Archive | August 2012

Kinship Care: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Many of today’s grandparents have become full-time caregivers for  their grandchildren. United States Census 2000 indicates that 4.5 million of our nation’s poorest children reside in grandparent-headed households and that number is escalating rapidly. Data indicates that approximately one-third of these children have no parent present in the home. The number of children in grandparent-headed households has increased 30 percent since 1990.

Research data indicates that in New York, there are 297,239 children living in grandparent-headed households which constitutes 6.3% of all the children in that state. Twenty-eight percent of these grandparents live in households without the children’s parents present. The literature on this phenomenon suggests that there are probably many more children in informal care arrangements residing with their grandparents than the data can capture.

AARP indicates that the majority of grandparents rearing grandchildren are between ages 55 and 64. Approximately 20 to 25 percent are 65 or older. While grandparent-headed families cross all socio-economic levels, these grandparents are more likely to live in poverty than are other grandparents. AARP materials also state that there are eight times more children in grandparent-headed homes than in the foster care system.

Although the phenomenon of grandparents raising grandchildren is neither novel nor new, this emerging social issue is garnering a great deal of national attention due to its impact on the welfare of an ever increasing number of our nation’s children. The rise in the number of grandparent headed households is due to serious family problems. The reasons for the increase in grandparent headed households include but are not limited to: AIDS, abandonment, child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, death, divorce, incarceration, and the parent’s lack of employment.

Caring for their grandchildren can have life altering consequences for the grandparents. Many grandparents have not planned to raise a second family or may be retired and living on a fixed income. Having sufficient income or resources to provide housing, food, clothing, medicine, and school supplies for their grandchildren may be of critical concern. Research indicates that children raised by their grandparents are more likely than children in traditional foster care to live in poverty, to have special health and educational needs, and to lack access to health care.

While grandparents have played a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren for generations, the increasing numbers of grandparents with responsibility for their grandchildren and the rise in social factors necessitating this arrangement have created millions of vulnerable families with unique needs. For further information on the topic of grandparents raising grandchildren or to get help, please call or visit the website of: AARP’s Grandparent Information Center: 202-434-2296; and Generation’s United: 202-289-3979.

Sources: Children’s Defense Fund website, AARP’s Grandparent Information Center website, US Census Bureau, and Generations United website.

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“I Have a Dream”

On August 28, 1963, in which Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters,[1] the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.[

August of this marked the 49th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King opened his speech saying “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” This year, make your greatest demonstration of freedom—- your vote. Take action that can and will change the future. If you are not already registered, get registered to vote. Seize the opportunity to cast your vote.

In recent months, hard won voting rights have been under attack throughout the country.  Though recent court wins in Florida, Texas, and Ohio have turned back some of these efforts, other challenges remain and much education and outreach is needed to overcoming the damage that remains from laws enacted precisely for the purpose of making it much harder for millions to register and vote.

As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” On election day, vote take a friend with you. Your vote can be decisive, stand up, speak out, be heard— cast your vote!

Let freedom ring in 2012.

Soutces: Wikipedia.

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Women’s Equality Day

August 26, 2012 is Women’s Equality Day. Forty years ago, at the behest of US Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY), the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The date of August 26th was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the nineteenth (19th) Amendment to the US Constitution which grants women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York. For many feminists, the observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward reaching full equality.

In its action alert, 9 to 5 reminds us of the continuing problem of sex-and race-based wage discrimination and the need to achieve pay equity. The alert reads as follows:
When the Equal Pay Act passed nearly 50 years ago, a woman earned an average of 59 cents for every dollar a man made.  Today, she makes 77 cents.  The annual gap between men and women’s median annual wages is a staggering $10,849. With more and more families relying on women’s wages to support them in an ailing economy, shortchanging women nearly $11,000 a year is inexcusable.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is an important  step in the continuing struggle for women’s rights. Blocked in the Senate in  2010, when a minority of Senators prevented the bill from moving forward, the Act will be reintroduced by members of Congress this month.The Paycheck Fairness Act would take several  steps towards closing the wage gap, including: clarifying acceptable reasons  for differences in pay between men and women; prohibiting retaliation against  workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers’ wage  policies and their pay rates; making it easier to file class action lawsuits  based on equal pay; and requiring the EEOC to survey current pay data and obliging employers to submit pay data identified by race, sex and national  origin of employees.
Action Needed:
Help 9 to5 make change: Contact your U.S.  Senators and U.S. Representative and urge them to support and sign on to the  Paycheck Fairness Act as it is introduced this year. Women have waited too long for equal wages.  We, as a nation, cannot afford to wait any longer.—9 to 5. Sources: Women’s History Project. 9 to 5. The National Committee on Pay Equity. The Paycheck Fairness Act. Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Children Born to Teenage Mothers

