Summer is a good time to take stock of how each state’s children are doing: The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the National Kids Count Data Book in late July, and Zero to Three recently published State Baby Factsheets for all 50 states. In Connecticut, where All Our Kin is based, the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) held an event to focus specifically on Connecticut’s children. Keep reading to see All Our Kin summer intern Aubrey Sparks’s account of the event and learn how CT’s children are doing!
On June 30th, policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and community members gathered together to discuss the well-being of children across the State of Connecticut. The event, hosted by the Connecticut Association for Human Services and members of the State Legislators’ Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, analyzed the information from the 26th annual Kids Count Data Book, which examines national, state, and local trends in child education, health, poverty, and other measures of well-being. The results painted a picture of Connecticut as a state divided, but gave concrete measures of how child wellbeing in the state has improved and offered a path to further growth.
Connecticut has experienced some success in lowering childhood poverty rates within the state. Though child poverty has increased by 50% since 1990, in the last year of data included in the presentation (2013), the percentage of children living below the poverty level had decreased by 2.3%, from 24.6% in 2012 to 22.3% in 2013. There was an even greater decrease in the levels of poverty among black children, which decreased 6% from 34% in 2012 to 28% in 2013. Though the state poverty level is relatively low, there are significant racial disparities within the state. In 2013, children who were Black or Hispanic were over 5 times more likely to be living below the poverty level than their White peers, while nationally children who are Black and Hispanic are less than 3 times as likely to be in poverty than their White peers. This pattern persisted throughout all measures of child well-being and underscored an important point made throughout the presentation:
In Connecticut, there is a stark duality between children with incredibly high well-being and outcomes and children with incredibly low well-being and outcomes. These differences often fall along racial and geographic lines, with many cities being isolated areas of low outcomes.
Though Connecticut is the third richest state in the country, it only ranks 8th in child health outcomes, which indicates that this is an area of potential improvement. While there are still disparities in child health, they are less pronounced than in other areas that were evaluated. One marker that was evaluated is low birth weight. The rate of babies born severely underweight declined from 2007 to 2011. In 2007 the low birth weight rate in low-poverty towns was 0.084, compared to the rate in high-poverty towns, which was 0.103. Both of these rates decreased in 2011, with the rate in low-poverty towns decreasing to 0.067, a 20% decrease, and the rate in high-poverty towns decreasing to 0.080, a 22% decrease.
Another important indicator for child health in the state is the infant mortality rate. In Connecticut as a whole, the infant mortality rate is 5.29 per 1,000 births. The infant mortality rate for Black children within the state, however, is over 10 per 1,000 births. In communities with large Black populations, such as New Haven and Hartford, the infant mortality rate is approximately 9 per 1,000, far higher than the state average. Bloomfield, where 65% of children are black, has an infant mortality rate of over 20 per 1,000 births, almost 4 times the state average.
Education and a Two-Generational Approach as the Path to Success
It’s against this backdrop of disparity that Kids Count looked for solutions. The two-generational, educational approach to empowerment that All Our Kin embodies was highlighted as the most sustainable, effective, and encouraging solution to the problems plaguing Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.
Even when children are supported and given resources to succeed, their families often remain in poverty or hardship. The data from Kids Count emphasizes that programs meant to help children must also build up parents and communities. When the state empowers parents, supports communities, and invests in children, Connecticut’s children achieve the best outcomes.
The presentation emphasized the importance of early education as a foundation for children’s future outcomes. In over half of Connecticut’s communities, over 85% of children have a preschool experience; however, access to both preschool experiences and quality infant/toddler care is out of reach for many low-income families across the state and for people of color. Presenters stressed that while increasing access to preschool is a step in the right direction, this access needs to be paired with quality early care for infants and toddlers, parent job training, and wraparound community services so that families can build the foundation for their success. This two-generational approach, supporting both children and families to succeed, was lauded as the best way for organizations to support long-term change within the state.
The presentation offered data that supported a hopeful vision for Connecticut’s children. While there are still significant barriers for children in communities across the state, embracing a two-generational approach to poverty is a step in the right direction. The emphasis on empowerment, workforce development, and early childhood education underscored why All Our Kin’s current work is so valuable. Lifting up children, parents, and providers through sustainable, high-impact services is one of the best ways to improve outcomes in communities across our state.
To see the Kids Count 2015 Data Book on the CAHS website, click here.
Author: Aubrey Sparks, All Our Kin Intern