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New Report Shows Importance of Family Economic Security for Low-Income Children
Coordinated approach is needed to ensure healthy childhood development and a thriving economy

RALEIGH—A new report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights the need to take a family-centered, two-generation approach to lifting children out of poverty. In North Carolina, 50 percent of all families with young children are low-income, which has the potential to undermine healthy child development and North Carolina’s economic prosperity.

The KIDS COUNT® policy report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach, makes the case that public policymakers and the private sector must address the interrelated needs of parents and children to ensure their future success. According to the report, parents need tools and support to overcome obstacles like child care, housing, and, importantly, the stress of managing a family with insufficient resources.

“Children excel when they live in economically secure families with parents that have the support of a network of community resources,” stated Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child. “And thriving children result in a workforce that has the skills and education to compete in a global economy.”

One of the primary challenges facing low-income families is finding safe, affordable child care that is flexible enough to accommodate unpredictable service industry employment. A lack of reliable child care can mean fewer hours or even a lost job, which has a negative impact on the family and economy.

As a result of a provision in the most recent state budget, fewer children are eligible for child care subsidies, particularly in the 6-12 age group. As a result of this change, many parents are having to make difficult decisions about keeping their jobs or staying home to care for their children. According to a recent survey, 18 percent of North Carolina parents reported that childcare issues impacted their ability to work.

The report also highlights paid family and sick leave as a policy that can be adopted by public officials and business owners to allow parents to care for their children and themselves without losing income or even their jobs.

“Almost half of all North Carolina workers lack the opportunity to earn even a single paid sick day and the vast majority lack access to any paid family leave to recover from a serious illness, welcome a new child, or care for a seriously ill loved one,” stated Beth Messersmith, NC Campaign Director for MomsRising.org. “Studies show that these policies not only increase family economic security, they also pay off for employers in terms of low turnover costs, greater employee loyalty, and increased morale. It’s a win-win for employers and families.”

In addition to addressing employment and child care challenges, the report focuses on the impact of excessive stress levels for parents and children and how to provide caregivers with the support they need to be loving, nurturing parents, even during difficult circumstances. To raise healthy children, parents must have the opportunity to take care of their own emotional, mental and physical health.

Casey’s approach aims to connect families with the tools and skills that will help them overcome each of these obstacles and, ultimately, build better futures for themselves and their children.

The report outlines three broad recommendations:

  • Create policies that equip parents and children with the income, tools and skills they need to succeed — as a family and as individuals. State and federal governments should strengthen policies that expand job-training, educational and career opportunities; adopt policies that give parents more flexibility at work, such as paid time off; increase the Child Tax Credit for low-income parents of very young children; and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the income of noncustodial parents. In 2014, the North Carolina legislature allowed the state Earned Income Tax Credit to sunset.
  • Put common sense into common practice by structuring public systems to respond to the realities facing today’s families. State and federal governments should use interagency commissions and innovation funds to promote collaboration and align policies and programs. For example, child- and adult-focused state agencies should consolidate their data to look at the whole family. Federal policymakers could take advantage of new legislation and reauthorization periods for Head Start and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, among others, to bring together child and adult programs.
  • Use existing child, adult and neighborhood programs and platforms to build evidence for practical pathways out of poverty for entire families. Early childhood, K-12, home-visiting, job-training and supportive housing programs could partner with one another to connect parents with financial coaching, job-readiness assistance, education and other tools to achieve financial stability, while also ensuring their children have access to high-quality care and schooling.

Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach will be available Nov. 12 at 12:01 a.m. EST at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

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NC Child advances public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina’s children. We work statewide to ensure that all children are healthy, safe, well-educated, and economically secure by engaging communities, and informing and influencing decision-makers.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

 

 

 

 

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