30 September 2012

Hyde Amendment Infographic

Link to a larger version [PDF].

Access Denied: There's nothing to cheer about on the anniversary of the Hyde Amendment

The relief that women experienced following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing access to safe and legal abortion was short-lived. After merely three years, zealous politicians managed to impose their own personal agendas with the passing of the Hyde Amendment, systematically excluding millions of low-income women and women of color from accessing abortion care.

With broad support from anti-choice legislators, the Hyde Amendment banned federal Medicaid coverage of abortion. Denial of Medicaid-funded abortions subsequently retracted low-income women’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion. The rights they gained in 1973 were essentially stripped away.

Today marks 36 years since the Hyde Amendment was enacted. Millions of women who rely on Medicaid for health care are still excluded from accessing abortion care. The restrictions imposed by the Hyde Amendment leave many women in a difficult situation—choosing between basic necessities like food and rent or the medical services that are standard among the majority of private health plans.

This injustice must end. Stand up for choice. Stand up for women’s constitutional rights. Please sign this petition from the National Network of Abortion Funds to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

18 September 2012

What can the Chicago strike teach us about child care ?

By: E. Tammy Kim

The need for public child care has emerged as a central, if unintended, lesson of the Chicago teachers’ strike. As the work stoppage enters a second week, the families of some 350,000 mostly low-income, Black and Latino students are struggling to find safe, quality child care—but the call for a reliable, publicly-funded system should be universal.

While the Chicago school district has offered no-cost, “contingency plan” child care at 147 schools and 200 community- and faith-based locations, most staff are not trained providers and afterschool care is not available. Still, the city’s offering points in the right direction. Imagine if all families could access publicly-funded daycare centers or in-home child care, just as they can public schools. Individual children would grow in a safe, productive environment, staffed by professional providers, and working parents, especially those with irregular schedules and lower-income jobs, would have one less worry. These economic and social benefits would redound, moreover, to society at large.

Urban Vineyard in Humboldt Park, one of Chicago’s publicly-funded centers, offers a portrait of quality child care. During the strike, the program has served an average of 40 children per day, mostly from first-generation Ecuadorian, Mexican, and Puerto Rican families. According to the director, Pastor Myrna Nodal, "Most people equate child care with babysitting, but we have trained staff that provides fitness, arts and crafts, music, and socialization."

Nodal’s comment underscores the overlap between child care and childhood education. Both concern safety and trust as much as cognitive, emotional, and physical development. And both should be accessible to families across the class divide.

It’s a matter of seeing child care as a social investment rather than an expense to be borne by families alone. Among advanced, industrialized nations, where universal child care and early education (pre-K) are the norm, the U.S. invests the least public money in this sector—only .5 percent of our GDP. Research shows, unequivocally, that this policy is short-sighted and unsustainable. Access to public child care would mean more flexibility and earnings for working families, safer and more productive children, and a good-jobs sector for providers and early educators.

In the midst of the public-education debate spurred by the Chicago strike, we should re-evaluate our commitment to families and prioritize access to publicly-funded, quality child care. How we care for our children, rich and poor, during and after school, will determine the future we share.

17 September 2012

Start With Healthy Sexuality

By Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick

The most recent web conference, “Healthy Sexuality and Caring Connections: Foundations for Prevention” featured Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute and therapist Geraldine Crisci. Both Debra and Geraldine are published and passionate advocates for promoting an accurate understanding of sexual development and healthy relationships. Speaking to an audience of those interested in child sexual abuse prevention, they emphasized the importance of starting with healthy sexuality.

Geraldine emphasized sex education as a tool in preventing child sexual abuse. She noted that that the highest risk factor for sexual abuse is age, and emphasized the need to discuss healthy sexuality at an early age. Geraldine went on to offer an overview of the benefits of secure attachment in infants, toddlers, and children. She emphasized the importance of building respectful and trusting relationships early in children’s development. Building on this overview, Debra focused her presentation on healthy sexual development in adolescents. She emphasized the importance of making moral and ethical decisions about sexual relationships during adolescence, noting that sexual health education is the foundation for healthy relationships.

Both speakers identified the need for parents and professionals to understand age-appropriate sexual behaviors. They also challenged all of us working to end child sexual abuse to think about the intersection of sex education and seize opportunities to bring this conversation into all of our discussions about child sexual abuse prevention.

