Roundtable: Pathways out of Poverty for Single-Parent Families – the Roles of Education and Child Care
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Ballroom F (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Neha Nanda, IMPAQ International, LLC
Moderator:  Neha Nanda, IMPAQ International, LLC
Speakers:  Tiffany Boiman, U.S. Department of Labor, H. Elizabeth Peters, Urban Institute, Barbara Gault, Institute for Women's Policy Research and Angela Pate, Public Consulting Group

More than 12.8 million kids lived in poverty in the United States in 2017 with over 46 percent of those living in extreme poverty. Over half of all poor children (58 percent) lived in families headed by single mothers, which have higher poverty rates than families headed by single fathers or married couple families. In 2017, 34 percent of families headed by single mothers lived in poverty, compared to 16 percent of families headed by single fathers and 6 percent of families with children in married couple families. Families headed by single women of color fare even worse.

Prior research has suggested that children born to low-skilled single mothers in poverty are more likely than other children to live in poverty themselves. Prioritizing job training and education can help single mothers obtain sustainable employment and help them and their children attain long term economic security. Attending and completing training programs, however, can be a difficult task for mothers of young children. Absence of affordable child care during training or work hours poses numerous challenges for women interested in pursuing such programs. Inadequate child care has been found to be one of the top reported barriers to individuals successfully completing job training programs. In a qualitative study that examined the experiences of women in a registered apprenticeship program, women reported their limited access to child care as a major challenge to their participation in the programs. The respondents noted inflexible and demanding work schedules, difficulty paying for child care, and managers who were intolerant of absences and tardiness due to child care issues as specific barriers to their participation.

Given the importance of higher education to a family’s economic security and their children’s future success, ensuring that student mothers have access to affordable, quality care must be a priority for educational institutions, higher education advocates, and policymakers. A survey of 259 workforce development programs found that only 6 percent provided child care to a majority of their participants. Based on interviews with apprenticeship stakeholders, one study recommended providing child care subsidies to participants and offering classes that better accommodate the schedules of single mothers, to increase women’s success in apprenticeship programs. The study also reported that helping mothers develop a detailed child care plan may be helpful in ensuring their success in a Registered Apprenticeship program.

In this roundtable we will discuss the extent to which child care barriers prevent single mothers from attaining economic security, successful and promising program and policy approaches across sectors, and challenges. We will highlight recent efforts such as the Strengthening Working Families Initiative by the Department of Labor, and also discuss other similar approaches that can be undertaken at the federal and state government level. Two of our panelists represent researchers that will highlight the role of child care in access to career pathways and college completion. The other two panelists will provide a federal and state or local government perspective on promoting policies to encourage economic self-sufficiency for women and children.

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