About two-thirds of Anson County children live at or near the poverty level, and about one-quarter of them may not know where their next meals are coming from, according to a report released by the child-welfare watchdog NC Child.
The group called on elected officials and candidates for office to champion children’s issues and to specifically address child poverty in North Carolina, while noting minimal improvement in some data — including figures for Anson County.
“Big problems demand big solutions,” Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, said when the report was released last week. “In 2018, we hope candidates will take bold steps to (make) affordable, high-quality health insurance available …, (to invest) in our public schools and (to expand) access to quality early-learning programs for young children.”
The data snapshot shows how children and families fare in 15 key areas of well-being. Both Anson County and the state as a whole are making halting progress toward improving children’s health and education, the report shows, but both should invest more in evidence-based policy solutions.
Anson County has roughly 5,300 children, with 29 percent of them being younger than 6.
Figures for Anson County show the following threats to children:
• A slight gain in the percentage of children living at or near the poverty line: 65.3 percent in 2016, compared to 65.2 percent in 2015.
• A rise in median family income, from $33,228 to $34,656.
• A dip in the number of students graduating from high school on time, from 82.3 percent to 79.9 percent.
• A rise in the share of children in foster care, from 3.4 per 1,000 to 5.1 per 1,000.
But the figures also show gains:
• A drop in the percentage of food-insecure households, from 26.2 percent to 25 percent.
• A drop in infant-mortality rates, from 17.4 per 1,000 live births, to 7.5 per 1,000 live births.
• A dip in the number of children assessed for abuse or neglect, from 55.6 per 1,000, to 54.1 per 1,000.
“Marginal progress is better than no progress, but the fact remains that our state’s children face far too many barriers to success,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child. “Treading water isn’t good enough.”
The researchers also suggested that voters demand answers to problems facing children by addressing those running for office.
For example, those in Anson County might ask:
• What is your plan to grant access to affordable, high-quality health care and educational opportunities to all children from birth to age 5? Only 4.3 percent of children in Anson County are insured, and only 46.6 percent of third-graders are proficient readers.
• What policies will you espouse to help financially struggling families make ends meet so they can better provide for their children?
• What should be done to promote the health of both children and their parents?