Meeting Parents and Caregivers at Their Aspirations

Since those focus groups took place in 2019, many caregivers, especially women, have lost their jobs and haven’t returned to work. When we conducted additional interviews during the pandemic in 2020, caregivers told us they were facing trade-offs between staying home to protect their families from the virus or going to a job that placed them and their family at greater risk. A father from Colorado shared:

It’s readily apparent that it’s a risk, but you know, I have to stick my neck out for my family to make sure we can pay the bills and keep everything cranking away.

This is why, even as vaccines roll out widely, we can’t return to where the country was before the pandemic. In some ways we must fundamentally rethink the investments that we make in the health and well-being of children and families.

Parents and caregivers share hope and optimism about their children’s futures

The survey findings reveal that we have the hope and strengths of families to build on. The overwhelming majority of respondents—from 91 percent of White parents to 97 percent of Black parents—reported it was likely that their children would experience more opportunity to succeed and thrive than they had during their own childhood and adolescent years.

Parents and caregivers also possess reserves of strength and support that they depend on to raise their families and endure challenging times. They are dedicated to working as hard as it takes. They rely on their resourcefulness and creativity to solve problems. And perhaps most importantly, they believe if given the opportunity, they have the power to change their family’s situation.

Concerns remain about how inequities can limit opportunity

At the same time, parents and caregivers are clear-eyed about inequities that could limit their children’s opportunities to succeed. They’ve experienced these limitations themselves. Most parents of color who were surveyed, from 68 percent of Indigenous parents to 93 percent of Black parents, reported that systemic racism and discrimination made it harder to get a good paying job, live in a safe community, attend quality schools, and access medical care.

The survey also reveals that parents and caregivers anticipate the impact racism will have on their children’s opportunity. Very few, from 9% of Black parents to 27% of Latino parents, say that all children have the same opportunity to grow up to be independent, financially stable, and healthy adults. And at least half of parents of color fear that racism will limit their children’s future opportunities.

Imagining a future where all families can thrive

We must help parents and caregivers do more than just survive: we need to foster conditions that help their families prosper. There are several fundamental principles that come to mind:

  • All parents and caregivers should have meaningful opportunities to earn adequate income and resources that will support their children’s well-being.
  • All parents and caregivers should have the time and opportunity so that nothing stands in the way of investing in their children. We heard how difficult it can be for parents to spend as much time as they’d like with their children. They often face tradeoffs with work and other responsibilities that force them to sacrifice that important family time.
  • Parents and caregivers should never have to worry that their racial and ethnic background will affect their ability to provide for their families or access opportunity. And yet, we know that the effects of both individual and structural racism are real concerns for them.

We can imagine a better future for families—one where parents and caregivers can see a way to reach their hopes for their children and inequities aren’t a given. The voices of parents and caregivers—their aspirations and challenges—must inform how best to create conditions within communities where all families can thrive.

Listen to a mother who faced challenges with child care and similar stories of the types of supports child care providers give to families and their children. These stories and many more will help inform changes that can move every family forward.



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