Lots of child policy updates to share with you this week. Two new reports highlight important issues for Iowa first, the special challenges facing young-adult parents and the kinds of policies that can help them thrive, and second, the impressive gains in insurance coverage among low-income adults due to Iowa's decisions to expand Medicaid in 2013. 

Do the findings of these reports ring true with you? We always love to hear about the on-the-ground effects of policy decisions. Drop us a message and share a story.

KIDS COUNT: Young parents face obstacles

Parenting is hard for everyone. But young parents face unique challenges. 

Some 28,000 young adults in Iowa (ages 18-24) face hurdles in supporting their kids while fulfilling their own vocational and academic goals, according to the latest KIDS COUNT policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Of the 36,000 children in Iowa with young parents, 37 percent live below the poverty line and 65 percent live in families with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level. 

Des Moines Register reporter Shelby Fleig shared the stories of young mothers and their kids at the Young Women's Resource Center in Des Moines in an Oct. 2 front page feature.

Center staffers Michael Crawford and Sheila Hansen both spoke with Fleig about the report's implications. "Single parenting is not necessarily a bad thing, but over time, more than half of single parents live below the poverty level at one time or another," Crawford said. "[The median income] is barely enough to make ends meet."     

Why focus on young parents, specifically those ages 18-24? This specific demographic is likely to be overlooked, as services often focus on even younger parents. Consequently, the significant needs of this new generation of parents are lost in the shuffle.  

What can be done to help young parents thrive? For starters, state and federal policies need to prioritize young adults, helping them succeed in school, at work and at home. Here are a few examples:

  • Expand Iowa's child care assistance program so more young adult parents have reliable child care while they go to school and work to establish careers
  • Lower the earned income tax credit eligibility age for childless workers to 21 to help nonresident fathers contribute to their children's economic stability
  • Enhance home-visiting programs that equips young parents to understand their children’s developmental stages and build their parenting skills 

Read the full report "Opening Doors for Young Parents" here.

Medicaid expansion benefits Iowans

Iowa's decision to expand Medicaid has paid off for our state, according to a recent report from the folks at Georgetown's Center and Families and University of North Carolina's NC Rural Health Project.

That's true in all parts of the state, including our rural areas and small town. The uninsured rate for low-income Iowa adults in those places dropped 12 percentage points, from 27 percent in 2008-09 to 15 percent in 2015-16. That reflects the experiences of other states that expanded Medicaid: the uninsured rate among non-metropolitan adults in those states dropped from 35 to 16 percent during the same time period. States that haven't expanded Medicaid saw a much smaller decline: from 38 percent to 32 percent. 

Access to health care contributes to good health and quality of life. Medicaid is a particularly important resources for rural parts of our state because it helps keep health providers and hospitals in those communities — which typical operate on much narrower margins than in metro areas —  in business.

Read the full report here

Spotted around Iowa


Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) hosted its Early Childhood Systems Summit October 3 in West Des Moines. The event drew local and state-level early childhood professionals, advocates and policymakers and leaders in business, civic, faith, education and law enforcement fields. Keynote speaker Dr. Sarah Lytle of the University of Washington highlighted the latest science on brain development and what families, providers and communities can do to support a new generation of lifelong learners. 

The Center hosted a Health Care State of Play roundtable discussion October 2 in West Des Moines. Our friend Anthony Carroll, AARP Iowa's advocacy director (pictured at right), offered a look at the current state of Iowa's individual health marketplace in Iowa and where it could be headed. The Center's Anne Discher and Mary Nelle Trefz (center and left, respectively) broke down the history of Medicaid, its important role in Iowa, and potential threats and opportunities. It was a productive conversation in a room full of knowledgeable, engaged Iowans. 


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