Archive for March, 2010

3-29-10 Stark facts: Children First issues 2009 report

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Hood River News March 17, 2010

The numbers are in, and they are stark: 1,056 children living in poverty (ages birth to 17), or 20 percent of the 21,625 Hood River County population — a nine percent increase from 2007 and 13 percent worse than the state average. 4,986 uninsured children in the Gorge and eastern Oregon counties (Hood River, Wasco, Jefferson, Morrow, Sherman, Crook, Gilliam, Grant and Wheeler) or 21.9 percent of the total population – 9 percent worse than the state average.

These facts, and others, are from the Children First for Oregon’s 2009 County Data book, the newly released report from the nonprofit, independent advocacy group. While the nation focuses much of its attention on the federal health care debate, Children First for Oregon is pushing to enroll 30,000 more children in Oregon’s Healthy Kids initiative.

The Oregon Legislature in 2009 passed free health coverage for an additional 80,000 children in Oregon who are under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and a 75-85 percent subsidy for children up to 300 FPL. It also expanded funding to School-Based Health Centers by $1.38 million, along with $5 million in available grants. As of March 1, 35,000 of these newly eligible children have enrolled in the program.

However, in 2008 there were 117, 889 uninsured children in Oregon.

3-29-10 MountainStar tours to benefit kids

Monday, March 29th, 2010

March 23. 2010 4:00AM PST

MountainStar Family Relief Nursery will host weekly tours through the month of April for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The tours will be held every Friday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at 2125 N.E. Daggett St., Bend. Tours are generally given the third Friday of every month at the same time. MountainStar provides crisis intervention and therapeutic classroom services for at-risk young children and babies in the region.

The nonprofit always welcomes donations of diapers, wipes and clothing for children 5 and younger.

Six local Dutch Bros. Coffee locations will also donate 5 percent of proceeds from the month of April to the KIDS Center and MountainStar.

3-24-10 Oregon ban on baby bottle chemical fails on tie vote

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

By TIM FOUGHT
SALEM, Ore.

A bill to ban a chemical used in rigid plastic baby bottles and “sippy cups” failed Tuesday on a tie vote in the Oregon Senate.

Advocates wanted to ban products used by children younger than 3 years old that contain bisphenol A. They said the federal government has failed to regulate the hormone disrupter that can leach from food containers and pose multiple health hazards for fetuses and young children.

Opponents said federal regulators haven’t concluded the chemical is a health hazard, and the measure could threaten jobs and businesses in Oregon’s canning industry.

Bisphenol A was developed as an estrogen replacement before World War II and adopted for plastics in the 1950s.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about the chemical’s effects and ordered more tests.

A few other states have banned it in infant products or, as in Washington, are moving to do so. Many manufacturers and retailers already have abandoned baby bottles using bisphenol A.

“Parents are not choosing it, and it will go away,” said Sen. Jason Atkinson of Central Point, who said his family avoided it. He voted against the bill, saying it was a precursor to legislation to ban the chemical in cans.

Bisphenol A is in the epoxy resins used for can liners, enabling high-heat sterilization, according to manufacturers.

Originally, the bill also aimed at the use of bisphenol A in baby formula cans. The canning industry said it was too broad and might also apply to widely used products such as canned peas and pureed squash.

Even though that provision was deleted, lobbyist Craig Smith of the Northwest Food Processors Association said the group remained opposed to the bill. The state should await action by the federal regulators, and the bill had an objectionable provision to recall baby bottles that had been sold legally, he said.

Supporters of the bill said the chemical remains in some bottles for sale, and not all parents have or can take the time to be educated about the chemical.

“Their children are no less deserving of protection,” said Sen. Chris Edwards of Eugene.

Fifteen Democrats supported the bill Tuesday. Three Democrats and 12 Republicans opposed it.

In the Oregon Legislature, bills that fail, especially on tie or close votes, are not dead in a legislative session until the last gavel falls. The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Jackie Dingfelder of Portland, said the bisphenol A ban might be resurrected before adjournment, expected next week.

Bills that environmentalists favored have had a tough time in the February session.

Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton withdrew his proposed ban on plastic bags at checkout stands. A measure to make permanent a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in Oregon’s 3-mile stretch of territorial waters in the Pacific was amended to limit the ban to 10 years. A measure aimed at resolving long-standing issues of property rights and recreational use of Oregon rivers failed Tuesday in the Oregon Senate.

A bill to encourage Oregon’s largest cities to plan for reducing greenhouse gases was still alive in committee.

3-24-10 Report: More Children Rely on Food Stamps

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Brian Stimson Of The Skanner News
March 16, 2010

A newly released report indicates that many more children and their families are relying on food stamps and government assistance than in previous years.

Children First released their annual data book that tracks poverty among Oregon’s most vulnerable population. The 2009 County Data Book on the Status of Oregon’s Children tracks the health care, food security, and poverty levels of children throughout the state. The report also looks at how many children are involved in the child welfare system, which includes foster care, relative placements and incidents of child abuse and neglect.

3-24-10 Health care reform: What parents can expect this year

Thursday, March 25th, 2010
March 23, 8:45 AMOrlando Parenting ExaminerRobyn Kurth

When President Obama signs the health care reform bill into law, it will be the first step in a roll-out of health care reform that will unfold over the next several years; some of the new policies will not be implemented until the year 2014, but the ones that affect parents the most are slated to take effect this year.

The House Ways and Means Committee has a detailed timeline listing which policies would take effect, and when. Many of the policies that pertain to families with children would be implemented in the year 2010, such as:

• Insurance companies can no longer refuse coverage of children because of pre-existing conditions. Each insurance company has their own listing of pre-existing conditions, which can include chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, ADHD, or autism spectrum disorder.
• Health plans that cover dependent children must extend that coverage up to age 26. (Florida statute 627.6562 already allows for dependent children up to 25, who live with their parent or are a student, and up to 30 years old, who are also unmarried and have no dependent child of their own, to remain on their parents’ insurance.)
• The adoption credit and adoption assistance program will be expanded. The new law increases the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance exclusion by $1000, makes the credit refundable, and extends the credit through 2011. The enhancements are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2009.
• Health insurance companies are prohibited from rescinding existing health care policies when a person gets sick as a way of avoiding covering the cost of enrollee’s health care needs.
• The new law would also prohibit lifetime limits on benefits in all group health plans and in the individual market and prohibits the use of restrictive annual limits.

According to HealthReform.gov, 4 million residents in the state of Florida who do not currently have insurance and 1.1 million residents who have non-group insurance could get affordable coverage through the health insurance exchange, and 2.5 million residents could qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health coverage. Florida currently has a population of 18.3 million people.

3-24-10 Work and family: Big bucks not needed to be family-friendly

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

By Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian
February 21, 2010, 7:52AM

Many companies that shine in the rankings of Oregon’s favorite employers provide a plush array of family-friendly benefits, plus occasional extras like free car repair or massage therapy.

Such generosity is hard to fathom in this economy, where not getting laid off is the new perk. Yet it’s still possible to be family-friendly, even for companies with tight budgets and lower-income workers. One key, as national and state data suggest, is to minimize unnecessary conflicts between work and home.

“What I observe is that companies that provide flexible workplaces definitely do a lot better” in terms of employee morale, says Brandon Sawyer, research editor for Oregon Business magazine and project manager for its annual ranking of Oregon’s top 100 employers.

That’s true not just of big banks and law firms, Sawyer adds, but also of small businesses. Companies that can’t afford to offer premium benefits can engender loyalty in other ways, sometimes by simply working with employees to “allow the job to fit into the employee’s life,” as Sawyer puts it.

A groundbreaking national study, released last month by the Center for WorkLife Law and the Center for American Progress, helps explain the challenge. This study looked at lower-income workers, middle-class workers and professional-managerial workers as three distinct groups with overlapping obstacles.

For example, lower-income workers are far more likely to have unpredictable shifts, making child care difficult. About three-quarters of them don’t get paid sick time, not even one day a year. Professional-managerial types typically get paid sick days, yet they’re often expected to work 50-plus hours, making their time left for children or elderly parents scarce.

As for middle-income people, they’re called the “missing middle” for a reason. They earn too much to qualify for child care subsidies but not enough to afford high-quality child care. They face similar demands as their better-paid managers, yet they have less job flexibility and smaller savings accounts.

3-23-10: Children First for Oregon releases data showing that kids are getting fewer medical check-ups

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The country’s economic troubles continue to hit Oregon children hard in areas of health care and general welfare, according to data released this week by Children First for Oregon.

“As the recession continues to squeeze Oregon families, it is now more important than ever that we continue to advance the policies and programs that keep children healthy and safe and strengthen families,” said Robin Christian, executive director, in a media release.

The organization’s 2011 goals include ensuring that 95 percent of Oregon children have health coverage.