Click here to learn more about the Ending Child Sexual Abuse Web Conference Series. Slides and recordings are available for each web conference. Sign-up to learn more about upcoming web conferences.

14 September 2012

Record Poverty Rates Hit Women Hardest

The most recent U.S. poverty data paints a bleak picture for women struggling to get by in the United States. A whopping 17.7 million women (14.6 percent) lived in poverty in 2011, the highest rate our nation has experienced since 1994. Men’s poverty rate, on the other hand, was 10.9 percent, a staggering contrast.

It’s no secret that the economic slump of recent years has affected both men and women. However, women have experienced a disproportionate amount of hardship. At the Ms. Foundation, we know that much of this disparity is a result of specific issues women face in their daily working lives, including the gender wage gap, the concentration of women into low-wage positions and lack of affordable child care options.

Over the last year we have focused our economic justice work on child care because we know that it’s one of the most important ways of ensuring economic security for all women.

In the past year alone, we’ve provided $565,000 in grants to 12 organizations that are creating systemic change in the informal child care sector. We’re actively supporting a three-pronged strategy to help low-income women, immigrant women and women of color achieve economic stability – supporting policies that provide quality, flexible and accessible child care; improving working conditions for care providers; and recognizing child care as an economic development strategy that supports women’s economic security.

We don’t take these new poverty figures lightly. Without significant changes to our workplaces -- changes that allow women to balance families and careers, changes that ensure adequate pay and changes that demand a better future -- too many women will remain in this state of poverty.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rappaport

06 September 2012

Lived Experiences Fuel Hope & Action

By Cordelia Anderson and Joan Tabachnick

The August 30 ECSA Web Conference featured two survivors of child sexual abuse who have incorporated their stories into their activism to end child sexual abuse.  Their stories and their work provided a moving foundation for a discussion about how to tell one’s truth with a vision for social change. 

Amita Swadhin opened with her own story of abuse within her family and described how her healing led her to question the responses of the system to those of different class, ethnic or immigrant status.  And these questions led her to the idea of building a theater performance from the perspective of adult survivors of child sexual abuse, which was created by Ping Chong & Company. The result is an incredibly powerful performance, called Secret Survivors, performed by those whose stories are crafted into the script. As a young, queer woman of color and daughter of immigrants she fights structural oppression with the power of her truth and paves the way for the truth of others to be heard.  Randy Ellison, Board President of Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service (OAASIS), was silenced by the weight of shame as a male sexual abuse victim, so much so that he did not disclose abuse or address his trauma for 40 years.  After telling his story for the first time at a public hearing before the state legislature, he will not be silenced again. He authored the book, Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, and is part of the OAASIS Speakers Bureau that works for policy change.

Randy and Amita point out that while speaking out results in others feeling safer to disclose their own experiences of abuse, they believe the power of personal stories is to give hope and inspire action for social change.  Personal stories make the facts come alive and motivate people to get involved. But then what?  When asked what others can do, Amita supported the idea of a national “coming out” day for survivors in order to create a broader picture of who is affected and how many of us are affected by child sexual abuse.  Randy talked about the power of having many voices speaking together, and suggested contacting a local coalition to speak with others on key questions facing our policy makers and funders

Much of the discussion centered on how ALL of us are affected by child sexual abuse in some way.  We defined “Voices of Experience” as anyone who has been personally affected by child sexual abuse –survivors, friends and families of survivors, and the friends and families of those who have perpetrated abuse.  We explored the difficult question of how to learn from all stories – even of those who have abused.  Amita brought forward a quote that captured how our collective stories force us to look at trends and long term solutions rather than just an immediate response: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Chimamanda, Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story).

Beyond what Amita and Randy spoke about, they also modeled so beautifully the power of combining personal stories with professional goals.  For years, it has been hard for professionals to fully own and incorporate their personal stories into their work.  In this web conference these two survivors, activists, and professionals did just that -- opening the door for others to do the same.  

We ended the web conference with a quote by Henri  Nouwen when we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means most to us, we often find that it is those who instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand”.  A huge thank you to Amita and Randy for all you do to build a movement and make prevention a reality.