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Report: Seventy Percent of MFIP Coverage is Children

October 11, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new analysis finds that 70 percent of those who receive assistance through the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) are children, and half are age five or younger. MFIP is the state’s welfare reform program for low-income families with children. The analysis is included in a report by the Children's Defense Fund.

Marcie Jefferys, policy development director with the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, says that equals more than 70,000 kids statewide who are already experiencing the harmful effects of deep poverty or are at risk for it.

"These stressful early environments actually affect the development of children's brains. There's even a physiological effect, their stress hormones are higher than in other children, and that also can affect their brain development and future health, all the way through to adulthood."

She says that, if there is good news, it's that the report shines a light on the need to help these children. And in many cases, she says, it's a matter of connecting their families to the programs available.

"We have those services already out in the community, but they're not targeted to these children in the MFIP program. So, it's really a nice opportunity to pretty cost-effectively target services to some of the most at-risk children."

Jefferys also says there's a need to expand programs and make them more flexible, so parents can focus on climbing out of poverty, knowing that their kids are able to get what they need in their formative years. She points out that Minnesota will be relying on today's kids when they grow up.

"So, we really need to depend on this generation to be as productive as possible. So, we need to do everything we can to help each child reach their full potential. These children represent a future resource and if we do a little bit of investment now, it will pay off big time in the future. We can get a really big bang for our buck."

According to Jefferys, the state hasn't adjusted the amount of basic assistance payments for families in 25 years. She notes that the Minnesota Family Investment Program accounts for less than one percent of the state budget.

The report is at www.childrens.defense.org

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN