August 31, 2007

Latino children in California have it tough

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

There’s no doubt about it.

In general, Latino children in California face disadvantages in all areas: Language barriers, educational opportunities, health care coverage, housing, technology access, and recreational activities.

And when we talk about Latino children in California, we’re talking about a large segment of the children population in the state, because Latino children represent around 47 percent of all children here.

A new data book shows slipping economic conditions for California’s Latino children.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released the 18th annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the U.S.

Each year, the KIDS COUNT Data Book provides information and statistical trends on the conditions of America’s children and families.

The numbers KIDS COUNT provide regarding Latino children in California confirm that our children lack many of the resources that other segments of the population have.

Findings specifically related to Latino children in California include:

· Twenty-six percent of Latino children in California live in poverty, compared with the national average of 19 percent.

· Thirty-four percent of Latino children in California live in single-parent households, compared with the national average of 31 percent.

· Thirty-nine percent of Latino children in California live in families where no parent is employed full-time on a permanent basis, compared with the national average of 33 percent.

“Latino children are more likely to be at-risk,” said Laura Beavers, research associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the private charitable organization that does the study and whose primary mission is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families.

“We also found that Latino kids have slightly higher rates of foster care than White kids,” Beavers said.

Other critical areas highlighted in the study where Latino kids are doing much worst than the national average involve teenagers.

The national teen birth rate is 41 percent, the state average is 39 percent, but the California Latina teen birth rate is a staggering 68 percent, almost twice the state rate.

Also, while the national and California averages are at 7 percent for drop-out teens ages 16 to 19, the rate for Latino teens is at 11 percent. Similarly, the national average for teens ages 16 to 19 that neither work nor attend school is at 8 percent, while the rate for Latino teens is at 11 percent.

But not everything is bad news.

On the positive side, nationally there were significant improvements across the board in the rates for child deaths, teen births, high school dropouts, and teens not in school and not working.

“Overall, nationally, things are improving for Hispanic children,” Beavers said.

So what do all these numbers mean for the typical parent and for local communities?

They might as well be an attention call to the status of children.

“Policy makers, advocates, people who work for children, use the information to see how kids are doing in their states in particular and in the nation in general,” said Beavers, who added that many policy makers receive a copy of the KIDS COUNT Data Book. “Many times children’s issues are overlooked in the work government and the media do.”

Parents can have access to the data book online at www.aecf.org. There they can look at the numbers in their state.

“I think that for the typical parent the information we provide can help give them an idea how are the conditions in their own communities and compare them with the rest of the state and the nation,” Beavers said.

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