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Teen Health 411

The State of America's Children is Deteriorating

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In December the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) released "The State of America's Children 2008," describing the number of children at risk. The results, reflecting data mostly from 2007, are pretty embarrassing. For example, the United States, the richest country on earth lets every sixth child live in poverty, giving us the honor of being the worst industrialized nation in relative child poverty.

Here are some other disturbing highlights:

Child Poverty
  • The federal poverty line for a family of four in 2008 is $21,200.
  • More than 1 in 6 children in the U.S. is poor.
Child Health
  • Nearly 9 million children are uninsured (1 in 5 in Texas).
  • Among uninsured children, 9 out of 10 have at least one employed parent, 9 out of 10 are U.S. citizens, and 6 out of 10 live in two-parent families.
Child Welfare
  • More than 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2006.
  • More than 2.5 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren, 60% of them work, and 1 in 5 is poor.
Youth at Risk
  • Nationally, 1 in 15 teens is a dropout.
  • States spend on average 2.8 times as much per prisoner as per public school pupil.
Education
  • About two-thirds of public school 4th graders cannot read at grade level; 6 out of 10 cannot do math at grade level.
  • Seven out of 10 public school 8th graders cannot read or do math at grade level.
Early Childhood
  • Only 3% of eligible infants and young children are enrolled in the Early Head Start program.
  • About 6 in 10 preschool-age children and 7 in 10 school-age children have all parents working in the labor force.
  • In 33 states and the District of Columbia, the annual cost of center-based child care for a preschooler is more than the annual tuition at a 4-year public university.
Child Nutrition
  • The number of children (about 12.7 million) receiving Food Stamps has been rising since 2000.
Housing
  • Did you know that the monthly rent for a 2-bdrm apartment in the lowest-cost metro area in the country ranges from 39 percent of the minimum wage ($6.55 an hour) in Illinois to over 100% in the District of Columbia and Hawaii?
As much as I hate focusing on the negative, this is unacceptable, and these numbers can only get worse as the recession deepens. Cutting any support for the services needed by these children, including education, must not be an option!
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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