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Many wonder when their next meal will be. School may be the only place where they can find clean clothes. The holiday season might be nonexistent. Delaware's child poverty statistic was flagged in a recent Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count study as one that needs attention. The study, unveiled Wednesday, compiles 20 years worth of data on factors that impact kids health and wellness. Over two decades, the teen birth rate dropped nearly in half from High school dropout and youth incarceration rates also improved, but the of kids in poverty jumped from 35, to 48, from to It is a double that of adults in poverty.
The s are on par with national trends. Studies found that currently one in five children in the United States live in poverty, making its kids the second most impoverished in the world after Romania. Health experts say that rise is tied to the recession when many Delawareans saw their jobs cut back or lost.
Many now work two, three or four jobs just to make sure the lights stay on, says Leslie Newman, chief executive of Children and Families First, a nonprofit social services agency in Delaware. We have had a change in the of jobs available," she said "We are catching up now in that we have a higher graduation rate than we used to, but we have many young parents.
To provide for her 2-year-old daughter Nani, year-old Alison Mendez works a 9 a. It's a tight schedule, but she cherishes her time with Nani when she can — in the morning, at night and when she picks her up at Kingswood around p. Mendez considers herself lucky; Nani has health insurance, is healthy despite some pesky allergies and loves to read and learn new words for colors. But she acknowledges that she has to make tough decisions sometimes especially surrounding work and childcare.
Poverty affects all aspects of 's life, said Kelli Thompson, president of the Kids Single parents in Wilmington Delaware Board and director of operations and support for Nemours Health and Prevention Services, from physical to social to mental health.
who is chronically hungry probably needs help staying focused in school. who has been touched inappropriately is more likely to enter the criminal justice system, she explained. The factors are connected. The child's physical health can also suffer if parents or guardians are having trouble paying the bills, finding jobs or securing health insurance, she said. Leaving the house without brushing teeth or missed doctor's appointments can become the norm.
Powell recently changed Kingswood's hours so the center can stay open until 9 p. With those hours, between 75 to kids visit the center a day, he said. Some days Powell is reluctant to see them leave, fearing the home situation they could be going to.
Of the 18, child protection referrals the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families received last year, about 60 to 65 percent involved neglect, said Dr. Vicky Kelly, director of the department's social services division.
It's hard to tease out which families are withholding resources versus families that are clearly struggling, she said. Westside Family Healthcare, a community health center with sites in Kent and New Castle counties, cared for more than 8, pediatric patients in Families can pay on an affordable sliding fee scale and any insurance is accepted.
Asthma, obesity and obesity-related conditions such as high cholesterol and liver damage are common, says Dr. Megan Werner, Westside's associate medical director. It's possible to even see high cholesterol in a six year old, Werner said.
Less access to fresh, healthy produce and lack of safe space and adult supervision to exercise all contribute to obesity issues, while conditions such as asthma are worsened by poor housing and secondhand cigarette smoke. It contributes to an environment that makes breathing tougher," Werner said. Asthma medication was expensive enough for Cherieka Briggs, 29, of Wilmington. But on top of that, she lost her job because she kept having to shuffle her now year-old daughter to the hospital for treatment.
Patrick's Center on 14th Street in Wilmington. Now, things are starting to look up for Briggs. Tuesday she was about to move into a new home and celebrated starting a new job as a security officer with Securitas USA in the city. For the time being, the family still relies on St. Patrick's for meals, but she's not embarrassed.
In March St. Patrick's served 1, households, children and 1, adults, said Joe Hickey, the center's executive director. We are kind of putting out a fire that exists and the people that come here are struggling to get through the day. Sometimes, people who seek the center out for food, clothing and shelter don't have a support system. According to Kids Count, Janice Barlow, director of Kids Count in Delaware through the University of Delaware, says that relationship between poverty and single parenthood is a double-edged sword.
Poverty increases the chance that babies are being born to unmarried mothers," Barlow said. There needs to be more job training resources, Barlow said, as well as changes to the earned income tax credit, a subsidy for low and moderate income working people to supplement their earnings. In Delaware the credit is non-refundable, which limits the amount people get to take home as a refund when they file for the credit through the Internal Revenue Services.
It would be the best strategy Barlow said if that credit was made refundable and Delaware raised the minimum wage. Jen Rini can be reached at or jrini delawareonline. Follow JenRini on Twitter. Facebook Twitter.
Delaware's child poverty rate remains high. Jen Rini The News Journal.
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