The statistics are staggering. Today there are 14.7 million poor children living in the U.S. Sadly, research has shown us just how detrimental poverty is to young children and how dramatically it impacts brain development and lifelong health. The combination of toxic stress, substandard housing, malnutrition, exposure to violence, and family unrest all contribute to long-term cognitive and behavioral difficulties. Matthew Melmed, CEO of Zero To Three notes that “An alarming number of today’s babies—tomorrow’s workforce—are spending their early years in distressed economic circumstances, impacting their health, their families, and their opportunities for learning.”
While these facts are startling, the good news is that we can impact positive change. At BANANAS, we are dedicated to supporting the success of all families, and we know that we can make strides to end child poverty by advocating for changes at the local, state, and federal levels. The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) released a comprehensive report that includes national statistics about child poverty—and a detailed plan on how to combat it. One of the ways to bring children out of poverty is to expand child care subsidies to every eligible child. CDF reports that “Because of limited funding, demand for subsidies far exceeds supply. In fiscal year 2009 only 18 percent of federally eligible children benefited from child care subsidies in an average month.” That means fewer than 1 in 5 eligible children received subsidy support.
CDF explains, “The child care subsidy expansion would reduce child poverty by 3 percent or 300,000 children. Three-quarters of that reduction would come from affordable child care helping 358,000 adults gain employment.”
This is a crucial component of combatting poverty. When parents have to choose between going to work and caring for their children, it not only affects the families, it affects the economy. Many of these families end up requiring federal or state assistance and are unable to attend school to develop professionally or maintain employment to become self-sufficient. With an increase in child care subsidies, these parents would have the opportunity to pursue their goals and provide for their families.
We will continue to advocate for policy changes and are inspired that child poverty has become a recognized critical concern. Families benefit from our Alternative Payment Program (child care subsidies) every day and we see the benefits of it in our hard-working clients. If you want to join in the discussion on how to fight child poverty, stay connected with us on Twitter and Facebook where we’ll be sharing current news on this issue.