Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cuts to Food Stamps will affect Washington Families

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, helps put food on the table for more than 46 million people every month, which translates into about one in every seven Americans. The program gives the opportunity for families to receive monthly benefits that allow them to purchase food they might not otherwise have the means to afford. 86% of the SNAP recipients are below the poverty line, and over half of the recipients are children. The food stamp program was expanded during Obama’s stimulus package, however, there are now efforts to cut the number of people who would be available to receive food stamp benefits. 

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to considerably cut the spending on the SNAP program by more than $33 billion. This would cut 11% from family’s benefits for an average family of four. The change will not only eliminate the amount of funding to families, but also make it more difficult for families to be accepted into the program. The "Ryan budget" would cut $133.5 billion in funding over the next ten years by creating a block grant system that gives each state a lump sum amount of funding. 

There are many risks involved with cutting the budget, such as increased number of starvation, homelessness and decreased number in those who can receive benefits. Eliminating this amount of funding would put families and their children at risk for not receiving the nutrition necessary in order to live a healthy lifestyle. In Washington State, 1.1 million people would be affected by the Ryan budget cuts and would decrease $2.71 billion in funding for the SNAP program. Families who currently receive help from the SNAP will suffer from not being able to afford food for their children and other family members.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Visit to World Forum

By Joel Ryan, WSA Executive Director

I just returned from the World Forum on Early Education and Care in Honolulu, Hawaii, where we were asked to present on our WSA Parent Ambassadors program. It was a very interesting and enriching experience. On the first day I traveled with Yasmina Vinci, NHSA Executive Director, Joan Lombardi from HHS, and the person who oversees all of the reviews to visit Head Start programs on the island. Initially it was a bit of shock—I knew there were poor families living in Hawaii but I was surprised at the depth of poverty. On one highway we saw families living on the side of the street in tents. As you can imagine, the cost of living is very expensive and the service jobs people are doing don’t pay very much. I heard from several of the Head Start staff I met with that meth use is really high and that Hawaii is a stopping over point for drug runners trying to get to the mainland. I found that the Head Start programs were excellent. We visited one co-located with a transitional housing complex and another one at a huge (like old style Chicago) housing project where a community action agency delivered services. Not surprisingly I found that the Head Start folks in Hawaii are facing the same problems with the child care subsidy system in their state that we are facing here. One program shared some great work they are doing with the CLASS and beyond. They have a very extensive master teacher mentoring program and have seen their CLASS scores move way past the national average as a result. They said they would be interested in doing a webinar with programs in Washington.

I found that while the sessions at the World Forum were interesting, it was much more about the people. One woman I met from Afghanistan was defying the Taliban by starting a school for women and their children. Empowering and educating women in that country is still not acceptable to many elements. She spoke about setting up a school in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where the children were sleeping on the same ground as snakes and scorpions. To illustrate the degree of poverty she told a story about how a father sold one of his children for a few bags of rice. In those schools, the most dangerous job was being the bus driver – the school bus is constantly under threat of bombing or shooting or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The other speaker I found really interesting was a Roman Catholic Priest that lives in Zambia. He focuses his time on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and spoke about the large number of children in Africa that are living with AIDS but not able to access the cocktail drugs. The vast majority of children with AIDS don’t receive help and are basically told to go home and die. One of the points he was making is that while many adults did not receive treatment, children seemed to be last to get any help. He also mentioned that with the recession, foundation support has been leveling off and in some places declining.

There were many good sessions dealing with impact on children living in war torn countries such as the middle east, Sierra Leone, and other dangerous places. Yasmina did a workshop on all the Head Start models around the world which there are many. I did a workshop on our association’s Parent Ambassadors Program. I was teamed up with a speaker from Zimbabwe that spoke about organizing parents in his country—something akin to a policy council. I heard good feedback and there was interest from a Canadian delegation and Fiji to get a program started in their countries. (Yes, I immediately agreed with them that it would make a lot of sense for me to travel with several directors to Fiji to teach them how to get it up and running). The conference was also a lot of fun too. There was an international dance, good discussion groups, and some time to just talk and meet people from all over. I signed our association up to be involved in issues around peace building and advocacy so we can continue to learn and model our work.

When the conference wrapped up I spent a few extra days with my wife and daughter and we had a great time. We ate shaved ice at some well known places, saw sea turtles and dolphin shows, and visited many beautiful beaches. Of course my daughter only wanted to play in the pool. She discovered that the slide was fun and I had to do that with her for about 4 to 5 hours one day which explains the tan and sunburn I have right now. (Katy said she really had a lot of sympathy for me) All in all it was an eye opening trip. I think my biggest take away was simply that the world is a lot smaller than we think. While the level of child poverty is not anywhere near the other countries that were present, there are people all around the world that care about children and their health and development.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Parent Ambassadors Advocate with Children's Alliance

Parent Ambassadors joined families and supporters of the Children’s Alliance on the Capital steps this week. With the state facing major budget cuts to programs like ECEAP, Apple Health for Kids and Working Connections Child Care, current and past Parent Ambassadors stood strong and advocated for funding of these programs.
John McClure a current Parent Ambassador from Spokane, took the initiative and organized a bus with 40 parents and children to attend the rally. Though the bus had to leave at 2am John says “It was a long day but it was worth it to make some noise at the rally.”

The rain and hail did not stop Parent Ambassadors from having meetings with their legislators in hopes of educating them on the importance of ECEAP. Bianca Bailey, a 2009 Parent Ambassador, brought her daughter Kamryn (4) to the capital for the first time. A strong advocate, Bianca spent the day taking Kamryn to her legislative meetings and was happy to get a photo of Kamyrn and Rep. Hinkle.

It has been a busy year for Parent Ambassadors and this event is just one of many that current and past Ambassadors have attended in the first six weeks of the legislative session. It is the dedication and commitment from our Ambassadors that help save funding for critical programs.

Thank you to Bianca Bailey, Immaculate Ferreria-Allah, April Ritter Terry, Rob Atherton, Wayne Ueda, John McClure, David McCormick for attending Have a Heart for Kids Day and continually support advocacy work for Washington’s children and families.

John McClure and Wayne Ueda deliver a petition of parent signatures in support of ECEAP to Senator Lisa Brown.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Parents in Action in Washington DC

WSA took five of our Parent Ambassadors to Washington DC for the National Head Start Association leadership conference, and to visit their elected officials and advocate for Head Start and Early Head Start. They did a fabulous job, meeting with both our Senators (Sen. Patty Murray is in the picture above), 8 of our 9 Representatives, and the head of the Office of Head Start!

April Ritter, Head Start Parent Ambassador from McCleary, WA, shared the following thoughts:

I want to write this, while the memory is still fresh in my brain, and before the overwhelming reality of life sets back in to my everyday routines. I just returned home from my trip to Washington DC to attend the National Head Start Leadership Institute. I was selected as 1 of 5 parents to attend the conference. It was quite possibly the most amazing week of my life. 5 days of learning, understanding more early learning issues, and advocating for children not only in my state, but those across the nation. I met Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, and got to help them understand a little bit better how cuts that our government is trying to make to our state and federal budgets, will affect so many families. My fellow PA's and I, helped put a face to those services that are on the chopping block.

One friend was a teenage mom, who had no idea how to manage a checkbook, a household and a baby at the age of 16 while trying to finish school. With the help of the Early Head Start program, she finished high school, got her AA and is now working on her BA. She is a small business owner, and the proud mom of 4 kids!

Another was a recovering addict who spent over 20 years in and out of incarceration. He has now turned his life around, is a single dad and has helped start a Dad's group in his local town. He just recently became a homeowner and has a 3.75 GPA in his AA program. These are just a few of his accomplishments.

There were 3 more stories from my fellow PA's, that tugged at your heart strings, but I would be here all day trying to recap it all. I got to tell the story of how Head Start helped diagnose Lauryn with hearing loss that was fixable, and not just a speech impediment. And how she no longer needs any special services because of the help and resources she had access to as a Head Start student.

In our state, the Governor just proposed to cut the Working Connections Childcare Program. This will affect thousands of children and families in our state. We got the chance to let them know, that by reducing these subsidies, it will have an adverse effect on our economy. Those working poor in our state, will be turned in to unemployed workers and forced to draw from other state resources such as unemployment, TANF, Food Stamps and Medical. It doesn't make sense to not be PREVENTATIVE. Helping our lawmakers understand that we are REAL faces and not just numbers, was what we were there for.

I truly believe that our voices were heard in every office we visited.

Not only did we visit Capitol Hill, we gave a presentation and helped facilitate another one on Advocacy, and getting parents involved in early learning issues. The more people that are aware that from birth to 5 is the most important part of a child's life, and what they can do to make those years the best, the better our future generations will be set up for success. I could go on and on. But I won't. I just want to share the video of my telling my story about Lauryn. It is emotional. Yes, I cried. Because if it weren't for this program, I don't know that my daughter would be the child she is today. A loud, boisterous, talkative, SMART girl who started kindergarten ahead of the curve, because of the comprehensive services and amazing preschool experience she had through Head Start.

Some of my friends don't agree with these issues because of political belief, some of ignorance, and some of just plain disagreeing. But I think anyone who listens to any of these stories will agree that to not support this program and other early learning programs like it, is just plain stupid. Children should be our priority, not just an afterthought.

Click here to see April tell her daughter Lauren's Head Start Story.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Child Care Funding Saved…Boy that was Close

Wow what an amazing victory! As you remember the Governor proposed to cut almost $40 million from the Working Connections child care program. It would have severely limited eligibility and made it nearly impossible for low wage workers to stay employed. Many parents would have had no chance but to take their kids out of the child care program and leave them at home with an older sibling or go back onto welfare. We weren’t sure how this was going to turn out with the House and Senate miles apart on this issue, but the final budget spared child care funding.

Great work to everyone that made your voice heard!

posted by Joel Ryan

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Granger Parents go to Olympia!

On February 18th, 18 parents and staff from the Granger School District ECEAP program got on a bus and headed over to Olympia to join 400 other early learning advocates for the WSA Head Start & ECEAP Advocacy Day. Granger's ECEAP program serves 71 children and families in a small town in the lower Yakima valley.

We asked them to share their thoughts and pictures, so here it is!

Gabino and Maribel
It was an unforgettable experience, having the opportunity to express our concerns to our representatives, about early education and how having this program helps in the educational development of our kids. I would really encourage other parents and community members to attend next time and also express their concerns about education and how early education would be hurt if funds were to be cut out. Plus our representatives were very attentive to our concerns.

Susana Chavez
Today’s experience was wonderful. I had never had the chance to participate in such an event. I learned a lot about how things work in our state capital. I had a chance to speak to one of the representatives about my concerns regarding ECEAP and childcare. I explained to him how these cuts would affect people like me. I also learned a lot of my state’s history. The state’s capitol building is beautiful. I enjoyed the whole trip, everything was wonderful. One of the things that impacted me was the prayer. I never would have guessed that they still trust in God. Thank you for this experience I will remember it always and I have something to share to my children. I’ve been to the state capital!

Fernando Romero
This was a new experience for me. It was my first time in Olympia; I liked seeing the Capitol and getting to meet the people in charge of making big decisions such as the funding for all the state.

Frank Rosas/ Alma Negrete
It was an experience that not a lot of people get do to. First of all I liked the capitol - it was very nice. Also that we had a chance to talk to the legislators and express ourselves, seeing the possibility that we are to make a difference in our children’s future. I was amazed in seeing the amount of people that showed up!

Lupe & Sergio
The thing that I liked about the trip is that it was the first time meeting all the people that were there - that was very nice and an unforgettable experience, and we would do it next year. The representatives need to know that we care about our kids and we do anything to better it and they know that the other thing it was that they live in the lower valley so they can see that we need their help so our kids can be someone in life. And would really tell other parents to go they would like it very much.

Noel & Mayra
Well first of all we had lots of fun but the most important thing was that we learned how important ECEAP is for our children. This was our first time coming to an event like this one. And we liked it so much we learned many things such as; a parents should know to support ECEAP and let other parents know how important is for our children.

Evelinda Cavasos
Well first and foremost I had a lot of fun on this trip. This was the first time I’ve never came to one of these events. I learned how important ECEAP is to us as parents and our children. I’m here to support ECEAP and hope that the bill gets passed. There are so many children who are in poverty and I hope that all those get the help and schooling that they need to further their education. So my experience on this Advocacy Day was the best and I want to continue attending every Advocacy Day I can attend.

Thanks very much for all the Granger ECEAP parents who came to advocate for their children in Olympia!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Things I Learned in Olympia

Guest Post from James McBride, WSA Parent Ambassador

I went to Olympia full of fire to testify in front of both the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. With my trusty boss man Joel Ryan at one side and fellow Parent Ambassador Elizabeth Grillet at the other. We started in the Senate Ways and Means and sat...and sat...and sat...It seemed like we had been overlooked, but really our group (higher ed/early learning) had run out of time. Unfortunately Elizabeth's incredible ECEAP success story was not heard as she had to leave.

Joel and I waited...and waited...and waited...but no we were not called, we did however learn a few wonderful GEMS!
#1 Sign up for more than one Group! (As we watched more than a few people Testify at least twice.)
#2 We aren't the only people get hit hard by these cuts.
#3 The Senate is proposing a cut to the TANF cash grant.
End the Senate Ways and Means hearing.

Begin House Ways and means Hearing! Joel and I are the first to testify, and of course I am freshly equipped with what I learned in the Senate hearing! After the education group was finished we headed out with Parent Ambassador Coordinator Cecily Jenkins, who had testified with us, by our side. Once we reached the hallway outside the hearing room, I was met by State Representative Steve Conway, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He asked my name and where I was from, he then informed me that my testimony touched him and he wanted me to E-Mail my testimony to his personal E-Mail address...WOW! how cool is that!!! Needless to say, I did so. Let's see what happens, shall we! See what we can learn spending the evening at hearings in Olympia!