Children in Poverty Increasing

Article excerpt

Missouri children are more likely to be born dangerously small, live with only one parent, and grow up in poverty than they were in the 1980s, a study of Missouri children has found.

The county-by-county study concluded that the worst places to grow up are Pemiscot County and the city of St. Louis. The best place: St. Charles County, which has the highest median family income in the state.

"This is a call to action," said Lynn Lyss, a children's advocate and activist with the National Council of Jewish Women. "For the first time, we have hard facts that tell us that we have problems not only in the city of St. Louis, but across the whole state.

"Hopefully, we will be able to get people in every county to mobilize around these problems."

The study, "Kids Count in Missouri," was done by Citizens for Missouri's Children, a nonprofit group in St. Louis County. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, an East Coast children's charity, funded the study with a $400,000 grant. The foundation is financing similar studies in every state.

Kids Count in Missouri is the first study to assess relative risks to children in each of Missouri's 115 counties. The results are to be announced at a press conference here today. Citizens for Missouri's Children plans to use the study to launch a statewide campaign to improve services to families.

Phyllis Rozansky, the group's founder and executive director, said that she was stunned by how poorly Missouri children had fared over the last decade. "Not only did things get worse, but they got worse across the majority of counties," she said.

Missouri's 1.3 million children showed improvement in only two of the 11 indicators studied - the infant mortality rate and the "idle teen" rate, which measures the proportion of children who aren't either attending school or working. The study attributed the improvement in infant mortality to medical breakthroughs. It speculated that the improvement in the "idle teen" rate might be a negative if it reflects an increase in teens dropping out of school to help support their families.

On the other indicators, the news was all bad:

About 30,000 Missouri children slid into poverty in the 1980s, swelling the number of poor children to 225,000. …

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