Over the past two years, the world has struggled to regain its financial composure after the U.S. led global financial crisis. As a nation, we have watched the effects of the recession at home; a 9.6 percent unemployment rate means that nearly all of us know someone who is currently unemployed; the economic slow-down has tightened government and personal budgets; and recent election outcomes reflect the beliefs of a frustrated and scared electorate. Yet, what might not be as readily apparent is the impact this recession has had on vulnerable children and families—two constituencies who are most often hit the hardest.

This week, First Focus, in partnership with the PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Foundation for Child Development , has been drawing attention to the long and short term impacts of the recession on child well-being by releasing a series of research papers and policy briefs, and today, hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Issue areas covered within this new research as well as today’s briefing included the recession’s effect on child health, food security, housing stability, and child maltreatment.

The most important key finding of this new research details what we’ve all speculated might be true—that it will take years for families to recover to pre-recession income levels, with low-income families struggling even longer to rebound.

Other key findings include:

  • There is an increased need for affordable housing and food: Approximately 43 percent of families with children are struggling to afford stable housing, while almost 21 percent of all households fell into the “food insecure” category; the highest percentage since 1995 when the measurement started.
  • The benefit of government programs during times of recession: a flattened rate of children who are uninsured due to the success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In a political climate where the threat of cuts to federal and state safety net programs is very real, this research serves as a strong message. We cannot afford to reduce the investment in safety-net programs at a time when our children need it most.