody of three grandsons. They fought for 12 years to adopt the boys.
The Browns struggled through trauma, grief, and loss. They scrambled to pay lawyers while supporting three growing boys. They blew through retirement savings. They didn’t know about services or support that could have bolstered their mental health and financial security.
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Feb 23, 2022, 10:45 AM, Posted by
What can we learn from communities in the U.S. and around the world about changing the narrative on progress? What does it mean in practice to take a well-being approach?
For many months, our society has grappled with defining our “new normal.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened inequities that undermine well-being. Combined with a worldwide outcry for racial equity, we have been challenged to reconsider how the United States defines “progress.”
Our nation’s traditional story of progress has been limited to measures like economic growth and employment. When leaders tout our country’s successes, they cite GDP numbers, job growth, and unemployment rates.
On an individual level, a person’s bank account balance, the car they drive, and their generational wealth are heralded as markers of success. These benchmarks only tell a fraction of the human story. They also overlook how structural racism has undermined economic opportunity for communities of color among other outcomes.
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Feb 10, 2022, 10:45 AM, Posted by
How can encouraging men to share the joy and challenges of caregiving help erase stereotypes and transform the nation’s culture of care?
The acclaimed Carter Woodson, who is often called the father of Black history, said: You must give your own story to the world.
Those have been guiding words for me these past few years as I’ve shared my deeply personal journey as a Black father and family caregiver. My goal in doing so is to help break stereotypes, create a new narrative, and offer solutions to the caregiving crisis that is holding our country back.
I’m proud to be a caregiver to my family, which includes my wife, her 9-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, my 9-year-old son, and the 2-year-old son we have together. Caring for four children, including one with special needs and another who is an active, curious toddler, is not easy. Doing it during a pandemic that has made life much more difficult for both kids and adults has been especially challenging.
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Feb 3, 2022, 1:00 PM, Posted by
Can people in the United States heed the lessons offered by Malawian farmers and use them to build a healthier and more equitable future?
This is the question at the heart of the award-winning film by director Raj Patel, "The Ants and the Grasshopper." It follows farmer, mother, and teacher Anita Chitaya as she travels from her home in Malawi across the United States to engage farmers, food justice advocates, and climate skeptics in conversations about how we can build a healthy future.
Malawi is struggling with severe child malnutrition. Rising temperatures and extreme drought have made it tougher to grow nutritious food and pushed more families into hunger and poverty. In the film, we meet and travel with Anita, who mobilizes people in her village—encouraging farmers to try new agriculture methods and plant nutrient-rich food, and even getting men involved in cooking family meals to help children in Malawi grow up healthy. We learn that Anita and the people in her village have achieved the seemingly impossible—tackling the issues of patriarchy, child malnutrition, and climate change in interconnected and impactful ways.
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Jan 25, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Millions of children live in neighborhoods with limited access to safe housing, green space, or good schools. Data can inform efforts by local leaders to build a brighter, more equitable future for all children.
The pandemic has underscored how profoundly factors like where we live, our income, the kind of job we have, and our race and ethnicity affect our health, well-being, and ability to prosper. Some families and children in the United States have had the resources to weather this storm. But far too many have struggled to meet their basic needs. A poll from late 2021 found that about half of households with children had no savings to fall back on. Significantly more Black and Latino households with children and households with incomes below $50,000 reported not having this buffer.
These are not individual failures. They are societal and systemic—stemming from the pervasive and persistent harm caused by long-standing racism, redlining, and segregation. They affect immigrant families, too, who have trouble accessing social safety net programs, even if they are U.S. citizens.
To advance equity for all, we must address child poverty, unequal access to education and healthcare, and environmental conditions for what they are—structural and systemic in nature. Change can start in your backyard.
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Jan 13, 2022, 11:00 AM, Posted by
The pandemic, renewed attention to racial justice, climate threats, and evolving technology herald huge changes in the nature of work. To center equity in that shift, policies, practices, and culture need to change, too.
When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020, the workplace almost instantly transformed. Many people began working remotely and long commutes vanished. Despite heightened anxiety and danger, the public health emergency ushered in unexpected benefits for some in the form of flexibility, accommodations to family life, and recognition of “whole person” needs.
In frontline settings, such as healthcare, grocery stores, public transit systems, and manufacturing sites, the situation was drastically different. While the workers who kept these essential services operating were rightly touted as heroes, many had little choice but to risk infection, hospitalization, and death to keep the lights on for the rest of us.
These very different experiences show the challenges we face as the structure and nature of work evolves. How the risks and opportunities are distributed in that emerging future will largely depend on the decisions we make as a society.
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Nov 9, 2021, 11:00 AM, Posted by
Caregiving is one of the greatest challenges of our time, with significant implications for families and our economy.
The pandemic has exacerbated the struggles facing many who care for children, aging relatives, loved ones with disabilities, and family members who are sick with COVID-19 or other illnesses. With long-stalled federal investments in a care economy, paid family and medical leave, and other policy and workplace reforms under consideration, my colleagues and I weighed in on the role men can play in providing unpaid and paid care in a series of posts this year.
They are based on reports from New America that explore the cultural, legal, and other changes that would enable more men to do this essential work.
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Oct 13, 2021, 1:00 PM, Posted by
Brigid Schulte, Jennifer Ng'andu
Policies like paid leave are working to advance gender equity at work and at home in other nations. We just need to expand them here in the United States.
"We are one of the only countries in the world that doesn't offer paid family and medical leave to those who need it." —Robert Espinoza, Vice President of the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute
A study by Better Life Lab and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reconfirms that the U.S. status quo of gender roles, both at work and home, is not working for many families. Men are missing out on caretaking roles that enrich their lives and enhance the bonds with loved ones, while women are struggling with role overload, feeling unsupported and missing out on income and economic mobility.
In contrast to the U.S., many nations are advancing gender equity through solutions that benefit health, child development, family well-being, and advance racial equity, like paid leave. The United States can learn from the experiences of other nations that are implementing paid leave policies and find approaches that encourage fathers to take advantage of these policies.
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