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Supporting Bold Goals: Ending Chronic Unemployment Among Men and Youth of Color

By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

2016-03-19 - MY in Baltimore
Last month, we were honored to support the Campaign for Black Male Achievement in developing bold goals and indicators to help strategically guide the organization’s ongoing efforts to improve the life outcomes of black men and boys. While men and youth of color face a myriad of challenges in health, education, wealth, housing, and other social and economic outcomes, it’s clear to us and many others across the country that economic opportunity must be a key area of change. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that men and youth of color have access to employment and economic opportunity and we must measure our progress against these goals.

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The Dovetail Project Helps Young Fathers Succeed in Employment

By James A. Jones, Field Engagement Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

June 2015 Class
This Father’s Day, as we honor the contributions of dads across the country, we’d like to highlight the needs of an often overlooked population: young fathers. Between 1990 and 2010, the teen pregnancy rate declined by 51 percent. However, that decline may have been even greater if there were an increase in efforts to engage young fathers. Traditionally, young mothers have been at the center of research, prevention, and assistance efforts. As a result, little is known about best practices in engaging young fathers. What we do know is that teen fathers are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and subsequently face significant barriers to employment and economic stability.

The Dovetail Project is a Chicago-based organization whose sole mission is increasing employment opportunities and parenting skills of young, at-risk fathers. Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project, started the organization to address an issue that shaped his life as well as countless other young men in his community: absent fathers. As the son of a young father, Sheldon endured his father’s absence and lack of financial and emotional support, the result of unemployment, incarceration, and no parenting skills. This left Sheldon with a burning desire to end the cycle of fatherless children when he became a dad at age 20. The National Initiatives team recently spoke with Sheldon about the Dovetail Project and the strategies he attributes to its success.

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When ‘Deadbeat Dads’ Are Jailed, No One Wins

By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Illustration via The New York Times

Illustration via The New York Times

On April 20, The New York Times published a powerful piece arguing that the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support traps low-income, noncustodial parents in “in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.” We agree—and that’s why we’re thrilled that today, The Times printed our Letter to the Editor lifting up employment, not incarceration, as a way to help low-income parents support their families and meet their own needs. We hope you’ll read—and share!—our piece.

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A Dream Deferred?

By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Photo via The Seattle Times

Photo via The Seattle Times

“I’ve seen my dream shattered as I’ve walked the streets…and seen young men and women, with a sense of utter hopelessness because they can’t find any jobs.”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., July 4, 1964

On Monday, January 19th, the nation reflects on the courageous spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all he has done to create racial equality in America. Doctor King’s advocacy for racial equality however, was inextricably linked to a call for economic justice—hence the full title of his famous “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”  In the past few decades, we have made significant progress as a nation in the struggle for equality; however, if we are truly going to strive to achieve Dr. King’s dream, we must ensure that economic equality and opportunity are available for all people.

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Innovations in Child Support Policy: 3 Ways to Increase Employment + Economic Opportunity for Noncustodial Parents

By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

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In 1995, President William “Bill” Clinton proclaimed August National Child Support Awareness Month.  The goal was to raise awareness about the critical role child support plays in the lives of millions of American children.  Clinton was responding to a social problem that appeared to be on the rise.  In the mid-nineties, there was a growing percentage of single parent households in America and children in those households had a high chance of suffering from poverty. Today, almost two decades later, the child support program serves half of all poor children in the country and 17 million children in total.

While many noncustodial parents want to be involved with their children, many also live in poverty and lack the resources to financially provide for their children. Most unpaid child support is owed by these parents and for many the lack of steady income is a major barrier to fulfilling parental obligations.  At the same time, child support payments represent a significant portion of the income of families living in poverty.  Oftentimes, these payments are responsible for keeping children out of extreme poverty.

The National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity team is focused on developing and expanding sustainable policy solutions that benefit children and increase employment and economic opportunities for low-income noncustodial parents.  To that end, this July we led a strategic policy/advocacy planning and campaign development summit with our partners at Connections to Success (CtS) in Missouri and Kansas.  Working with Connections’ leadership and program staff, we equipped them to identify and advance child support policies in Missouri that could better support low-income, noncustodial fathers’ efforts to access employment opportunities, support their children, and advance in the labor market.  Drawing from our training with CtS, in this blog we’re highlighting three child support policy innovations that would increase employment and economic opportunity for low-income parents.

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