Fordham Law

Sunday Dialogue: How to Give Families a Path Out of Poverty

Clare Huntington in The New York Times, February 09, 2013

Media Source

Mr. Greenstein is correct that safety-net programs help mute some aspects of poverty, but to encourage child development we need to work more directly with the adults in a child’s life. Significant research demonstrates that strong, stable, positive relationships between parents and children, particularly during the first years of life, are the linchpin for cognitive and social development.

The problem is that investing in programs that help parents is hard to do politically. Conservatives do not want the government telling parents how to raise their children and assume that government programs encourage unhealthy dependency. Liberals worry that emphasizing parenting is just another opportunity to denigrate poor families of color.

Rather than demonizing dependency or assuming that helping parents is stigmatizing, we should recognize that families and the government are both dependent — on each other. Just as families need the government, the government needs healthy, stable families to do the critical work of preparing young children for school. Fighting poverty begins at home, with greater support for parents of very young children.

New York, Feb. 6, 2013

The writer is an associate professor at Fordham Law School and the author of the forthcoming “Flourishing Families: Harnessing Law to Foster Strong, Stable, Positive Relationships.”