Because Childhood Lasts a Lifetime.

Prevent Child Abuse America’s Statement on Declining Child Poverty Reports

Statements & Messages

There has been a lot of discussion over the past couple of weeks on new child poverty data that show drastic and steady declines. In a New York Times piece citing the US Census Bureau and the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University stated:

A comprehensive new analysis shows that child poverty has fallen 59 percent since 1993, with need receding on nearly every front. Child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same degree among children who are white, Black, Hispanic and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households.

This is undoubtably good news. Reports like this provide much-needed hope and optimism that we can be successful in combatting childhood poverty, if we stay focused on the supports and mechanisms that have contributed to the decline. And more than 50 years after the war on poverty was declared, it’s reassuring to be seeing such results.

Extensive research shows the link between poverty and child neglect and abuse. And we must acknowledge some key considerations when reviewing this new research.

First, the data currently available do not yet reflect the past few years and the impacts associated with the pandemic, including the increased challenges and stresses families have been experiencing.

Second, it’s important to note that being just above the current poverty threshold is still very limiting to families:

…an income at or just above the current threshold does not allow most people to meet basic needs, much less save for the unexpected or make investments that could enhance their future economic security. While moving families across the current poverty threshold is an important goal, we want to emphasize that this does not always mean they have adequate resources to meet their basic needs.

In our work nationwide and on the ground through our chapter network and in our signature home visiting program, Healthy Families America, we know that there is so much more work to do if we are going to continue to make substantial strides to move children out of poverty.

Finally, and most importantly — 8.5 million children remain in poverty. The reported progress towards the alleviation of child poverty is noted, however my celebration is attenuated thinking of all those children and knowing it doesn’t need to be this way, especially as we sit in the world’s richest country.

We find that one of the biggest anti-poverty programs, the Earned-Income Tax Credit (EITC), not only alleviates family poverty but actually reduces child abuse and neglect. A recent study also found the effects of receiving EITC are immediate. Rates of child abuse and neglect plummeted the week following the distribution of the EITC and lasted for four weeks.

American families need more concrete and economic supports like the EITC and others, including: Child Tax Credits (CTC), paid family leave, increased minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, SNAP, and childcare, all of which have evidence of their biliary to decrease abuse and neglect as well.

A new report from Council for a Strong America highlights, state by state, the families that are benefitting from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, and right now Congress has an opportunity to help American families create greater economic mobility by passing the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022.

This newly introduced bill, a tribute to the late home visiting advocate, Representative Jackie Walorski,  reauthorizes MIECHV for five years, increases the annual funding level to $800 million in 2027 and provides increased investment in home visiting in every state and territory.

We challenge Congress to not miss this opportunity to help more children and families in need.

Now, there are (simple!) actions you can take to help move more of those 8.5 million children out of poverty.

Visit our Policy Action Center where we have two active policy alerts that couldn’t be easier for you to make your voice heard. First, click on the action alert to quickly and easily send a message to Congress supporting the reauthorization of MIECHV. And second, do the same to help extend the Child Tax Credit.

As we often say, prevention happens in partnership, and both individual Americans and Congress have the opportunity at this moment to partner to push that child poverty number even lower for this current generation of kids, and for generations to come.

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