New Bladen County Child Data Card shows troubling lack of progress on child poverty

By: Staff report

RALEIGH —The new Bladen County Data Card shows that child poverty and hunger remain major problems for children. Slightly more than 71 percent of Bladen County children still live in poor or near-poor homes, a major risk factor for negative educational, health, and economic outcomes in the future. Additionally, 28.1 percent of Bladen County children live in food insecure households, putting at risk their immediate health, safety, and ability to learn.

NC Child, the statewide advocacy group that authored the report cards, called on elected officials and candidates for office to champion children’s issues in the coming election and to take specific actions to address the ongoing child poverty crisis in North Carolina.

“Big problems demand big solutions,” said Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child. “Each year, our elected representatives have an extraordinary opportunity to use public policy to improve the lives of children and families. In 2018, we hope candidates will take bold steps to support families by making affordable, high-quality health insurance available in North Carolina, investing in our public schools, and expanding access to quality early learning programs for young children.”

The data snapshot shows how children and families are faring in 15 key areas of well-being. Aside from family financial security, North Carolina and Bladen County are making halting progress toward improving children’s health and education, but a stronger investment in evidence-based policy solutions is needed to assure children’s current well-being and long-term success.

— About 60 percent of women in Bladen County received early prenatal care in 2016 versus 63.8 percent in 2015. Statewide, 69 percent of women received early prenatal care.

— Relatedly, 12.9 percent of babies were born at a low-birthweight in 2016 versus 10.5 percent in 2015. Statewide, 9 percent of babies were born at a low-birthweight.

— Last year, 87.5 percent of high school students graduated on time compared to 86.5 percent in 2016. Statewide, 86.5 percent graduated on time.

“Marginal progress is better than no progress, but the fact remains that our state’s children face far too many barriers to success. Treading water isn’t good enough,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child. “North Carolina’s children demand our best efforts to improve their circumstances now so they can thrive in the future.”

The Bladen County Data Card also includes sample questions that constituents can ask candidates for office about their plans to accelerate North Carolina’s progress on key issues facing children, such as early education, family financial security, and access to health insurance for parents.

Staff report