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The Failures and Future of the U.S. Foster Care System

In the United States, more than 400,000 children are in foster care on a given day. The most vulnerable children, those who are abused and neglected in society, are most typically the ones falling through the cracks of a broken foster care system. While the goal of the child welfare system should be clear- placing children in the most safe and nurturing environments possible, the pathways and policies in place to do just that are often ineffective, unsuccessful, or inconsistent. This brief takes a closer look at the foster care system, key legislation, proposed reforms, and how children, youth, and young adults are impacted.

The Federal Debt

High federal deficits and debts emerged in the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. Since the Great Recession though, a more troubling phenomenon has emerged: persistent deficits even when the country is at peace and is enjoying economic growth, leading to a constantly expanding national debt. Why are these annual deficits occurring year after year? What are the key contributing factors? If there is a way for our nation to reign in this out-of-control spending, what should be done and who will it impact?

State Specific Information: Illinois
Part of the Conversation Series: Personal Finance Series The Foundational Series

The Judicial Branch

The U.S. judicial branch decides the constitutionality of laws and resolves disputes regarding the law. Most Americans are aware of the U.S. Supreme Court, but not many are familiar with other parts of the judicial branch at the federal and state levels. This Policy Brief is designed to explain the structure, role, and responsibilities of this vitally important branch of government.

Deep Dives: Judicial Selection
Part of the Conversation Series: The Active Citizenship Series

Trade and Tariffs

While negotiations and tariffs directed at China have taken center stage, the U.S. has also levied tariffs against the EU and has renegotiated trade deals with Canada and Mexico. Why? How exactly do tariffs work? And what does all this mean for free trade?

Part of the Conversation Series: The Business Series

U.S. Constitution

The Constitution has been deeply debated since before its inception, and these debates continue today. If this democracy (i.e. constitutional republic) is going to work we all have to be active, educated players in the debate. To do so, knowing the origins and basics of the Constitution is essential. How did the founders develop the Constitution, and what does it cover? Who does it govern and how? What is its meaning today, and how does this relate to debates occurring in today’s courts and civil society?

Part of the Conversation Series: The Active Citizenship Series The Foundational Series

U.S. House of Representatives

It can be challenging to keep up with what’s going on in Washington -- especially with the long, confusing and seemingly complicated legislative processes. But once you understand the process you can have a voice. This brief is designed to explain the legislative branch of our government, specifically the inner workings of the House of Representatives, and how you can participate in and even influence the legislative process.

Part of the Conversation Series: The Active Citizenship Series

U.S. Senate

It can be challenging to keep up with what’s going on in Washington - especially with the long, confusing and seemingly complicated legislative processes. But once you understand the process you can have a voice. This brief is designed to explain the legislative branch of our government, specifically the inner workings of the Senate, and how you can participate in and even influence the legislative process.

Part of the Conversation Series: The Active Citizenship Series

Understanding Law Enforcement

The purpose of law enforcement is to protect communities, hold individuals accountable, and ensure justice. But how exactly do police carry out these duties, and what other responsibilities have they taken on? Who controls the police force at different levels of government and who holds them accountable? How can we bridge gaps between citizens and officers?

Part of the Conversation Series: The Community Series

Understanding School Boards

National and state offices draw a lot of attention, but we cannot overlook the importance of positions at the local level and the direct influence they have on communities. The purpose of The Policy Circle Engagement Guides is to provide context and resources related to local level engagement opportunities, so you can have a say in what’s happening in your community, be an informed community member, and build your network and social fabric. This guide focuses on school boards, their role in the community, and what to consider if you are interested in being involved.

Veterans

This brief will explore veteran demographics and the issues veterans face as they transition from active-duty service. With a greater understanding comes deeper appreciation for the issues and challenges faced by military personnel and their families, veterans, and the agencies that support them.

Part of the Conversation Series: The 2023 Series The Foundational Series

Water and Power

When we turn on the tap or buy bottled water, we don’t normally consider where it comes from. Water affects almost every aspect of our lives, from staying hydrated and flushing toilets to putting out fires and growing food. How does the water system work? Who are the major influencers? What is the state of water infrastructure in the U.S.? How do we combat droughts, floods, and pollution? How do we value an invaluable resource and make it accessible for all?

Part of the Conversation Series: The 2023 Series

Wisconsin: Civic Engagement, Political Engagement and the State of the State