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How to Help Florida's Children? Go Back to Their Roots

November 12, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida often focuses its efforts on helping the state's youngest residents, but a new report indicates helping their parents and caregivers at the same time will return big dividends. The Annie E. Casey Foundation report on creating opportunities for young families outlines a two-generation approach including job training, affordable child care and housing support.

Patrice Cromwell, director of strategic initiatives with the Casey Foundation, says offering parents the tools to improve their finances and stress levels helps them better support their children, financially and emotionally.

"Kids succeed when their families succeed," says Cromwell. "So it's not enough to invest in early childhood and parenting skills, but to help parents bring up their children in a stable environment."

In Florida, the report says almost one-third of children have no parent in their household working full-time, year-round. And, of nearly 1.2 million Florida families with children ages eight and younger, half of them are low-income.

Susan Weitzel, director with Florida KIDS COUNT, says it's also important to educate Floridians of all ages about the ways that better support families living in poverty will also help those in higher-income brackets.

"One of the ways it affects them is the stability of the employee or their staff when someone is forced to be absent because they need to take care of their children," says Weitzel.

Cromwell says the recommendations in the report are based in research and real-world experience.

"We see beneficial long-term outcomes for kids, both in terms of academic achievement and long-term earning potential," she says.

Cromwell adds, finding affordable housing is a major factor in a family's success. The report says more than 44 percent of Florida families with young children have to spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL