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Opportunity Gap Persists for Utah Kids of Color

Eighty-eight percent of children in immigrant families are U.S. citizens, and just six percent under age 18 are not authorized to be in the country. (Pixabay)
Eighty-eight percent of children in immigrant families are U.S. citizens, and just six percent under age 18 are not authorized to be in the country. (Pixabay)
October 24, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY – Even after the recession, Utah's children of color and those living in immigrant families face persistent challenges that make their road to success more difficult, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that measures education, health and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups.

Terry Haven with the group Voices for Utah Children says 149,000 children in Utan live in immigrant families, and too many are going without the basics because - largely due to current immigration policies - parents are afraid to take kids to the doctor or attend parent-teacher conferences.

"Those kinds of things that parents need to be doing for their kids, and should be doing for their kids - but if they do, they're afraid that they might be separated from their kids," she explains. "So that's really not a healthy environment for children."

Haven notes the good news is that Utah has made progress in almost all of the report's indicators, but the reality is children of color still fall way below their peers, and she says that's not good for the state's goal of shared prosperity. White children in Utah had the highest scores, according to the report, followed by Asian and Pacific Islanders, blacks, American Indian and Hispanic kids.

Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, says the report exposes the barriers that have continued to block opportunities for success for kids of color for many years. She says to help children meet key developmental milestones, leaders at all levels need to enact policies that make communities more healthy and supportive.

"Those are things like increasing access to early child care and education and ensuring that students are ready for higher education," she says. "We know that this has a very high return on investment so we need to make sure that's something that we invest in as a country."

This year's report is titled "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children." Its recommendations include increasing access to education and healthcare, prioritizing keeping families together when enforcing immigration policy, and increasing economic opportunities and support for parents.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT