According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) released on September 16th, 46.7 million people, or 14.8 percent of the country, lived in poverty in 2014. (For more information and analysis, see Supporting Families in Deep Poverty, CSSP’s statement on the 2014 CPS). The 2014 CPS data disturbingly showed that more than 20 million people - almost 45 percent of the poor - are living in “deep poverty”, families whose household income is less than half of the federal poverty line. For a family of three in 2014, deep poverty equated to living with an annual income below $9,425. Families living in deep poverty are more likely to remain poor year after year than other poor people, and face multiple, persistent challenges. Further, large racial and ethnic disparities continue to exist for families who lives in poverty, as Black and Hispanic or Latino families continue to experience disproportionally higher rates of both poverty and deep poverty than White families.

While the national data provide an important window into poverty and well-being in the U.S., it is often difficult to understand the data in terms of its community impact. Poverty rates in communities can vary significantly from the rate for the country as a whole. Importantly, the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) data, which was released today, provides us with a more detailed look at how families are faring economically in different parts of the country.

CSSP believes that place matters and strongly impacts a wide range of factors, such as health and safety and access to quality educational and employment opportunities that are crucial to the well-being of children and their families. Our work allows us the chance to partner with communities across the nation that are striving to overcome significant challenges due to years of disinvestment and neglect. For these reasons, we used the 2014 ACS data to take a closer look at deep poverty in three cities - Baltimore, Fresno and Indianola - and who is most likely to experience it.[i] These three cities, along with others across the country, are taking a more comprehensive approach to addressing challenges to child and family well-being through initiatives like Promise Neighborhoods and the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program.

Baltimore, Maryland is home to Promise Heights, an FY12 federal Promise Neighborhoods planning grantee focused on building a cradle-to-career pipeline of programs, services, and supports for the young people living in the Upton/Druid Heights community. Baltimore faced a poverty rate of 23.6 percent in 2014. While recent conversations about racial justice in Baltimore have focused on the relationship between the city’s police department and the communities it is serving, what has received less scrutiny are the racial disparities with respect to deep poverty. In Baltimore, 13.7 percent of Blacks, compared with 7.3 percent of Whites were in deep poverty, with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty line during 2014.

Fresno, California is one of four cities participating in the federal Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, an inter-agency initiative that seeks to catalyze community-driven change in neighborhoods that have historically faced barriers to revitalization. Last year in Fresno both the poverty and deep poverty rates were more than twice the national rates at 30.5 percent and 14.1, respectively. Here too the burdens of poverty disproportionately impacted people of color, with 16.2 percent of the Hispanic or Latino population living in deep poverty compared with 8.2 percent of Whites.

Indianola, Mississippi is home to the Indianola Promise Community, one of only two federal Promise Neighborhoods implementation grantees that are working to link schools, other educational opportunities, and health and support services for children and families in a rural setting. The poverty rate in Indianola is more than twice the national poverty rate, 36.1 percent. While Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the country, even within the state there are significant disparities across racial lines – in Indianola, 43.9 percent of Blacks lived in poverty compared with 11.7 percent of Whites. Even greater disparities exist when looking at deep poverty, with 19.1 percent of Blacks living below 50 percent of the poverty line - a figure that is more than five times higher than the comparable rate, 3.4 percent, for Whites.


The ACS data released today offers a powerful tool for developing a more nuanced understanding of how poverty is experienced in different communities across our nation. It also reveals important disparities in rates of poverty by different racial and ethnic groups who live within the same community. These data should be used to help craft smarter policies and provide greater access to benefits and resources for the families - particularly those living in deep poverty - who are most in need.

[i] A note about the data used in this statement: Data for “Fresno City, California” and “Baltimore City, Maryland” were accessed from the 2014 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Data for the “Indianola, MS Micro Area” were accessed from the 2009 – 2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, the latest data set for which the specified data points were available. “Black” references ACS data for individuals who identified themselves as “Black or African American”; “Hispanic or Latino” references data for individuals who identified themselves as “Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race)”; and “White” references data for individuals who identified themselves as “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino”.

Earlier today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2014 estimates on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in the United States. The official poverty rate for 2014 was 14.8 percent, a statistically insignificant change from 14.5 percent in 2013 but still far above the pre-recession rate of 12.5 percent in 2007.

