For the roughly 68,000 children that call Newark home, improvements in key areas of child health and an increase in both preschool enrollment and high school graduation rates point to progress in the state’s largest city, according to the Newark Kids Count 2017, released today.
The annual data report by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), which tracks trends in child well-being in Newark, found a decrease in uninsured kids, births to teens and admissions to the hospital for asthma.
While this is encouraging, 70 percent of Newark children live in low-income households – compared to the state average of 32 percent, and 62 percent of families spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
“What’s also troubling is the limited child care options for working families,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ president and CEO. “With more than 7,300 Newark children receiving child care subsidies, it’s imperative that parents have access to reliable care, without having to worry about missing work or whether their child is well-cared for.”
Since 2012, the number of licensed child care centers in Newark declined dramatically, from 190 to 144, and the overall capacity fell by 11 percent. Fewer family day care providers are caring for children in their own homes, a decrease of 9 percent since 2012.
On the positive front, a significant increase in the New Jersey Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent to 30 percent in 2015 helped 22,000 Newark families with children receive an average credit amount of $950 from $620.
“Higher than average refunds mean more money in the pockets of Newark’s working families to help them make ends meet,” Zalkind said. “This was a welcomed boost, especially when you consider the high costs of raising a child in New Jersey.”
Some key Newark findings follow.
Health. In 2015, only 6.5 percent of Newark’s children lived without health insurance. As of March 2016, nearly 70,000 children received health insurance through NJ FamilyCare – a 26 percent increase from 2012.
Newark’s infant mortality rate rose to a rate of 11.6 in 2014, up from 8.6 the previous year. The city has consistently maintained higher infant mortality rates than the state, but the disparities in infant mortality appear to have grown over the past two years for which data was available – 2013 and 2014.
Early Education. For the 2015-16 school year, 6,821 students attended full-day public preschool in Newark – a 9 percent increase from 2011-12 school year.
During this same period, kindergarten enrollment decreased for Newark’s district schools, but increased dramatically for its charter schools. As a result, the overall public kindergarten enrollment increased by 13 percent for Newark.
Chronic Absenteeism. Newark’s rates of chronic absenteeism for the 2015-16 school year show higher rates of absenteeism for high school students at 48 percent, with 38 percent of ninth graders and 59 percent of seniors chronically absent in Newark’s district schools. Newark’s K – 8th grade chronic absenteeism rate in district schools was 23 percent.
School breakfast. During the 2016-17 school year, 59 percent of Newark students in both district and charter schools started the day with a healthy morning meal at school.
Between the 2011-12 and 2015-16 school years, Newark’s charter schools saw their number of students qualifying for school meals nearly double. Enrollment in Newark’s charter schools increased substantially during this same time period, contributing to the charters’ notably higher numbers in school meal eligibility and participation. Still, while 83 percent of charter students eat lunch at school, fewer than half—46 percent—start the day with school breakfast, compared to 65 percent in Newark’s district schools.
Juvenile Arrests. Juvenile arrests decreased from 533 arrests in 2011 to 394 in 2015, in addition to the annual number of admissions to juvenile detention, although African American youths continue to be overrepresented in the detention population.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is the trusted, independent voice putting children’s needs first for more than 35 years. Our work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families. And it means that more children are given the chance to grow up safe, healthy, and educated. For more information, visit www.acnj.org. Follow ACNJ on Twitter @acnjforkids and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/acnjfo
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