The Moment is Now: Strengthening Communities and Families for the Future of Our Nation

Melissa Merrick
Laura Hughes

COVID-19 has highlighted the historical lack of investment in the conditions that children need to thrive and demonstrates how a crisis can exacerbate children’s vulnerability to disease and violence. Exposure to early adversity already affects millions of children across the country and puts them at risk for poor outcomes. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, many more families are struggling and subsequently, more children are at risk for exposure to adversity. Preventing early adversity and promoting the prosperity of our nation requires assuring that all children, regardless of sociodemographic characteristics, have what they need to reach their full health and life potential. 

Now is the time to address the social and structural conditions that contribute to the inequitable distribution of risk for some families, and which contribute to their unequal burden and impacts of adversity, COVID-19, racial injustice, and other health crises. While many look forward to “a return to normal,” returning to normal would be a missed opportunity to learn from our mistakes and ensure a bright future for our nation. We must invest in children and families for the future health of Americans.

The article looks at social determinants of health as it relates to child well-being, including economic security, access to education, nutritious food and healthcare followed by a discussion on developing new narratives that are supportive of children and families. These new narratives can support the sustainability of changes in policies and systems that the article suggests. The policy changes put forth in this paper center around workforce (instituting paid family leave), income (increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit), building wealth (opportunities for homeownership), and implementing other equitable policies (disparate law enforcement). 

Whitney Rostad
Senior Researcher
Katie Ports headshot
Principal Researcher