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Report: Native American Children in MT Far Behind Other Children

Universal policies like tax credits and health care can help children of all races, advocates for child well-being say. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
Universal policies like tax credits and health care can help children of all races, advocates for child well-being say. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
October 24, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – A new report reveals the persistent disparities for children of color and in immigrant families, in Montana and across the country.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 Race for Results report measures key milestones in child well-being across racial and ethnic groups. It finds large disparities for Native American children in the Big Sky Country, especially in terms of economic stability.

To highlight this fact, the report says more than 80 percent of white families live in low-poverty areas, which is the case with only 30 percent of Native American families. Jennifer Calder, outreach and communications director for Montana KIDS COUNT, confirmed that poverty hurts every aspect of a child's life.

"We see this sort of poverty and how that plays out and it impacts everything, you know," said Calder. "It impacts a child's ability to show up and be ready for school. It impacts a child's ability to move through school successfully, and get a job, and so on."

Calder said disparities for Native American children are greatest in states like Montana, where reservations are often in rural or isolated areas.

She added universal policies that help families be self-sustaining and develop a child's potential are most successful, including tax credits, paid family leave, and access to health care. Targeted and culturally-relevant approaches, such as recent legislation to address higher suicide rates among Native American teens in Montana, help as well.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, echoes Calder on policy strategies and encourages lawmakers to do their part.

"Smart policies can level the playing field," Speer explained. "They can protect kids' well-being and ensure that they're all supported. And they can make a difference in making sure that equitable educational resources and access to early childhood education are provided to all kids, and that can make a difference for parents."

Speer noted that kids are the future parents, workers, and leaders of the country, and said when all children have access to opportunity, the nation will benefit.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT