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Report: Uphill Battle for MN Children of Color

September 13, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Compared to their Caucasian counterparts, children of color and American Indian children in Minnesota have a greater incidence of low birth rates, homelessness and poverty, and fewer than half as many graduate from high school. That's the data in the new KIDS COUNT report, which also reveals some surprising positive results, according to Kara Arzamendia, research director with Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota.

"Children who are more likely to be uninsured are also more likely not to receive preventive medical visits, and not to receive childhood vaccinations. But we're actually finding the opposite to be true in Minnesota. Despite that obstacle, families are still seeking out the preventative services they need for their children, which is really promising."

Arzamendia adds that children of color who do graduate from high school have high rates of college enrollment.

Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota is co-hosting a series of KIDS COUNT Coffee events throughout the state, where the public can learn more about how kids are faring in their communities. Events this week are scheduled in Bemidji, Mahnomen and Crookston.

The report also highlights "Stars of the State" - organizations that take creative approaches to working with disadvantaged youth and families. One of these groups, White Earth Early Childhood Initiative (ECI), is a coalition of parents, grandparents, schools, health and dental clinics and law enforcement. The "it takes a village" approach of the coalition is the key to its program success, says ECI coordinator Mary Leff.

"In each one of the projects we work on, either all of those partners or some of those partners work on it with us. We all do it together."

Leff says these community partnerships led to the establishment of a "Caring for Kids" store where parents can shop with points earned by participating in programs like early childhood education and by taking their kids to dental and wellness check-ups.

Feedback from community parents and elders makes a difference in their program focus, Leff says. For example, a survey of parent concerns showed literacy as a top priority. The closest libraries were in Mahnomen or Detroit Lakes - at least 20 miles away - so the ECI coalition pooled resources to purchase a used Readmobile, she explains.

"It travels the gravel roads out here to all of our child-care homes and centers. We have a storyteller in that Readmobile, and we have books we read to the kids and books that can be checked out."

Links to the report data and KIDS COUNT Coffee event schedule may be found at

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN