House Budget Plan Would Have More Kids Sliding Into the Child Welfare System

Apr 14, 2011

By Rutledge Q. Hutson

Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan laid out the House's plan for spending in Fiscal Year 2012 - calling it a "Path to Prosperity" and "Restoring America's Promise."  He speaks of a choice between two futures, but the choices he proposes are the wrong ones if he wants to keep the nation's commitment to our most vulnerable children, to restore America's promise and provide them with a pathway to prosperity.

Ryan's plan would slash spending on health care and nutrition assistance for low-income people by block granting Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  It would target low-income housing assistance for cuts. It would also decrease Pell grant aid and put college out of reach of many low-income students, and it would cut workforce development programs for those who need to gain the skills to earn a living wage. 

It would do all of these things in the name of protecting future generations.  But for all the rhetoric about protecting future generations, leaving today's vulnerable children out of the conversation is worrisomely short-sighted.

There are more than 14 million children living in poverty. That's 1 in 5 children in the United States. More than 6 million children live in extreme poverty.  Instead of creating a budget that helps grow the middle class, the House's proposal would have us balance the budget on the backs of low-income families.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly two-thirds of proposed cuts are to programs that help low-income people.

Cutting the very programs and supports that help families at a time when so many are still reeling from the recent recession will exacerbate poverty. It would also likely push more children and their families into the child welfare system.

Poverty/socioeconomic status is the single best predictor of child abuse and neglect.  This is not because most poor parents mistreat their children.  Indeed they do not!  However, the link between maltreatment and poverty is undeniable.  There are several possible explanations for this link.

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