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What is “TANF”?

canstockphoto2914384Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, known as TANF, is a vital safety net program for families who need a little help between jobs. In fact, data shows parents who receive TANF only need it for a limited time, and stop getting benefits because they have found a job, not because they run out. Here’s a snapshot of TANF in Arizona.

 

New KIDS COUNT Data Ranks Arizona 45th in Nation

2016 KidsCount photoThe Annie E. Casey Foundation is out with its annual KIDS COUNT® Data Book, ranking Arizona 45th overall, up from 46th in 2015. The analysis ranks states on 16 data markers, including education, health, poverty and family situation, as well as community factors.

While Arizona is still in the bottom ten states, improvements in math proficiency were the most notable area of progress, propelling the state from 35th in 2015 to 18th in 2016. Arizona eighth graders performed better than the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with 65% in our state not meeting proficiency, while nationally, that statistic is 68%.  Better scores can be attributed to an aggressive effort by public K-12 schools to adopt and meet more rigorous math standards.

Children growing up in Arizona continue to face big challenges, according to the report, with the state ranking in the bottom 10 for fourth grade reading, high school graduation and preschool participation. Additionally, one in four kids lives in a high poverty area, a factor that can have a dramatic impact on educational and future success.

The full KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available online. 

Arizona Welfare to Work Policies Doing Little to Help Families

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In 1979, one out of every two families with children living in poverty in Arizona participated in welfare assistance. In 2014, almost two decades after welfare reform, only one out of eleven families with children living in poverty in Arizona participated in the new program. Those who are able to participate receive a monthly average of only $93 per person in Arizona — one of the lowest rates of assistance in the country. Seven out of ten participants are children.

Welfare reform was supposed to help people move into employment, but as we’ve found in our research, Arizona needs to work harder on “welfare to work.” Currently, Arizona diverts most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal block grant funding away from work supports: only 2.7% of TANF funds spent in Arizona went to work related activities and supports.

Click here to download a copy of the data brief and learn just how little our policies do to help families go from “welfare to work.”

Essential DCS Charts and Graphs

The Department of Child Services (DCS) provides dozens of data indicators related to the reports of abuse or neglect it receives and the children and families who receive some kind of service from DCS.

Here at Children’s Action Alliance, we frequently go over the data available to us and the general public and try to make sense of it all and what it means to the children and families of Arizona.

The links below contains many of the charts and graphs we find are the most useful when determining how well Arizona’s children are protected from abuse and neglect.

DCS Charts and Graphs, Updated as of 12/31/15

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September is Grandfamilies/Kinship Care Month

Sixteen cities across Arizona have proclaimed September as Kinship Care Month, a time to recognize grandparents and other family members raising children who cannot be cared for by their own parents. Thank you to the following mayors for their support at September 1st news conferences in Pima and Maricopa Counties: Jackie Meck of Buckeye, Jonathan Rothschild of Tucson (pictured below), and Tom Schoaf of Litchfield Park.

2015-09-01 rothschild tucson gparents photo

Kinship care is not new, but it is growing. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, nearly 177,000 (5%) of Arizona’s children are being raised by family other than their parents, 67,000 of them by grandparents. Staying with family rather than in foster care is a good alternative for children because they need the stability of being in a familiar setting at a time when their lives are being disrupted.

Many grandparents with young children in their care may struggle to help raise them, both financially and physically. Grandfamilies need our support to help them get access to financial assistance, apply for health coverage for their grandchildren and establish a smoother process for gaining guardianship of the children in their care. Grandfamilies need to be able to easily find local training and support services for their grandchildren in their own neighborhoods.

Learn more about grandfamilies and kinship care here. If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren, get peer support by joining the Arizona Grandparent Ambassadors at http://www.azga.org/.

Cities that proclaimed Kinship Care Month include: Apache Junction, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Florence, Gilbert, Goodyear, Humboldt, Litchfield Park, Payson, Phoenix, Prescott, Queen Creek, Safford, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Tucson.

Budget Requests Part 2: DJC and DHS

State agencies have submitted their funding requests for the next fiscal year which begins July 1. Over the next few weeks, CAA will continue to provide you with a snapshot of requests submitted by many of these agencies. Here, in our second installment, is a snapshot of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections and the Department of Health Services (DHS).

Most of the DHS budget request concerns the creation of integrated services programs for two Medicaid populations in the behavioral health system –  individuals with serious mental illness and individuals who receive general mental health and substance abuse services.  Since these integrated programs require moving responsibilities and funding between the Department of Health Services and AHCCCS, we will report on all Medicaid programs in a separate e-news .

