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NJ Kids Count 2012 Paints Picture of Pervasive Poverty
In 2010, nearly one in three New Jersey children -- 619,000 -- lived in families that earn too little to meet their basic needs, representing a 14 percent increase since 2006.
During roughly the same time, New Jersey households without enough food rose an alarming 56 percent, coupled with a steep 76 percent jump in the number of children receiving food stamps.
These findings come from the just-released New Jersey Kids Count 2012, which each year tracks trends in child well-being in critical areas – poverty, health, education, child protection and juvenile justice.
“What seems most striking this year is the persistent and pervasive evidence that more and more families struggle economically,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which produces the Kids Count reports.
“These are families from our cities, our suburbs and our rural areas,” Zalkind added. “They are young adults who can’t find a job. They are U.S.-born children living in immigrant families. And, increasingly, they are parents who have always worked but cannot find a full-time job with benefits.”
“For many of these families, the struggle back to solid financial ground will likely be long and painful,” Zalkind said. “This poverty infects all the areas of child well-being documented in this report.”
This growing poverty was seen in other areas:
The number of children eligible for free school meals rose 26 percent.
Research shows that children in poor families are less likely to succeed in school. They are more likely to suffer from health problems because they lack medical coverage. “High school graduation is not a given for these children, nor is going to college and landing a decent job,” Zalkind said.
Last week, ACNJ released its annual review of the state budget and how it affects children.
“We have called on the Governor, Legislature and other state officials to invest in child care, preschool, school breakfast and tax credits for the working poor,” Zalkind said. “These investments pay off by giving children a solid start at early learning, which forms the foundation for school success, while helping struggling families meet their children’s basic needs.”
“We must remember that behind every number are real children, real families and real lives that hang in the balance,” Zalkind said. “If our state is in the midst of a comeback – and we all hope that it is -- then surely children must be at the beginning of the line to benefit from this renewed economic prosperity.”
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