Children and families of color continued to see disproportionately higher rates of poverty in 2014. Additionally, female-headed households faced higher rates of poverty than those of male-headed households or of married-couple families.

Poverty Highlights

  • The change in the poverty rate for children under 18 was not statistically significant—from 19.9 percent in 2013 to 21.1 percent in 2014—with 15.5 million children living in poverty.
  • The 2014 poverty rates among non-Hispanic Whites and Asians were 10.1 percent and 12.0 percent respectively, and the poverty rates for Blacks and Hispanics were 26.2 percent and 23.6 percent respectively.
  • The poverty rates for Black and Hispanic children, at 37.1 percent and 31.9 percent respectively, were significantly higher than their non-Hispanic White and Asian peers, who faced poverty rates of 12.3 percent and 14.0 percent respectively.
  • The poverty rate for families (households – not householder) was 12.7 percent, not significantly different from the rate in 2013 (12.4 percent).
  • The poverty rate for families with a female head of household (no husband present) remained unchanged from 2013 at 30.6 percent, while the poverty rate for families with a male householder (no wife present), also remained unchanged, at a significantly lower rate of 15.7 percent.
  • The poverty rate for children in female-headed households was four times the rate for children in married-couple families, at 46.5 percent and 10.6 percent respectively.

Income Highlights

Though the official median income in 2014 did not differ significantly statistically from 2013, Black and Hispanic individuals and families continued to face significant income disparities compared with their non-Hispanic White and Asian counterparts. Furthermore, women of color, particularly Black and Hispanic women, continued to face significantly lower earnings than their male counterparts.

  • The median household income in 2014 was $53,657, a statistically insignificant change from 2013. 
  • The real median income of non-Hispanic White households ($60,256) decreased by 1.7 percent while that of Black ($35,398), Asian ($74,297) and Hispanic ($42,491) households remained relatively the same.
  • In 2014, the median earnings of all women who worked full time, year-round ($39,621) was 79 percent of that for men working full time, year-round ($50,383). This ratio was not statistically different from that of 2013, but varied drastically when factoring in the median earnings of Black ($31,229) and Hispanic ($26,810) women who worked full time in 2014.

Health Insurance Highlights

2014 represents the first year in which the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was fully implemented. As a result, the share of Americans lacking health insurance coverage fell dramatically from 13.3 percent in 2013 to 10.4 percent in 2014. The report released today considered people “insured” if they were covered by any type of health insurance for all or part of the previous calendar year. It showed a significant increase in coverage for both Black and Hispanic people. The states that expanded Medicaid experienced significant drops in their uninsured population.

  • The rate of private coverage increased by 1.8 percent to 66.0 percent in 2014, and the government coverage rate increased by 2.0 percent to 36.5 percent.
  • Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for more than 40 percent of newly insured Americans.
  • In 2014, the uninsured rate for non-Hispanic White populations was 7.6 percent, compared with 11.8 percent for Black, 9.3 percent for Asian and 19.9 percent for Hispanic populations. Black and Hispanic populations saw the most significant decrease, with both groups seeing their uninsured rate decrease by 4.5 and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Supplemental Poverty Measure Highlights

For the first time, along with the official data, the Census Bureau released data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes into account cash income, public benefits and subtracts necessary expenses. The official poverty measure is based on only pre-tax money income, and SPM also considers the value of in-kind benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits. Additionally, the supplemental poverty measure deducts necessary expenses for crucial goods and services, including taxes, child care, transportation costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

According to the SPM:

  • The supplemental poverty rate was 15.3 percent, not a statistically significant change from 2013.
  • The supplemental poverty rate for children, taking into account tax credits and noncash benefits, was 16.7 percent—far lower than the official child poverty rate of 21.1 percent.
  • The top three federal benefit programs that reduced poverty in 2014 were Social Security, refundable tax credits and SNAP. Each program reduced the supplemental poverty rate by 8.2 percent, 3.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
  • The greatest increases to the supplemental poverty rate were caused by work expenses (accounting for a 2.0 percent increase) and out-of-pocket medical expenses (accounting for a 3.5 percent increase).