It has been reported that children born to teenage mothers experience significant life-long challenges. Social science research indicates that teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of high school and live in poverty, and their children frequently experience health and developmental problems (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2004). While millions of American families struggle individually with the emotional and economic challenges that unintended pregnancy can bring, teen pregnancy poses a significant financial burden to society at large — an estimated $7 billion per year (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998; National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003a).[1]

Data indicates that teen pregnancy rates vary widely by race and ethnicity. In 2000, the pregnancy rate for white teens was 56.9 per 1,000 women 15-19 years of age. The pregnancy rate for Hispanic teens was 132. For African American teens it was 151 (Abma et al., 2004).[2]  In general, it has been reported that teenage mothers do not fare as well as their peers who delay childbearing:

–                       Their family incomes are lower.

–                       They are more likely to be poor and receive welfare. –                       They are less educated.

–                       They are less likely to be married.

–                       Their children lag in standards of early development.

(AGI, 1999; Hoffman, 1998; National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003a; National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004a).[3]

In the United States, nearly 80 percent of teen mothers eventually go on welfare. According to one study, more than 75 percent of all unmarried teen mothers began receiving welfare within five years of giving birth (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998; National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004).

In 2001, only 30 percent of teenage mothers received child support payments (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2004). Although not as severe as those for teen mothers, the effects of early childbearing are also negative for teen fathers. They are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as alcohol abuse or drug dealing, and they complete fewer years of schooling than their childless peers. One study found that the fathers of children born to teen mothers earned an estimated average of $3,400 less per year than the fathers of children born to mothers who were 20 or 21, over the course of 18 years following the birth of their first child (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998).

The offspring of teenage mothers are more likely to be poor, abused, or neglected than those of women who delay childbearing, and they are less likely to receive proper nutrition, health care, and cognitive and social stimulation (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998; Maynard, 1997). On average, a child born to a teenage mother visits a medical provider 3.8 times per year, versus 4.3 times for a child born to a mother over the age of 20 years (National Campaign To Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004b).

Experts estimate that the annual costs of births to teens totals about $7 billion in tax revenues, public assistance, child health care, foster care, and involvement with the criminal justice system. In addition, during her first 13 years of parenthood, the average teenage mother receives approximately $1,400 per year in support from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the federal food stamp program (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 1998)

Sources: Annie E. Casey Foundation. (1998). Kids Count Special Report: When Teens Have Sex: Issues and Trends. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation. Abma, J.C., et al. (2004). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 23(24). AGI — Alan Guttmacher Institute. (1995, accessed 1999, August 30). Issues in Brief: Lawmakers Grapple with Parents’ Role in Teen Access to Reproductive Health Care. [Online].

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[1] Annie E. Casey Foundation. (1998). Kids Count Special Report: When Teens Have Sex: Issues and Trends. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.

[2] Abma, J.C., et al. (2004). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 23(24).

[3] AGI — Alan Guttmacher Institute. (1995, accessed 1999, August 30). Issues in Brief: Lawmakers Grapple with Parents’ Role in Teen Access to Reproductive Health Care. [Online].


Child Witnesses to Domestic Violence

Over 15 million children in our nation live in homes where there has  been at least one incident of domestic violence in the past year, and  seven million children live in families where severe partner violence  has occurred. Data indicates that 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate  partner violence also abuse children in the home. Growing up in abusive  household can pose a threat to not only the child’s physical health but  his mental health as well.

Research indicates that the non-abusive parent is often one the most  important protective factors in the lives of children who witness  domestic violence. All women, children, and men have the right to live  in a safe environment and to conduct their lives without emotional,  physical or sexual abuse or the fear of abuse.

Often, one of the greatest concerns for battered women is the affect  of living in a violent home environment on children. In some instances,  the domestic becomes so severe that women with children leave their  homes without a place to go. Research indicates that domestic violence  is a leading cause of homelessness. In a 2007 report by the United  States Conference of Mayors, thirty-nine percent of the city leaders who  were surveyed identified domestic violence as a primary cause of  homelessness among households with children.

Victims of domestic violence experience difficulty finding housing.  There simply are not sufficient beds to house all the battered women and  their children seeking shelter. The U.S. Conference of Mayors report  indicated that city leaders turn persons experiencing homelessness away  from shelters and transitional housing because of lack of capacity all  or some of the time. Not only do battered women experience challenges in  securing a bed in a shelter, they also often have difficulty securing a  safe, decent, affordable apartment.

Domestic violence thrives on apathy. It can be eradicated with an  equal amount of conscience, mind, heart, and collective action. How you  can help? Advocate for increased funding for domestic violence programs  and public housing.

Sources:United  States Conference of Mayors. Center for Diseaese Control & Prevention (CDC), National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. McDonald, Renee, Ernest N. Jouriles, Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, et al. 2006. Estimating the Number of American Children Living in Partner-Violent Families; Edelson, J.L. (1999). “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Women Battering.” Violence Against Women. 5:134-154; U.S. Conference of Mayors. 2007. A Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness in America’s Cities: A 23-City Survey. Washington, DC.

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Victim Blaming

What barriers does an abused person face when attempting to end a violent relationship? As a long-time advocate for victims of domestic violence, Nichelle Mitchem recognizes that the complexity of the legal system and the absence of legal assistance cause some victims to stay in an abusive relationship. By understanding of the importance of the access to legal information, assistance, and often representation for battered women, Mitchem has sought to enhance the accessibility to legal services for victims of domestic violence for much of her career.

Whether serving as an administrator of legal service programs for battered women or as the executive director of a domestic violence agency, Nichelle has been asked to present on: the dynamics of domestic violence, available supportive services, and the legal aspects of domestic violence. “Like shelter and counseling, access to legal information and assistance serve to empower abused persons,” Mitchem says. When discussing domestic violence with various audiences, participants often pose the question, “Why doesn’t the victim just leave?” In response, Mitchem says, “Most victims want to leave and many try. Even under the best of circumstances, leaving a relationship is difficult. Violent relationships are complex; and victims in these relationships are faced with many barriers to leaving. These barriers include the lack of knowledge of: civil and criminal protections afforded to them under the law as well as available legal resources. Additionally, the abusive partner occasionally uses intimidation and/or violence to stop the victim from severing the relationship. As a result, victims often fear retaliation for ending the relationship.”

Mitchem asserts that, “Victims often stay, because they fear that the abuser will find her and kill/harm her, the children, other relatives, or friends. They stay with the hopes that the violence will end, because they are financially dependent on the abuser, lack alternative housing, or are trying to keep the family together. They stay hoping change is possible. It takes strength and determination to survive violence. However, as time goes on, surviving an abusive relationship becomes more difficult.” This fact is particularly true for economically disadvantaged battered women and abused women with disabilities.

Mitchem has sought to enhance access to legal services for this particularly vulnerable population by understanding of the importance of legal information, assistance, and representation for many battered women, particularly those who are indigent, homeless,  and/or disabled. During her tenure as executive director, domestic violence agencies have launched and/or expanded on legal service programs that assist clients in negotiating legal and other challenges that might arise as they seek to eliminate domestic violence from their lives. These very necessary programs assist survivors of domestic violence to build long-term safety and security for themselves and their children.”

For information about available legal services and other programs for victims of domestic violence in your community, please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website at

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Congressman Paul Ryan For U.S. Vice-President: Good or Bad Choice?

What does a Romney-Ryan future for working families look like? Well, lets start by looking at Congressman Ryan’s Budget Plan passed by the Republican dominated U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Ryan entitled his budget plan “The Path to Prosperity,” which opponents refer to as the “Road to Ruin”. When reviewing the Ryan Budget Plan, opponents ask the Romney-Ryan ticket, Haven’t you learned trickle down economics did not and will not work? Many assert that Congressman Ryan’s Budget Plan gives us great insight into what the future of working families would look like under President Romney.

Since Mitt Romney’s announcement of his running mate for the 2012 Presidential Election this weekend, the Democrats and others have been carefully reviewing Paul Ryan’s voting record in Congress for the last fourteen years. Both fiscal conservatives and Democrats are pleased with Governor Romney’s selection of Congressman Ryan as his running mate but for very different reasons.

After Governor Romney’s running mate announcement, Romney has made headlines and donations have poured in from all over the country. Congressman Paul Ryan’s selection as Romney’s running mate has drawn a clear distinction between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney’s vision of the road to financial recovery for our nation.

