Report: Job training needed to lift families out of poverty

PROVIDENCE – A report from the national Annie E. Casey Foundation said that job training is needed to lift families out of poverty, and that the public, nonprofit and private sectors must work together to reduce poverty among the 10 million families with low incomes that have young children in the United States.

The foundation, which released its latest report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach, on Wednesday, works in partnership with Rhode Island Kids Count, a statewide children’s policy organization.

The report found that based on data from 2011 and 2012, 28,000 Rhode Island children age 5 and under are in households with low incomes, and that 37 percent are at risk for developmental delays. It also found that 14 percent of parents reported that child care issues affected their employment.

The report found that in Rhode Island, 27 percent of parents with low incomes have concerns about their young child’s development, compared with 31 percent of parents with low incomes nationally.

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It also found that in Rhode Island, 86 percent of parents with low incomes who have young children do not have a postsecondary degree, compared with 79 percent nationally, and that 60 percent of parents with low incomes do not have year-round, full-time employment, compared with 50 percent of parents with low incomes nationally.

The report also said that almost half of the nation’s children grow up in households with low incomes, compared with 40 percent in Rhode Island.

In 2013, the federal poverty threshold was $18,769 for a family of three with two children and $23,624 for a family of four with two children.

In Rhode Island, 19.5 percent of children live in poverty. Children are considered low-income if their family income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold: $46,100 for a family of four.

“Poverty is a key indicator of a child’s future success because children who grow up in homes without enough resources to meet basic needs face serious obstacles in their development,” Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, said in a statement. “We know that intervening early with high-quality child care, preschool and K-12 education is a concrete pathway out of poverty. But reducing childhood poverty also requires attention to education and job training for parents. This report presents an integrated, two-generational approach to lift children and families out of poverty.”

These findings highlight the need to equip parents who have limited education with skills that can help them earn a family-supporting income, the report said. The report also emphasized the need for federal and state agencies, along with businesses and community– and faith-based institutions, to work more closely together so that the whole family can succeed.

“We hope this report will spark deep commitment in Washington and in boardrooms across the country to remove the obstacles that prevent millions of families from putting their kids on a path to success,” Patrick McCarthy, the foundation’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

The report outlines three broad recommendations:

  • State and federal governments should strengthen policies that expand job-training, educational and career opportunities; adopt policies that give parents more flexibility at work; increase the Child Tax Credit for parents with low incomes of very young children; and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the income of noncustodial parents.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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