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Report: Make Generational Connections to Reduce MT Child Poverty

GRAPHIC: Nearly half of Montana's children are growing up in low-income families. A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report recommends providing tools for better jobs and child care in a coordinated way to break the cycle of poverty.  Graphic courtesy of Montana Kids Count/photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
GRAPHIC: Nearly half of Montana's children are growing up in low-income families. A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report recommends providing tools for better jobs and child care in a coordinated way to break the cycle of poverty. Graphic courtesy of Montana Kids Count/photo credit: Deborah C. Smith.
November 12, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. - Lifting Montana children out of poverty requires an approach that focuses on parents and children at the same time. A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation calls that a commonsense solution that may seem obvious, but the reality is that programs for children and parents are not usually coordinated.

Jennifer Calder, outreach coordinator at Montana KIDS COUNT, says nearly half of the state's children are growing up in low-income households, where working parents struggle to access affordable childcare to further their education, or make career progress at work.

"High-quality, reliable child care is good for everyone," says Calder. "So, the child gets to progress and grow and reach their potential, and the parent doesn't have to worry about care for their child."

The report says strengthening families should be the goal and calls for a two-generation view: job training and skills for parents, while also providing access to quality childcare.

Comparisons with neighboring states show full-time employment is lacking in Montana, where 44 percent of low-income families aren't fully employed year-round. That's less likely to be the case in North Dakota and Wyoming. Also, Montana's minimum wage is $7.65 cents an hour. Calder says it's estimated a living wage for a family of four is $18 an hour.

"So, there's a big gap," says Calder. "And there's a real need to equip parents with the job training and skills so they can earn a living wage."

The report outlines three major challenges facing low-income working families: inflexible and unpredictable low-wage jobs, high stress levels for parents and children, and a lack of access to affordable, high-quality childcare.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT