More than one million families with young children in Texas are low-income—nearly half of all families with young children. Texas kids growing up in low-income families deserve the same shot at success as middle and upper income kids. For these kids, family stability and well-being are strongly tied to their opportunities for success.
Today, many services address the needs of kids and parents as separate problems. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Creating Opportunity For Families: A Two-Generation Approach, advocates for a coordinated approach that recognizes kids succeed when families succeed. The findings focus on delivering high-quality early childhood education while simultaneously providing parents with access to job training, career paths and other tools that enable them to support their families. This approach, which represents a shift in thinking, provides children a solid start with quality childcare and education while their parents are working or building skills through job training.
For advocates and policymakers interested in child well-being, thinking about the entire family is a subtle but powerful change. In Texas, 85 percent of parents in low-income families with young children lack postsecondary education or training. This acts as a barrier for parents to get jobs that can adequately support children financially. Adult education and job training may not be top of mind for child advocates, but investments in education and training for low-income parents benefits their young children.
From parents’ perspectives, inflexible and unpredictable job schedules are challenging for them, negatively affecting their ability to find the best child care and early education options for their child’s development. Research shows that high-quality early childhood education and parallel job training for parents can pave a pathway out of poverty for these families. Integrating state and federal employment, education, and child care programs creates better opportunities for the entire family.
A two-pronged approach that gives kids a good start with early education opportunities and parents the skills, tools and resources to support a family is common sense. Texas should be a place where your beginnings do not determine where you end up. When almost half of families with young children in Texas are low-income, jointly investing in parents and children is critical for helping the next generation of kids and parents succeed together.