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KIDS COUNT Report: Barriers to Opportunity Prevent Children of Color and Immigrant Children from Reaching Their Full Potential

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Oct 24, 2017 10:31 AM |

The United States and Washington state are stronger when we harness the talents and drive of all people – including children – who will help build the nation’s future. For our country and state to reach our full economic, democratic, and moral potential, all children must have the opportunity to grow, develop, and thrive. A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report shows that too many young people of color are still facing barriers to a bright future, however. While there have been modest gains in terms of the well-being of kids of color in Washington state over the last three years, the report notes that families of diverse backgrounds, including immigrant families, struggle against barriers to success. Policymakers must enact policies to level the playing field for all kids.


The Casey Foundation report, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, measures children’s progress on the national and state levels in key education, health, and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. It shows that, in Washington state, Latino children, Black children, and American Indian children have lower overall scores of wellness compared to White and Asian and Pacific Islander children. Specifically, the report uses a composite score of child wellness based on a range of data indicators – with 1 being the lowest score and 1,000 being the highest. Latino, Black, and American Indian children scored 401, 456, and 459 respectively, while White children and Asian Pacific Islander children scored 719 and 756.

The 2017 Race for Results report also highlights the fact that children in immigrant families face some notable barriers:

  • Two-thirds of Washington children in U.S.-born headed households live in households with a basic-needs income or greater (above 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $40,320 for a family of three 2016), while just one in two children in immigrant families have an income sufficient to meet their basic needs. That income gap is larger in Washington than at the national level.
  • Children in immigrant families are less likely to grow up with a head of household who has at least a high school diploma.

More than 440,000 (28 percent) of Washington’s 1.6 million kids are children in immigrant families. Four out of five of immigrant children are children of color. Despite the challenges they face, children and young adults in immigrant families are also doing well on some measures:

  • Black and Asian Pacific Islander 3- and 4-year olds in immigrant families have the same or higher rates of enrollment in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten than the Washington state average overall (60 percent).
  • Young adults aged 19 to 26 in immigrant families also tend to be working or enrolled in a degree, training, or certificate program at the same rates as their U.S.-born peers.
  • Black, White, and Asian Pacific Islander young adults in immigrant families are more likely to have an associate’s degree or other advanced degree.

The report underscores the formidable risks to healthy child development in immigrant families and for children of color that are caused by issues such as lack of access to living-wage jobs, limited educational opportunities, and family separation. These risks are further exacerbated by policies that limit resources and restrict access. Immigrant families are also facing policy proposals that threaten the residency status of 800,000 young people who have been granted a reprieve from fear of deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Washington state is home to 19,000 of the 800,000 DACA recipients.

All children need to reach their full potential if we are to reach ours as a nation. This means lawmakers must break down systemic barriers to opportunity placed in front of many children of color and immigrant children. With regard to immigrant children in particular, much of this country’s future success depends on how we equip immigrant families with the tools and skills that enable them to contribute to local economies – as immigrants have done since the founding of this country. The 2017 Race for Results report makes several recommendations to maximize children’s access to opportunity:

  • Keep families together. Immigration authorities and family courts can protect kids from adverse experiences by exercising discretion in choosing whether to separate parents from their children.
  • Help kids in communities of color, both immigrant and U.S.-born, to meet key developmental milestones. Policymakers can do more to link eligible families to quality early learning led by culturally competent teachers. More states, universities, and colleges can help qualified students pay for college without regard to immigration status.
  • Increase economic opportunity. Among the actions state policymakers can take is to increase access to occupational licenses and credentials to income-earning parents who entered their professions in foreign countries, boosting the prospects for higher household income.

To read more about how Washington’s kids are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups compared to the nation and other states, read the full 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children report and our KIDS COUNT in Washington press release.

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