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Report: Maine’s Struggling Young Families Need “Two-Generation” Help

GRAPHIC: Public and private efforts to lift Maine’s children out of poverty should take a two-generation approach, according to a new Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT policy report. Graphic credit: Pixabay.
GRAPHIC: Public and private efforts to lift Maine’s children out of poverty should take a two-generation approach, according to a new Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT policy report. Graphic credit: Pixabay.
November 12, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine - Public and private efforts to lift Maine's children out of poverty should take a "two-generation" approach, according to a new Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT policy report. The report says parents should be given the tools and skills to get on track to better economic opportunities if their children are going to have better outcomes themselves.

In this state, according to Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children's Alliance, that applies to a lot of families.

"About half of our young children under the age of eight are living in low-income families," says Berkowitz. "About 40,000 children, to be exact."

She says the report's recommendations call for "breaking down the silos" and bringing together state and federal employment, education and child-care programs to collaborate in creating better opportunities for parents and children, which in turn will strengthen families.

Berkowitz says efforts at improving a family's economic stability can break a cycle that sometimes misplaces blame on parents.

"Somewhere along the line we lose compassion for the adults and feel like we want to take care of the kids who are poor, but the parents were children who were poor once, too," Berkowitz says. "This is kind of getting at that and saying, 'We need to help these people.'"

Berkowitz says the report's policy suggestions include increasing the child tax credit for low-income families and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to non-custodial parents.

"Maybe a parent who's not living in the same home with a child, but if you give them the Earned Income Tax Credit they have more money in their wallet to help support their child even more than child support," she says.

The report says nearly half of the nation's young children are growing up in lower-income households.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME