More kids grow up poor today than a quarter century ago. Ten million low-income families with young children in the U.S. must juggle the demands of work, childcare, and financial uncertainty, leading to family instability and unfavorable outcomes for their children. The November 2014 KIDS COUNT report, “Creating Opportunity For Families: A Two-Generation Approach,” from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides a summary of the hardships low-income families are facing and comprehensive solutions to help these families secure financial stability.
The data show that low-income families confront obstacles such as inflexible work schedules, insufficient income, and lack of access to quality and affordable childcare. While it is required that a household have two incomes to maintain a good standard of living, 80 percent of low-income families with children 8 or younger have no postsecondary degree, providing considerable barriers to securing adequate employment. Access to high-quality, reliable and affordable childcare also poses a problem for low-income families; parents in low-income families are more likely to report concerns about their child’s development than their wealthier counterparts.
Living in poverty directly influences outcomes for the children, the report shows. A child raised in a low-income household is less likely to graduate from high school or remain consistently employed, according to the study. Additionally, the stresses of financial instability impose negative affects that can be felt by parents and children alike. Low-income parents are three times more likely to have poor or fair mental health than higher-income parents, which has an impact on their parenting.
Unfortunately, federal agencies dedicated to helping low-income Americans tend to operate as separate entities, rather than focusing on the related needs of both the parents and children. For example, job training programs that offer parents tools for upward mobility in the employment market rarely factor in the need for child-care.
The report offers a two-sided approach focused on both parents and children that hopes to ensure that low-income families reach financial stability. Some suggestions include urging states and businesses to establish policies for family-friendly hours or paid time off which allow for more flexibility for parents. In addition, the report calls for more policies that will enable parents with limited education to achieve a family-supporting income.
The authors also stress the importance of restructuring public systems to better address the needs of these families. Federal leaders could incentivize child-and adult-focused state agencies to encourage them to look at their data as a whole in order to set common goals for the family as a unit, therefore streamlining their processes. States can also follow suit through adopting a “no-wrong-door” policy by making sure agencies adequately connect families with beneficial and relevant programs.
Emphasis also needs to be placed on using existing programs and platforms to create opportunities for entire families to rise out of poverty. Incentivized partnerships between job training programs and organizations focused on early childhood education can help parents juggle the demands of work, family and school.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is dedicated to providing opportunities for a bright future for our nation’s at risk youth population. The Foundation is the primary funder of JCCF.
Read this latest KIDS COUNT Report.
Dive into more resources on Two-Generation solutions.
Explore the KIDS COUNT Data Center.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION