Philadelphia Daily News, April 30, 2008: City, ‘burbs see dramatic increase in children living in poverty

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Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5184

Child poverty increased dramatically in Philadelphia and its suburbs from 2002 to 2006, according to a report by Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

In the five-county region of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, 168,718 children were living in poverty in 2006, up from 142,702 in 2002, PCCY, a local child-advocacy group, found.

This reflects almost a 20 percent increase over four years, according to U.S. census data.

Bucks County experienced one of the largest increases in the four-year period: 113.2 percent. In Bucks County in 2002, approximately 3,270 children were living in poverty compared with approximately 7,625 in 2006.

In Philadelphia County in 2002, approximately 115,458 children were living in poverty compared with approximately 127,182 in 2006.

The U.S. government still defines the poverty line as an annual income of $20,650 for a family of four.

“While we struggle as a region and state to support our children to ensure they grow up healthy and safe, the federal government is pulling the rug out from underneath us,” Shelly Yanoff, PCCY’s executive director, said yesterday.

“As the poverty rate of children in suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia skyrockets, the federal government should be supporting programs to help these children and their families.”

The government must address the lack of child care, Yanoff said.

“We have a concern that many families are turning to unlicensed providers for care for their youngsters,” Yanoff said.

“Many kids are being cared for by providers that are not as reliable and not stimulating the children to get them to be school-ready,” she said.

“We have to recognize that the best investment we can make is in early care, because then most of those children grow up and do well. But too many are on the waiting list.”

Yanoff said that the federal government has not increased child-care funding since the early 1990s, and recently reduced funding for after-school and Head Start programs.

“In effect, we are neglecting them, and then they become neglecters, and we all can do better than that,” Yanoff said.

“We need to find a way to get rid of waiting lists for needed services, we have to be able to figure out how to have small-enough class sizes so that children can get the attention that they need, and we need to have job training to get people acclimated with the work force,” Yanoff continued.

“We need to help kids grow into the competent and empathetic adults that we need them to be. The best beginnings mean the best ends.” *

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