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December 10, 2015
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For Immediate Release
Contact:  Nancy Parello | nparello@acnj.org | (908) 399-6031

Paterson Posts Gains for Kids
More kids eating breakfast, have health insurance

More Paterson students are starting their school day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn, while fewer of the city’s children lack health insurance, improving the chances they will receive regular medical care that can prevent serious illness, according to Paterson Kids Count 2015, released today.

The city also made some progress in improving the number of 3rd graders who are reading on target, although more work remains in this area.

Despite these gains, the majority of Paterson children live in poor or low-income families that struggle to meet their children’s basic needs and many struggle with health problems that can impede their chances for school success.

The report, produced by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), is a statistical profile of the well-being of Paterson children in critical areas, such as poverty, health and nutrition. The first Paterson Kids Count was released in 2011. Since then, the Paterson Alliance, a coalition of community organizations, used the data to identify specific issues and craft concrete solutions to improve the well-being of Paterson children.

Paterson Kids Count 2015 documents the progress that is possible when a statewide organization like ACNJ provides information to a group of community members committed to building a better future for the children in their city,” said ACNJ Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind. “The Paterson Alliance’s use of Paterson Kids Count 2011 exemplifies a primary goal of the national Kids Count project -- to use data to drive smart decisions for children.”

“This report shows what can be accomplished when we use data as the driving force behind change, build collaborations and establish priorities for collective impact in our community,” said Leah Dade, executive director of the Paterson Alliance. “As we review this new report, we acknowledge the progress that has been made in critical areas, while recognizing that there is still much work to do.”

Positive trends
Student participation in school breakfast participation soared from 27 percent to 93 percent of all low-income students. This is the result of the district serving “breakfast after the bell” free to all students, during the first few minutes of the school day. This approach significantly boosts participation in the federal-funded School Breakfast Program.

From 2010 to 2014, the number of uninsured Paterson children plummeted 54 percent, cutting the uninsured rate in half to 5 percent of the total child population. After the release of the first Paterson Kids Count, a coalition of health, medical and community organizations worked together to enroll more Paterson children in NJ FamilyCare, New Jersey’s free or low-cost health coverage. That, along with Medicaid expansion provided under the federal Affordable Care Act, contributed to this decrease in uninsured children.

The city’s traditional public schools saw an 18 percent increase in the share of Paterson 3rd graders passing state reading tests, while charter schools achieved a 122 percent increase in this pass rate. Still, only 37 percent of traditional students and 55 percent of charter school 3rd graders were reading on target in the 2013-14 school year.

A community-wide effort is underway to address this issue and may have contributed to some of the progress to date. Paterson Reads aims to improve early literacy by addressing four key areas:  quality preschool, school attendance, summer learning opportunities and teacher quality.

Areas of concern
While the number of Paterson children living in poverty decline 4 percent from 2013 to 2014, Paterson’s child poverty rate of 41 percent remains far higher than the statewide rate of 16 percent of all children. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of Paterson children lived in low-income households.

Even as more children lived in poverty, the city saw a 5 percent drop in the number of families receiving formula and other nutritional assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children (WIC).

In addition, the number of children admitted to a hospital because of asthma increased 24 percent from 2010 to 2013. Anecdotal evidence suggests that asthma-related issues are a major reason why children miss too much school.

Also of concern, enrollment in state-funded preschool has remained relatively flat at about 72 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds. State rules require districts like Paterson with full-day, state-funded preschool to enroll 90 percent of their young students. The Paterson Alliance today announced an initiative to improve enrollment and attendance at these high-quality early education programs, which can help prepare children for later school success.

Dade said the Paterson Alliance will take the same approach used in 2011 when forums were held following the release of the first report. These meetings brought together a diverse group of community members who identified three primary issues – school breakfast, health insurance and reading proficiency -- and formulated concrete action plans to address those issues.

“That approach produced the results documented in this report,” Dade said. “So, once again, we will use Paterson Kids Count 2015 to set the agenda for the future collaborative work needed to create continued collective impact in the lives of Paterson children and families.”

“Thousands more Paterson children are now eating a healthy morning meal, have regular doctor visits and a better chance for school success,” Zalkind said. “Much more work remains, but we know that the Paterson Alliance will continue its strong efforts to give all Paterson children the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated.”

View the report.


Advocates for Children of New Jersey  (ACNJ) works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children. www.acnj.org

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

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