CWLA Concerned about Keeping Child Welfare at the Forefront in Light of Census Figures Showing Growing Poverty Levels
White House Conference for Children and Families Needed to Force Action
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Arlington, VA - The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization, is deeply concerned about the recent Census figures showing a major increase in poverty--especially among children. This news comes on the heels of good news from Health and Human Services about an ongoing decline in the number of children in the foster care system.
"Children and families facing poverty are at even greater risk of not succeeding. Given the growing number of poor children, I worry that the strides we've made in keeping children out of foster care may also wane," explained CWLA CEO Chris James-Brown. "The bad economy and joblessness are adding significant pressures to already stressed families. We must be vigilant about keeping children's issues on the national agenda."
According to the Census, the nation's official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 with nearly 44 million people in poverty. Of these, nearly 16 million are children under the age of 18. Also unsettling, the number of people without health insurance coverage grew from 46 million in 2008 to nearly 51 million in 2009.
Despite these sobering statistics, Health and Human Services recently released figures showing another significant decline in the number of children in foster care. In a decade's time, the number of foster children declined from 540,000 to around 424,000 this year. While still unacceptably large, the drop is the result of a multitude of factors, including a sustained and coordinated effort to change how children are supported. In addition, more emphasis on child abuse prevention, kinship care, reunification, aging out, foster parent recruitment, and adoption have spurred changes. Also helping is the landmark 2008 Fostering Connections Act, aimed at improving outcomes foster children.
To further protect children from the strain of poverty, more focus must continue to be placed on preventing child abuse and neglect as a means to keep more children out of the system. Also all the systems that serve vulnerable children and families must find better ways to work together to ensure higher quality, more responsive services.
A White House Conference on Children and Youth is a long-overdue means to convene a national discourse on the topic of vulnerable children and make recommendations to improve outcomes. In light of the growing number of poor children in the nation, it is time for the President to embrace a White House Conference, and launch a dialogue that engages leaders and stakeholders from around the nation to drive system and policy changes and make children a national priority.
CWLA is a powerful coalition of hundreds of private and public agencies serving vulnerable children and families since 1920. Through its programs, publications, research, conferences, professional development, and consultation, CWLA speaks with authority and candor about the status and the needs of American children, young people, and families. As the nationally recognized standard-setter for child welfare services, CWLA provides direct support to agencies that serve children and families, improving the quality of the services they provide to more than nine million children every year. www.cwla.org.
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