Bill Proposed to Reduce Rates of Family Separation

Great news from Washington DC as bi-partisan house and senate representatives have proposed new child welfare legislation, that would work to reduce the number of children in foster care. Mental health and substance abuse issues can strip parents of the resources they need to build loving and healthy homes for their families; this bill proposes expanding access to family, health, and treatment services to empower families to remain united. In addition, when separation is needed, this bill will prioritize children being placed with relatives. 

According to the Ways and Means Committee press release, the Family First Prevention Services Act will strengthen families and reduce inappropriate foster care placements by:

  • Giving states flexibility to use federal foster care dollars to provide upfront, evidence-based prevention services — such as parent training and individual and family therapy — to prevent inappropriate foster care placements and improve outcomes for children and parents.
  • Ensuring more foster children are placed with families by ending federal reimbursement when states inappropriately place children in non-family settings.
  • Keeping children safe by reauthorizing the Regional Partnership Grant program that provides funding to state and local evidence-based services aimed at preventing child abuse and child neglect due to parental substance abuse.
  • Reducing the amount of time foster children wait to be adopted or placed with relatives across state lines by encouraging states to replace their outdated child placement systems with a more efficient electronic system.
  • Supporting family members who unexpectedly assume responsibility for a child by providing important caregiver resources and eliminating unnecessary paperwork.

Empire Health Foundation has been working to build a more family supportive child welfare system in our region through the work of our subsidiaries Family Impact Network and Rising Strong. We look forward to following this bill as it is introduced.

For a summary of the bill, click here.
For draft bill text, click here.

Curious about ACEs?

As many in our community know, preventing and mitigating adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, is a key strategic priority for us at EHF.  Higher rates of ACEs are highly correlated with worse health outcomes on a population level, so we are working with partners like Spokane Public Schools to address this issue.  Take a look at this blog post from the ACEs Connection Network to learn more about ACEs and about the discussion!

Addressing Trauma in Eastern Washington

I think that if parents understood the incredible negative impacts of ACEs, it potentially could modify their actions with a child.
— Antony Chiang, President, Empire Health Foundation

Our work to prevent and mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, in Eastern Washington has given us many opportunities to contribute to the conversation about trauma in our region, the latest of which can be found in the Inlander's story detailing Spokane Regional Health District's work to develop a trauma toolkit for use in Spokane schools.  

Check out the full article on their website or download a PDF below:


Severe Poverty Affects Brain Size

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health,

Image courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health,

The Spokesman Review recently reported on a University of Wisconsin study that shows the link between growing up in extreme poverty and smaller brain size, particularly in the regions of the brain connected with academic performance.  This study contributes to the vast amount of research exploring the links between poverty, child brain development, and poor academic performance, which forms the basis of our work to prevent and mitigate Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Eastern Washington.  According to the study, "as much as 20% of the gap in test scores [between children in poverty and more affluent children] could be explained by slower development of two parts of the brain."  

Combined with, for example, the research presented in the KSPS Documentary Born to Learn, this finding adds to our sense of urgency to address this inequity at a systems level.  

As study author Seth Pollack sums up,

Americans tend to really like to believe in this narrative that everyone here has a chance, This kind of research suggests that we have some kids entering kindergarten at totally not a level playing field – with environments that are so impoverished and under-stimulated and nonconducive to healthy growth, we’ve got little 4-year-olds, 5-year-olds starting kindergarten already at an extreme disadvantage.
— Seth Pollack, Prof. of Psychology, UW-Madison

Check out the full article from the Spokesman here, or download the PDF below.


Check Out "Born to Learn" at!

If you were not able to catch “Born to Learn” on KSPS on July 30, not to worry – you can stream it on!

“Born to Learn” takes a look at the fascinating links between childhood experiences and brain development.  Interviews with leading researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Science and the Chicago Medical School give insights into infant brain development, explaining the profound effects that seemingly simple interactions – for example, holding a newborn’s hand – have on baby’s developing brain.  This type of positive interaction sets the stage for pre-school and kindergarten readiness, and its absence can create daunting obstacles to learning for children throughout their schooling.  Negative experiences and neglect contribute to what researchers call “toxic stress” that negatively affects brain development, making it difficult for children to learn in school down the road.  In fact, it is precisely this research that led EHF to start investing in the prevention and mitigation of adverse childhood experiences in 2012.

EHF was able to support this project through our Responsive Grant Cycle in 2014, and we are so excited to be able to share the finished documentary!