Happy June to you. After a break to recover from the 2018 legislative session, we are back in the newsletter business, with a new name, look and format. Our aim is to keep you up to date on the latest news and happenings related to child policy in Iowayou know, the scooptwice a month. 

This week we have a couple quick policy updates and the first in a regular series of Q&A interviews, this time with our friend and colleague, Center policy associate Angelica Cardenas. In future editions, we'll use that space to introduce you to a wide array of Iowans working on aspects of child policy and practice.

As always, we invite you to let us know your thoughts on what you read.

Iowa Medicaid to stop covering breast pumps

Last week the Department of Human Services announced that breast pumps would no longer be covered by Medicaid, effective July 1, 2018. New mothers who also in the nutrition program WIC should be able to receive a breast pump through that program if they meet specific criteria, like returning to work or school or if they have a baby with a medical condition, but we are concerned that this change will allow some babies and their families to fall through the cracks. 

Research shows that low-income women are less likely than higher-income women to still be breastfeeding at 12 weeks, with many reporting that they stopped because they returned to work or school. We should be working to support women, not placing additional barriers to make it more difficult to breastfeed. As the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement clearly states, breastfeeding and infant nutrition is a public health issue and not a lifestyle choice.

Angelica is a policy associate at the Child and Family Policy Center.

What is your role at the Center? Describe you professional background.

I joined the Center in 2014 as a policy associate, which was the first time I had really ever worked on policy-related topics. Prior to that, I earned my MSW from the University of California, Berkeley, and worked in child protective services in California.  

Any notable or interesting facts about yourself or family?

My husband and I have an 11-year-old daughter and a dog, both whom we love a lot. As a family we enjoy traveling internationally. We’re also trying to explore the lesser-known parts of Iowa.

What is a current project you’re working on?  

My current work around health equity is really exciting. The project’s scope is large, but an important question the work seeks to answer is ‘How do we create systems that work well for all families? How do we effectively engage families through programs?’ Ultimately, health equity is all about ensuring that kids and families have access to the services they need by implementing responsive—and accessible—programs.

Describe the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job.  

Our current political landscape, which targets children and those in poverty, is both challenging and discouraging. But it’s also made our work that much more important. I love that I can use my skills and passion to make a difference for children and families in Iowa.

What keeps you inspired and focused?

The magnitude and importance of the work the Center does, given the issues families are facing; it keeps me engaged. 

Important things about your line of work that you’ve learned so far?

Here’s an important thing I’ve learned: systems and programs are effective only to the degree in which they engage families. Family engagement is the key to success. Also, I’m continually reminded of the importance of leadership, at all levels of influence. Policies and policymakers hold a lot of power and influence.

Looking ahead, where do you see policy research and advocacy headed in Iowa? Nationally?

Broadly speaking, we’re trying to focus on issues that affect minority groups in Iowa and across all 50 states. With the Family First Prevention Services Act passing earlier this year, a lot of our child welfare work will be centered on researching and advocating for best-practices that support all Iowa families. This will involve working with partners and allies to ensure proper implementation. 

'It's the kids' turn.' Former state legislator Dave Heaton (Mount Pleasant) received the "Friend of Title V" award at the Maternal and Child Health Advisory Council meeting on June 7. First elected in 1994, Heaton is retiring after years of service in which he established himself as an advocate for child and family causes within his caucus.

Title V is a key federal source of support for states to promote and improve the health and well-being of mothers, childrenincluding children with special needsand their families.

"The maternal and child health money that we get is some of the most important funding our state receives," Heaton said on accepting the award. Regarding the statewide conversation on ACEs and children's mental health, Heaton said, "It's the kids' turn!"    

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