Five Questions with Casey: Mike Laracy and the Policy Landscape for Kids and Families

Posted August 2, 2013, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Direc­tor of Pol­i­cy Reform and Advo­ca­cy Michael C. Lara­cy guides the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s efforts to inform and influ­ence fed­er­al and state poli­cies that help chil­dren, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties thrive.

He leads the Foundation’s work on pover­ty reduc­tion and fed­er­al bud­get issues, which includes the efforts of Casey’s KIDS COUNT state orga­ni­za­tions and the State Fis­cal Analy­sis Ini­tia­tive. Before join­ing the Foun­da­tion in 1994, Lara­cy was assis­tant com­mis­sion­er for pol­i­cy, plan­ning and pro­gram eval­u­a­tion at the New Jer­sey Depart­ment of Human Ser­vices, where he served for 17 years.

Q1. We know from our work with fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, that liv­ing in pover­ty — par­tic­u­lar­ly when you are a child — can have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences to well-being. What can be done on a fed­er­al lev­el to alle­vi­ate the risks of poor out­comes for low-income families?

Our nation can reduce pover­ty by increas­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for par­ents and chil­dren simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. We feel that efforts to reduce the deficit must align with invest­ments that grow the econ­o­my and cre­ate jobs that lift work­ing fam­i­lies out of pover­ty, allow­ing them to par­ent chil­dren in pro­gres­sive­ly safer and more nur­tur­ing house­holds. At the same time, we must invest in chil­dren and youth through qual­i­ty ear­ly learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and the devel­op­ment of a career pipeline for ado­les­cents and young adults who need to enter the workforce.

For many years, we have been part of a nation­al and bipar­ti­san coali­tion that seeks to advance these ideas. Fed­er­al incen­tives for fis­cal­ly respon­si­ble, effec­tive pub­lic and pri­vate part­ner­ships that cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ty could play an essen­tial role.

Q2. What chance do these kinds of pro­pos­als have of see­ing leg­isla­tive action?

On many lev­els, cre­at­ing bridges to oppor­tu­ni­ty rep­re­sents a social agen­da aimed at equi­ty. Invest­ing in chil­dren and fam­i­lies may seem ambi­tious and not easy to imple­ment in a cli­mate of aus­ter­i­ty. How­ev­er, get­ting these issues raised, dis­cussed and debat­ed is an extreme­ly impor­tant step.

Q3. What are some of the issues the Casey Foun­da­tion has been watch­ing in the 113th Congress?

Like every­one, we are pay­ing close atten­tion to the fis­cal cliff debates around tax­es and spend­ing. We are con­cerned about the impact of seques­tra­tion. These cuts could have a pro­found cost in terms of jobs and the econ­o­my, as well as fund­ing for edu­ca­tion, work­force invest­ment and ser­vices impor­tant to poor fam­i­lies, such as hous­ing subsidies.

If debates on immi­gra­tion reform and gun con­trol can be resolved quick­ly, Con­gress could move for­ward on the reau­tho­riza­tion of pro­grams pro­vid­ing assis­tance to needy fam­i­lies and work­force train­ing and sup­port. In addi­tion, edu­ca­tion leg­is­la­tion that sup­ports chil­dren at risk of aca­d­e­m­ic fail­ure is up for renewal.

We con­tin­ue to look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to edu­cate leg­is­la­tors about child wel­fare financ­ing reforms that sup­port inno­v­a­tive, evi­dence-based pro­grams that reduce the need for group and insti­tu­tion­al care and help more chil­dren stay con­nect­ed to fam­i­ly and oth­er car­ing adults.

Q4. What are impor­tant state-lev­el issues?

States are con­tem­plat­ing big changes in their bud­gets by phas­ing out the state income tax and increas­ing sales tax­es. Care­ful analy­ses of these pro­pos­als sug­gest they are like­ly to shift tax bur­dens to low-income fam­i­lies, while fur­ther erod­ing the safe­ty net and essen­tial ser­vices and sup­ports for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren. We are deeply con­cerned that such poli­cies will adverse­ly affect strug­gling fam­i­lies and jeop­ar­dize their well-being.

Anoth­er crit­i­cal state-lev­el issue is ensur­ing Med­ic­aid cov­er­age is extend­ed to for­mer fos­ter care youth up to age 26. A fed­er­al pro­vi­sion man­dat­ing this cov­er­age is sched­uled to take effect in 2014, and we want to ensure that states imple­ment it effectively.

Efforts to expand tax cred­its that sup­ple­ment the incomes of low-income work­ing fam­i­lies and help them build sav­ings remain part of our agenda.

Q5. What are some oth­er pol­i­cy reforms that would help chil­dren and youth in crisis?

We are work­ing to help states over­haul their child wel­fare poli­cies to be friend­lier to rel­a­tives so that extend­ed fam­i­lies play a more promi­nent role and receive more resources to care for chil­dren when their par­ents are unable to do so. We are also focused on juve­nile jus­tice reforms that reduce the num­bers of young peo­ple unnec­es­sar­i­ly incar­cer­at­ed. We have new data that show some pos­i­tive move­ment on this issue. We want to work with states to con­tin­ue this trend and sup­port alter­na­tives that are more cost-effec­tive and humane.

A KIDS COUNT pol­i­cy report we released in Decem­ber 2012 found that near­ly 6.5 mil­lion U.S. teens and young adults are nei­ther in school nor in the work­force. With employ­ment among young peo­ple at its low­est lev­el since the 1950s, these youths are veer­ing toward chron­ic unem­ploy­ment as adults and fail­ing to gain the skills employ­ers need in the 21st cen­tu­ry. We think it is imper­a­tive to help these young peo­ple recon­nect to jobs and opportunity.

This post is related to:

This post is part of the series:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics