SOUTH SALT LAKE – How to lift Utah families from the cycle of poverty is the focus of a new report released Thursday by the Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission led by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
Cox visited preschool children at South Salt Lake Central Park Community Center. The center also offers adult educational courses, and employment opportunities at their café. Teens can also take up the sport of boxing.
The commission was able to see first-hand how communities are focusing on the well-being of children caught in the cycle of poverty. Their goal is to reduce generations of poverty in Utah families.
“We're not going to solve this overnight,” Cox said.
The group released the findings of a 5-year study. In Utah, the child poverty rate is declining, but there are still enough Utah children caught in the cycle of intergenerational poverty that they could fill 1,611 school buses.
The study also shows about one-third of children are at risk of living in poverty as adults.
“We can see the connection between, if you're on public assistance as a child for 12 consecutive months, you have a high likelihood of being on public programs as an adult,” said Jon Pierpont, Executive Director with the Department of Workforce Services.
The report also pointed to a $2,000 increase in the past two years in income for families. It’s a sign that more needs to be done to prepare people for higher paying jobs.
Tanya Stensland has been on public assistance almost her whole life. She quit high school when she became pregnant and she struggled to raise a family on her own. Through a program called Next Generation Kids, Tanya recently obtained her GED and is off public assistance.
“It's been a struggle," Stensland said. "Now I'm starting college, have a job, very supportive and have helped me a lot with my kids."
The commission says its stories like Tanya’s that drive them to change the trajectory of families for generations.
“By focusing on the right ways with the right people, I truly believe we can make a difference,” Cox said.