Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, testified in front of the Senate Committee on Finance to tout President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget for the department. Health and Human Services (HHS) covers a wide variety of programs and services, including physical healthcare, behavioral healthcare, early childhood, child care, healthcare innovation, and the public health system. The proposed budget reflects the president’s continued pursuit of social policies that strengthen the care economy through investments in behavioral and substance use programs, home and community-based services, and child care. The secretary began his remarks with a focus on transforming behavioral healthcare. The president’s budget, he said, invests in the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, increases funds for community mental health and substance use prevention and treatment, and makes the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics program permanent. 

The secretary also stressed the need to meet the challenge of maternal mortality through increased resources to maternal and child health programs. Care for older adults and people with disabilities is a major focus for the administration, exemplified in a proposal to spend $150 billion over ten years on the Medicaid home and community-based services program. Pre-k and child care also gain prominence in the budget, with a $200 billion proposal for universal preschool and a $400 billion proposal for high-quality child care for families earning up to $200,000. 

Social Current will continue to monitor the negotiations on the HHS budget as it is debated in Congress throughout the summer and into the fall.

Contribute to Social Current’s New Voter Outreach Toolkit

Social Current is updating its Voter and Civic Engagement Toolkit, a collaborative project with NonprofitVOTE that provides guidance, advice, and tools for community-based human services nonprofits that want to begin or expand their voter outreach efforts.

For the updated toolkit, Social Current is searching for stories from network organizations that have run successful voter engagement campaigns. If your organization has led or participated in any voter engagement activities, either in the workplace or the community, please contact Derry Kiernan, our field mobilization and policy manager.

We’d love to feature you in the new toolkit, which will be an available resource for the network and the broader nonprofit community as we head into elections this fall and next year.

Aging Committee Hearing on the Care Economy

The Senate Special Committee on Aging hosted a hearing called “Uplifting Families, Workers, and Older Adults: Supporting Communities of Care.” Chairman Bob Casey (D-Penn.) opened the hearing by calling for the passage of two bills: the Better Care Better Jobs Act, which would invest funds in the home care workforce, and the Home and Community-Based Services Access Act, which would allow everyone eligible for long-term Medicaid care services to also access home-based care. Ranking Member Mike Braun (R-Ind.) drew attention to the Prioritizing Evidence for Workforce Development Act, which supports education and workforce programs that help workers build skills in high-demand sectors, like health care. The first witness, Kezia Scales of the Paraprofessional Health Institute, explained that 2.6 million home care workers make up half of the total direct care workforce, which is the largest occupation in the country; yet 43 percent of home care workers live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. She called on Congress to pass the Better Care Better Jobs Act because it would increase the federal match for Medicaid home and community-based services, thereby raising wages and benefits for the workforce. The testimony of Jacinta Burgess, a home care worker, illustrated the challenges that the workforce faces. As her mother’s caregiver, she earns $13.38 per hour for only 15 hours per week, even though she works around the clock. Pam Lowy, the Executive Director of Great Bay Services, said her organization serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage because of the low reimbursement rates in the Medicaid program.

Harsh Cuts to Social Programs in the Offing

With both Democrats and Republicans publicly committed to not cutting Social Security or Medicare as a solution to the growing budget deficit crisis, an array of other social programs will come under intense scrutiny as targets of possible cuts. In fact, some lawmakers in the House are mulling proposals that could slash budgets for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Housing. Eliminating Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and cutting the Section 8 housing program by 43% are being considered. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one proposal could kick 10 million people, or one in four SNAP participants, off the program by implementing stringent work and work-reporting requirements. This includes three million households with school-age children. This year the farm bill, which covers SNAP and other Agriculture Committee programs, will be reauthorized by Congress. Social Current will continue to monitor these developments and challenge efforts to cut back on integral safety net programs.

New Factsheet on the Child Care Stabilization Program

The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, provided $24 billion for the Child Care Stabilization Program to aid providers as they came out of the pandemic. A new factsheet from the Office of Child Care details how these funds were spent. More than 220,000 child care providers received funds to pay for wages and benefits, rent and utilities, and materials and supplies. This impacted 9.6 million children. Eight out of 10 child care centers received assistance. On average, child care centers received $140,600 and family homes received $23,300. These dollars helped centers stay in business and provide child care services that were pivotal to the successful emergence of the economy from the pandemic.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

By: Regina Dyton and Chavon Campbell

When Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn. was chosen by the U.S. Department of Justice for a demonstration initiative to develop strategies and responses to address child fatalities from abuse or neglect, we didn’t expect the transformative nature of this project.

