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June 06, 2016
For Immediate Release
New Jersey is making some progress in several important areas of child well-being but losing ground in others, according to the annual New Jersey Kids Count 2016 and county rankings released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey.
Fewer children lack health insurance and fewer teens are giving birth. More children are receiving school breakfast and more families are benefitting from the Earned Income Tax Credit. After climbing steadily for many years, child poverty declined in 2014, but rates still remain higher than in 2010.
Almost one-third of all New Jersey children live in low-income families. For black and Hispanic children, the rate is even higher at 51 and 57 percent, respectively. And 81 percent of low-income households exceed the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
“Once again, the news is mixed,” said Cecilia Zalkind, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of NJ. “We can celebrate the progress New Jersey has made, particularly in children having health insurance and school breakfast, but far too many families are still struggling to make ends meet. And the continued racial disparity in family income and other indicators is unacceptable.”
“The gains are the results of focused attention and investment,” she added. “We need to apply that same commitment to ensuring that families can make ends meet and all children grow up to reach their full potential.”
In addition to the statewide report, Kids Count compares New Jersey’s 21 counties on 13 measures of child well-being, including child poverty, health, safety and education.
For the second consecutive year, Morris and Hunterdon Counties came in first and second place in the overall well-being of its children, both with a child poverty rate of 5 percent and a household median income of more than $136,000. Atlantic and Cumberland Counties ranked last with 25 and 29 percent of its children in poverty, respectively, and a median income of less than $55,400.
The State of Child Health
Currently, discussions of lead exposure dominate the media—particularly regarding the exposure of young children. The most recent data indicates that in 2015, the percentage of children tested with elevated blood lead levels of 5 µg/dL or higher decreased. But fewer children are being tested, especially during the critical ages of 6 – 26 months.
The State of Early Care and Education
While the percent passing varies by grade and subject area, the same basic trends persist, with Asian children scoring highest, black and Hispanic children scoring lowest and other races testing in the middle.
The State of Child Protection
New Jersey made some progress in reducing the number of children who re-enter foster care, decreasing by 14 percent from 2009 to 2013. Yet, the number of children who suffered from abuse or neglect after being reunified with their families increased by 31 percent during the same period.
There were several positive trends in juvenile justice. In 2013, the number of arrests decreased by nearly 50 percent from 2009 figures. Similarly, commitments to juvenile detention facilities continued to dwindle, dropping by more than 40 percent from 2010 to 2014. Fewer youth of color resided in New Jersey’s detention facilities in 2014 than did in 2010; however, black males continued to be over-represented in the juvenile justice system.
The State of Immigrant Families
Children living in immigrant families showed some concerning trends. These children of foreign born parents were more likely to live in households earning less than $25,000 a year, to live in poverty, to rent rather than own their home, and to reside in a household without a car than their New Jersey peers with native parents.
To view the full report, visit www.acnj.org.
Upated 06/14/2016 - Low birth weight.