Deep Poverty

The data released today show that 46.7 million people are living in poverty in the United States, of which 20.8 million are living in deep poverty—at or below 50 percent of the poverty threshold. Significant disparities in deep poverty exist for communities of color, as Black and Hispanic populations faced deep poverty rates of 12.0 percent and 9.6 percent respectively, compared with 5.6 percent for both Asian and non-Hispanic White populations.

Children and families living in deep poverty often face significant barriers to accessing the programs that are designed to lift people out of poverty. Today’s data show that in comparison with the 62.4 percent of those living at twice the poverty line who receive benefits from means-tested programs, only 13.8 percent of families in deep poverty receive these same benefits.

The Important Role of Public Policy in Supporting Children and Families in Deep Poverty

Children and families in deep poverty face significant, wide-ranging and intersecting barriers, including homelessness, immigration status, mental or physical impairments, substance abuse or addiction and/or intellectual disabilities. These barriers compound the challenges experienced by many poor families including access to child care and/or transportation. Public policy should provide targeted and readily available supports that address all these barriers to successfully meet the needs of families living in deep poverty.

Policies that create incentives to serve families in the greatest need, reduce barriers to service eligibility and access and set aside slots for families living below the poverty threshold are all ways policy can better meet the needs of families in deep poverty. For example, letting parents who have lost their employment maintain their child care subsidy provides a necessary support in finding and starting a new job while also ensuring continuity for their young child. Efforts that are targeted at meeting the needs of children and their parents are important in trying to break the often intergenerational problem of deep poverty.

The Need for a Focus on Equity 

The poverty data released today indicate children and families of color continue to face disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes when compared with White families, which has been consistent for more than three decades. Black children were two times more likely to face deep poverty than White children and more than three times more likely than Asian children. Deep poverty rates for Black children are 18.2 percent, Hispanic children 12.9 percent, Asian children 4.9 percent and White children 7.4 percent. This inequity shows the need for innovative solutions and targeted public investments, especially for children and families living in deep poverty. Policy strategies should take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes. The entire community benefits from policy strategies and solutions that focus on equity.

For more strategies to improve outcomes for children and families of color, read our recent report Achieving Racial Equity or visit


Posted In: Poverty and Economic Stability, Well-Being, Data

On Wednesday, August 5th, Senator Wyden introduced the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015.  The purpose of the Act is to allow states the flexibility to use federal Title IV-E funds to provide services to children and families with the intent of preventing the need for foster care and/or limiting the time children spend in out-of-home care.  The bill will allow agencies to use Title IV-E dollars to implement and provide time-limited community-based services for families to prevent the placement of children in out-of-home care, support reunification efforts, and expand supports to kinship caregivers. 

The philosophy behind this bill is that children experience better outcomes when they are raised in families, particularly their own family, whenever safe for the child and that placement in out-of-home care should be temporary.  Given the importance of stability and the trauma that results from separation from one’s parent, it is important to incentivize the use of kinship care when children cannot remain safely with their parents.  Currently Title IV-E provides funding for states and tribes to support children and families after children have been placed in foster care. However, there are very limited resources available for funding services that may prevent the need for foster care or reduce the time children spend in out-of-home care despite growing knowledge and research that highlights the importance of family and community connections, keep families together whenever possible and expediting reunification when possible.

 The services that this bill will allow for Title IV-E to cover will have to be used and justified as services that support family preservation, family reunification or kinship care.  Additionally, states will be required to submit a five-year plan outlining how they plan to use and monitor the time-limited family service money. The services that will be provided, should this act pass, could include individual, group and family counseling, supports to address domestic abuse, substance abuse, and concrete and immediate needs like child care and assistance with transportation, housing, and utility expenses and other resources directly related to family preservation and reunification as well as to ensure supportive kinship placements. Children and families would be eligible to receive these services for 12 months if the child is at imminent risk of entering or re-entering foster care if but for the services provided. The bill also requires that the Title IV-E dollars be spent on evidence-based, evidence-informed and promising programs and services, which allows for cultural adaptations and modifications.

  Senator Wyden, in his opening statement on the finance hearing on preserving families and reducing the need for foster care, commented that this bill “is in not in any way a condemnation of foster care” but instead, is about giving some of our most vulnerable citizens the supports that they need to thrive within their own families.  The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act has the potential to support states and tribes in significantly reducing the need for congregate and foster care by supporting families through a multi-generational approach and front-end services.  For these reasons, The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act of 2015 has received bi-partisan support from its conception and, if passed, could have far reaching impacts on children and families.

