Report: One in five Kansas children living in poverty

Rate continues to climb. Causes disputed.

0 | Advocacy, Children, Social Determinants of Health

— Nearly one in five Kansas children lives in poverty, a proportion that's been on the rise in the state since at least 2000, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

About 19 percent of Kansas children — or 134,000 youngsters — live below the federal poverty level, which is $23,050 for a family of four.

That compares favorably to the nationwide average of 23 percent of children in poverty. But the Kansas children's advocates who helped compile the report's data put the state's downward trend at Gov. Sam Brownback's feet.

"The data tell us that Kansas is moving in the wrong direction, despite the governor’s stated commitment to reducing childhood poverty in his 'Roadmap for Kansas,'" Shannon Cotsoradis, chief executive of Kansas Action for Children, said in a prepared statement accompanying the report. "This is a problem we can no longer wait to address. The governor has one year left in his first term and has yet to realize his vision."

But Brownback officials blamed the problem on the way previous administrations handled the economic recession.

"This report clearly describes the devastating impact of Kansas' 'lost decade of jobs"— from 2000 to 2010 — on Kansas children and families," said Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, in a prepared statement. (View the response of Democratic Party Chair Joan Wagnon to "lost decade" criticisms.)

"As Gov. Brownback has said many times, we cannot sit idly by while we spend another 10 years losing well-paying jobs to other states. We need those jobs to support Kansas families and raise as many of our children as possible out of poverty," Gilmore wrote.

"It’s why he established a task force to study the issue and make recommendations. And it is why he made reducing the number of Kansas children living in poverty one of his top goals. We are making progress...but we still have a long way to go," she wrote.

Task Force on Poverty

The Governor's Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty met again today in Topeka and discussed possible policy changes. A representative from the Kansas Department for Children and Families proposed increasing a working parent's co-payments for subsidized child care. Michelle Schroeder, the agency's policy director, said that would encourage parents to work more so they could earn more money to cover the co-payments. She also suggested that those who receive food stamps should be required to work, be looking for work or be training for work in order to qualify for the benefits. Food stamp eligibility currently is pegged to income and family size.

Schroeder and other administration officials said one of the best paths out of poverty was work. The others are marriage and improved education, they said.

Task force members are not scheduled to meet again but will complete their recommendations to the governor at a later date after reviewing a draft of today's proceedings.

Kansas children living in poverty

2011 - 19% (134,000 children)

2010 – 18% (129,400 children)

2009 – 18%

2008 – 15%

2007 – 15%

2006 – 16%

2005 – 15%

2004 – 12%

2003 – 14%

2002 – 16%

2001 – 13%

2000 – 12% (79,400 children)

1990 - 15% (110,400 children)

1980 - 12% (89,200 children)

1970 - 13% (108,200 children)

Source: Kids Count and U.S. Census Bureau

"Although we are still drafting the language of our recommendation, we believe any future policies should promote healthy families, continued education and self-sufficiency through employment," said DCF Secretary Gilmore, the task force chair.

Kids Count

For 25 years, the annual Kids Count report has provided a look at how children are faring. Each state is ranked on 16 indicators of child well-being in four categories: health, economic well-being, education, and family and community.

For overall child well-being, Kansas ranked 16th in this year's report, the same as last year, however the state showed improvement in 10 of the 16 indicators.

Kansas showed most of its improvements in the health and education indicators.

• The rate of children without health insurance decreased from 8 percent in 2008 to 6 percent in 2011.

• The teen birth rate decreased from 41 per 1,000 teens in 2005 to 39 per 1,000 in 2010 (teens ages 15 to 19).

• The rate of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool dropped from 57 percent to 54 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Audio clip

KPR feature: Child poverty a growing problem in Kansas

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Kansas "worsened" on all four economic well-being indicators, as well as two family and community indicators:

• In 2011, 31 percent of children were in single-parent families in 2011 compared to 27 percent in 2005.

• Seven percent of Kansas children were living in high-poverty areas between 2007 and 2011 compared to 2 percent in 2000.



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