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Checkup on 'Cycle of Childhood Poverty' in Ohio

January 31, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, advocates for children say childhood poverty remains a persistent problem, impacting an estimated one in four Ohio children.

Sandy Oxley, CEO of Voices for Ohio's Children, says there has been progress on some fronts, but more work needs to be done to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed in school, work, and life.

"Breaking the poverty cycle is critical,” she stresses. “Our country's long term economic success depends on a healthy and well-trained, and well-educated, workforce – and tomorrow's workforce are today's children."

Oxley adds children would be much worse off without some of the programs created in the wake of the War on Poverty, including Medicaid and Head Start, but she says that many who are eligible are not accessing them.

She says efforts continue to better educate Ohioans about services available.

Oxley points out that there are different challenges in today's economy that can contribute to poverty, including long-term unemployment, reduced work hours, foreclosures, and changing family dynamics.

And she says we're in an increasingly knowledge-based economy where less-educated workers are left behind.

She says it's time to examine what things are working to help the nation's future, and what things are not.

"While there still exists a high degree of poverty among children,” she says, “we certainly need to look at how we're doing business to make sure that we're putting together programs that are going to be effective because the face of poverty has changed."

Oxley maintains to better arm the future workforce, there needs to be a better range of positive educational opportunities made available, from early learning all the way up to post-secondary education.

She says early experiences living in poverty are associated in negative outcomes for children.

"When children grow up in poor households,” she explains, “they're more likely to become unhealthy, drop out of school, have chronic health problems as adults and earn lower wages than those who do not experience those impoverished conditions during childhood."

Research shows that even living in poverty for a short time increases stress and has negative implications for brain development throughout life.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH