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Report: Arizona Children Face Social, Economic Challenges

The 2016 Kids Count Data Book for Arizona says the state has seen an 87 percent increase in the number of children entering the foster-care system. (wavebreakmedia/iStockphoto)
The 2016 Kids Count Data Book for Arizona says the state has seen an 87 percent increase in the number of children entering the foster-care system. (wavebreakmedia/iStockphoto)
August 19, 2016

PHOENIX - It's getting tougher to be a kid in Arizona, according to a new report. The 2016 Kids Count Data Book for Arizona shows that more children are living in poverty, family incomes are dropping and the number of kids in foster care continues to rise.

The data, published every two years by the Children's Action Alliance, tracks statewide trends that affect children. Dana Wolf Naimark, president and chief executive of the Alliance, said the information gives them ammunition to take to decision-makers and advocate for policy changes.

"It really helps us get centered on what the trends are, what's improving and what needs the most attention," she said. "It also helps us communicate those issues with partners and with lawmakers, so it serves both functions."

Naimark said there is some good news in this year's report. The rate of young people arrested for violent crime is down significantly, and the percentage of babies born to moms without a high-school degree also has dropped. She said the number of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool is up as well - but overall, there's room for improvement.

Naimark said the major areas of concern include an 87 percent increase in the number of children entering the foster-care system, and stagnant high school graduation rates as the state continues to cut public-school funding. She said the statistics prove the state's poor economy is having a dramatic effect on children's lives.

"It measures family economic conditions," she said, "so the median income for families with kids, which has gone down dramatically, children living in poverty and children living in low-income families. Those are some really key measures, because we know that poverty has so many implications and affects other conditions for kids."

Naimark said it isn't a coincidence that they're publishing the data in an election year. She said her group is planning to use the statistics to educate both candidates and voters on children's issues. The Alliance publishes the book in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The full report is online at azchildren.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