Human Services

This November, North Dakota voters will vote on Initiated Statutory Measure 6, dubbed the Fathers’ Rights Initiative by the Washington Post. This measure aims to create a legal presumption that unless one parent is deemed unfit, both parents are granted equal parental rights and responsibilities, primary residential...

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In Iowa, the state and some of its local governments are trying to send a clear message to military veterans: We Want You. The Home Base Initiative is a public-private partnership that is marketing job opportunities to veterans across the country and doing more to welcome this population to Iowa.

Wendy Lewis went from military service to school and seemed to be lacking one key to success in life outside the Army—structure. Lewis recently participated on a student panel during a Council of State Governments Policy Academy, “Veterans Initiatives: Increasing Educational Attainment.” The goal of the five panels, according to Marshall Thomas, director of Veterans Affairs Services at California State Long Beach and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was to discuss how to go beyond simply saying “thank you for your service,” and how to best help veterans achieve educational success.

Researchers at the Center for American Progress estimate that hunger costs the U.S. at least $167.5 billion every year based on a combination of lost economic productivity, increased education expenses, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity. 

Food insecurity – the lack of consistent access to adequate food – affects millions of children and adults every year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost 15 percent of all households in 2013 were food insecure, or 49.1 million Americans. On average, from 2003-2011, around one in ten households that include children were food insecure, ranging from a low of 5.1 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 12.8 percent in Texas.

Hunger affects millions of children every year in the U.S. and is linked to greater rates of absenteeism and school disciplinary problems. Those behaviors are, in turn, associated with lower academic achievement and greatly increase the chance a child will drop out of school – which comes with a huge price tag for tax payers. 

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Strict adherence to the American principle of separation of powers should not stop members of the three branches of state government from coming together to improve child welfare and juvenile justice services to vulnerable children. That was the feeling at a panel discussion Aug. 13 at the CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference moderated by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Nearly 200 state leaders, guests and Alaska legislative staff helped pack 32,000 meals for the Alaska Food Bank during The Council of State Governments’ service project Aug. 13. The project—which began in 2010-11 during Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris’ year as chair of CSG’s Southern Legislative Conference—grew this year to be part of Norris’ initiative as CSG national chair, “State Pathways to Prosperity.” The service project occurred on the final day of the joint CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference.

Children often are a voiceless population, left to navigate the incredibly complex child welfare system—from family and juvenile courts to child protective services—depending on that system to provide the protection they need to survive and thrive. This workshop highlighted three state multibranch efforts to enhance services to children and families, provide protection for children and pave the way for future generations to escape cycles of violence, poverty and neglect.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released a 73 page booklet last week detailing preliminary proposals for reducing poverty rates. If Chairman Ryan – who calls the proposals a “discussion draft” – is earnest about his intent to spark conversation he has so far been successful, drawing some predictably positive and negative reviews as well as – most interestingly – pragmatic responses to the policy nuances of his plan. Receiving the most fanfare is Ryan’s plan to delegate safety net planning to the states by combining 11 programs – including SNAP and TANF – into the Opportunity Grant and allowing states to use the money to best serve their constituents.

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