We began our efforts on the Child Safety Forward initiative three years ago with research and data analysis that showed that Hartford was an outlier when compared to Conn. and national child maltreatment rates. From 2015-2017 Hartford averaged 17.6 substantiated cases of child maltreatment per 1,000 children, nearly double the state and national rates during the same period. This and other disparities evident in the data demonstrated the need for a greater understanding of the underlying causes of disparities and risks for child maltreatment, particularly around prevention messaging for communities of color.

With a guiding principle of “those closest to the problem are closest to the solution,” we sought to bring parents together to form a Parent Engagement Work Group that would work closely with a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders composed of state agencies and community-based organizations to better understand the underlying issues.

 We recruited parents from existing relationships in the community, with the Greater Hartford Family Advocacy Center at Saint Francis Hospital, and with members of the Hartford Parent University (HPU), a grassroots organizing agency that trains and supports parents to advocate for quality education. We met with state agency leaders, child abuse pediatricians, and community agency directors to review the data and better understand the risks for child maltreatment that contributed to injuries and fatalities.

Perhaps the greatest area of learning on this topic was the parents’ perceptions of risks. Early in the formation of the Parent Engagement Work Group, parents made it clear that they wanted to address issues beyond child abuse and neglect by caregivers, noting that there are many environmental, systemic, and other types of threats to the safety of children. Examples included non-caregiver abuse and exploitation, drugs, suicide, and community violence, in short, all threats to child safety and well-being.

This led parents to focus on the ways in which they receive child safety education, which in most cases, was only mandated by child protection agencies after an allegation of abuse or neglect, leading parents to view child safety education as reactive and punitive. They wondered if other communities or families had better access to comprehensive and preventative child safety education.

The biggest impact came when the parents were presented with the data that showed that the death rate of Black children due to abuse and neglect was two times that of white children.

They asked how people who were not members of their communities (not just racially/ethnically but socio-economically and culturally) knew more about their collective reality than they themselves and made plans for them without communicating with those directly affected.

And while child fatality data is released publicly by state agencies, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of trust between families and state agencies, that data rarely reaches the populations who need it most.

Parents asked if and how they could be more involved in planning and carrying out research on their own communities and then using that data to plan improvements for child, family, and community well-being.

Based on their findings, the parents came together to develop a comprehensive educational guide to teach parents about multiple topics related to child well-being. Entitled “From Pain to Parenting,” the guide outlines a series of training workshops, led by parents, on a range of topics related to child well-being, including unsafe sleep, domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault, mental health, firearm safety and gun violence, and disabilities.

The Child Safety Forward Hartford initiative will serve as a springboard for establishing ongoing planning and action on preventing child maltreatment fatality and near fatality. The project will transfer from Saint Francis Hospital to the Institute for Community Research (ICR) as the lead agency, with Voices of Women of Color and Hartford Parent University as partners. ICR will train a group of parents to design and implement their own research and will conduct sessions to help parents understand data and advocate for data-sharing with communities. 

Hartford Parent University will provide ongoing training on topics identified by parents as they relate to Hartford Public Schools, especially regarding children with disabilities and children belonging to other marginalized communities. Voices of Women of Color will provide training in community organizing and advocacy and will lead the recruitment of a parent engagement group for each of Hartford’s thirteen neighborhoods.

The Hartford Child Safety Forward site was unique among the other demonstration sites in focusing on parent and community organizing and the purposeful shifting of power to those most affected. By combining the disciplines of research, community organizing, and prevention education, we were able to engage parents in a meaningful dialogue about the things that matter to them most – the safety and well-being of their children.

By elevating their voices and experiences and authentically shifting power to these parents, we ultimately learned far more from them about how to prevent abuse and neglect and build a Child and Family Well-being System that can strengthen families and enable all children to thrive. Our field will be all the richer for it.

Regina S. Dyton, MSW, served as principal investigator and project manager for the Child Safety Forward Project in Hartford. Chavon Campbell, MBA, is director of compliance for Hartford Communities That Care and project manager for the Pain to Parenting Project.

 This commentary was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005 Reducing Child Fatalities and Recurring Injuries Caused by Crime Victimization, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Today’s workforce expects fulfillment and sustainable culture change.

The workforce crisis continues. Workforce trends clearly demonstrate that staff expects leaders to move beyond pre-pandemic, top-down, employee recognition and self-care initiatives. To truly partner with them to improve engagement, retention, equity, and communication, the workforce of today expects leaders to focus on fulfillment and sustainable culture change, and to teach new skills to take on today’s challenges. i

As leaders, we are persuaded to practice empathy, compassion, connection, inclusivity, psychological safety, mindfulness, and gratitude. But guidance on how to do these things is lacking. The pressing questions are: Where do we focus our learning first? What is the foundational framework to guide our actions?

The answer to the first question is simple – our brain. And the intervention is straightforward – create brain friendly work environments. Sound intimidating? It truly is not. The basics about brain functioning are easy to learn. Applying this knowledge in everyday interactions is trickier and requires focus, practice, and intention. But it is doable. The hardest task may be embracing the need to create brain friendly work environments.

Our sector has made strides in understanding the urgency to build healthy brains in new babies and young children. Early childhood resilience strategies such as “serve and return” and efforts to strengthen executive functioning skills are now commonly built into trainings and practice. However, the human services field has been slow to translate emerging brain friendly interventions into learnings and practices with adults, especially our workforce.

Bringing this knowledge into our work cultures is critical to creating well-being and resilience, especially in our complex and stressful work settings. Our brain mediates our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and as Dr. Bruce Perry notes “…a brain aware perspective helps me when I’m trying to understand people.” ii With this knowledge, we can prevent and mitigate the impact of toxic stress on our brains and bodies. And we can lay the foundation for being well at work.

Start Building Brain-Friendly Practices

If we want to strengthen brain friendly practices at work, where do we start? Here are three basic strategies to begin your work.

Understand Basic Brain Architecture

The brain is built from the bottom up, and different parts of the brain mediate different functions. As you go from the lower part of the brain, or brainstem, to the highest part of the brain, the frontal cortex, you go from the simplest to the more complex functions. Core regulatory networks, which originate in the lower part of the brain, are the backbone of the stress response system. Our brain gets input from all these networks to tell us if we are safe or threatened. If there is no insignificant need that is unmet, we can access our frontal cortex. However, when we are threatened or perceive we are threatened, this impacts how we think, feel, and behave. The more threatened we are, the more we shut down the thinking part of our brain.

So why care about this at work? We know that first responders, child protection workers, street outreach workers, and others who work in physically unsafe situations need to understand this basic physiology. But most of us are physically safe at work, so why does it matter to us? Well, threats that impact how we think, feel, and behave fall along a wide continuum of needs – from the threat of physical harm to the threat of feeling undervalued, unheard, and disconnected. When our core stress response networks warn us that we are in the out group, our voice is unheard, our work is undervalued, or we are in conflict with someone, we may easily default to our lower brain. Our frontal cortex shuts down, and we struggle to problem solve, innovate, create, advocate, hold others accountable, and take risks. We remain vigilant, push back, check out, and feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Our already complex work becomes harder, and the risk of burn out increases.

The good news is there are countless ways, as individuals and organizations, to create brain friendly cultures in which we can stay in our thinking brain, mitigate toxic stress, increase connection, improve equity and accountability, and reach the outcomes we are so hungry to achieve.

Regulate, Relate, Reason

Regulation is the basic strategy for calming our lower brain and staying in our thinking brain. Focused breathing, taking a short walk, listening to music, and using a standing desk are all ways to keep our mind clear and focused. There are dozens of regulation strategies to use in the work setting, both for large groups and individuals.

Dr. Bruce Perry’s sequence of engagement – regulate, relate, reason – is a simple practice for effective communication that starts with regulation.i The steps work in this order:

  1. Regulate: First, ensure we are calm and centered before we start talking. You and your colleagues can use regulations strategies that work for you.
  2. Relate: Next, connect human to human. Ask a colleague: What are you looking forward to? What are you worried about? What are you thinking about today?
  3. Reason: Finally, move to the content of the conversation: to-do lists, a pending project, or complex equity dynamics in a work relationship.

When we do this at every meeting, supervision session, and human interaction, especially the hard ones we avoid, we have greater success in our communications. We move closer to achieving the workforce outcomes we strive for – increased trust, stronger relationships, candid conversations, and more accountability.

Understand Executive Functioning

Our brains are exposed to about eleven million pieces of information at any given time and can only process about 0.00001% of that incoming data. This knowledge about the brain is critical to understanding equity, diversity, and inclusion concepts, such as implicit bias and power differentials.i It is also central to understanding executive functioning skills, which help our brains manage an overload of information to prioritize tasks, filter distractions, and control impulses. The Harvard Center on the Developing Childii notes that these skills are like an air traffic control system which ensures planes navigate safely in flight and at an airport. Learning these skills in childhood is critical to healthy brain development. As adults, we need environments that support optimal executive functioning so we can plan, meet goals, practice self-control, follow multiple-step directions even when interrupted, and stay focused despite distractions.

Ideas to Start Elevating Executive Functioning Skills at Work

Write Short, Succinct Emails

Long, unfocused emails are hard to understand, especially when we are under stress, in our lower brain, and our air traffic control is too busy. If staff are not reading emails, it could be because the messages are not brain friendly. Write short emails that are absent of unnecessary words and focused on the most important content and requests.

Discourage Multitasking

Our brains micro-switch, not multi-task. When we try to do more than one content-related task simultaneously, we fail. We cannot answer an email and hear the content of an online training at the same time. When we do one thing at a time, we are more effective, efficient, and productive. Modeling this concept at work and mitigating the workload our staff carry are key strategies for building a brain friendly environment.

Ready to take the next steps in creating a brain friendly work environment?

There is much more to learn about the brain and how it makes us think, feel, and behave. The first step, and possibly the hardest one, is understanding that brain friendly awareness is a critical cornerstone for working with adults and is at the core of building a healthy workforce. The concepts and strategies are teachable, applicable, and worth the investment of time and resources. When we embrace building brain friendly environments, we lay the foundation for workforce culture change that our staff needs to thrive and be well during these challenging times.

Social Current can help with that journey:

i O.C. Tanner Institute (2023). Global Culture Report.

ii Bruce Perry & Oprah Winfrey. (2021). What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing. Flatiron Books.

iii ibid.

iv Short Wave, NPR (2020). Understanding Unconscious Bias.

v Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University (n.d.). What is Executive Function? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?


Social Current was pleased to be included at the in-person event to recognize the fifth anniversary of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), hosted by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, DC. To mark the occasion, on March 1, 2023, HHS and ACF leadership gathered stakeholders, delivered remarks, and brought together panels of legislators, national experts, and state and tribal leaders. The event featured videos from families with lived expertise in the child welfare system. The conversations reflected a rich understanding of why the legislation was created, what it has accomplished, its challenges, and where we go from here to better support families. The recording for this event is available here.

Five years ago, FFPSA was enacted to enhance upstream and supportive services for families to help children remain safely at home with their caregivers, reduce the unnecessary use of congregate care, and build the capacity of communities to support children and families. At the anniversary event, Social Current observed five takeaways that will help to shape future opportunities to support thriving families and communities.

Achieving these reforms will require a tremendous shift in resources, both at the federal funding level to redirect funding to more front-end resources, through policies that adapt to a more preventative approach, and in the way that place-based services are delivered by community-based organizations. Passage of FFPSA is a first step in that journey for child welfare. Too many of our social systems were structured to respond only after harm occurs – by realigning our nation’s social service delivery systems and reimagining the power and impact of the social sector, we can deliver on the promise of equitable access to health and well-being for all people.

Last Thursday, President Biden released a $6.9 trillion spending request for the fiscal year 2024. The Presidential Budget Request is merely a recommendation – appropriations committees in both chambers of Congress will draft their proposals. However, the budget does represent the president’s priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, 2023.