“We need to have a community of healthy children. But we see a lot of kids who have never walked into a doctor’s office for a well-child exam,” said Traci Fossen, Kids Health Connection program director for Jackson County.

Data compiled by the nonprofit advocacy group listed median family income in Jackson County at 15 percent lower than the state’s average. There was a 153 percent increase in personal bankruptcy filings in the county between 2006 and 2008. Nearly 55 percent of Jackson County eighth-graders did not have a medical check-up or a physical exam in the previous year, according to the organization’s data culled from the 2009 County Data book on the Status of Oregon’s Children.

March 19, 2010
By Sanne Specht
Mail Tribune

3-23-10: Healthy Kids Boosts Numbers

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

LANE COUNTY, Ore.—While democrats in Congress inch closer to passing health care reform, a recent report shows Lane County has taken huge steps in making sure the county’s children have health coverage.

Healthy Kids is the program for uninsured children in Lane County, and the newest report shows enrollment has jumped nearly 12% in a 6-month period. Now, there are more than 35,000 children statewide enrolled in Healthy Kids.

The Lane County Children and Families Director says it’s most encouraging to see their huge community effort paying off.

United Way has led the way. Managers there say Healthy Kids is part of their new goal to insure more residents. They hope the increased enrollment helps Oregon set a national example.

“When we can see this increase with a concerted effort in our community to get children on the Healthy Kids Plan, you can see the need. I mean, this really does demonstrate to me the need for health care for our children and families,” said Lane County Children and Families Director Alicia Hays.

But advocates say they still have a long way to go. The report shows 51% of eighth graders didn’t get a medical check-up or exam last year, and there’s still a high number of newborns at low-birth weight. The goal is to reach all 80,000 uninsured Oregon children.

KEZI 9
By Stacia Kalinoski
March 17, 2010

Child Abuse Case Numbers Up Statistically, But Not Realistically

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

EUGENE, Ore.—A report released Tuesday by Children First for Oregon says child abuse rates in Lane County jumped 20 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Experts say there’s one huge factor behind that number. Authorities in the area say it’s not that child abuse is increasing, but that high profile cases like Jeanette Maples’ and the alleged infant abuse case in Cottage Grove, drive up reports even more.

The most recent alleged child abuse case comes on the heals of Maples’ brutal murder.

Investigators call it one of the worst cases of child abuse they’ve ever seen, but child abuse advocates say there’s an underlying positive.

“Anytime something bad happens, as it has in this community this year and in years previously, that tends to impact the level of calls for service,” said Kids’ FIRST Director Tina Morgan.

Those numbers are reflected in a new report out by Children First for Oregon. Child abuse and neglect cases are up 20 percent from 2008 to 2009. But the Lane County Children and Families director says that doesn’t mean there’s more abuse.

KEZI 9
By Stacia Kalinoski

2-5-10: Oregon’s Healthy Kids insurance program expands coverage to more children

Friday, March 5th, 2010

By Andy Dworkin, The Oregonian
February 05, 2010, 3:00PM

Almost all Oregon children can now buy health insurance, as a final phase of the state’s Healthy Kids insurance program started last week.

The legislature approved the Healthy Kids plan in 2009, funding it through a 1 percent tax on health insurance premiums. Last fall, the program’s first phases offered free coverage to children from lower-income families. More than 30,000 kids out of an estimated 65,000 eligible Oregonians have enrolled in that coverage.

The final piece of the program, Healthy KidsConnect, lets children from other families buy into the plan, which covers all usual check-ups, preventive care and medical care. The insurance also covers prescription medicine, medical equipment and dental, vision and mental health, including addiction services. Only legal Oregon residents under age 19 are eligible.

Families making between 200 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level, roughly $44,000 to $66,000 a year for a family of four, pay a sliding fee for insurance through Healthy KidsConnect. Monthly premiums range from $22 to $83 for families in this category, depending on their income and how many children are covered. Families making more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level can buy coverage for the full cost of $214 a month per child.

KidsConnect coverage is sponsored by the state but offered by private health insurance plans. State officials say the final phase of coverage could enroll up to 15,000 children. They aim to have 80,000 children covered through the Healthy Kids program by the end of this year.

The completion of the KidsConnect program means almost every child in Oregon can get health insurance, and marks “a proud day in Oregon’s history,” Gov. Ted Kulongoski said on Friday.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Healthy Kids insurance programs or applying can go online to http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/healthykids or phone (877) 314-5678.