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Renewing our commitment to NYC children and families

A new year is a time for a fresh start, but for many, the threats looming at the federal level that may result in cuts to critical services for low-income children and families leave little hope for the future.  Additional challenges may emerge as the state closes a $4 billion budget deficit, eventually forcing wrenching choices at the city level about how to protect and allocate resources.

Much is unknown about the impending budget fights, but one thing is certain: The city must remain committed to initiatives that support and strengthen outcomes for children and their families. Doing so is not only a moral imperative, but a smart investment in a strong city for every New Yorker.

New York City has often been at the forefront of progressive change for children and families. Even before the Affordable Care Act became law, more than 95 percent of NYC children had health insurance.

In recent years, leaders in New York City have been among those nationwide in passing legislation to raise the minimum wage, instituting paid sick leave, and making access to pre-kindergarten for four year olds and afterschool for middle school students universal.

The benefits of these initiatives spread far beyond the individuals and families they immediately impact.

Multiple studies have shown the importance of early education and afterschool in promoting students’ academic achievement and socioemotional well-being, leading to higher graduation rates and steady jobs later in life.

Paid sick leave ensures parents and caregivers never have to choose between keeping a job and caring for themselves or their family members.

A higher minimum wage makes New York a more livable city for people of all income levels, contributing to the rich diversity and culture that is woven into the fabric of what makes this city great.

All of these initiatives grow the city’s strong economy, a crucial element for the well-being of all NYC residents.

While this progress is commendable, there is much work to be done. In far too many corners of the city, positive and negative outcomes are defined by a child’s racial/ethnic background or zip code.

In East Harlem, a child is 25 times more likely to live in poverty than peers just a block or two away in the Upper East Side.

In Brownsville, Brooklyn, fewer than 15 percent of third through eighth graders are meeting reading test standards, while students in nearby Park Slope have a proficiency rate of nearly 57 percent.

We can and must address such disparity by investing in pragmatic and proven solutions. In the Mayor’s second term he should include:

  • increasing access to affordable child care for infants and toddlers; addressing the significant salary disparities that plague the early childhood workforce;
  • making after-school and summer programs universal for all school-age children;
  • incentivizing the creation of parks and playgrounds as well as the development of food retail and community programs in new affordable housing projects;
  • and offering reduced-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers and transportation alternatives, such as vans, shuttles and buses in hard to reach communities.

And for particularly vulnerable populations, we urge the Mayor to prioritize efforts that strengthen families and promote their overall well-being. This includes:

  • diverting families with children from shelter whenever possible;
  • providing a service rich environment in shelter and after shelter placement that ensures children have access to early education, afterschool and summer programming, health and mental health services, and educational continuity;
  • and expanding efforts to ensure that child welfare initiatives focus on primary prevention that connect children and families to community supports long before risks surface—keeping children safe at home and out of foster care.

Cumulatively, these priorities focus on ensuring that children’s opportunities and mobility are not defined by race, ethnicity or the community in which they live, and that program expansion or creation  promotes children’s school preparedness and success, supports parental labor force attachment and mobility, and recognizes that communities will thrive when residents benefit equitably from a robust infrastructure of resources, services and transportation options.

These priorities, just as the Mayor’s first term successes, are not only designed to benefit individual children and families, but also to promote opportunity and mobility across the five boroughs, thereby creating a more vibrant and sustainable city.

New York City is 8.5 million voices strong, 1.8 million of whom are children – the greatest population of children in any municipality in the country. Regardless of what happens in Washington D.C. or Albany, we must continue to demonstrate here, in New York City, how real prosperity is tied to success by ensuring that all New Yorkers can successfully, live, work and raise their children in this world-class city.

 

 

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Tags
Child Welfare, Early Childhood Education, Financial Stability, Housing and Homelessness

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