HONOLULU—There’s no question that these are hard times we are living in. And what the latest numbers remind us is that things like home foreclosures and unemployment isn’t something that just affects grown-ups.
According to data recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, 14,000 (or 3 percent) of Hawaii’s children were impacted by foreclosure since 2007. In 2010, an estimated 25,000 (or 10 percent) of children in Hawaii lived in households where there was at least one parent who was eligible for and or seeking employment, but was unemployed at the time the data was collected.
Compared to other states, overall, Hawaii ranks 26th in key indicators of child health and well-being. Hawaii slipped in rank, going down from 11 in the mid-2000s.
“While there are many complex factors that have contributed to this decline over the past several years, this downward trend cannot be ignored,” Center on the Family director Grace Fong said. “The investments we make in our children now are investments we make in our state’s future.”
The Center on the Family at the University of Hawaii at Manoa serves as the Hawaii’s KIDS COUNT affiliate.
According to the 2011 Data Book, children in Hawaii have experienced:
* Improvements in the infant mortality rate, the teen death rate, and the teen birth rate since 2000.
* A worsening in the percentage of low-birthweight babies, the child death rate, the percentage of teens not in school and not high school graduates, the percentage of children in poverty, and the percentage of children in single-parent families since 2000.
* Comparable data going back to 2000 were not available for the percentage of teens not attending school and not working, and the percentage of children living in families in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment. However, both indicators worsened between 2008 and 2009.
“The good news is that, over the past decade, Hawaii has shown improvement in the infant mortality rate, the teen death rate and the teen birth rate,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, director of Hawaii KIDS COUNT. “In addition, while the percentage of teens not in school and not high school graduates—the dropout rate—has worsened when compared with 2000 data, there was slight improvement between 2008 and 2009. So, hopefully, we’ve turned the corner.”
In retrospect, the economic and social gains for children that occurred across the 1990s stalled, even before the economic downturn began. This year’s Data Book reports an 18 percent increase in the U.S. child poverty rate between 2000 and 2009. This increase means that 2.5 million more American children are living below the federal poverty line ($21,756 for a family of two adults and two children)—effectively wiping out the gains made in the late 1990s.
“While the foreclosure rate and the unemployment rate in Hawaii may be declining from the peaks seen in 2009 and 2010, these data show that many children in our state are living in families that continue to face economic insecurity,” Stern said. “In addition, between 2007 and 2009, the state’s child poverty rate increased after a period of decline preceding the recession.”
Stern explained there is a link between family income and economic stability, as well as children’s academic achievement and later success.
“As we recover from the recent recession, we must remain focused on efforts that help parents put their families on a path to economic stability as well as efforts that enhance children’s well-being,” Stern said.