Here is a summary of essential line items that may be of interest to the Social Current network:

Administration for Children and Families

Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration 

Department of Education 

Department of Agriculture 

Contribute to Social Current’s New Voter Outreach Toolkit

Social Current is updating its Voter and Civic Engagement Toolkit, a collaborative project with NonprofitVOTE that provides guidance, advice, and tools for community-based human services nonprofits that want to begin or expand their voter outreach efforts.

For the updated toolkit, Social Current is searching for stories from network organizations that have run successful voter engagement campaigns. If your organization has led or participated in any voter engagement activities, either in the workplace or the community, please contact Derry Kiernan, our field mobilization and policy manager.

We’d love to feature you in the new toolkit, which will be an available resource for the network and the broader nonprofit community as we head into elections this fall and next year.

Hearing on Community Health Centers

On March 2, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hosted a hearing called “Community Health Centers: Savings Lives, Saving Money.” The hearing highlighted the vital work community health centers (CHCs) and their workforce do in local communities nationwide under its unique model. As the speakers argued in their testimonies, health centers help expand healthcare to vulnerable populations while minimizing healthcare costs through extended primary care and innovative integrated care approaches. According to a Kaiser Permanente study, Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health, argued that community health centers saved the Medicaid and Medicare programs $25.3 billion in 2021 by focusing on cost-saving primary care. Sue Veer of Carolina Health Centers focused on the creative side of CHCs, citing the emphasis on integrated care models, like Nurse-Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers, that improve outcomes for vulnerable populations. Ben Harvey of the Indiana Primary Health Care Association cited a study that said CHCs had an economic impact in the state of nearly $1 billion annually through the employment of direct and indirect workers and the increased spending of healthy people in the community. Finally, a representative from the Government Accountability Office, Jessica Farb, showed that the number of patients served by CHCs increased from 19.5 million in 2010 to 30 million in 2021.

Tax Policy Solutions to the Housing Crisis

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing on the role of tax policy in incentivizing the construction of affordable housing across the country. In their opening statements, Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) highlighted the main issue: the failure of housing construction to keep up with rising demand has led to sky-high rental rates and property prices. Mark Calabria of the Cato Institute stated that housing affordability decreased unprecedentedly from 2021 to 2022. Sharon Wilson Geno, a representative from the National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartment Association, cited a study that said the percentage of households paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing increased from 28% in 1985 to 36.9% in 2021. The presenters supported numerous tax policy solutions that could incentivize more housing production, meet housing demand, and reduce prices. Garrett Watson of the Tax Foundation discussed reforms to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a $13.5 billion annual credit that helped build more than 3 million housing units between 1986 and 2020. Steve Walker of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission discussed the role of the Housing Credit, particularly in tight markets that developers often overlook. Geno called for the passage of the Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit, which would support the construction of 344,000 rental homes over ten years.

USDA Equity Commission Report Released

The Department of Agriculture released its first Equity Commission report, a requirement of President Biden’s January 2021 Executive Order on racial equity. The report outlines various ways the department can advance equity and justice, given its history of racial discrimination in funding and resource allocation. Though the report primarily focuses on policy proposals that impact farmers, it also makes recommendations about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report states that current policy limits program access based on residency and immigration status, which should be rectified. The report also recommends lifting restrictions on residents of Puerto Rico, people with previous drug felony convictions, and unemployed people without dependents. USDA says these existing policies disproportionately impact BIPOC and harm their nutrition and health.

Social Current, APHSA Partner to Co-Create New Framework for Community-Based and Public Sector Human Services Leaders

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current have a long history of collaboration. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations will continue partnering to develop a new leadership framework for health and human services leaders to work together across system boundaries.

Read more in this article by APHSA President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans and Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson from the latest edition of Policy & Practice.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

We want to hear from you! Human services leaders across the country are working to include the expertise of individuals with lived experience. In partnership with the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), we’re seeking examples of such work to spotlight how others are engaging in efforts that help address structural racism, advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, and authentically center community to drive systems change. Learn more and submit your stories here.

We kindly request you submit your responses no later than Friday, March 31st. 

If you have questions or need further details, please contact Trinka Landry-Bourne or Michon Hicks

On Feb. 15, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) voluntarily checked himself in to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression, setting off a heated national debate about self-care and leadership. While on the campaign trail last year, Fetterman suffered a stroke which impacted his cognitive abilities and reportedly led to his current bout of depression. By seeking care, Fetterman demonstrates solidarity with millions of people in this country suffering from depression. By publicly announcing his decision, he also helps to eliminate the stigma behind seeking mental health care, particularly in the workplace. He is part of a growing line of prominent figures, like Simone Biles and Jason Kander, who have modeled a new approach to mental health challenges.

The social sector, like other sectors, is making progress toward breaking down the stigma around mental health. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when instances of suicide ideation, addiction, and anxiety began to increase rapidly, more organizations and leaders have begun to engage openly with mental health challenges in the workforce. One helpful resource is Mental Health First Aid at Work, a training program that gives participants the tools to support co-workers with mental health or substance use issues. Another resource, Up to Me from WISE, guides individuals through whether and how to safely disclose their mental illness to others, if they so choose.

Social Current offers workforce resilience consulting to help social sector leaders build a workplace culture based on equity, connection, and psychological safety.

President Biden Signs New Equity Executive Order

On Feb. 16, President Biden signed an executive order to support racial equity and strengthen the federal government’s efforts to combat systemic racism and poverty. This builds upon another executive order he signed on the first day of his presidency which advanced an all-of-government approach to eliminating systemic inequities of all kinds. The new executive order requires federal agencies to create annual equity action plans that steer policies and programs toward underserved communities. Per the order, as agencies develop their plans, they must actively and frequently engage with local communities and organizations. Further, agency equity teams must be created in each agency, with high-ranking leaders implementing equity plans while working across agencies to foster collaboration and accountability. Finally, the executive order requires a more comprehensive, detailed collection and analysis of demographic data.

2021 Child Abuse and Neglect Report Released

The Children’s Bureau within the Department of Health and Human Services released the latest version of its annual series, “Child Maltreatment 2021.” Drawn from data provided by states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the series details the nature and extent of child abuse and neglect cases across the country each year. The 2021 report found Child Protective Services responded to referrals of over three million children through investigation or other means. In 2021, an estimated six hundred thousand children were victims of maltreatment (the lowest number in the last five years). Of those children, 76 percent were neglected, 16 percent physically abused, 10.1 percent sexually abused, and 0.2 percent sex trafficked. Tragically, 1,820 children died from abuse and neglect. 67 percent of reporters were professionals, including education, medical, legal, and law enforcement personnel, 17.1 percent were nonprofessionals (friends, neighbors, and relatives), and 16 percent were unclassified, including anonymous and unknown sources.

Announcement of New Emergency Food Assistance Funding

As part of a $1 billion investment in the country’s emergency food system, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside $100 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Reach and Resiliency grant initiative. $60 million in round-two grant funding is available to pursue the program’s goal of extending TEFAP’s impact to remote, rural, tribal, and low-income areas currently neglected by the program. In round one, grantee states received $40 million. They worked with food banks on various activities, including studies and surveys, cultural competency training, mobile food bank infrastructure, equipment and technology purchases, and proactive outreach to tribal areas.

Social Current, APHSA Partner to Co-Create New Framework for Community-Based and Public Sector Human Services Leaders

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current have a long history of collaboration. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations will continue partnering to develop a new leadership framework for health and human services leaders to work together across system boundaries.

Read more in this article by APHSA President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans and Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson from the latest edition of Policy & Practice.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

The Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, and Social Current are offering free training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies looking to improve workforce retention and officer well-being. This 18-month initiative has 12 spots for law enforcement agencies to join. All types of agencies are welcome, including but not limited to:

During this initiative, agencies will learn and grow together. Social Current’s technical assistance team will introduce hope-centered and trauma-informed frameworks and principles related to equity, diversity, and inclusion that will help the agencies better address trauma and adversity to improve their workforce.

View this detailed letter about the initiative and register for our virtual open house on March 14 or March 20 from Noon-1 p.m. PT.

Direct any questions to Romero Davis, senior program manager at Social Current.

As societal and political forces escalate to limit access to and exercise of the ballot, eliminate the teaching of Black history, and work to push us back into the 1890s, we can only rely on our capacity to resist. The enactment of HR 40, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Breathe Act, and the closure of the racial wealth gap is not the end. They too will require us to mobilize our resources, human and material, and fight for “freedom, justice, and equality”; “self-determination”, and/or “social transformation.” (ASALH, 2023)

This year’s theme for Black History Month—Black Resistance—recognizes the increasingly bold public efforts to minimize or reverse the hard-fought rights and assets of African Americans in a culture that continually upholds the tenets of white supremacy. Whether at the ballot box, in the classroom, at the bank, in the grocery store, or at a health clinic, Black and Brown people incessantly face the interconnected, intersecting inequalities intentionally baked into systems and structures for no other reason than to exploit, curtail, and devastate their families.

As evidenced in the extensive and disparate effect of the three-year pandemic on Black and other communities of color, health and well-being remain some of the starkest indicators of how society values BIPOC children, youth, and adults. But through resistance and resilience, many communities have effectively found incremental ways to improve the social determinants of health, such as embracing ancestral traditions and healing modalities through a decolonization of thought and practice. Another way to break down barriers to medical and mental health resources is through reinforcement of federal protections and guidance to service providers.

Health and Well-Being Civil Rights

Nearly 60 years ago, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was created to desegregate hospitals shortly after the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and creation of the Medicare program. OCR has deep roots in enforcing federal civil rights laws that ensure nondiscrimination based on race, color, and national origin. Recent priorities of OCR in enforcing federal civil rights laws that ensure nondiscrimination include revised policy rules with the Affordable Care Act, newer service guidance with vaccine equity and access to telehealth, and promotion of reproductive health care.

Strengthening Nondiscrimination in Health Care

OCR issued a proposed rule revising Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which is one of the federal government’s most powerful tools to ensure nondiscriminatory access to health care.

“Strengthening Section 1557 supports our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality, affordable health care and to drive health equity for all people served by our programs,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “This work will help eliminate avoidable differences in health outcomes experienced by those who are underserved and provide the care and support that people need to thrive” (HHS, 2022).

Additional Resource: Civil Rights for Providers of Health Care and Human Services

Ensuring Vaccine Equity

Vaccine equity is when everyone has fair and just access to COVID-19 vaccination. But there are many social, geographic, political, economic, and environmental factors that create challenges to vaccination access and acceptance, and that often affect racial and ethnic minority groups. In light of this, OCR issued guidance to providers about their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to ensure non-discrimination in administering COVID-19 vaccination programs.

Additional Resource: Best Practices in Equitable Vaccine Administration

Ensuring Equal Access to Telehealth

OCR, with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, issued guidance on nondiscrimination in using telehealth. It provides information to health care providers about their service obligations and practical tips about how to provide accessible telehealth.

Additional Resource: Health Equity in Telehealth

Promoting Reproductive Health Care

After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overruling Roe v. Wade came out, HHS launched Recognizing the high maternal mortality rate of Black women and how the Dobbs decision exacerbates these inequities and disparities, OCR issued multiple guidance documents so that health care providers understand their obligations and patients understand the protections of federal laws.

Additional Resources: Reproductive Health Care Rights and Social Current’s statement on the overruling on Roe v. Wade.

“If you’re an African-American… your risks of dying in childbirth are three to four times higher than if you’re white…. It’s not tied to income. It’s not tied to education…. It’s something about the lived experience of being African-American,” says Dr. Neel Shah, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and obstetrician/gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. (ABC News, 2018)

Civil Rights Laws Are Necessary, but Not Sufficient

Despite gains from decades of legislation and policy rules to reduce discrimination and increase access to services and resources, it’s clear that health care for racial and ethnic minorities remains separate and unequal in the United States.

Health policy and legal experts acknowledge the challenges to reducing discrimination and health inequity through existing civil rights laws and consider whether enforcing more of the existing civil rights legislation could help overcome these challenges. A common conclusion is that stronger enforcement (e.g., through executive orders to strengthen enforcement of the laws and congressional action to allow private individuals to bring lawsuits against providers who might have engaged in discrimination) would improve minority health care. But this approach is limited in what it can achieve, mainly due to the challenges for underserved communities to access enough financial and legal resources required. Rather, complementary approaches outside the legal arena, such as quality improvement efforts and direct transfers of money to minority-serving providers (pay-for-performance initiatives) might prove to be more effective.

Commitment to Health and Well-Being Practice and Policy

Social Current’s commitment to a healthy and equitable society is evident in our social sector partnerships focused on bridging historical barriers and persistent challenges with contemporary solutions and best practices to end racism, inequity, and poverty. This commitment recognizes BIPOC families as the experts in what is important to realizing their full potential, as well as the importance of cross-sector approaches to advancing equity, partnering with purpose, and building on successes in improving health equity and the social determinants of health.

Here are some ways to join our work on equity, diversity, and inclusion today: 

  1. Participate in workshops, learning collaboratives, and consulting services  
  2. Connect with peers and industry experts with SPARK Exchanges  
  3. Enroll in learning opportunities on building community health and well-being 
  4. Subscribe to policy and advocacy updates 
  5. Get health equity research and resources from the Knowledge and Insights Center

Last Tuesday, President Biden delivered his State of the Union address, which outlined his policy priorities for the first two years of his term. In one of the most animated environments for a State of the Union speech in recent decades, which included much back-and-forth between the president and the audience, Biden celebrated the legislative achievements of the past two years. He lauded the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act; all of which, according to the president, advance his goal of creating blue-collar jobs and a manufacturing revival in the U.S.

With his constant refrain of “finish the job,” President Biden called on Congress to help him pass additional legislation from his plans that hadn’t yet been passed. He reiterated his commitment to strengthening the care economy with investments in paid family and medical leave as well as community-based care for people with disabilities and the elderly. Biden also spoke about the importance of universal pre-K, expanded child care supports, and reinstating the monthly installments of the child tax credit. In one of the more emotional moments of the address, he introduced the parents of Tyre Nichols, who died after police brutally beat him, and pleaded with Congress to pass bipartisan policing reform. Social Current will continue to monitor Congress’s progress on these issues and others as the 118th Congress moves forward.

New National Early Care and Education Workforce Center

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the new National Early Care and Education Workforce Center. The Center’s activities will focus on creating a robust early care and education workforce with formal paths for attaining credentials and degrees. They will also identify strategies for increased compensation and benefits for the workforce. After a competitive process, Child Trends – in concert with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, BUILD Initiative, ZERO TO THREE, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the University of Delaware – will run the center. With a starting budget of $30 million, the center will provide research and technical assistance to states, communities, territories, and Tribal Nations to help them support a sector hit hard by the pandemic. According to HHS, the child care sector lost nearly 80,000 jobs, about 7.5 percent of its workforce, since 2020. Last month, HHS also announced $300 million in preschool development grants, birth through five, to 42 states.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Gets Increase in Funding

The Food and Nutrition Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $50 million in grants to 47 states and tribes to enhance and grow the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which helps low-income seniors buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at farmers’ markets, stands, and community agriculture programs. These new grants will expand the program into new geographic areas, increase the benefit level to $50, and benefit 250,000 more seniors. The increase in funding was implemented in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. It will also support the program’s modernization by transitioning from a coupon-based system to an electronic benefits system. The grants will also support outreach to vulnerable populations through coordination with community-based organizations.

Social Determinants of Health Investments Highlighted in HHS Report

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released “Snapshot: How HHS is Building a Healthier America,” a report covering all areas where the agency had an impact in 2022, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, improving mental and behavioral health care, advancing equity, and supporting the public health workforce. One crucial section highlights investment in the social determinants of health carried out by various sub-agencies. For instance, the Administration for Children and Families spent $4.5 billion in heating and cooling assistance to states, helping low-income families pay utility bills as well as choose low-cost home energy repairs. The Administration for Community Living created the Community Care Hub National Learning Community, which will enhance the ability of community-based organizations to partner with health care organizations to tackle social and public health needs. The Center for Disease Control financially supported the work of community health workers in 68 communities, contributing over 14,000 referrals for transportation, food, and housing services.

Social Current, APHSA Partner to Co-Create New Framework for Community-Based and Public Sector Human Services Leaders

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current have a long history of collaboration. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations will continue partnering to develop a new leadership framework for health and human services leaders to work together across system boundaries.

Read more in this article by APHSA President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans and Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson from the latest edition of Policy & Practice.

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