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Tough Times Even Tougher for Kids in Arizona

January 12, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Several key indicators of children's well-being indicate the situation for kids is getting worse, even before factoring in the impacts of the current recession. Arizona is no exception. In fact, Arizona is among the top 10 states for kids living in poverty, according to a new report from the Children's Defense Fund.

The study finds that Arizona is number one when it comes to Native American poor children. Dana Naimark, president of Children's Action Alliance, calls this bad news coming at a bad time.

"This is a very scary report because whenever we're looking at data about our children, we're looking at a window to our future. Right now, it's not a pretty picture through that window, for the U.S. and especially for Arizona."

The "State of America's Children Report" also documents that Arizona's teen birth rate is the fifth-highest in the nation, and it's climbing again after years of decline.

Ed Shelleby, speaking for the Children's Defense Fund, says the trends are the same nationwide.

"The number of children living in poverty actually increased by about half a million, and that's before the data even fully reflects this economic environment."

Making matters worse, Shelleby adds, are state budgets being squeezed by the recession, throwing more kids off children's health care programs. Arizona is already fourth-highest for children without health insurance.

With Arizona facing its worst budget deficit in history, Naimark says the challenge for state lawmakers is to preserve programs already in place.

"Obviously, we're not in a time when we're going to see significant new investments in kids and families. But we also have to be adamant that we can't dismantle what we already have for them. We can't afford to, as you can see by these numbers."

The "State of America's Children Report" is available at www.childrensdefense.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