On Thursday, July 7, First Focus conducted their annual Children’s Budget Summit and released their new Children’s Budget 2016 book but it may have been the keynote remarks that captured the moment.
New York Times columnist, Charles Blow reflected on the fresh news of a second shooting in as many days of a black man at the hands of the police (and before the Dallas shootings). Blow said that “We can’t separate violence from children’s issues.” He talked passionately about the impact of such violence on children and went on to describe how the circumstances in Baton Rouge, Louisiana involved a man who was selling CD’s because he had a record of probation and was having difficulty finding work because of the difficulty of re-entry. He discussed the impact on his surviving 15-year-old son who broke down at a press conference after the shooting. Blow also described the shooting a second man in Minneapolis, Minnesota and how there was a 4-year-old child in the back seat of the car when that shooting took place. In both instances he asked how many services and support would be needed for those children because of the direct impact of violence.
The First Focus Children’s Budget 2016 is an annual analysis by that organization of federal spending on children compared to previous trend lines. According to the analysis spending on children represented just 7.83 percent of the federal budget in 2016. Much of the following panel discussions focused on the changing demographics of the US population with the growth in Hispanic, African American and Asian children with many of these children living in poverty. That child population also create a dynamic that will make this a “majority-minority” population by mid-century.
The budget analysis indicated that child welfare spending (as a percent of the federal budget) has remained at the same level between 2016 and 2014. A deeper analysis however shows that some funds have remained stagnant or decreased over that time but foster care funding has increased for the reason that the number of children in foster care has increased over the past two years. Foster care funding is still an entitlement not contingent on an appropriation by Congress. Funding has increased from $4.2 billion in 2014 to a projected $4.8 billion in 2016.
The biggest category of federal child spending is for health services (30%) followed by income support (21.7%), nutrition (20%) and education (12.7%), early childhood (5%), housing (3.8%) and child welfare (3%).