Tiffany Wu's Weblog

 

Feb 27 2013

Understanding and Shaping Public Opinion

By Julie Ryan (Georgetown Public Policy Review)

In order to advance a public policy agenda, legislators need to understand the environment in which they find themselves. They are beholden to their constituents’ opinions, and mobilizing support for an expensive but important program for at-risk youth can be very difficult. In a breakout focusing on this issue, moderator Jann Jackson, a senior associate of policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, hosted a panel of experts including Patrick Bresette, the director of programs at Public Works; Jonathan Voss, a senior analyst at Lake Research Partners; and Yndia Lorick-Wilmot, Ph.D. a senior associate at the FrameWorks Institute. Drawing on their own research as well as descriptive statistics, panelists said convincing the public to support funding for at-risk youth programs is an uphill battle, but it is possible.

“Most people don’t think about government at all; they’re busy going about their lives…but it doesn’t stop people from having opinions about the government,” Bresette said. He argued that in our hyper-consumerist culture, people have come to see government as a vending machine. In other words, Americans are putting their money into the government and wondering what benefits they are getting out of the system.

In addition to this consumerist view, many Americans seem to have an intrinsic distrust of government. Lorick-Wilmot characterized public opinion as a swamp of developmental outcomes and resilience. This swamp, she argued, is filled with cultural ideologies and values deeply entrenched in public opinion, making them very hard to change.

“When we put our messaging out there into the swamp and they’re not framed effectively and strategically, they get eaten up in the swamp,” Lorick-Wilmot said. “Policy opinions are frame dependent…Tested values as an element have been shown to be really effective as swamp inoculators. Values really remind people of what’s at stake and why this issue’s important.”

In her research, Lorick-Wilmot found that tapping into ingenuity as a value had the greatest effect on public support for child abuse policy reform.

“People can think, ‘ok, I can be a part of this solution.’ It’s about this interdependence, this connection,” Lorick-Wilmot said.

Bresette agreed that interdependence, working together, and reinforcing the idea that everyone has a role to play in “our government” were all effective strategies for pulling Americans away from their cynical beliefs about government as a vending machine.

“More of that kind of ownership conversation is something that I think is subtle but important,” he said. “Help broaden the circle of concern – at some core on a spiritual level, we have to help people see their responsibility in each other.”

Jackson agreed, saying, “If America’s really going to meets its challenges, we need to start nourishing its innate capacity for empathy.”

In addition to reaching Americans’ empathy, Voss argued it is also effective to frame these issues as a threat to American exceptionalism. Two-thirds of American voters (regardless of party affiliation) believe American children are falling behind other countries.

“When it’s put in a patriotic kind of ‘we need to restore our leadership in this area,’ people are more likely to get on board,” Voss said. “This aspirational component runs deep in American culture and can be tapped into.”

 

Julie Ryan is an Associate Copy Editor for the Georgetown Public Policy Review.

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Feb 25 2013

Inside the Child Welfare System: Child and Family Perspectives

By Lauren Barth (Georgetown Public Policy Review)

“Nothing about me without me.”  It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before, and most of us accept inclusion as an important value for any institution, especially those that make policies or deliver services affecting human lives.  But how often is true inclusion practiced?  And how can those of us working in human services do better?

The presenters on the LEAD Conference Family Plenary panel all had personal experience with the child welfare system.  Eric Ludlow of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration spent time in foster care in Tennessee, and Josh Grubb of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is a college junior preparing to transition out.  Sandra Killet of the Child Welfare Organizing Project works as an advocate for parents who have had a child placed in foster care in New York.

Each panelist stressed the importance of substantive child and family participation at both the individual and organizational level.  Institutions should strive to include former clients as board members and staff, and clients recruited to participate in decision making panels should be properly prepared in advance to avoid tokenization.  Grubb advocated youth advisory boards as a vehicle to share youth voices while fostering a sense of agency among members.

At the individual level, Killet suggested encouraging families to bring a friend or peer advocate to planning conferences to boost confidence in what is often an intimidating environment.  Social, economic, and cultural divides compound power differentials between clients and service agencies that make it difficult for families and children to play an active role in planning.

Grubb also emphasized the importance of family assistance.  “Once youth enter care, there is a divide between what happens to youth and what happens to family.”  On a personal level, he wished his mother had received more help and had been more involved in the process of planning his future.  He believed that improved communication between parent caseworkers, child caseworkers, and families themselves would produce better outcomes across the board.

 

Lauren Barth is the Senior Marketing Director of Policy Forums for the Georgetown Public Policy Review.

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Feb 11 2013

Reforming Juvenile Justice in the Wake of Fiscal Stress and Newtown

By Julie Ryan (Georgetown Public Policy Review)

In a breakout session moderated by Liz Ryan, the President & CEO of the Campaign for Youth Justice, panelists Indivar Dutta-Gupta, a policy advisor for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Mike Thompson, the director of the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments; and Toni Walker, a Connecticut State Representative from New Haven, all agreed that kids are a bipartisan issue. However, despite widespread support for improving the lives of at-risk youth, panelists agreed that budget cuts and harsh disciplinary measures currently pose very real threats to juvenile justice and the general well-being of American children.

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, how do policymakers frame issues of juvenile justice? This tragedy has sparked heated national conversations about mental health, school safety, and gun control, all of which have high relevance to the juvenile justice field.

“How do you make sure that the best possible things come out of the momentum on those particular issues? If these things are going to happen, how do we do that constructively?” Thompson asked.

Representative Walker said the Newtown shooting roused a bipartisan mission in the legislature to protect children absolutely, but she added it was important not to rush to conclusions or have knee-jerk reactions. She mentioned she is on a task force for gun control and receives an average of 300 emails per day from NRA members.

“This conversation must be beneficial,” Representative Walker said. “Are we legislating a tragedy or are we legislating for the protection of our state?”

Thompson agreed, saying, “You have to take this slow. If you take some absolutist positions right at the outset, I think you make yourself irrelevant…It makes it more difficult to do something constructive down the road.”

Outside of this violent tragedy, all panel members had some reason for optimism. They spoke of some recent improvements in the juvenile justice system, saying the system has made significant changes during their careers.

“When I came into the juvenile justice field …it was very negative, very punitive,” Ms. Ryan said. “Almost every single state passed a law trying to convict juveniles as adults.

Yet in the past decade, reforms in the juvenile justice system have occurred all over the country from both Democratic and Republican policymakers.

“The whole system has been turned inside out; [it’s] dramatically smaller than it used to be,” Thompson said. “We’ve seen a dramatic decline in juveniles in correctional facilities between 2003 and 2010, cutting in half the number in secure confinement.”

Despite these improvements, panelists agreed there were many serious issues facing the juvenile justice system. Arrest rates among juveniles have not plummeted. School discipline is also proving to be severe, pushing kids out of school. Thompson cited one bipartisan study out of Texas that followed 900,000 students and found 60 percent of students experienced suspension or expulsion at least once between seventh and 12th grade.  This disciplinary action, he argued, dramatically increased these students’ likelihood of dropping out of school and entering the juvenile justice system.

The juvenile justice system also faces monetary problems; Dutta-Gupta spoke of significant budgetary pressures on programs for at-risk and vulnerable youth.

“There’s a growing expectation that programs for children in particular should be cost-effective,” Dutta-Gupta said. “Emphasize that we are already bearing significant cost for not taking action. When people realize there is a cost for not acting, they’re much more willing to come to the table sometimes.”

Dutta-Gupta argued programs for at-risk youth should be geared not only to the youngest children but also to older youths who tend to get left behind.

“There’s growing evidence that it’s literally never too late to help a child,” Dutta-Gupta said. “It’s probably always too soon to stop.”

 

Julie Ryan is an Associate Copy Editor for the Georgetown Public Policy Review.

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Feb 11 2013

The Policy and Practice of Early Childhood Development

By Lauren Barth (Georgetown Public Policy Review)

We know how to raise happy, healthy children.  This message was at the core of both panel discussions on early childhood innovative practices at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference.  The science of early childhood development is clear, but implementation remains a challenge.

