The Importance of Strengthening Our Country's Safety Net for Our Children

Jul 15, 2013

By Emily Firgens

Twenty-six percent of children under age 6 in the U.S. live in poverty. Nearly half of children under age 6 are low-income (live below 200 percent of poverty). And child poverty is on the rise. Growing up in a poor or low-income family influences an individual’s ability to be healthy and succeed in school and into adulthood. 

Public safety net and work support programs have long been a crucial means for families to combat the detrimental effects of living in poverty. Families that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) are more likely to have adequate supplies of food throughout the year, and in turn, their children are less likely to be underweight or at risk for developmental delays. These health benefits have been found to last into adulthood. Similarly, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps families pay for energy costs, has been shown to improve outcomes for children, including increasing their odds of having normal weights for their age.

The importance of safety net and work support programs is the central focus of a new policy brief from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) and First Focus. The brief, A Stronger Safety Net For America’s Children, provides an overview of the opportunities and challenges currently facing public safety net and work support programs for children and their families. A Stronger Safety Net focuses on 11 safety net and work support programs, including Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance, Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Medicaid to name a few.

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