Ed note: This post originally appeared in the ACF Family Room Blog. View the original post here.
Poverty rates are higher for rural children and rural families are more likely to live in extreme poverty. These families also face unique challenges, many made worse by geographical isolation. Many rural residents lack connections to jobs, resources, and programs intended to improve economic outcomes. Families lack transportation, housing, and access to broadband. Some locations even have limited indoor plumbing and are located in food deserts.
Many programs working alone are not designed to address these challenges.
In response to President Obama’s charge to ensure that “…every child [has] an opportunity to succeed, regardless of zip code…” several federal agencies have come together to address challenges faced by rural families. The White House Rural Council recently launched its “Rural Impact” effort to confront the 85% of our country’s persistent poverty-stricken counties that are located in rural communities.
The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has focused many efforts on rural communities. The Rural Communities Initiative provided information on mobile technology and distance learning, employer engagement, and working with fathers in rural areas. We also provided assistance on small business development, economic development, and transportation.
Through our long-term initiatives, we have worked with localities on ‘two-generation’ approaches. Many of the activities have centered on increasing early childhood education for children while at the same time, investing in increased job readiness for parents.
The Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) program also provides many opportunities for rural families. It funds numerous services that families need to thrive, from job training to childcare. OFA is continuously exploring new models for program delivery using TANF.
We will keep highlighting promising activities that serve rural families, and make further efforts to help these families overcome their unique challenges.
Damon Waters, Office of Family Assistance