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Report: Times Get Tougher for WA Children

July 28, 2009

SEATTLE, Wash. - Washington ranks 14th in the nation in the new Kids Count report, slipping three places in a comparison by state of factors that influence children's well-being: infant mortality, high school dropout and teen pregnancy rates, numbers of families in poverty, and more. This year, the economy has even affected the research - more 2008 data should be available by now, but budget cuts have made it more difficult to gather.

By next year, another 60,000 children in Washington, whose families are now just barely making it, month to month, will be at risk of slipping into poverty. The Kids Count report says in 2007, one in three children in the state had parents without stable employment - and that was before the recession.

Lori Pfingst, assistant director with Washington Kids Count, says that, for families of color, the numbers are much higher.

"American Indian children, for example; 57 percent of them live in families without stable employment. African-American children; almost half of them are living in families without stable employment. So the recession really is going to have a greater impact on children of color."

She says the situation is similar for Hispanic families.

'Stable' employment means one parent working at least 35 hours a week.

She says there are a few bright spots in the report, including the lowest infant mortality rate in the nation and, since 2000, fewer child deaths and fewer teen pregnancies.

"On all of those indicators, we are doing well. But I think it's important to mention that child well-being, in general, is so linked to their economic security that all of these indicators are under threat right now, because children are suffering during this recession."

Pfingst adds that the Kids Count staff had a hard time getting updated numbers this year, because the federal agencies doing the research have undergone budget cuts.

The data will be online this morning at datacenter.kidscount.org

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA