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War on Poverty Programs that Improve the Lives and Wellbeing of Children and Youth



 

 

War on Poverty Programs that Improve the Lives and Wellbeing of Children and Youth

President’s Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union Speech launched the War on Poverty, a bold initiative to address poverty, unemployment and inequality in our nation. These initiatives, and the initiatives he created and launched in the years thereafter, included programs and policies to address the needs of poor children and youth in a number of areas, including: child health and nutrition; preparing children and youth for success in pre-K, elementary and secondary schools; and providing youth work and advanced educational opportunities.  Today, at least four of the programs and initiatives launched or expanded during the War on Poverty are among the top ten areas of federal expenditure on children.[i]

Below are some of the War on Poverty Programs that were created, wholly or in part, to assist disadvantaged and low-income children and youth.

  • Medicaid: Created in 1965, Medicaid addresses the health insurance and healthcare needs of disadvantaged adults and children, including low-income pregnant women and children. The program was created in part to be, and continues to be, an important way for the nation to guarantee that children receive appropriate healthcare regardless of the economic situation of their parents or caregivers.  The program provides a comprehensive set of services for eligible children and youth, including:  healthcare and immunizations; vision, hearing and dental screenings and services, and mental health services. Medicaid coverage for children and youth is built around Early, Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit, which requires the assessment and treatment of children and youth for vision, hearing, physical, mental health and dental care needs.  

 

Medicaid has proven to be a huge success in providing healthcare coverage for children.  Today, an estimated 29 million children throughout the United States, including: children from low-income families, children in or aging out of foster care, and children with disabilities, receive healthcare coverage through Medicaid.  Medicaid is also the top federal expenditure on children.[ii]

 

  • Child Nutrition Programs: The War on Poverty created or expanded a number of programs to address the nutritional needs of children, and to prevent and address child hunger.  The Child Nutrition Act (CNA) of 1966 authorized the Special Milk Program, which provides free or low-cost milk for children in childcare or school settings; and created the School Breakfast Program.

The School Breakfast Program was modeled on the success of the School Lunch Program, and provides low-income children and youth with free or reduced-price breakfast to help meet their nutritional needs and ensure they start their day ready to learn. In fiscal year 2013, over 13.1 million students participated in the School Breakfast Program daily with many of them coming from the most economically disadvantaged homes.  For example, 11.1 million children and youth received their meals free or at a reduced‐price.[iii]

Continuing the commitment to addressing hunger and poverty among children, in 1968 the Johnson Administration expanded eligibility for the National School Lunch Program to low-income children and children with disabilities in non-school settings, such as child care and recreational settings, as well as social service organizations. 

1968 also saw the creation of the Special Summer Food Service Program for Children (SSFSP) to provide meals to children when school is not in session. Over time, the SSFSP was divided into the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program. Both programs continue to provide health and nutritious meals to children outside of school.[iv]  

Today, child nutrition programs serve millions of children and youth nationwide, and rank among the top ten largest federal expenditures on children.[v]  

  • SNAP: The Food Stamp Act of 1964 permanently authorized food stamps (now SNAP) for the first time, to address hunger and malnutrition among disadvantaged adults and children. The program provides monthly benefits to low-income families for the purchase of food, and is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.[vi]  Currently, over 70 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with children and almost half of all SNAP recipients are children themselves (47 percent), and SNAP ranks among the top ten federal expenditures on children.[vii] 

 

SNAP has proven to be a huge success in addressing child hunger and promoting food security among children, as well as improving child health outcomes and lifting children out of poverty. For example, in 2012, SNAP lifted 1.7 million children out of poverty. [viii]  

 

Given the large number of children aided by SNAP, and its successes in improving the lives and well-being of children, some supporters of SNAP refer to the program as the nation’s largest child nutrition program.[ix]  

 

  • Head Start: Head Start was created in 1965 to provide poor children under the ages of 5 with a wide-ranging set of services to help prepare them for elementary school and healthy development.  The program was designed to be,  and continues to be, a comprehensive program that addresses the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of young low-income children. The program also contains a strong educational component to promote school readiness.

 

Since 1965, Head Start has served over 30 million children. Head Start is considered to be one of the most successful War on Poverty programs. Today, the program, serves over a million children and families each year.[x] 

  • Title 1: Title I was created in 1965 to provide disadvantaged and poor children additional educational assistance in elementary and secondary schools.  Specifically, the program sought to improve the educational achievement gaps between these students and their peers by providing financial assistance for supplemental academic programs and other education-related initiatives.[xi]  

 

Nearly fifty years after its creation, the program continues to work to address the academic needs of students. And despite concerns surrounding the funding formula for program grants, Title I is recognized as having positive impacts on the educational experiences of disadvantaged and poor children. Today, Title I serves an estimated 23 million students in 86 percent of school districts nationwide. It is also the largest federal program for elementary and secondary education and ranks among the top ten largest federal expenditures on children.[xii]

 

  • Job Corps:  Created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the Job Corps program addresses the education and employment needs among severely disadvantaged youth ages 16-24. Eligible participants include youth who are high-school dropouts; homeless, runaway or foster children; or children who lack basic skills and require additional education or vocational training and career assistance, as well as follow-up support services, to help them find and keep employment. The program was designed to be, and still remains, a comprehensive program that addresses the educational and professional needs of young adults, in order to prepare them to be successful in well-paying, long-term, employment opportunities.  The program includes: academic and educational assistance; career and vocational training in approximately 100 professions; on-the-job work experience; training on workplace, social and personal skills; and assistance in finding and keeping employment. Unique features of the program include its residential nature, and the continuing services provided to former participants who have left the program.

 

In the 2011 program year (2011-2012 program) nearly 70 percent of program graduates found jobs, joined the military or enrolled in either higher education or an advanced training program.[xiii] And a recent study showed the program to be especially beneficial for older youth ages 20-24.[xiv] Today, Job Corps serves approximately 60,000 individuals per year, and is considered one of the brightest spots of the original War on Poverty.[xv]

 

  • Higher Education Financial Assistance and Support.  Numerous programs to provide access to higher education and improve the economic prospects for disadvantaged and poor youth were created or expanded by the War on Poverty.   The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964, for example, expanded the National Defense Student Loan Program, now known as the Perkins Loan program. The EOA also created the Work-Study Program, which provides employment for eligible students who must work to help the cover the costs of higher education.[xvi]

 

A year later, in 1965, President Johnson continued his commitment to higher education when he signed into law the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA created the Educational Opportunity Grant (EOG) program, now known as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grant (FSEOG), to provide grants to eligible low-income students. HEA also created the guaranteed student-Loan Program, now known as the Stafford Loan Program, to provide loans to students pursing higher educational opportunities.[xvii]  

 

Perhaps most importantly for disadvantaged junior high, high-school, college and post-graduate students, HEA created the TRIO program to help them pursue and complete their education. TRIO provides: counseling and mentoring: information on, exposure to, and assistance in applying for and navigating higher educational opportunities. TRIO also provides various support services for program participants who are in college, as well as preparation for post-graduate degree studies.[xviii]  Today, TRIO serves nearly 790,000 low-income students, including first-generation college students and students with disabilities.[xix] Twenty-two thousand TRIO students are disabled.[xx]  

 

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Assistance Act of 1965 created programs to improve the employment outcomes and prospects for youth through expanding access to post-secondary opportunities. These programs still continue today, providing millions of youth a chance to pursue higher education.

 

The programs President Johnson launched in his 1964 speech, and the programs he created and launched in the years thereafter, sought to address unemployment and poverty and promote equal opportunity and social mobility.  Some of the best-known War on Poverty programs addressed poverty among older Americans. Yet, Johnson was also focused on addressing the needs of disadvantaged and poor children and youth, especially in the areas of child health and nutrition; pre-K, elementary and secondary education; and youth employment and access to higher education. Our nation’s children and youth, as well as the nation as a whole, have benefited, and continue to benefit, from these programs.

 

 

For more information on these and other child and youth programs, please contact Randi Schmidt, Executive Director of the Children’s Leadership Council.

 

 



[i] Julia Isaacs, Sarah Edelstein, Heather Hahn, Katherine Toran,&  C. Eugene Steuerle, Kids Share 2013:Federal Expenditures on Children in 2012 and Future Projections,” Urban Institute, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412903-Kids-Share-2013.pdf.

[ii] Julia Isaacs, Sarah Edelstein, Heather Hahn, Katherine Toran, & C. Eugene Steuerle, Kids Share 2013:Federal Expenditures on Children in 2012 and Future Projections,” Urban Institute, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412903-Kids-Share-2013.pdf.

[iii] United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, “School Breakfast Program Fact Sheet” p.2. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/SBPfactsheet.pdf.

