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Panel Looks at Breaking Cycle of Poverty for Children and Families

With 1 in 3 U.S. children living below the federal poverty line, finding solutions for this issue could not be more pressing.

How can we break the grim cycle of poverty that limits the opportunities of so many American kids? A recent panel discussion, Reducing Poverty and Increasing Opportunity: Envisioning the Next 20 Years, conducted by the well regarded and non-partisan Urban Institute in Washington, DC, highlighted various approaches, including taking a family-oriented approach that are reflected in many policies that Kids Action supports. With 1 in 3 U.S. children living below the federal poverty line, this topic could not be more pressing.

One panelist, Uma S. Ahluwalia, director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services in Maryland, said that in her experience, most poor people with families say that the reason they are not working is because of family responsibilities. She said they feel that they can't go to work because they might be needed at home in case their children or parents get sick. She mentioned that policies like guaranteed paid family leave, which is one of Common Sense's top priorities, would allow parents to seek out jobs and better provide for their kids without having to worry about choosing between their jobs and their family. Montgomery County recently become the first county in the U.S. to guarantee paid sick days, and hopefully this will alleviate some concerns about balancing the need to earn an income with the need to care for a sick child at home.

Another panelist, Sisifo Taatiti of the Utah Department of Workforce Services said that Utah officials recently switched their anti-poverty focus from jobs to family life and the needs of children. She said they realized that cash assistance is only a temporary solution and that a more long-lasting answer must involve ensuring kids have the support they need to break the cycle of poverty. This requires collaborating with parents to discover an individual family's needs. Utah passed the Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act, which requires the state to devote resources to identifying kids stuck in long-term poverty and finding solutions for them.

Kids Action agrees with the consensus of the panel discussion that understanding the needs of families, including the need for access to affordable child care, paid sick leave, and better wages, is critical to helping ensure all kids have the opportunity to thrive.

Alexandra Littleton