Kids Count’s 20th Factbook: 20% of RI Youth Living in Poverty

Monday, April 07, 2014
Kate Nagle, GoLocal Contributor

Rhode Island's Kids Count has released its 20th Annual Factbook on the status of Rhode Island's children - and reports that of the state's approximately 224,000 children, nearly 20% -- 41,645 -- are living in poverty.

"We know that poor children do worse in the areas we cover," said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Kids Count. "Early intervention is key -- not waiting until it gets to a serious level, especially in the arena of mental health. It's the wise investment of early education, versus remedial education down the line."

See Key Findings from 2014 Factbook BELOW

The Factbook charts improvements and declines in the well-being of children and youth across the state and in each of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns, and provides the latest available data on 70 different aspects of children's lives from birth through adolescence -- up from 22 indicators when the Factbook was first produced 20 years ago.

"We all know we have a lot more work to do -- too many children still living in poverty, not enough food to eat, not adequate housing," said Bryant. "The main theme is evidence based approaches to turning these indicators around. "It really is a pay now, or pay later."

Improvements, Challenges in Latest Report

Burke Bryant noted some of the positives reported in the 2014 Factbook.

"We continue to see some good news in health measures," said Bryant. "Following national trends, we've seen the average teen birth rate decline. In Rhode Island, the average five year rate declined 24%, from 30.7 per 1000 girls between 2004 to 2008, to 23.3 per thousand girls between 2008 and 2012."

"That is important, because we know that if we want our economy to get back on track, we see that as a proximate measure of how things are going in terms of education, getting word out to young people to delay parenting, go on with our schooling. That's important both in Rhode Island, and nationally."

Bryant noted that more children were receiving heath insurance, but that challenges remain.

"We're excited that 94% of children are covered, but our work isn't done," said Bryant. "Of the children that are uninsured, 70% could qualify for RIte Care, which is around 10,000 children. We need to be doing more."

In the area of education, Bryant said, "The good news is we're showing progress in the high school graduation rate -- at 80% graduating on time, up from 77% for 2012 and 2011, and up from 70% for class of 2007. And we're seeing progress in reading efficiency by end of 3rd grade, which is a predictor of high school graduation."

Challenges Ahead

Elizabeth Burke Bryant
"We continued to show disparities by race and ethnicity," said Bryant. "In terms of poverty -- minority children are more likely to be living in poverty. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of our low income children live in the core urban areas."

"Between 2010 and 2012 in Rhode Island, 20% of all children -- 54% of Native
American children, 40% of Hispanic children, 39% of Black children, 22% of Asian children, and 14% of White children -- in Rhode Island lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty level," said Bryant.

"We know that achievement gaps appear early. Lower income students in Kindergarten are up to 18% behind their more advantaged peers. We need access to early, pre-K education," said Bryant. "We're making progress. Our state pre-K is high quality, but it only serves a fraction of the population, and 35% of children eligible for Head Start are participating.

Kinte Howie, a junior at Classical High School in Providence, and co-chair of the board of Young Voices, was asked to take part in the Kids Count Factbook release Monday morning, and offered his perspective on the challenges facing Rhode Island's youth.

"Our schools are falling apart, structurally and metaphorically. The buildings more resemble places of strict order and discipline than places of interactive learning and hands on experiences," said Howie. "We need to have schools that are student-centered, where students have ownership over their learning, where learning is personalized to the student and they are measured on their mastery of important 21st Century skills. We need effective changes that will excite the students for learning and a new school day."

Partners on 20 Years of Data

Kids Count's partners include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the United Way of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Foundation -- as well as Prince Charitable Trusts, Alliance for Early Success, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, DentaQuest Foundation, Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, Hasbro Children’s Fund, CVS Caremark, Community Catalyst, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, and Ocean State Charities Trust

Anthony Maione, President and CEO of the United Way of Rhode Island, spoke to its importance for the organization -- and the community

"Twenty years ago, as an initial investor we saw the promise of Kids Count in our community. Today, we continue to support and rely on Kids Count in our public policy programs and funding decisions," said Maione. "Whenever we have a question about children and data, the Factbook is the first resource we reference. And, almost every grant application that we receive that involves the needs of children includes data cited from the Factbook."

"By consistently and accurately presenting gains and challenges over the years, Kids Count has positively impacted the Rhode Island Foundation's agenda and actions. Most recently we have partnered for the Race to the Top grants, the school funding formula, expanding childhood education, and with primary health care needs," said Neil Steinberg, President of the Rhode Island Foundation. "While we are optimistic about the improvements we have seen over 20 years, Elizabeth has worked closely with us to highlight the disparities that still exist among children in Rhode Island and that must be addressed to insure the successful future of the state."

Young Voices' Howie spoke to how students at the organization were working to add their own perspective and evidence to the conversation."

"We youth in Young Voices are working to improve some of the most concerning statistics in the Factbook—the high absenteeism and graduation rates in our schools. We have been partnering closely with the Providence Superintendent and other district leaders, offering student-driven solutions for increasing attendance and graduation rates," said Howie. "This is a new resource for policy-makers---comprehensive data collected by students themselves, from extensive dialogue with our peers, giving new information on how to increase attendance and graduation rates." 

  • Decline in Child Population

    Between 2000 and 2012, Rhode Island’s child population decreased by 12%, from 247,822 to 216,962. Rhode Island has the fifth lowest birth rate in the nation. 

  • Increase in Grandparent Caregivers

    Between 2010 and 2012, there were 6,400 grandparents in Rhode Island who were financially responsible for their grandchildren, two-thirds (66%) of whom had been financially responsible for three or more years. Six percent of all Rhode Island children live with a grandparent caregiver.

  • Parental Employment

    In Rhode Island, 14% of children have at least one unemployed parent, compared to 9% nationally. Between 2010 and 2012, there were 18,140 Rhode Island children living in families with no employed parents (9% of all families).

  • Increase in Child Support Paternity

    As of December 1, 2013, there were 83,019 children in Rhode Island’s Office of Child Support Services system. The percentage of children in the Rhode Island child support system with paternity established increased from 84% in 2004 to 90% in 2013.

  • Racial/Ethnic Income Disparity

    Between 2010 and 2012 in Rhode Island, 20% of all children, 40% of Hispanic children (who can be of any race), 54% of Native American children, 39% of Black children, 22% of Asian children, and 14% of White children in Rhode Island lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

  • Increase in Food Stamp Recipients

    The number of Rhode Island children participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased by 54% between 2008 and 2013, from 41,421 to 63,971 children. However, the number of children and adults decreased from 2012 to 2013 – the first decline in several years.

  • High Rates of Health Insurance Coverage

    Between 2010 and 2012, 6% of Rhode Island’s children under age 18 were uninsured, compared with 9.4% of children in the U.S. Rhode Island ranks 10th best in the nation, with 94% of children with health insurance. Approximately 71% (10,792) of the estimated 15,121 uninsured children in Rhode Island between 2010 and 2012 were eligible for RIte Care coverage based on their family incomes, but were not enrolled in coverage.

  • Increase in Dental Care Access

    Half (52%) of the children who were enrolled in RIte Care, RIte Share, or Medicaid fee-for-service on June 30, 2013 received a dental 4 service during State Fiscal Year 2013, up from 43% in SFY 2005 and down from 53% in SFY 2012. There were 283 dentists in 587 locations accepting qualifying children with Medical Assistance coverage in September 2013, 67% more providers and 118% more locations than September 2009.

  • Decrease in Teen Birth Rate

    In 2012, the birth rate for U.S. teens fell to 29.4 births per 1,000 teen girls, the lowest level ever recorded. In Rhode Island, the five-year average teen birth rate has declined 24%, from 30.7 per 1,000 girls between 2004-2008 to 23.3 per 1,000 girls between 2008-2012. However, birth rates for both Hispanic and Black teens in Rhode Island continue to be much higher than for White teens.

  • Decrease in Homeless Shelter Use

    Fewer homeless and runaway youth used emergency shelter services. Fifty single youth ages 18 to 20 and 179 young adults ages 21 to 24 received emergency shelter services though the adult emergency shelter system in Rhode Island in 2013, down from 126 youth ages 18 to 20 and 383 young adults ages 21 to 24 the previous year.

  • Decrease in Juvenile Incarceration

    Between 2007 and 2013, the number of youth referred to Family Court for wayward and delinquent offenses declined 45% (from 5,275 to 2,926), and the number of juvenile offenses declined by 40% (from 8,301 to 4,964). Between 2004 and 2013, the annual total number of youth in the care and custody of the Training School declined from 1,069 to 498

  • Youth Suicide Rates

    In 2013, 14% of Rhode Island high school students reported attempting suicide, up from 10% in 1997. In Rhode Island between 2008 and 2012, there were 943 emergency department visits and 396 hospitalizations of youth ages 13-19 due to suicide attempts. Twenty-five children under age 20 died due to suicide in Rhode Island between 2008 and 2012.

  • Improvements in Literacy and Math

    In October 2013, 71% of Rhode Island fourth graders scored at or above proficiency for reading on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test, up from 60% in 2005. In October 2013, 63% of Rhode Island fourth graders and 36% of eleventh graders scored at or above proficiency on the math NECAP, an increase from 52% of fourth graders and 22% of eleventh graders in 2005.

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