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2018 in Review: 10 Political Decisions That Hurt and Helped Kids

Here's how we failed, and helped, kids in 2018.

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The political highlights of 2018 were a tale of moderate political highs and extreme lows. Thousands of kids were forcibly separated from their parents and detained in for-profit detention centers that had virtually no legal oversight; Title IX has been effectively stripped of its meaning, fewer kids are insured than the year before for the first time in a decade. Still, some good things happened for kids in 2018, too. For instance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program survived what amounted to a near political gauntlet of budget discussions, as did the Child Care Tax Credit and the Adoption Tax Credit. Medicaid expanded in several states, giving more kids access to health care than ever before, and a major overhaul of foster care that focuses on preventing kids entering the system passed as law. Here’s a look at 10 ways the government helped — and hurt — families this year. 

5 Ways the Government Helped Families in 2018

Children’s Health Insurance Program Survives
After a lengthy re-negotiation process in which literally millions of kids access to health care hung in the balance, Congress successfully re-funded the Children’s Health Insurance Program for the next six years, meaning that some nine million American kids will have health care at a reasonable price for the foreseeable future.

Medicaid Expansions Go Through
As mandated by the Affordable Care Act, a good handful of states expanded Medicaid to include people at 138 percent of the federal poverty level or below who are also under the age of 65. This expansion extends to kids under the age of 22 who might have a severe disability and means that parents who might not have employee-sponsored health insurance don’t have to worry about their own insurance. Medicaid is also readily available to poor children and pregnant women; the expansion will help people who struggle to receive adequate health care get the care that they need.

The Child Care Tax Credit Endures
The Child-Care Tax Credit has consistently received bipartisan support since its humble origins. This year, after some wishy-washy negotiations, the Child Care Tax Credit is now worth up to $2,000 per qualifying kid and is refundable up to $1,400. It was left off of at least one iteration of the tax bill passed by Trump earlier this year and was a hard-fought inclusion, but that inclusion helps families in a big way. There’s a reason it’s universally beloved and it wasn’t thrown out with the bathwater.

A Major Overhaul of Foster Care Happened
The Family First Prevention Services Act introduced the most sweeping reforms to foster care legislation ever, but it was barely discussed beyond the halls of institutionalized child care experts and foster services. FFPSA was tucked into a spending bill the president signed in February of this year and changes the rules for how foster care facilities can spend their federal funding. The bill prioritizes programs that keeps families together, puts more money towards parenting classes, funds mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment programs while also puts limits on the amount of kids that can be in institutional foster care homes. There’s an extreme focus on prevention in the bill as well and should implement programs that focus on putting many steps ahead of removing a kid from a home if there might be signs of a abuse, including counseling programs.

The Adoption Tax Credit is Saved
The Adoption Tax Credit was a bipartisan effort — actually first floated as a Republican plan — signed into law in 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton. It was in danger of being lost in the muck and mire of the 2018 tax bill, which would have left 14,000 adoptive parents without a necessary $13,570 tax credit per kid that helped them shoulder the costs of adoption and child care. Fortunately, the credit was saved — and hopefully, in 2019, it will be expanded to help more families who adopt, particularly those who adopt kids out of foster care.

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5 Ways The Government Hurt Families in 2018

For-Profit Colleges Will Get Away With Defrauding Students
In Betsy DeVos’s takeover of the Department of Education, one of her first actions was to roll back key parts of a former Obama policy which helped ease the pain of student loan payments to students who went to for-profit colleges. The former rule, which was altered by DeVos, stated that students were eligible for loan forgiveness if their college closed unexpectedly or was accused of engaging in fraudulent activity. Some 130,000 defrauded students applied for student loan forgiveness as a result of that rule and DeVos very quickly moved to overturn it as the head of education, meaning that hundreds of thousands of students won’t have access to loan forgiveness.

Title IX Is Rolled Back
In an effort to protect the rights of students accused of sexual assault and shield universities from any responsibility for sexual assaults that may happen on their campuses, Betsy DeVos rolled back key parts of Title IX, a federal program that was meant to help students who were assaulted as college students get meaningful justice through school accountability and clear-cut, federally guided policies. As it stands, the new policy shields universities from responsibility to investigate claims of sexual assault on their campuses and raises the burden of proof for victims in what is often a proof-less crime.

Family Separation Resulted in Some 200 Kids Still Separated From Their Parents.
This year, families along the Southern border were forcibly separated upon seeking asylum in the United States with no system of information that could re-unite them. Some parents who came to the border with their near-infants were removed from them, and for months, thousands of migrant children were stuck in detention centers, some privately owned, sleeping in cages, lacking medical or mental health care, and living without knowledge of where their parents could or might be. Psychiatrists who were allowed to visit these detention centers (some of whom had to do so under different identities) reported seeing cognitive regression and severe signs of trauma in these children. While the Trump administration claimed that this was a process that aimed to deter parents from coming to the country illegally, it is totally legal to come to the border and ask for an asylum claim. That he wants to stymie migrant movement also runs counter to the fact that legal and illegal immigration to the country from Mexico and other Latin American countries has been steadily dropping over the past few years. As of mid-October, roughly 245 innocent kids don’t know where their parents are. The government says they may never be reunited with their parents because their parents may have already been deported. It’s untenable. It’s heinous.

Fewer Kids Are Insured For The First Time In A Decade.
A recent report from the Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families reported that for the first time in about ten years, the number of uninsured children has increased, not decreased. Unfortunately, more than 20 percent of those kids reside only in Texas, accounting for some 835,000 children. It turns out that Texas is just one state on a list of about 13 states that didn’t expand Medicaid Coverage as allotted by the Affordable Care Act, and those states have the most uninsured kids in the country.

The Department of Education Refused to Research Gun Violence In Work On School Safety.
After the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in which 17 educators and students were murdered, the Department of Education rolled out a federal school safety commission to examine the root causes of violence in schools. That same school safety commission has also stated that they will not be looking at guns and how they play into the issue of school safety, despite the fact that in the year of 2018 alone, more than 40 people have died and 60 people have been injured as a result of gun violence in schools alone. To tackle violence in schools without acknowledging that weapons are the largest part of the problem is akin to the CDC acknowledging the root cause of a disease but refusing to do anything to attack it.