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports

The Senate Committee on Finance hearing held on August 4th, entitled A Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care, focused on strategies to decrease reliance on group home placements in foster care systems across the nation. Despite consensus among multiple stakeholders that children are best served in a family setting, children in foster care spent an average of 8 months in congregate care and comprised 14% of the foster care population in 2014.

To address the lack of federal policy regarding state overreliance on congregate care, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) opened the hearing noting that the current system often results in expensive, inappropriate, and detrimental experiences for those it touches. While reflecting on similar testimony heard in May, he likened the continual funding and overreliance on group home placement in foster care to “using taxpayer dollars to buy cigarettes” for foster youth. Chairman Hatch further highlighted the need to direct federal funds toward preventative front- and back-end services to allow as many children as possible to safely remain at home and return home as quickly and safely as possible.

Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) emphasized the difficult choices child welfare workers often have to make, commenting that sometimes the supports needed to keep a family safely together are not always available. Using Oregon’s Differential Response strategy as a model of successful reform, he stressed the importance of moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach by adding an alternate response track: a primary strategy in addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in child welfare. Referencing the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act, which he will introduce this week, Ranking Member Wyden stressed the importance of national child welfare reform to adopt an approach similar to Oregon’s, allowing as many families as possible to stay together.

Subsequently, the committee heard from five witnesses on issues pertaining to the use of group homes in foster care and the lack of preventative supports and services. Sandra Killett, Parent Advocate and Executive Director of Child Welfare Organizing Project, drew upon her personal experience as a parent affected by the lack of appropriate front-end supports in New York’s child welfare system. While waitlisted for home-based therapeutic intervention per her own independent requests, Ms. Killett was investigated for child abuse and her eldest son was placed in foster care. This resulted in further negligence of her son’s mental health needs, as he received no therapeutic intervention while in care. She stressed the importance of home-based therapy, and noted it would have helped her family avoid the trauma of separation. Accordingly, Ms. Killett offered three recommendations addressing the lack of care she experienced, including the realigning of funds to support prevention and early intervention services, utilizing a non-punitive approach to keep children at home, and partnering with parents to work together at all stages of involvement with the child welfare and court systems.

Ms. Rosalina Burton, a former foster youth from California and mental health worker at a residential facility for foster youth, also spoke from personal experience. Highlighting the racial disparities seen in behavioral healthcare – for example, people of color are more likely to experience life stressors linked to mental health disorders but are less likely to receive high quality, culturally competent care – Ms. Burton described how these trends can affect individuals and families. Spending twelve years in and out of foster placements and ultimately aging out of congregate care, she spoke about the importance of addressing mental health and substance abuse issues across multiple generations. Ms. Burton promoted intensive individual and family therapy as well as financial assistance as beneficial interventions, speculating that they might have been pivotal in successfully reunifying her and her family. She further shared that her mother spent time in foster care as well and would have likely benefitted from working through her own childhood trauma with such preventative and therapeutic supports, had they been available.

Executive Director for Generations United, Ms. Donna Butts, similarly focused on the need to increase supports for those not “officially” in care. Specifically, she stressed four recommendations in the areas of kinship care and prevention. These included streamlining the notification given to relatives when children are removed from parents’ care, decreasing barriers in foster care licensure processes for kinship caregivers, increasing preventative intervention efforts and available resources, and focusing on trauma-informed care or therapeutic supports for kinship families. Given that family, friends and neighbors provide the most prevalent form of substitute care for children from birth to school-age, decreasing barriers to their participation in child welfare protocols and case planning is a natural adjustment in increasing family engagement and kinship placements.

Mr. Chuck Nyby, Differential Response Operations and Policy Analyst for the Child Welfare Program in Oregon’s Department of Human Services, and Ms. Ann Silverberg Williamson, Executive Director of Utah’s Department of Human Services, both spoke about the targeted methods their agencies have employed to achieve positive outcomes in their states. The current approaches to child welfare in Oregon and Utah both embrace flexibility and a focus on preventative, family-centered intervention. Mr. Nyby elaborated on Oregon’s Differential Response system, which places high importance on keeping children in the least-restrictive setting and has enhanced the quantity and quality of services offered through matching funds from Title IV-E waiver savings. Likewise, Ms. Williamson offered several strengths to take from Utah’s approach to child welfare, including investing Title IV-E waiver dollars into their HomeWorks program. Ms. Williamson provided several outcomes highlighting the rationale behind these interventions, noting that Utah has one of the lowest rates of entry into foster care and one of the highest rates of adoption.

