The Florida Children’s Council today released a statewide report that finds current policies adversely impact Florida’s low-income families in their efforts to escape poverty. With more than four million children and youth calling Florida home, and 45% of them living in economically struggling households, it is clear that many programs designed to help families become financially stable and self-sufficient fail to work. The report provides a roadmap of action to improve economic stability and child outcomes for families with young children in poverty.
In Florida, many low-income households with working parents remain poor despite their efforts to progress toward economic prosperity. While accessing social services can provide needed financial supports for households, in many instances income eligibility requirements force parents to choose between wage increases and critical needs of children, such as child care. This reality has significant implications not only for the children and family, but employers and the economy.
The analysis identified three cliffs in Florida—children’s health insurance, child care, and housing. Access to affordable child care stands out as perhaps the singularly most important social service in recognition of its impact on the entire family while providing clear economic benefit to employers and communities. In short, child care is an instrumental support to parents by reducing stress, achieving personal growth through education and training, and increasing critical skills and capabilities through education and training that lead to economic and family stability.
Nationally there is growing interest to address the sources of family adversity, which have the potential to promote long-term positive outcomes by producing positive changes in family income, environment, stress, and relationships. Research cites “cliff effects” as a particularly problematic disincentive associated with many work support policies. In essence, cliff effects penalize households financially for progressing beyond income thresholds of work support eligibility.
Quality child care, in particular the quality of the teacher-child interactions, has been consistently linked to positive developmental outcomes for children, including cognitive, language and literacy development, and core executive functioning skills such as communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. These are the foundational outcomes needed for academic and later career success. For children of low-income families, it has been well-documented that before there is an achievement gap, there is a “readiness” gap and the beneficial influences of quality child care are particularly strong for supporting kindergarten readiness.
The Florida Children’s Council is a non-profit organization leading businesses, agencies and other key stakeholders in work efforts that support Florida’s children, youth and families. It serves as the statewide umbrella organization for the state’s Children’s Services Councils. By leveraging and enhancing the collective strengths of community impact, the council seeks to promote statewide policies that build effective systems for Florida’s children and families.