Childhood poverty worsens in Louisiana

Childhood poverty worsens in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - More children were living in poverty in 2013 than during the great recession. That's according to findings by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

And the news is not good regarding Louisiana and child poverty.

The 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Louisiana in 48th place.

The report said that in 2013, 28 percent or 304,000 children in the state were living in poverty, up from 25 percent in 2008. It found that 50 percent of children are not attending pre-school, 34 percent have parents who lack secure employment, and 46 percent or 479,000 children have single-parent families.

"We've got to become a child-friendly state," said Anthony Recasner, Ph.D., CEO of Agenda for Children.

"In Orleans Parish it's particularly tough. Forty percent of the children in Orleans Parish are living in poverty, and so these are tough times and we have to make an investment in that," Recasner said.

The effects on children begin early.

"The effect of a child's life course of poverty is profound, especially for children birth through age 4," said Melanie Bronfin, Executive Director of the Policy Institute for Children.

Experts said when children begin their lives in poverty, they can face serious challenges in terms of succeeding in school and beyond.

Bronfin pointed to research.

"The brain is built over time, and 90 percent of the brain is built birth through age 4, and so for a child who is in poverty during those years it has even a more profound impact on a child's life course with higher risks for bad outcomes for education, health and mental health," she said.

There can be a world of difference between what families with adequate incomes can provide for their children compared to families with meager resources.

"That they can go to good schools, you can live in neighborhoods with resources," Recasner said.

There are some bright spots relating to Louisiana children. Fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math proficiency has improved, more children now have health insurance, the death rate for children and teenagers has fallen and teen births are down.

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