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New Rowan County child data card reveals slow progress on child poverty

SALISBURY — Child poverty and hunger remain major problems for children in Rowan County, according to a new report published by NC Child.

The report found that 55 percent of Rowan County children live in poor or near-poor homes, a major risk factor for negative education, health and economic outcomes.

Ranked among surrounding counties — Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Iredell and Stanly — Rowan falls last. Davidson had 50.4 percent living in poverty; Stanly had 49.8; Davie had 40.7; Iredell had 40.6; and Cabarrus had 36.9.

That’s an 18.1 percent difference between the first and last rankings.

Additionally, the report found that 23.9 percent of Rowan County children live in food-insecure households, putting at risk their immediate health, safety and ability to learn.

Stanly’s percentage of food-insecure children was also 23.9. In Cabarrus, it was 19.2 percent.

In Rowan County, numbers have shifted only slightly in year-over-year data. NC Child data cards used numbers from 2016 in its report. The number of children living in low-income homes decreased only half a percentage point from 2015.

The numbers on food insecurity are from 2015, reflecting a decrease of only 1.9 percent from 2014.

“Marginal progress is better than no progress,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child. “B)ut the fact remains that our state’s children face far too many barriers to success.”

NC Child is a statewide advocacy group that works to encourage elected officials and candidates for office to champion children’s issues in elections. The group also works to encourage legislation that addresses child poverty.

Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, said elected representatives have an “extraordinary opportunity” to use public policy to improve the lives of children and families.

“Big problems demand big solutions,” said Hughes. “… In 2018, we hope candidates will take bold steps to support families by making affordable, high-quality health insurance available in North Carolina, investing in our public schools and expanding access to quality early learning programs for young children.”

NC Child data provides snapshots of how children and families are faring in 15 key areas of well-being.

Improvements include:

• Some 62.3 percent of women in Rowan County received early prenatal care in 2016 versus 58.4 percent in 2015. Statewide, 69 percent of women received early prenatal care.

• About 10.2 percent of babies were born at a low birthweight in 2016 versus 10.5 percent in 2015. Statewide, 9 percent of babies were born at a low birthweight.

• About 11 babies were born for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 in 2016 compared to 20 per 1,000 in 2015.

The report said a bigger investment in evidence-based policy solutions is needed to assure children’s well-being and long-term success.

“Treading water isn’t good enough,” said Tucker. “North Carolina’s children demand our best efforts to improve their circumstances now so they can thrive in the future.”

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