Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Services Bypass Kids, Group Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Services Bypass Kids, Group Says

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Georgia's social and vocational services aren't easily accessible to low-income families and keep the bulk of the state's children from experiencing a better quality of life, said a child advocacy group.

A national report released yesterday ranks Georgia 42nd in the nation for child well-being. The 2000 Kids Count report tracks 10 factors, including infant mortality and teen pregnancy, to determine the quality of life for children in all 50 states.

Officials with Georgians for Children said the reason for the state's low scores is rather basic.

"We [middle-class families] use our phones, our computers and our cars to find and get those good jobs and to find good health care," said Michele Elbrand, research director for Georgians for Children. "You have the poor population that just doesn't have access to this kind of technology, and they are disconnected from the services that are out there."

Prenatal care programs, for example, are underused across the state, she said. Although the child death rate has improved 12 percent since 1990, approximately eight children died out of every 1,000 born in 1997. Elbrand, who has worked as a social worker, said many low-income women simply have no support system to question about services and no way to call and ask questions.

"They just don't know where to begin to even find these resources," she said. "A lot of times this population is afraid of calling the Department of Children and Families to find out about services because they are afraid their children will be taken away."

According to 2000 Kids Count, teen pregnancy and teen suicide rates have also improved in Georgia although the numbers still lag behind other states. Leaders of teen outreach organizations said they are making great strides in getting healthy lifestyle messages out to teens.

VOX, a 7-year-old newspaper written by teens, reaches 80,000 Atlanta teenagers and specifically addresses the risky behaviors monitored by Kids Count.

"The students choose their own stories, so they are writing about what's important to them," said Rachael Buffington, publishing program coordinator for Youth Communication, which produces the paper. …

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