Disinvestments in Children Due to Sequestration Affect Child Well-Being

Jan 27, 2014

By Rhiannon Reeves

Recent attention to child care and early education is great news for children and families, but even recent investments aren’t sufficient enough to make up for the impact that years of fiscal neglect and high child poverty rates have had on children. According to the 2013 National Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI), a report released annually by the Foundation for Child Development, the slow recovery of the Great Recession of 2008-2009 resulted in an overall decrease in the economic well-being of families with children under the age of 18, with all previous gains made since 1975 having been lost. And while this year’s federal investments in child care and early education may help ameliorate some of the effects of the economic downturn, they cannot turn back the clock for children and families who lost income and benefits over that period of time.

Research shows that making investments in health, nutrition, income support and education programs enables children to flourish and increases parent employment and earnings while minimizing the potential for low-income children to sink further into poverty. But the very programs that provide these boosts to families have been reduced over recent years, and some continue to feel the impacts of last year’s federal budget sequestration. While the CWI shows data on all children under the age of 18, the important growth occurring during the early years makes young children even more vulnerable to the negative outcomes resulting from the sequestration’s 16% decrease in federal spending across child-serving programs over the past three years.

The CWI provides policymakers with an opportunity to identify areas where they can make tangible differences in the lives of children.  Recent investments in child care and early education may help turn around some important areas of the CWI, such as the Pre-Kindergarten Enrollment Rate of its Community Engagement domain, which has shown no growth over the past three years. Policymakers should also take steps to restore investments in health services, and the multitude of resources that would reduce child poverty on a whole. Supporting state and federal policies directed at improving child well-being could change the current course for children and families; reducing child poverty and helping families get and stay on track to economic stability.

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