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Virginia Kids Doing Worse, State's Rankings Slip

Children of Virginia's working poor haven't benefited enough from the economic recovery, according to the latest Kids Count survey. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
Children of Virginia's working poor haven't benefited enough from the economic recovery, according to the latest Kids Count survey. Photo courtesy Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
July 21, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. – Children in Virginia are faring worse, and the state's ranking on key measures of caring for them has fallen, according to the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT report.

The annual survey found about 40,000 more Virginia children are living below the federal poverty line now than at the lowest ebb of the Great Recession.

Ted Groves, KIDS COUNT director with Voices for Virginia's Children, says one-third of families in the commonwealth are in poverty or near poverty, and too many have been left behind by the selective economic recovery.

"The rising tide of the economic recovery did not lift all boats," says Groves. "Rather, it left thousands of Virginians essentially shipwrecked. So for the first time in years, the overall well-being of Virginia's children has worsened."

Groves says by some measures, including education and the teen birth rate, the state is doing a little better, but there are factors that trap too many of the working poor. Groves says many working parents need child care to keep their jobs, but too often they are unable to afford it – thereby becoming further entrenched in the cycle of poverty.

"The cost is just out of reach for many one-income families," he says. "It's really challenging for single parents with children to be able to have a full-time job and be able to afford child care."

He says one simple thing the state could do is expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The Commonwealth Institute estimates about 200,000 Virginians now fall into what's known as a "coverage gap." Groves says those families could get much better healthcare access with expansion, which would help their children.

"A large number of working families just can't afford health insurance, and our experience is that if the parents have access to healthcare, then the children do as well," he says. "It's an issue of life or death for many families."

KIDS COUNT found one in six children lives in poverty in Virginia, and according to the survey the state's overall ranking has fallen from 11th to 14th in terms of how well children are doing.

Dan Heyman/Tommy Hough, Public News Service - VA