Partnering with Families for a Strong Start

Poverty's Tough ChoicesEach day at The Child Center of NY, we work with children and families who have the courage to make a new start, and we see the strength and the resourcefulness they summon to succeed. These families want what all families want: a healthy home life, opportunities for their children, safe community spaces, and the chance to work and provide for their loved ones.

But their path isn’t easy. Some have to choose between medical bills and rent, between staying home with no income or leaving their children in unsafe care, between paying for the car or paying for an apartment. Some of the decisions are unexpected to those who don’t live this reality every day— like the calculating that goes into how often a parent can afford to change a child’s diaper—and they are choices no one should have to make.

One mother, who had to turn down three job offers because she lacked reliable transportation, described the quandary many families face: “It reminds me of the cycle of poverty that so many people go through. You’re trying to get out, and it only takes one thing to go wrong, like a broken-down car, and you’re all the way back to the beginning again.”

We’re here to make those choices easier wherever we can. Seventy percent of the kids we work with live in poverty or in high-poverty neighborhoods. Our programs help families by providing a strong educational start, by allowing parents to work while knowing that their children are safe and learning, and by giving children the skills and experiences that will open them up to exciting new dreams.

This work faces significant challenges. Twenty-three percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty, up from 18% in 2008, and 30% of our families live in or near poverty. For many of these children, the American Dream is an empty promise. Forty-two percent of U.S. children born to the lowest-income parents are likely to stay in poverty when they grow up.

Overcoming the obstacles only gets harder when our society doesn’t invest in the solutions that pay off for everyone. Despite repeated research that investing in early childhood education pays off in enormous dividends, states cut half a billion dollars from pre-K funding during the 2011-2012 school year and have made only small steps toward reversing the cuts.

Despite the fact that untreated emotional disorders are linked to school failure, future homelessness, and crime, mental health care remains stigmatized and public funding has vastly diminished. We know that we need to invest in our future workforce through apprenticeships, summer jobs, mentorship and college readiness programs, but the youth unemployment rate is still more than twice the national average.

These statistics may sound dire, but there is still good news. First, we have interventions that work. A wraparound approach can meet families’ needs on multiple levels, and we meet families in many different life stages—in early childhood through quality education that shrinks the achievement gap, in times of crisis with counseling and mental health care, and in the formative teen years when kids make the decisions that determine their path in life.

Second, we have ready and willing partners in the families who come to us. The families we work with have the desire and the strength to work, to heal, and to live healthy lives with loving families.  We still have a long way to go to make that possible, but with your help we know that we can.

Traci Donnelly
CEO and Executive Director
The Child Center of NY

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