By Wade C. Jacobsen on December 29, 2011 12:15 PM
The Future of Childrenblog recently touched on issues
faced by previously incarcerated young men and their families. As noted in the Future of Children volume on Fragile Families, incarceration places
additional strain on fathers by reducing earnings, compromising health, and
increasing the likelihood of family breakup.
addition to these barriers to re-entry, the latest research brief from the Fragile Families
and Child Wellbeing Study indicates that previously incarcerated fathers are also at
greater risk of experiencing housing insecurity such as homelessness, eviction,
and being forced to move in with someone else due to financial constraints. A
lack of stable housing complicates matters for recently released fathers
seeking employment to support their families. Applicants often need a
residential address and contact information when applying for a job. They may
also be at greater risk of returning to jail if driven to sleep in public or
can be done to help recently incarcerated young fathers get back on their feet?
Fragile Families research brief recommends making educational
and work programs accessible to prisoners prior to and upon release. Increased
earnings may help ex-prisoners better maintain stable housing. As highlighted
in an earlier Future of Childrenblog, some policies promote the
hiring of ex-offenders by prohibiting questions about prior convictions from
initial job interviews. Earlier this month, National Public
programs that seek to connect ex-offenders to medical treatment and housing.
For more recommendations for policies and programs to help recently
incarcerated young men, see the Future of
Children issues on the Transition to
and Fragile Families.
By Lauren Moore on December 29, 2011 10:19 AM
A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, Bosses Must Be Creative, focuses on the
Future of Children's Work
and Familyvolume, highlighting the challenges of balancing family and work responsibilities today, and calling for workplace
flexibility policies to ease the burden.
By Lauren Moore on December 20, 2011 10:14 AM
Under pressure to balance their
budgets, states are cutting government subsidies that help pay for child care
as reported on December 13 in The New York Times. The reduction threatens the
wellbeing of families by making it more difficult for parents to maintain their
jobs while caring for their children. One option to offset the impact of such
cuts may lie in increased provisions of workplace flexibility.
Research included in the Future of Children'sWork and Family volume, released by Princeton's
Woodrow Wilson School and the Brookings Institution, finds workplace
flexibility is linked with engagement, satisfaction, retention, and better
health for employees; and higher productivity and a better "bottom line"
for employers. The volume also shows that providing short to moderate periods
of paid parental leave - from three to twelve months - for all workers is
unlikely to have negative repercussions in the labor market and is likely to
have positive benefits for child and family wellbeing.
In a global comparison, the data
presented in the volume suggest that guaranteeing paid parental leave as well
as paid leave when a child is sick is feasible for the United States without
jeopardizing its competitive economy or low unemployment rates in the future.
And perhaps contrary to popular opinion, the volume shows that when employees
are offered workplace flexibility, they tend to use it conservatively,
minimizing costs to employers.
"Allowing employees more control over their
hours and more flexibility to adjust hours or work location when family demands
arise can lead to increased employee productivity, satisfaction, and
retention," say issue editors Sara McLanahan of Princeton and Jane
Waldfogel of Columbia University. "Far from representing a cost to
employers, such policies, if well designed to take into account the needs of
both employers and employees, can yield benefits."
Paid leave and workplace flexibility
policies are particularly important for low-income workers, who are the least
likely to have access to flexibility policies. For these families, taking care
of their families can put their wages - and their jobs - at risk. Because
current welfare policies encourage low-income parents to work, workplace policies
that encourage job retention should follow.
In the face of unprecedented federal
government budget strains, the volume recommends initiatives with minimal costs
and maximum benefits. Namely, the volume recommends that state and local
governments pass paid leave initiatives (Connecticut recently became the first
state to require employers to provide paid sick leave); that employers
implement workplace flexibility policies that encourage "right to
request" and "compensatory time"; and that community organizations
think carefully about the ways they can adjust their work to better accommodate
working families by, for example, changing the hours they are open or providing
better coordination of care.
By Regina M. Leidy on December 9, 2011 9:39 AM
"The statistics are
sobering: more than 23 million children, or 1 out of every 3, live apart from
their biological fathers; males are now less likely than females to graduate
from high school and to enter and graduate from college; there is long-term
decline in the percentage of adult males who have jobs; and only about 60
percent of young minority males have a job. The nation is in a crisis regarding
the development and economic productivity of young males, especially
disadvantaged males." (Brookings Institution)
On December 5, the Center
on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution hosted an event focused
on young disadvantaged males in the United States and the intervention programs
that might best serve them.
Using research from a
recent issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science, edited by Timothy Smeeding,
Irwin Garfinkel, and Ron Mincy, speakers showed that few teenage and young
adult males benefited from the economic recovery of 2003-2007 and men under
thirty were more adversely affected than any other demographic group by the
Broadly speaking, men have
historically had the upper hand in the U.S. economy. But with the recent
decline in jobs, including manufacturing and construction jobs, young men now
find it more difficult to earn enough to support a family than they did during
the mid-1970s. (The Future of Children: Transition to Adulthood) And by age 30, between sixty eight and seventy five
percent of young men in the United States, with only a high school degree or
less, are fathers.
