Just as students receive report cards at the end of the year that measure their performance and progress in school, the Kern County Network for Children (KCNC) produces the annual Kern County Report Card to gauge how well we, as a county, are taking care of our children. The 17th annual edition includes the latest available data in categories like child demographics, family economics, education, child/adolescent health, child safety and at-risk youth behavior.
So, are we making the grade as a community?
The 2016 Kern County Report Card shows that Kern County has made significant progress in areas that shape a child from birth to adulthood such as births to teen mothers, infant health, child maltreatment, unintentional child injuries and college readiness.
While indicators of child well-being in the areas of education, health, and safety have improved, the negative impact of the Great Recession remains evident and too many Kern County families still face economic hardship and insecurity. One statistic in this year’s annual databook caught the attention of KCNC.
More than 83,000 children in Kern County – 33% of all children – lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,850 a year for a family of four. More alarmingly, Kern’s child poverty has risen nearly every year since the Great Recession and the 2014 child poverty rate reflects an increase of 6,200 children from the previous year.
Children are the poorest age group in Kern County and the 2016 Kern County Report Card examines why the County has such a high child poverty rate and what the impact is on children.
Poverty threatens every aspect of a child’s well-being including his/her physical, social emotional health, safety, and ability to learn. Children who spend any time in poverty are also at serious risk for substandard housing, homelessness, hunger, harmful levels of stress, and exposure to abuse and neglect as well as poor academic achievement and dropping out of high school. These negative childhood experiences increase a child’s chances of growing up to be poor as an adult.
Over the years, we have found poverty to be a root cause of so many of our social challenges highlighted annually in the Report Card. We will not be able to make significant gains in our child well-being outcomes until we make addressing child poverty our top priority.
It is our hope that the facts and figures within the 2016 Report Card are not only informative, but also prompt more community action to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. To build a strong future for today’s — and tomorrow’s — children, please consider what you can do personally or professionally to help create employment opportunities and support for Kern’s most vulnerable families.
Listed below are some ideas on how to get involved in different awareness campaigns from Kern Cares even if you have a few minutes, a few hours or more time!