Danedri Thompson
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The recession is having an effect on the welfare of children in Kansas, but kids in Johnson County are faring better than they are in the rest of the state, according to an annual study.
The Kansas Kids Count survey found that more children are living in poverty and that more than 47 percent of Kansas public school children participate in the free and reduced lunch program. The numbers are slightly better in Johnson County where only 22.90 percent of public school children partake in the free and reduced lunch program.
While the numbers are better for local children, the numbers of Johnson County children in poverty continues to rise each year.
In 2005, 5.5 percent of Johnson County lived in poverty. By 2009, that number had jumped to 8.2 percent. Statewide, the numbers are worse.
In 2005, 15.2 percent of children in the state lived in poverty. That number increased to 17.11 percent in 2009 – the latest year for which the information is available.
Shannon Costsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children said, children who live in poverty face hardships that can hinder future success.
“This issue isn’t going away and we need to protect programs and services that help to lift families out of poverty,” Costsoradis said.
The study revealed other areas of concern.
For example, one-quarter of Kansas children live in families in which no parent has full-time employment and fewer public schools statewide met Adequate Yearly Progress Requirements.
There were, however, bright spots for Kansas children in some of the data. For example, the on-time immunization rate for children reached a five-year high of 70 percent; more than 87 percent of Kansas fifth graders show reading proficiency; and youth tobacco use and binge drinking continue to decrease statewide.
In the state-by-state study, Kansas ranked 19th overall in the wellbeing of children. It is the state’s lowest ranking since 2004.