The panels brought together seven experts from a variety of fields.  The first discussion centered on healthy development and featured moderator Miriam Calderon of the Administration for Children & Families, Health & Human Services; Danielle Ewen of the District of Columbia Public Schools; Matthew Melmed of Zero to Three; and David Olds of the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado.  The second discussion addressed techniques for protecting children at risk and included Miriam Calderon, Judge Cindy Lederman of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Florida, Kirsten Kainz of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and David Willis of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Despite the diversity of their professional backgrounds, all panelists perceived a yawning gap between theory and practice in services for young children and their families – a serious problem considering the profound effect the first one thousand days of life have on cognitive and socio-emotional development.  Experiences during this formative period lay the foundation for future growth and learning, and studies have shown the effects of these experiences persist into adulthood.   Consider the following facts presented by panelists:

  • Adverse childhood experiences have been linked to heart disease, early death, diabetes, and underemployment (Willis)
  • The brain of a three year old brain is twice as active as that of an adult (Willis)
  • Children that enter school in the bottom quartile typically stay in the bottom quartile for the remainder of their academic careers (Willis)
  • Children who receive high quality early education are less likely to suffer from depression, more likely enroll in college, more likely to complete high school, four times more likely to graduate from college, and more likely to obtain consistent employment as adults (Kainz)

These data make a strong case for reinforcing early childhood systems of care, especially considering that Early Head Start reaches less than 4% of children eligible and childcare subsidies reach only 16% (Olds).  And as Melmed pointed out, studies of maternal and early childhood interventions have identified as much as 86% return on investment.

We know how to improve outcomes for at risk children, and we know that the best interventions start early.  The challenge now is implementation.  Services and communities need to come together around child centered systems of care that leverage funds as effectively as possible.  We also need to invest more.  Kainz quoted Steve Barnett of the National Institute of Education Research when she said “Once we stop thinking of preschool as a charity and start thinking about it as an investment in everyone’s future, we might actually do what is necessary to meaningfully improve the education of young children.”

When researchers, administrators, judges, and nonprofit leaders agree on the importance of beginning evidence based interventions earlier in life, it’s time to listen.  Smart, targeted investment America’s youngest and most vulnerable children could transform the American education system and workforce from the bottom up.

 

Lauren Barth is the Senior Marketing Director of Policy Forums at the Georgetown Public Policy Review.

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Dec 18 2012

Interview with Shay Bilchik

Director Shay Bilchik of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) – the first Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) research center to be featured at the annual LEAD Conference – recently talked with us about the youth-related topics that will be covered at the event and what he hopes people will gain from this conference on at-risk youth.

1. What are some of the youth-related issues that will be highlighted at the event?

The LEAD Conference will focus on a variety of children’s issues, including education, health and welfare across different age spans – early childhood, childhood and adolescence. On the first day, the topical areas will be explored from the perspective of how we can utilize strategies to prevent children and youth from going “off-track,” as well help them get back on track if needed. We will close the first day with a family panel that will gesture towards the necessary systemic changes that will be discussed on the next day.

The second day will take youth-related issues to a policy and system level. Among the questions to be discussed are: What are the challenges and necessary actions to be taken on behalf of this population at the federal and state levels? How can leaders use evidence and messaging to shape issues surrounding at-risk youth in a positive and proactive way? How can partnerships be developed to push this work forward? The last panel on this day will pull practice and policy together by highlighting innovative community collaborations that have demonstrated success in meeting the needs of at-risk children and youth.

2. Are there any themes that tie together this year’s LEAD Conference on at-risk youth?

The most important theme is that a comprehensive, collaborative approach is needed to support the healthy development of at-risk children and youth. Additionally, the conference will highlight the importance of early intervention, but also stress that it is never too late to help a child or a family. Other themes include family engagement, the role of data in driving reform efforts, and systemic changes needed to institutionalize best practices – both from the top-down and bottom-up.

3. Why was the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform selected to be highlighted at the inaugural LEAD Conference?

Each year, the LEAD Conference will highlight important policy issues currently explored in-depth by GPPI faculty and/or a GPPI research center. The selected faculty and/or research center will then help shape the conference agenda and content to showcase the work of GPPI through their lens. In this instance, CJJR was selected to be the first research center highlighted given our experience hosting large events and convening diverse groups on campus. Moreover, CJJR’s emphasis on comprehensive, multi-system strategies to addressing youth-related challenges allows us to provide the framework for a national-level conference that will prove relevant and valuable to a broad audience. The focus of the conference will go beyond CJJR’s own work to feature a number of other GPPI faculty members focusing on children’s issues who will be presenting at the conference.

