Parents and Caregivers Remain Optimistic, Despite Barriers

Parents and Caregivers(c) Ridofranz / iStock via Getty Images Plus

A new survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that most parents and caregivers in the United States are optimistic about their children’s futures, but see clear barriers to helping them grow up to be independent, financially stable, and healthy.

The survey, “Raising the Next Generation: Research with Parents and Caregivers,” explores themes of parents’ optimism for the future, their feelings about parenting, their feelings about their communities and experiences with racism and discrimination, as well as how these factors support or hinder their child’s ability to thrive. Parents and caregivers from five different racial and ethnic groups were surveyed: Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous, Latino and White.

“The findings emphasize that parents and caregivers from all backgrounds share common hopes, and draw on many strengths to raise their families, but it’s clear that hard work alone is not enough,” says Jennifer Ng’andu, a managing director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The caregivers we listened to have experienced many gaps in the opportunities their children have to thrive. That’s an extraordinary burden to carry, especially in these times.”

While at least 90 percent of parents from each racial and ethnic group were optimistic that their child will experience more opportunity to succeed and thrive than they had, they’re clear-eyed about long-standing barriers to opportunity they and their families face. Very few, from 9 percent of Black parents to 27 percent of Latino parents, say that all children have the same opportunity to grow up to be independent, financially stable and healthy adults. Indeed, the majority of respondents, from 68 percent of White parents to 94 percent of Black parents, worry that America does not offer the same opportunities to all children, despite their own best efforts to help their child succeed.

For parents of color, many of these broader concerns are undergirded by worries about racism. Many parents of color, from 49 percent of Latino parents to 73 percent of Black parents, think that racism or discrimination will limit their child’s opportunities to get a quality education, go to college, or get a good job as an adult.

Despite these systemic challenges, parents feel that they possess certain qualities that can help their families overcome obstacles, with a majority of parents valuing a strong work ethic, creativity in problem solving and simply feeling they have the power to change their situation. At the same time, the belief that there should be a strong safety net for families when they fall on hard times is nearly universal among parents and caregivers. Over 80 percent of respondents from each racial and ethnic group think that government policies such as paid family leave, health care, housing, and tax credits play an important role in helping families raise children.

To learn more and for full survey findings, visit

“The health of our nation depends on the health and well-being of our children and families. We need to take down the systemic barriers that limit opportunities and hold our country back, and advance programs and policies that allow all families to thrive,” says Ng’andu.

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