[iv] School Nutrition Association, Program History and Data webpage, http://schoolnutrition.org/Content.aspx?id=1872.

[v] Julia Isaacs, Sarah Edelstein, Heather Hahn, Katherine Toran, & C. Eugene Steuerle, Kids Share 2013:Federal Expenditures on Children in 2012 and Future Projections,” Urban Institute, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412903-Kids-Share-2013.pdf.

[vi] United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services, Supplemental Nutrition Assistances Program (SNAP) webpage, http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap.

[vii] Brynne Keith-Jennings, “SNAP Plays a Critical Role in Helping Children,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 17, 2012,http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3805.

[viii] Arloc Sherman, Danilo Trisi, &Matt Broaddus, “Census Data Show Poverty and Inequality Remained High in 2012 and Median Income was Stagnant, But Few Americans Were Uninsured,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 20, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/files/9-20-13pov.pdf.

[ix] Brynne Keith-Jennings, “SNAP Plays a Critical Role in Helping Children,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 17, 2012,http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3805.

[x] United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Administration for Children and Families, History of Head Start webpage, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ohs/about/history-of-head-start.

[xi]Elizabeth Cascio & Sarah Reber. (2013). The K-12 Education Battle. In Martha J. Bailey, Editor, & Sheldon Danzinger, Editor, National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy: Legacies of the War on Poverty. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

[xii]United States Department of Education, “Accelerating Achievement and Ensuring Equity: Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request, p.b-13. http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget14/justifications/b-aaee.pdf

[xiii]  United States Department of Labor Job Corp Program, Performance Results for Program Year 2011webpage, http://www.jobcorps.gov/AboutJobCorps/performance_planning/omsdata2011.aspx.

[xiv]Harry J. Holzer. (2013) Workforce Development Programs. Martha J. Bailey, Editor, & Sheldon Danzinger, Editor, National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy: Legacies of the War on Poverty. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, and the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, Job Corps Fact Sheet, http://www.doleta.gov/programs/factsht/jobcorps.cfm.

[xv] Harry J. Holzer. (2013) Workforce Development Programs. Martha J. Bailey, Editor, & Sheldon Danzinger, Editor, National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy: Legacies of the War on Poverty. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation and the United States Department of Labor, “ FY 2014 Congressional Budget Justification Documents: Employment and Training, Administration: Job Corps,”

p.OJC9.http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/2014/PDF/CBJ-2014-V1-06.pdf

[xvi] Bridget Terry Long. (2013) Supporting Access to Higher Education. Martha J. Bailey, Editor, & Sheldon Danzinger, Editor, National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy: Legacies of the War on Poverty. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

[xvii] Bridget Terry Long. (2013) Supporting Access to Higher Education. Martha J. Bailey, Editor, & Sheldon Danzinger, Editor, National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy: Legacies of the War on Poverty. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

[xviii]Council For Opportunity in Education, TRIO Caucus webpage, http://www.coenet.us/coe_prod_imis/COE/Issues/TRIO_Caucus/COE/NAV_Issues/TRIO_Caucus.aspx?hkey=51ba66b5-bf29-46f3-8651-788f7251b8f4, and Council For Opportunity in Education, TRIO Programs At A Glance webpage,http://www.coenet.us/coe_prod_imis/COE/TRIO/TRIO_Programs/Programs_at_a_Glance/COE/NAV_TRIO/TRIO_Programs_at_a_Glance.aspx?hkey=76fb02cd-137d-4552-b745-c0cda2e641e3. 

[xix]United States Department of Education Office of Post-Secondary Education, Federal Trio Programs Homepage, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/index.html?utm_source=Publicaster&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=President%20to%20President,%20Vol.%2010,%20No.%2043,%20December%2014-18,%202009 and Council for Opportunity in Education  Mission webpage, http://www.coenet.us/coe_prod_imis/COE/About_Us/Mission/COE/NAV_About_Us/Mission.aspx?hkey=a00ede4a-6545-4f71-b718-15f841189357.

[xx]Council For Opportunity in Education, TRIO Programs At A Glance webpage, http://www.coenet.us/coe_prod_imis/COE/TRIO/TRIO_Programs/Programs_at_a_Glance/COE/NAV_TRIO/TRIO_Programs_at_a_Glance.aspx?hkey=76fb02cd-137d-4552-b745-c0cda2e641e3.