New Legislative District Fact Sheets

With KIDS COUNT® funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children’s Action Alliance is able to provide high-quality data and trend analysis to enrich local discussions about securing better futures for all children — and to raise the visibility of children’s issues through a nonpartisan, evidence-based lens.

2014 ld fact sheetOne popular data tool is the CAA Legislative District Fact Sheet so you can see how children in your district are doing. CAA recently updated the Legislative District Fact Sheets with the latest data, including important indicators such as Children Living in Poverty, Children without Health Insurance, Children in Household Receiving a Public Benefit and others.

We encourage you to use this local data when you meet with local elected officials and candidates. Find out how your candidates, state and U.S. senators and representatives plan to address the problems facing children in your community, and across the state.

As an added bonus, this year we have all the data for each legislative district in one spreadsheet available for download, so you can sort it and analyze it yourself. This extra bit of information can help you better understand where your legislative district ranks among all the others in each of the indicators on the fact sheet.

If you have any questions regarding the legislative district fact sheets or the candidate questionnaires, please contact Joshua Oehler at joehler@azchildren.org or at 602-266-0707 x204.

Child Care for Safe and Thriving Children and Families: A Win-Win Strategy

Parents without reliable, affordable child care may have to make the horrible choice to leave children home alone or in other inconsistent or dangerous situations when they have to go to work. This can contribute to lack of adequate supervision for children and a report of child neglect. Read this fact sheet to learn more.

CALIFORNIA RAISED TAXES AND GREW MORE JOBS

Last fall Californians voted to increase the state sales tax as well as income taxes for the wealthiest Californians. One executive in California predicted that this temporary rate increase would cause his state’s economy to self-destruct and that more companies “would be motivated to find greener pastures.” The Greater Phoenix Economic Council announced it would offer free airfare and hotel rooms to the first 50 California CEOs and high-tech, high-wage business owners who wanted to look at moving to Arizona. The assumption was that many of the California businesses fleeing east would relocate in Arizona, adding new jobs to our economy.

It’s almost been a year since the rate increase was voted through in California. So, did their economy self destruct?

Arizona_Locator_Map 100pxCalifornia_Locator_Map 100pxFar from it. According to the latest information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona has added 20,100 new jobs since December 2012 – a 0.8% increase. And California? That state added six times as many new jobs — 123,700 jobs over the same period, for an even larger increase — 0.9%.

The fact is that, whether it’s a business or an individual, deciding to leave one state to move to another depends on a lot of factors – and tax rates are far from the top of the list.

Arizona policymakers are beginning a public discussion about our state individual income tax. he new Joint Task Force on Income Task Reform had their first meeting yesterday and will meet for several more months to discuss tax simplification and fairness. Presentations in the first meeting highlighted how simple and low Arizona’s income taxes are already. See the bottom line about state taxes in CAA’s new fact sheet. We’ll keep you up to date as the discussion unfolds.

Latest Child Obesity Rates

In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that close to 10% of 2-5 year old children living in low income households in Arizona were obese. At that rate, Arizona was doing well with only 7 states in the country having lower obesity rates for low income, young children.

That all changed at the start of this century. Arizona’s obesity rate for young children rose above the national average, peaking at 14.6% in 2008 and falling only very slightly since then. The most recent data from the CDC shows that there is cdc childhood obesity pdnssreason for Arizonans and the rest of the country to be hopeful. Previous studies have shown decreases in child obesity rates among children living in higher income households, but this most recent data from the CDC shows that the trend is also going in the right direction among low income young children. In 18 states the obesity rate dropped significantly between 2008 and 2011 and in 20 other states, including Arizona, the rates remained the same.

The positive trend shows that community and family focus on better nutrition and more physical activity both lead to healthier kids. Healthy change can start with moms breastfeeding their babies. Research shows breastfeeding brings many health gains to children, including lower rates of obesity. The Department of Health Services Baby Steps for Breastfeeding Success program provides support to moms, hospitals and child care centers to encourage breastfeeding.

DHS also works with licensed child care centers throughout the state on healthy strategies to limit the amount of time children sit in front of a tv or computer screen, make more water available for kids to drink instead of juice, and encourage more physical play. See information about Empower Pack here.

Read the Children’s Action Alliance publication, Weighing In, for practical ideas on how Arizona schools can bring better nutrition and more physical activity into the regular school day – with good results for both health and academics.With continued effort, we can see Arizona on the list of improved states in the next CDC report.