4. To what extent will the sessions feature CJJR’s own research/work?

CJJR’s work focuses on a multi-system, multi-domain approach in helping young people achieve positive outcomes in their lives – both preventing their involvement in the juvenile justice system, as well as improving the system’s response to delinquency when it does occur. This body of work, therefore, naturally intersects the main themes and areas of exploration of the conference as a whole. For example, the challenges of working with Crossover Youth (those dually involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems) will be addressed. There will be many speakers at the conference who have been involved with our various program areas, and will be able to speak about that work in their remarks.

5. What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

I am looking forward to the convening of an amazing group of leaders as presenters at the LEAD Conference. Policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and advocates at the very top of their fields will be participating in this conference as speakers on panels. It will be an exceptional gathering of “talent”! I also very much look forward to the two keynote presentations. Sonja Sohn, as our opening keynote, will present the audience with a powerful personal story and her insights into how best to support our disadvantaged children, youth, and families on a pathway to improved life outcomes. And Mark Shriver, as our closing keynote, will share the vision of a society coming together in support of our most disadvantaged populations of young people, and how that has taken hold at Save the Children. Finally, I look forward to seeing so many of our friends and colleagues who will be attending the conference. We draw an incredible array of individuals who are doing remarkable work in their own communities, yet who are always striving to learn more about how they can do better.

6. In terms of youth-related reform and progress, what do you hope to accomplish through this conference?

I expect that the policymakers and practitioners in the room will learn a great deal about the specific reforms that they can implement when they return home to promote a more comprehensive approach to promoting positive outcomes for youth. In the case of researchers, advocates, and students, I expect that they will be able to utilize the lessons learned at the conference to focus on these practices and policies in their research and advocacy efforts. My goal is that each participant takes home two or three actionable ideas that help make them better at what they do in their work.

 

About Shay Bilchik: Shay Bilchik is the founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Prior to joining Georgetown University on March 1, 2007, Shay was the President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, a position he held from February of 2000. Prior to his tenure at CWLA, Shay was the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he advocated for and supported a balanced and multi-systems approach to attacking juvenile crime and addressing child victimization. Before coming to the nation’s capital, Shay Bilchik was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami, Florida from 1977-1993, where he served as a trial lawyer, juvenile division chief, and Chief Assistant State Attorney.

The Georgetown Public Policy Review recently published an interview with Shay Bilchik on crossover youth issues. The text of the interview can be found here. For additionally information, please visit the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform’s website.

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Nov 09 2012

Mark Shriver to Deliver Closing Keynote

The Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference is pleased to announce Mark K. Shriver as the closing keynote speaker for this inaugural event. His inspirational leadership at Save the Children works to improve the outcomes of disadvantaged children and youth living in impoverished regions across the United States. As closing keynote speaker, he will draw upon his experience to encourage conference participants to confront the challenges they have faced in the past and make progress toward better outcomes for children and youth.

 

 

MARK K. SHRIVER

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, SAVE THE CHILDREN’S U.S. PROGRAMS

Mark K. Shriver leads Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, which works to ensure a fair start for all children in the United States, including the nearly one in four living in poverty.

Shriver developed Save the Children’s early childhood development, literacy and health programs, which benefit more than 76,000 children in some of the most impoverished regions of the country.  Studies reveal that 68 percent of children showed major improvement after participating in the literacy program and the percentage reading at or above grade level more than doubled from the start of the school year to the end.

Shriver also created Save the Children’s domestic emergencies unit, which works to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children before, during, and after disasters through preparedness and response programs, as well as advocacy at the federal, state, and local level.

Shriver was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994 to 2002.  In 1988, Shriver founded the innovative Choice Program, which serves delinquent and at-risk youth through intensive, community-based counseling.

Shriver received his B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross in 1986 and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1993.  He has received honorary degrees from Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland and from The College of the Holy Cross.  He resides in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife, Jeanne, and their three children, Molly, Tommy and Emma.

Shriver’s New York Times and Washington Post best-selling memoir, “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver,” was published in June 2012 by Henry Holt.

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Oct 12 2012

Interview with Dean Edward Montgomery

With the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) LEAD Conference just months away, we had a chance to sit down with the Dean of GPPI to discuss the role and purpose of the event. In this interview, Dean Edward Montgomery talks about his vision for the LEAD Conference and gives us a sneak peek into the panel that he will be moderating, titled “Policy and Legislation: National Level” (Friday, January 25, 2013 from 9:00-10:45am).

