If they are to succeed, efforts to lift children out of poverty must incorporate high-quality early childhood education with programs that ensure low-income parents have access to job training, decent career paths, and other resources, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation argues.
The KIDS COUNT policy report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach (20 pages, PDF), found that 45 percent of American families with children age 8 or younger are low-income; that in half of those families, neither parent has full-time year-round employment; and that in 79 percent of those families, neither parent has a postsecondary degree. According to the report, low-income families often face obstacles such as jobs that do not pay enough to support a family or that offer unpredictable and inflexible work schedules; lack of access to reliable, high-quality child care and education; and increased stress levels. Indeed, the report found that the parents of 17 percent of the more than 11 million children age 5 or younger living in low-income families said they have had to change, quit, or not take a job because of problems with child care, while 31 percent reported concerns about developmental delays in their children.
To address these and other obstacles, the report urges the creation of policies that expand job-training, educational, and career opportunities for low-income parents and give them more flexibility at work; an increase in the Child Tax Credit for low-income parents of very young children as well as an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit; and better alignment of policies and programs aimed at improving life outcomes for low-income parents and their children.
"We hope this report will spark deep commitment in Washington and in board rooms across the country to remove the obstacles that prevent millions of families from putting their kids on a path to success," said Casey Foundation president and CEO Patrick McCarthy. "For too long, our approach to poverty has focused separately on children and adults, instead of their interrelated needs. We've learned a lot about what works in separate areas, but we’re not combining these lessons to break the cycle of poverty."