Many of these fathers are
also incarcerated, which puts additional strain on families. Incarceration
rates for men have skyrocketed since the 1980s. As Irv Garfinkel noted at the
Brookings event, the U.S. is incarcerating far too many young men, particularly
those of color. Although white, non-Hispanic males account for about seventy
eight percent of all men over 25 in the U.S., less than one-third of prisoners
are white men. Imprisonment diminishes the earnings of adult men, compromises
their health, reduces familial resources, and contributes to family breakup. It
also adds to the deficits of poor children, thus ensuring that the effects of
imprisonment on inequality are transferred intergenerationally. Perversely, incarceration
has its most corrosive effects on families whose fathers were involved in
neither domestic violence nor violent crime before being imprisoned. (The Future of Children: Fragile Families)
The evidence shows that,
with proper funding and implementation, a surprising number of programs could
help reduce the problems that afflict disadvantaged young males. Some of
1.) Career Academies:
career development and academic achievement programs
2.) The National Guard
Youth ChalleNGe Program
3.) Expanded Work
Programs, including the Child Support Work Program
For more details on these
programs, which were featured at the Brookings event, click here.
By Wade C. Jacobsen on December 5, 2011 3:54 PM
week's news provides one example of the political kinks between research and
New York Times reports that federal funding for six new evidence-based
initiatives will be significantly cut or eliminated under a new House proposal.
of Children researchers show that one program funded by the
initiatives, the Nurse-Family Partnership discussed in the previous blog,
delays second births and reduces child maltreatment among teenage mothers.
no decisions have been finalized yet, experts are concerned about the future of
such programs. Brookings scholar and Senior Editor for the Future of Children Ron Haskins asks
in the Times article, "Why, in a constrained budget environment, do you cut the
programs that have to show they're working? It makes no sense." For more
comments by Ron Haskins, see the Brookings Institution blog
on this topic. Also see policy suggestions in the Future of Children.
By Wade C. Jacobsen on December 2, 2011 1:48 PM
estimates for counties and school districts indicate that a third of all
counties in 2010 had school-age poverty rates that were significantly higher
than the national poverty rate. This is one of many statistics about the
welfare of U.S. children that compels us to review the supports we currently
provide and in the future might provide to children and their families.
But in challenging fiscal times, how
do we make decisions about what programs to support?
A major objective of The Future of
Children is to translate evidence-based research for policy
makers, practitioners, and others working in the field. Although no social
science research is perfect, quality research can help policy makers and
practitioners better understand what works best for children, and allocate
finite resources to meet their needs.
The Obama administration embraces
evidence-based programming. But interpreting evidence is often as important as
the evidence itself, particularly when the views of policymakers and interest
groups may influence interpretations of research outcomes. According to a Future
of Childrenpolicy brief, the views of policymakers and those
in office often outweigh the evidence, and influential interest groups may be
more concerned with the people and organizations they serve than with
In a recent presentation for the University-Based
Child and Family Policy Consortium, Jon Baron, President of the The
Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and Woodrow Wilson School
alumnus, spoke about the benefits and challenges of using evidence to inform
policy and program development. It is tempting for programs to want to show
success and for politicians to want to quickly dismiss what does not work, but
is better to create an environment that supports accurate research and allows
for program growth over time. Working closely with the Office of Management and
Budget, the Coalition uses a two-tiered approach: providing support for
programs with the strongest positive evidence from randomized trials, while
rigorously evaluating programs with less evidence.
Mr. Baron presented two examples
of programs that have yielded positive results among disadvantaged groups, one
in the field of education and the other in child health and wellbeing, both of
which were featured in Future of Children volumes:
In education, the H&R Block FAFSA
Project yielded strong positive effects, according to Mr. Baron. As described
in the Future of Children issue Transition to Adulthood and highlighted in a past
blog, the goal of the intervention project is to
inform low-income families of the financial aid that could be available to them
and to help them make informed decisions about whether or not to apply and
enroll in college. Findings from randomized experiments show that the program
increased college enrollment for low- and moderate-income students by about 26%
when compared to the control group.
In child wellbeing, rigorous social
science evaluations of home-visiting programs designed to improve parenting and
reduce child maltreatment convinced President Barack Obama's
administration to initiate a multi-billion-dollar federal program to expand a
particular model of home visiting, the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP). As
summarized in The Future of Children's issue on Preventing Child Maltreatment, in this program,
specially trained registered nurses conduct regular home visits to low-income
first-time mothers to promote healthy behavior during pregnancy and positive
Key to the success of
these and future initiatives is working with policy makers and practitioners to
better understand the problems they are trying to solve, their social networks,
and the ways by which they acquire, interpret, and use research. The next step
is then to effectively translate unbiased research that addresses their
questions into information that they can use.
The Future of Children
publishes two volumes and policy briefs each year to bring research on various
topics about child wellbeing to those working on the frontline. To read our
volumes and policy briefs, click here. To view webcasts from some of our outreach
events, click here.