All children deserve access to good health, safety, a sound education and the stability that comes with family financial security. And yet, a new report has found that access to these basics has been denied to far too many of the 340,000 children in immigrant families in North Carolina. The emerging issues report by Action for Children North Carolina reveals that although children in immigrant families make up 15 percent of the child population of the state, and the vast majority of them are U.S. citizens, many of them are blocked out of the health care system, pushed out of school, and relegated to the economic margins.
The report, Children in Immigrant Families, finds that these children are deeply rooted in the U.S. – 84 percent are American citizens and many more are legal residents. The majority of them are English-fluent and almost half are bilingual (speaking fluent English and another language at home). They benefit from a relatively high level of family stability—most live in two-parent homes (84 percent) and most have parents engaged in the workforce.
The report also highlights the challenges faced by children in immigrant families. Family economic insecurity stemming from low-wage employment, and lack of access to services either due to language or institutional barriers, can be obstacles to children accessing health insurance coverage, early education and English fluency. Lack of access to these basics can undermine children’s well-being and success in school and in life.
“Ensuring that all children have the opportunity to succeed results in stronger communities,” says Barb Bradley, Action for Children President & CEO. “Preventive measures for all children, like early education and health insurance, are win-wins. By giving our children the right start in life, we ensure that their success will fuel the economy of the future. And make no mistake—children in immigrant families will be integral to North Carolina’s success in the new global economy.”
The report presents the most current data available on the health, education and family well-being of children in North Carolina’s immigrant families. Some key data highlights include:
- 84 percent of children in immigrant families are U.S. citizens.
- The national origins of North Carolina’s children in immigrant families are diverse, with families coming from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
- Children in immigrant families reside in nearly all 100 counties in North Carolina but are concentrated in the Triad, Triangle and Charlotte Metropolitan areas.
- 84 percent of children in immigrant families live in two-parent households, compared to 69 percent of U.S. born families.
- More than half of parents of immigrant children work, compared to 70 percent of the parents of all children in N.C.
The report recommends policy changes that could further children in immigrant families’ long-term success in school and in life. Recommendations include:
- Outreach to families to inform communities about public and private benefits and resources that are available to children, through appropriate interpretation and translation of information.
- Culturally and linguistically appropriate early education programs.
- English courses made more available to linguistically isolated households. Improving parental language acquisition can improve academic success for their children.
- Improved enrollment into comprehensive preschool programs in order increase school readiness and proficiency testing.
- Access to job skills training and placement services for living wage jobs.
The report also includes resources for how to learn more about children in immigrant families. Children in Immigrant Families is available online at: www.ncchild.org.