The size of your heart shouldn’t be measured by how much money you spend. As Republicans, we’ve long contended that government social programs should deliver measurable results at a reasonable cost to taxpayers, be evidence-based and locally managed, and help reduce chronic dependence on government by empowering people to become productive and self-sufficient. Social programs should help people in need, but still be held accountable.
That’s why we’re mystified by reports that AmeriCorps, the nation’s national service program, may be headed for the federal budget chopping block. Rather than killing AmeriCorps, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration should embrace it as a federal program that is precisely what we preach – lean, close to home and actually working.
Look no further than Sacramento’s hugely successful “Birth and Beyond” program, which draws part of its funding from AmeriCorps, to see this is true.
Developed by Sacramento’s Child Abuse Prevention Center in partnership with the county, the program uses local AmeriCorps workers to provide in-home parenting education for at-risk families.
The program costs $700 per parent per year. Studies show that the children of the parents served are 173 percent less likely to enter the child welfare system. That’s significant because taxpayers spend $210,000 for every child who enters the system – 300 times more expensive. Moreover, four independent audits have shown that “Birth and Beyond” has essentially eliminated child abuse in the homes served. That too is significant.
According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which calls child abuse this nation’s No. 1 public heath epidemic, even infrequent victims of child abuse are many times more likely to commit crime, go to prison, abuse drugs and alcohol, smoke, suffer chronic diseases, and be morbidly overweight in later life.
Beyond the lives that are damaged and destroyed, taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year dealing with these sad consequences of child abuse. If we’re serious about reducing incarceration and the high cost of health care, preventing child abuse is a smart place to start.
Taxpayers believe in safety nets. We aren’t willing to pull the plug on people who need help. But Americans have grown weary of paying for expensive programs that don’t work, because they know money wasted on ineffective programs is money that’s not available for education, infrastructure and other worthwhile spending. More programs like “Birth and Beyond” are a big part of the answer. And for them to exist, AmeriCorps needs to stay.
This isn’t a partisan issue. According to recent polling, large majorities of Democrats and Republicans support AmeriCorps, seeing it as a cost-effective way to deliver community-based services that help people become more self-sufficient and less dependent on government. Who can argue with that?
AmeriCorps is working. We’re proving it in Sacramento. Washington should pay attention.
John Lambeth is a Sacramento businessman and chair of the Child Abuse Prevention Center. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ray McNally is a Sacramento political consultant and serves on the center’s board. Both are Republicans. He can be contacted at email@example.com.