DES MOINES (AP) — The effects of the recession continue to affect the well-being of Iowa children, though there are some signs of improvement, according to a report released Monday.
The Kids Count report said 17 percent of Iowa children lived below the poverty line in 2011 despite the recession being declared over in 2009. The poverty line was considered to be $22,811 for a family of four.
Nearly a third of the children lived in single-parent families. A quarter of them had parents without secure employment.
But some improvements were reported, such as fewer cases of child deaths, teen drug use and low birth-weight babies. It also appeared that more children had health insurance coverage.
“It's good news and bad news,” said Michael Crawford, director of Iowa Kids Count.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore compiles the report annually with help from the Des Moines-based Child & Family Policy Center.
Crawford credited the improvements on expansion in health insurance and the work of groups that provide prenatal counseling and care for low-income families.
In Council Bluffs, several agencies are striving to provide better services and activities for families, said Shannon Mahnke, program director for Iowa Family Works with the Heartland Family Services.
Still, Mahnke sees many families struggling. “We're treating a lot of families for substance abuse, mental health and working with that parent-child relationship – and the big struggle we see is economics.”
The biggest obstacles to employment are lack of Internet access to apply for jobs and lack of transportation, she said.
Nationally, Iowa ranked in the top 10 among states in three of the four areas presented in the Kids Count report: fifth in economic well-being, seventh in health and eighth in family and community. The state ranked 15th in education.
Overall, the state ranked seventh nationally among the best states to raise a child, up one notch from its rank in 2011 and 2012.
Laura Speer of the foundation said that although the state and national unemployment rates are lower today than in 2011, it's unclear whether there will be a national decline in child poverty when data become available for 2012 and 2013.
“If the economy goes bad, it may take a year or two until child poverty rates jump to reflect that,” Crawford said. “But as the economy gets better, it takes a while for us to see decreases in childhood poverty, too.”
Ashlee Coffey of The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.
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