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Report reveals uptick in child poverty

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:39 PM

The recently released 2013 Kids Count in Michigan report reveals that nearly 560,000 children live in poverty in the state. The child poverty rate increased 34 percent from 2005 to 2011.

Read the full report: Download the Kids Count in Michigan report below > (Related File).

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count in Michigan project director for the Michigan League for Public Policy, said that rate and the increased number of families investigated for child abuse or neglect are “very troubling trends.”

The league's report looks into 15 areas of child well-being — such as child poverty, young children participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, low-weight births, teen mothers and fourth-graders not proficient in reading. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan Foundations, and United Way organizations funded the report.

Zehnder-Merrell said that although the economy has been a contributor to the recent negative trends, federal and state programs have also impacted children and families. She said the report is a “road map” to show where time and energy needs to be spent to improve conditions for children.

Although Zehnder-Merrell said the report was released during the holiday season, when people are more focused on families and giving back, this data should be a year-round focus.

From 2005 to 2012, children in families investigated for abuse or neglect rose 41 percent statewide, impacting nearly 207,000 children, which is the highest in 22 years. In Ottawa County, that number increased from 3,039 children in 2005 to 3,645 in 2012.

Leigh Moerdyke — the children, youth and families program director of Pathways, MI — said those statistics are troubling, but it could be caused by residents getting better at reporting cases and advocating for families.

Moerdyke said some families might have an economic need, or need assistance in parenting skills or counseling. She believes all parents can benefit from attending parent support groups or seeking support from friends.

“Children don’t come with a manual on how to parent them,” she said.

Statewide, there has been a 53 percent increase in the number of children who qualify for federal food assistance since 2005.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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