Many people have asked after reviewing the Ryan Budget Plan where is the shared sacrifice? Independent economists have reported that the Ryan Budget is not a pro-growth document. In fact, economist warn that under the Ryan Plan that we, as a nation, would lose over a million jobs.

In Donna Jablonski’s  recent article she asks the question, Do you remember the budget plan written by vice presidential contender Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), entitled “The Path to Prosperity,” which opponents refer to as the “Road to Ruin”. Ryan’s Budget Plan gives voters a great insight into the Romney-Ryan tickets position on issues important to working families.

In case we have forgotten what was in the Ryan Budget Plan, Jablonski provides us with a reminder of the impact of the Plan on working families. According to Jablonski, the list of consequences from the Ryan Budget Plan which appears below is drawn from works which were prepared by the Center for American Progress[i].  The Center for American Progress’ work indicates that the Ryan Budget Plan if enacted would do the following:

1. “It caters to the 1%.

Ryan’s proposed tax cuts for the rich are larger than the windfall they received from former President George W. Bush.”

2. “It ends Medicare as we know it.

The budget would move toward a privatization of Medicare…and anyone new to the Medicare program could see costs rise by nearly $6,000 by 2050.”

3. “It eliminates the health care safety net.

The budget would cost 47 million people their health insurance benefits over the next decade.”

4. “It increases unemployment.

The House budget seeks to balance the deficit on the backs of unemployed Americans, whose ranks would increase under the plan.”

5. “It threatens our economic competitiveness.

The plan slashes $871 billion from government investments in education, job training, scientific research and transportation infrastructure over the next decade.”

6. “It showers money on Big Oil.

The budget would continue to shower oil companies with $40 billion in tax breaks over 10 years.”

7. “It devastates Social Security.

The House budget would cut Social Security benefits for most recipients, while giving the wealthy a windfall.”

8. “It shortchanges K–12 education.

The budget proposal lumps spending on education, social programs and training into a category targeted with a 20 percent cut.”

9. “It shortchanges higher education.

Low-income and middle-class students…may find it harder to get financial aid: The budget proposes big cuts to the Pell Grant program.”

10. “It ignores the wishes of the American people.

About two-thirds of Americans think the rich should pay higher taxes. And 70 percent believe Medicare should continue operating as it does currently….The plan ignores the will of the people, favoring the wealthy while ending Medicare as we know it.”

When discussing his budget plan, Congressman Ryan said his budget focused on cutting spending rather than raising revenue because “spending’s the problem.” If government spending continues to grow, he said, “You’ll end up shutting down the American dream, the American economy.”

By a partisan vote of 228 to 191, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which as you can see calls for steep spending limits and dramatic changes to Medicare. Ten Republicans voted against the bill, and no Democrats voted for it.

It is very important for the electorate to know the candidates’ positions on key issues confronting working families in the 2012 Presidential Race.  Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election highlights that this race is all about choices.  Choices about whether we, as a nation, will invest in good jobs under President Obama or give tax breaks to rich Americans and large corporations under Mitt Romney. Choices about investing in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, good schools, and higher education or whether we have decided to turn back the clock and repeat the policies that caused the crisis we are currently confronting.

With that said, nowhere are these choices more glaring than in Mitt Romney’s recent selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. If Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan win the White House in 2012, millions of working families, seniors, people with disabilities and children could loose their social insurance (i.e. Medicare, etc.).

As stated in the Huffington Post, even, “David Stockman, a former budget director under President Ronald Reagan, derided the budget plan of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick in an op-ed in The New York Times Tuesday.” “Mr. Ryan’s sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to ‘job creators’ (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse,” “Stockman wrote in the op-ed, later adding: “Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices.”

Sources: AFL-CIO Action Alert, 08/13/2012, “What’s Wrong with Paul Ryan?” , Donna Jablonski, Political Action/Legislation. Stephanie Condon,, March 29, 2012. Huffington Post Business Brief, “Ex-Reagan Budget Director: Ryan Budget ‘Is Devoid Of Credible Math Or Hard Policy Choices'”, 8/14/2012. SEUI Action Alert, 08/14/2012. “Koch brothers have Paul Ryan’s back,” Politico, August 11, 2012

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[i] The Center for American Progress (CAP) is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.

Building on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, their work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care.

The Center for American Progress develops new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shape the national debate.

Founded in 2003 by John Podesta to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement, CAP is headed by Neera Tanden and based in Washington, D.C.