On the surface, Connecticut is a great place to raise children. Our schools, on average, perform well. Families have access to incredible learning opportunities in our history, science and creative arts. But what do you call a crisis in waiting? A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked Connecticut sixth in the nation for things such as economics, education and health among our younger residents.
It’s not easy being poor, and being a poor child is particularly difficult, especially if you live in a state in the middle of a budgetary crisis, like Connecticut. And that’s rough, given that more U.S. girls live in poverty now than in 2007, pre-Great Recession, according to The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truth and Troubling Trends, a recent study from the Girl Scout Research Institute. Using data from the Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for Education Statistics, the report paints a scary picture of the economics of being a girl in the U.S. (Other research topics from the institute, founded in 2000 as an arm of the venerable girls’ organization, include the impact of reality television on girls, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and girls.)
From the report:
• A total of 41 percent of American girls live in low-income households, compared to 38 percent in 2007. Low-income means that a family earns less than twice the federal poverty level, which in 2016 was $24,300 for a family of four. • More than half of African-American, Hispanic/Latina, and American Indian girls are considered low-income in the U.S.
• Connecticut has one of the country’s lowest girls’ poverty rates, at 13 percent.
Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.
Thousands of low-income adults and children have gained access to dental services in recent years as the number of dentists accepting Medicaid and HUSKY patients has soared, according to state data. At the end of last year, there were 2,002 dentists who accepted Medicaid or HUSKY plans. That’s nearly three times the 703 dentists who accepted Medicaid or HUSKY on Dec. 31, 2008, according to the state Department of Social Services (DSS). “That’s a pretty expansive network,” Donna Balaski, director of dental services at DSS, said of the 2014 figure.
The number of students suspended or expelled from schools has declined, as have in-school arrests, but minority students face disciplinary action more often than their white peers, according to a report released today by Connecticut Voices for Children. Between 2008 and 2013, in-school arrests dropped 34.8 percent statewide while expulsions declined 31 percent and out-of-school suspensions fell 46.5 percent, the report noted. The report, “Keeping Kids in Class: School Discipline in Connecticut, 2008-2013,” analyzed data provided by school districts statewide. While the drop in disciplinary actions is encouraging, Connecticut schools still have work to do, according to the advocacy group. “Extensive research shows that excluding children from school for disciplinary problems is often ineffective and even counterproductive.
Arrests in Connecticut schools dropped 13.5 percent from 2008 to 2011, but hundreds of the arrests made in 2011 were for minor policy violations such as throwing erasers, shouting, or leaving class without permission, a new report says. The report by Connecticut Voices for Children – the first comprehensive study of its kind in the state – also found significant racial disparities in arrest rates: Black students were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than white students, and Hispanic students were 3.2 times more likely. “The overall number of arrests have declined, which is an encouraging trend,” said Sarah Esty, the report’s author and a former policy fellow of Voices for Children. “However, there remains a great deal of work to be done in terms of students being arrested for behaviors that likely could have been handled without police involvement . .
When Connecticut’s new kindergarten class starts school in a few weeks, as many as a third of the children from the state’s poorest communities will be walking into their first classroom ever. Among their peers from the state’s richest areas, 97 percent will have attended preschool. It’s a persistent gap that can affect a child’s success through school and beyond, and it widened from 2011 to 2012, according to Connecticut Voices for Children. The percentage of kindergartners in poor communities who had attended preschool fell from 69.5 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 65.9 percent in 2011-12. For children in wealthy communities the percentage rose from 94.9 percent to 97.4 percent. And while the importance of kindergarten readiness is well known, child advocates are now pressing policymakers to recognize that the need for quality learning begins long before a child even reaches preschool age.
Joyce Hodgson has always worked and at times she’s had excellent health insurance. Five years ago, she became executive director of Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall, where she is the only paid person on staff – and has no health insurance.