Social Safety Net Programs Play a Critical Role in Keeping Children and Families Out of Poverty
By Lauren Wagner
Associate Director of Research, Data & Evaluation
At Children’s Council, we have a deep understanding of the complex challenges facing families in our community and how they intersect with quality, affordable child care. One primary example is food insecurity. One in three families who come through our doors report that they are experiencing food insecurity, or have faced a situation where they did not have access to enough food to meet their needs and preferences.
One in three families who come through our doors report that they are experiencing food insecurity.
Social safety net programs like CalWORKS, MediCal, CalFresh and Child Tax Credits are essential for lifting families and children out of poverty and improving their health and educational outcomes. These programs support families with critical and often immediate needs like food, housing, diapers and infant formula1.
We know what it means to need a little extra help to meet the most basic needs for our community’s families and children. Every day we see firsthand how participating in CalWORKS helps a family pay for child care that meets their needs and feels right for their child.
Together with our community’s early educators, Children’s Council ensures that 800,000+ healthy meals are served annually at child care sites to children of low-income families, easing the stress of household food insecurity.
We also support children and families in the Child Protective Services system and other high-need families to secure extra child care supports and trauma-informed services.
Safety net programs are critical to families with young children, and even more so for low-income families of color who face additional barriers and inequities.
Children’s Council aims to ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive, and that race/ethnicity not be a predictor of child outcomes.
Social safety net programs allow us to dismantle systemic racism and remove roadblocks to family stability.
Recent data shows that pandemic-related enhancements to CalFresh and the Child Tax Credit moved millions of children out of poverty. Child poverty in California was at 9.0% in 2021, a steep decrease from 17.6% in 20193. Increases to monthly CalFresh allotments and overall costs calculations alone kept 1 million Californians out of poverty between 2019 and 20214.
A temporary expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit provided monthly payments to families with children and helped reduce financial burdens during COVID-19. This short-term enhancement moved 380,000 children out of poverty and quickly lowered the poverty rate.
The expanded Child Tax Credit ended in December 2021 – an abrupt change for many families. In the last year, poverty rates have already begun rising; an estimated 3.7 million children are estimated to have fallen back into poverty across the U.S. in early 20225.
In the last year, poverty rates have already begun rising; an estimated 3.7 million children are estimated to have fallen back into poverty across the U.S. in early 2022.5
The last few years have provided further proof that safety net programs are effective in reducing child poverty, giving families the support they need to remove barriers and increase stability. Keeping 1.7 million children out of poverty during pandemic years is a huge accomplishment!2
Our policy decisions have the power to quickly and effectively mitigate the effects of poverty on children and their families, particularly children of color.
Now we must deepen, rather than diminish, the social safety net for our children.
As advocates, parents and safety net providers, it is our obligation to take action and invest further in a broader and more permanent social safety net. While Congress looks unlikely to include the Child Tax Credit in their 2023 omnibus appropriations bill, we can’t stop making the case for critical investments for children that we know work.
Join us in the fight for our community’s children and families!
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