For the 18% of Nebraska kids in poverty, and for the 24% of kids whose parents don’t have secure employment, each day is governed by difficult choices that must be made on their behalf. New shoes for growing feet, or nutritious meals on the dinner table? A trip to the doctor, or the electric bill?
As shown in the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book released last week, more and more Nebraska families have had to make such decisions in recent years (more info is available on my blog posts here and here). It’s no surprise from a numbers point of view – recessions drive up poverty and shrink the job market – but it is a very real struggle with profound consequences for kids.
That’s why, in our work as people who care about kids, we must identify solutions that reverse the bad trends and boost the good ones. The new KIDS COUNT highlights four key paths to improving child well-being:
- Pursue a “two-generation” strategy to help stabilize parents economically – through secure employment, adequate income, and asset building – so that they can invest in their children’s health and education.
- Promote family connectedness. Kids do best when they have a permanent family connection and live in a safe, nurturing, two-parent home. When children must be separated from their families, every effort must be made to preserve safe family relationships.
- Build healthy neighborhoods. A poor child living in a flourishing community is more likely to succeed than an equally-poor child living in an area of concentrated poverty. Neighborhood well-being promotes improved child well-being.
- Confront racial and ethnic disparities. Kids of color, especially African American and Latino children, are far more likely than their white peers to live in high-poverty neighborhoods and to be poor themselves. Closing these gaps improves chances of success for all kids.
As you think about the four areas of focus above, what strategies can you identify to help improve child well-being in Nebraska?