Human Services Overview
What happens to children -- especially in their early years--echoes over the long haul across a broad range of social policy areas. How children fare today will be felt in all parts of society--in schools, the economy, health, welfare and criminal justice systems. In addition, polls suggest that voters are dissatisfied over governmental responses to the needs of children and families. To address these concerns and help legislators support families in their communities, NCSL tracks state and federal policies and programs in four key areas: early childhood care and education, welfare and poverty, child welfare and youth programs. In addition, we offer resources on child support, marriage, domestic violence and family law. The human services federal affairs staff represents state legislatures on the full range of federal human service issues in Washington, D.C.
Child Care and Early Education has captured the attention of policymakers, researchers, educators and parents in recent years. The increase of mothers in the workforce, along with new information about brain development and the long-term benefits of early education programs, have contributed to the prominence of these issues. Sixty-one percent of children under age 6 in the United States are in some kind of care outside the home. We offer the latest information on prekindergarten programs, child care subsidy systems, and descriptions of states' funding and policy choices.
Child Welfare is a critical state responsibility and includes protecting children from abuse and neglect, and ensuring that children have safe, stable and permanent living situations. States and the federal government spend about $20 billion every year on child welfare services. State legislators play a major role in funding, structuring and overseeing child welfare systems and enact more than 300 child welfare bills every year. NCSL tracks these issues in six major categories: system reform, prevention of child maltreatment, child protective services, foster care, kinship care and adoption.
Child Support is an important source of income for the millions of children living in single-parent households, especially those who are also living in poverty. States play an important role in collecting child support through child support enforcement programs and by providing services to noncustodial parents. NCSL offers an online clearinghouse for state legislators with resources on child support policy, financing, laws, research, and promising practices.
Welfare Reform has resulted in significant welfare caseload declines in recent years. The shift from welfare as a cash entitlement program to a work-first program gave states unprecedented spending flexibility. States succeeded in moving many parents into employment in the mid-1990s and have since expanded their services to support low-income working families, both on and off the welfare caseload. Beyond work supports, some states have created fatherhood and marriage programs to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. The federal welfare reform legislation is up for reauthorization in 2010.
Youth Issues have captured the attention of many state legislators, due largely to a better understanding of the problems facing today's youth. Research shows that many young people are not fully prepared for college, the workplace and the responsibilities of adulthood. We have resources on cross-cutting strategies to ensure public programs are best meeting the needs of young people. We also offer information on youth engagement initiatives, such as state youth advisory councils and civic education programs.
Federal Human Services Issues are important to the states because actions by the federal government have consequences for state laws, policies and budgets. NCSL takes positions on federal actions based on policy adopted by the Conference. NCSL federal human services staff track federal legislation and regulations in many different areas: income security programs, including welfare reform reauthorization; human services programs including child care, nutrition assistance and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG or Title XX); and assistance to immigrants and refugees. NCSL testifies on these issues before Congress and sends letters to Congress about these issues. Bill analyses and alerts keep legislators informed. If you are a legislator or legislative staffer, go to Join listserv, and you will receive information alerts or action alerts when bills are moving in Washington, D.C.
NCSL staff can provide comprehensive, thorough, timely and in-depth information on critical human service policy issues. Staff working on human services includes the Children and Families Program in Denver and the human services federal affairs staff in Washington, D.C. We provide services to legislators and staff working to improve state policies affecting children and their families.
D.C. staff track and analyze federal legislation and policy for the full range of human services issues and represent state legislatures before Congress and the Administration. In D.C., Sheri Steisel and Lee Posey can be reached at 202.624.5400 or email@example.com. Denver staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience.
Child Care and Early Education - Robyn Lipkowitz, Julie Poppe, Phuonglan Nguyen, Alison May
Child Welfare - Nina Williams-Mbengue, Kyle Ramirez-Fry
Child Support - Rochelle Finzel, Katie Mason
Welfare and Poverty - Jack Tweedie, Rochelle Finzel
Youth Programs - Rochelle Finzel
If you have a question about state human services actions and are uncertain about whom to contact, please contact Kyle Ramirez at 303.364.7700 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will connect you with the appropriate NCSL staff member.
The Children and Families Program and the D.C. human services staff receive guidance and support from NCSL's Human Services and Welfare Standing Committee. Contact Kyle Ramirez at 303.364.7700 or e-mail at email@example.com to be connected with the appropriate NCSL staff member.