"The hurricanes uncovered many realities that people either didn't see or didn't want to see, and cleared the way for us to talk about poverty. Because of the hurricane: many families lost their jobs and we're in a worse economic situation than before,” says Amanda Rivera, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Youth Development Institute (YDI).
Since 2013, YDI advocates for the welfare and development of Puerto Rican children and youth by conducting research, developing recommendations to inform public policy and publishing information for the general public on issues related to child poverty and family economic security.
After Hurricane Maria, the YDI added new work to its agenda: a study on the impact of natural disasters on children and the development of proposals to improve recovery efforts aimed at young people. "Child poverty affects the full development of young people and children, as well as Puerto Rico's potential for prosperity and for full economic development," says Rivera. "With the study we were looking to fill that specific gap in public policy research on the issue of children after the hurricane," she added.
The study compares the poverty statistics of Puerto Rico with those of the United States. Findings, highlighted that in 2018, 56% of children in Puerto Rico live below the poverty level, compared with 19% in the 50 states; 84% live in high poverty areas versus 13% in the 50 states; and 53% of parents lack secure employment as opposed to 28%. The full report will be published in December.
These data led the YDI to propose an ambitious goal: to reduce child poverty in Puerto Rico by more than half by 2050. With support from the FORWARD Puerto Rico Fund, YDI seeks to propose ways to strengthen family economic security based on the results of a study on the cost of child poverty in Puerto Rico, which will develop recommendations for changes in public policy to achieve a reduction in child poverty.
YDI will engage the affected populations during the research process in order for policy recommendations to be grounded in the reality of those affected. This will also help build bases of support for systemic changes.
Through these efforts, YDI intends to translate facts and figures into change. Along with traditional forms of advocacy, such as educational meetings with key policymakers, YDI also hopes to promote its findings and recommendations through the media and inform the public in order to promote the necessary changes.