Children of immigrant families lack proper health care, education

Children growing up in immigrant families – now one in four in the US –  are less likely to be covered by health insurance and graduate from high school, says report from Foundation for Child Development.

Jay Reeves/AP
One in four children in the US live in an immigrant family, reducing their access to health care and education. In this 2011 file photo, students sit in the gym at Crossville Elmentary School in Crossville, Ala.

Lest you think the days of the United States being a melting pot are over, check out this statistic from the Foundation For Child Development: Of all children in the US, one in four are growing up in an immigrant family.

That means that 18.4 million kids have at least one parent who was born out of the country.  And that, the Foundation for Child Development says in a report released this week, comes along with some troubling statistical findings on these children’s health care, financial security and education, as compared to children of US-born parents.

Although their parents are just as likely to have a job as US.-born parents, according to the report, 30 percent of children in immigrant families live below the federal poverty line. (Nineteen percent of children with US-born parents have a similar financial situation.) A quarter of children in immigrant families do not graduate from high school, compared with 18 percent of children with US-born parents, and only 7 percent of children who are dual language learners become proficient at reading English by the end of third grade.

Meanwhile, children in immigrant families (nine out of ten of whom are American citizens) are twice as likely not to be covered by health insurance than children of US.-born parents.

“Somewhere along the line, the system is failing them,” Ruby Takanishi, president of the Foundation for Child Development, said in a statement.

One “paradox” in the report, as researchers put it, came in the health category. They found that children of immigrant parents actually scored higher in some health categories than did children of US parents – they were less likely to have low birth weight, for instance, and more likely to have sustained physical activity as kids.

The obesity rates of children in immigrant families, however, have caught up to their US counterparts.

There’s a lot more in the report, including some recommendations for improving early education, revamping dual learning programs (which teach non-native English speakers in two languages at once), and making sure immigrants have more awareness of federal programs to provide health insurance to needy kids.

“Healthy, well-educated children are critical to  a strong, secure and prosperous nation, because the children of today are the ones who will be joining the labor force, starting their own families, and entering the voting booths for the first time during the coming decades,” said Donald Hernandez, an author of the report, in a statement. “By not investing in these children we not only undermine our future as a country, but also diminish their opportunities to become productive members of their communities.”

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