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More California Kids Growing up in Poor Neighborhoods

February 23, 2012

A new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the number of children living in high-poverty communities has increased by 25 percent over the last decade. Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform with the Casey Foundation, says that children in these neighborhoods face challenges in almost every aspect of their lives, from education to safety.

"They get harmful levels of stress; they're more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems; they have more trouble in school and lower test scores."

Ted Lempert is the director of Children Now, based in Oakland. He says although pockets of poverty exist throughout the state, the Central Valley is especially hard-hit: In Fresno, 43 percent of children live in high-poverty communities.

"These kids have a lot less access to good educational opportunities, a lot less access to strong health care, and that's something we need to address, if kids are going to have a shot to reach their potential and be strong members of society."

The report makes a range of recommendations for improving conditions for families, including economic development and neighborhood revitalization. It calls for transforming disadvantaged communities and makes several recommendations that can be tailored to each area.

Speer says the idea is to make those neighborhoods better places to raise children.

"We know it's important to support families in these communities by giving them access to financial coaching, as well as helping them gain employment skills."

About 75 percent of children living in an area of concentrated poverty have at least one parent in the workforce, Speer notes.

The full report is available at

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA