PHOENIX – About 92,000 children in Arizona have parents who are between the ages of 18 and 24, and a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report highlights the obstacles those young moms and dads face.
Age 18 to 24 is when many people are pursuing a degree or beginning a career, but that’s especially challenging for those who can’t access affordable child care. Dana Naimark, president and chief executive of the Children’s Action Alliance, said millions of federal dollars for child care are available to Arizona but sitting unused, and Arizona’s reimbursement program to help child-care providers enroll low-income children hasn’t updated its rates in 18 years. She said these are important issues this election year.
“Parents and grandparents and community members can ask the candidates, ‘What are you going to do for young parents? What opportunities are you going to open for children growing up in young families?’ and really make sure they make a commitment before we give them our vote,” Naimark said.
Barriers to education and employment that young parents face can have lasting impacts on lifetime earnings, Naimark said. The report showed that about 70 percent of children of young Arizona parents are living in low-income families.
Rosa Maria Castaneda, a senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said young parents nationwide face similar challenges. But she pointed out that enacting policies to assist these families helps two generations.
“There are still 6 million young adult parents and their children, and very high rates of low-income status,” she said, “very high rates of poverty for this population that we need to pay attention to if we want to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”
The Casey Foundation report recommended state and federal policies to boost workforce and educational programs, expand access to tax credits for young parents, and increase investment in child-care programs.
The report is online at aecf.org.