1. What prompted your decision to start hosting the GPPI LEAD Conference?

The LEAD Conference represents a very natural progression for GPPI in its transition from a leading policy institute to a formal policy school. Part of what we envision as GPPI becomes a school is a larger presence in  undertaking relevant research, engaging policymakers and practitioners at all levels, and making research results accessible to the broader public. We have an impressive faculty with substantive expertise here at GPPI, and the LEAD Conference presents a great opportunity for faculty and students to engage other policymakers and leaders and, likewise, for policymakers and leaders to engage with our faculty and students.

2. In what ways does this conference advance the GPPI mission?

Fundamentally, a public policy school is a place where ideas and solutions for policy questions are created. It is a place where those ideas and proposals are disseminated broadly – to students and also to the public. The conference advances our mission by involving students, faculty and policymakers in a conversation about important policy issues.

3. What do you hope people will gain as a result of this conference?

I hope people will gain an appreciation for a more holistic approach when addressing problems related to at-risk youth. For instance, education is important, but it is not the only answer – same with labor issues, child welfare, and the other subject areas. We need to integrate various systems to contemplate solutions and reinforce what people are already finding regarding the success of holistic services. Additionally, I hope people can take home the message that although it is important to start early, and while there is a growing body of work on early childhood intervention, it is just as important to think about youth at ages 12, 15, 18, and even 22. It is never too late to help young people.

4. Can you tell us a little about the panel that you are moderating?

My panel is about national strategies and the role of the federal government in setting the agenda and parameters for policies relating to at-risk youth. The three “big planks” that set the foundation for this conversation are health, education, and social welfare. We have invited people with expertise in these areas, including researchers and current and former senior government officials, to lead the conversation about the importance and role of national policy in promoting positive outcomes for at-risk children. Since the conference will take place after the presidential election, we will be discussing the impact of potential changes on the future of child- and youth-related policies here in the U.S.

5. What would make this conference a success for you?

There is short-term success and long-term success. Short-term success means that we engage in active conversation, that the conference is well-attended, and that the discussion is disseminated to a robust set of internal and external people. Long-term success means that the conference was more than just a nice conversation. Even though policy ideas and proposals do not come together overnight, I want people to have a sense that they are a part of formulating new proposals and moving a very important issue forward. The conference is about altering and enriching decisions so that, down the line, these efforts to enact change will matter.

6. Will the LEAD Conference be an annual event? If so, what is the topic of the next conference?

Yes, the LEAD Conference will be held annually. There are many topics that we are currently considering for the next conference, including economic growth and international development. We are looking for another major policy issue to which GPPI can contribute in terms of its faculty and research centers and are exploring new ways to engage the public.

About Dean Edward Montgomery: Dean Montgomery joined GPPI in 2010 after serving as the Executive Director of the White House Council for Auto Communities and Workers under President Obama. Dean Montgomery also served in the Department of Labor during the Clinton Administration and as Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland. He studies labor economics and has a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University.

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Oct 12 2012

Announcing the Inaugural GPPI LEAD Conference

Georgetown University, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) are pleased to announce “Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth: Improving Lives Through Practice and System Reform” as the inaugural Georgetown Public Policy Institute LEAD Conference (Leadership. Evidence. Analysis. Debate.).

This inspirational two-day event will focus on at-risk children and youth and present policies and practices that can be brought together in a comprehensive way to support the healthy development of this vulnerable population. In addition to stressing the importance of early intervention, the conference will underscore that it is never too late to help a child or a family. The conference will highlight various subject areas related to youth advancement, such as education, employment and job training, physical and behavioral health, social development, child welfare, and juvenile justice.

Here’s a quick look at some of the questions that will be discussed at the event:

— What do children and youth need to develop into healthy, happy, and productive individuals?

— When children or youth are abused, drop out of school, commit a crime, or suffer from mental and behavioral health problems, what interventions can help them get back on the path towards positive life outcomes?

— What are the necessary systemic changes that can help improve outcomes for at-risk children and youth?

The conference will be held at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center in Washington, D.C. on January 24-25, 2013. Registration opens soon and will continue until December 21, 2012.

We are excited about the conference and hope that you can attend. Please check back for important updates, confirmed speakers and sponsors, interviews, “sneak peeks,” and much more.

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