April 2023Vol. 24, No. 3The Role of Social Support and Economic Condition in the Well-Being of American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Families
The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a research brief, The Strengths and Stressors of Region XI Head Start Role, Social Support, and Economic Condition in the Well-Being of Children and Families from AIAN FACES 2019, that explores the associations between poverty and parents’ perception of financial strain, the presence of social and community supports, and child and family well-being. Nationally representative data and findings from the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (AIAN FACES) of families participating in Region XI Head Start programs was used to answer the following research questions:
- What kinds of social and community support do families have?
- How are families doing economically?
- Do families with different levels of material hardship and financial strain report different levels of social and community support?
- Are material hardship and financial strain associated with the well-being of the child and family, beyond the effects of income?
- Are social and community supports associated with the well-being of the child and family, beyond the effects of economic condition?
The report looks at the region's social and economic conditions, the role of Head Start in the region, and the availability of social support for families. It examines the experiences of low-income families in Region XI (which includes American Indian/Alaska Native populations) with the Head Start program, including if families with different levels of social and community support reported different levels of financial strain and material hardship and whether these hardships or supports could predict family and child well-being. The report presents how social support and a connection to a cultural identity played a critical role in mitigating the effects of stressors.
The study found that Head Start programs in Region XI were well-funded and provided families with a wide range of services. However, the region faces several challenges, including a high poverty rate, limited access to health care and other services, and limited access to transportation. Economic conditions and access to resources impacted families' experiences in the Head Start program, including their ability to access and use Head Start services.
The report recommends that Head Start programs in Region XI prioritize family engagement, work to build social support networks for families, and provide targeted resources and assistance to families in need.
Read the full report for more information on the associations between economic conditions, social and community supports, and child and family outcomes.