Following their testimony, witnesses responded to questions ranging from suspected impact on human sex trafficking – in which nearly 60% of victims are foster youths – to broad inquiries into best practices for nationwide implementation. Witnesses reaffirmed the importance of using evidence-based assessments to evaluate risk in family-centered ways, encouraging family engagement, promoting family partnerships, and increasing supports for front-line intervention.   

In addition to Ranking Member Wyden’s upcoming Family Stability and Kinship Care Act, two other bills – the Family Based Foster Care Services Act and the upcoming All Kids Matter Act – highlight a general focus of child welfare reform among committee members. With budgetary debates on the horizon, the emphasis on family-based and preventative services in child welfare is a welcome and overdue congressional priority. The flexible, proactive, and family-focused recommendations discussed at the hearing would allow states to implement more individualized and culturally appropriate supports. Given the current racial disproportionality seen more generally in preventative care, removing these barriers within child welfare is a necessary step in achieving greater equity. 

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA is an equal opportunity law that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others – namely, the ability to find employment, purchase goods and services, and participate in government programs. There have been steady accomplishments in disability rights over the past 25 years, with increased access to employment and infrastructure.

Yet, over 40 million Americans with disabilities continue to face disparities in socioeconomic status, education levels, access to healthcare, and overall well-being. Advocacy for veterans, youth in public schools or on playgrounds, senior citizens, and rural residents with disabilities are just a few of the communities that have organized around specific concerns targeting the needs of those with disabilities, leading to slow but continual progress toward widespread ADA compliance.

Such focused efforts are becoming increasingly necessary for youth with disabilities in child welfare, who often experience compounding factors that can interact to create worse outcomes. Although many foster youth have disabilities, multiple moves, school changes, and inconsistent adult advocacy for comprehensive and appropriate services means their specific needs are often overlooked.

Children with disabilities are over-represented in child welfare: it is estimated that 4% of children in the US have either a mental or physical disability, compared to 11% of those who enter the child welfare system. In addition to experiencing maltreatment at a rate between 1.68 and 3.44 times that of their peers, children with disabilities are at least 1.5 times more likely to be seriously harmed by the abuse or neglect experienced, leading to greater risk of involvement in child welfare. Although children with disabilities are not identified in crime statistic systems – making national trends difficult to measure – several studies have found that behavioral disorders and speech/language disorders each increase risk for physical abuse and neglect, respectively. This lack of consistent data represents a major barrier to designing, implementing, and evaluating prevention programs and services for this population.

Nevertheless, the data gathered from the National Youth in Transition Database in 2010 has provided some insight about foster youth receiving independent living services: among adolescents in foster care, about 40% have disabilities, and children with disabilities have worse outcomes than other foster youth. Older youth with disabilities are more likely to experience longer lengths of stay in out-of-home placements and higher rates of placement instability, and their transition plans are less likely to include goals for careers, independent living, or post-secondary education. A lack of child welfare involvement in special education planning, inconsistent advocate presence, and a lack of educational individualization based on the needs of foster youth in general may contribute, but information remains limited.

These trends become even more concerning when considering the disparities already experienced by youth of color and LGBTQ youth within child welfare, including overlapping systemic barriers, increased rates of placement in congregate care settings, and discrimination. For youth with disabilities who also identify as LGBTQ, a member of a racial or ethnic minority, or both, the effect is likely a combined “double burden.” This intersectional impact remains understudied, however, perpetuating the lack of awareness and lack of targeted programs and policies to better meet the needs of youth in state care.

As discussions of equity continue to shed light on the human experiences of those in often oppressed communities, the unique experiences of youth with disabilities in child welfare offer a vital, and often overlooked, perspective. Consciously including the needs and obstacles faced by foster youth with disabilities is a necessary addition to the conversation as we now move into the ADA’s 26th year.

Posted In: Child Welfare and Family Supports