Ending child poverty community meeting held

Debbie RolenStaff Writer

January 25, 2013

A community meeting to address issues associated with child poverty was held on Jan. 23. There were more than 40 attendees from Boone, Logan, McDowell, and Mingo Counties.

The top ten issues were identified by diverse groups guided by agencies and partners involved in an initiative called Our Children, Our Future: Campaign to End Child Poverty. Six months of extensive research and about 300 community meetings went into putting together a platform of issues. The list was narrowed down from 94 to 17, then to the top 10.

Now the issues are back in the hands of people in the communities for action and presentation at the Kids and Families day at the Capitol on February 26 and Regional Forums during the spring legislative session.

Three teams were formed at the meeting: Logan/Boone, Mingo, and McDowell. The teams will focus on one or more of the top five issues: health care for working families; family violence prevention; child care cuts; healthy foods in schools and bi-partisan prison reform to save money. The teams have set about working on regional spring forum dates and locations.

Stephen Smith, Executive Director, W. Va. Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, detailed the top five issues:

1. Health care for more working families. A Medicaid expansion to include working families with an annual income of $10,000 to $30,000, would affect 100,000 to 130,000 families. The resulting benefits may include families being lifted out of poverty, allow them to keep working, free up resources for food, child care, rent and other basic necessities. The state would only pay ten percent of the federally funded program.

2. Protect family violence prevention. Experts have established links between poverty and an increase in domestic violence and child maltreatment. Funding for programs to prevent family violence must be protected and increased to continue efforts including the Children’s Trust Fund, Child Advocacy Centers and Domestic Violence Programs.

3. Stop child care cuts and protect child care benefits for working families earning up to 185% of the poverty line. Without funding to subsidize child care about 1,400 struggling families may have to decide whether to quit work or school and take care of their children or get sub-standard child care from well-intentioned but unqualified help.

4. Healthy foods in your school. Obesity and poor health may hurt or hinder life chances. Expanding healthy food programs in schools and passing legislation restricting soft drinks will improve health and help children be more productive in school.

5. Bi-partisan prison reform and legislation addressing prison overcrowding and overspending may help a parent break the cycle of crime and help his children avoid the same fate. Incarcerations have tripled in one generation, most of those incarcerated are parents, and it costs about $27,000 a year to incarcerate an adult—about five times the cost to provide top-notch child care for a child in need. A bi-partisan commission has developed a plan to reduce incarceration by implementing tested, cost-saving policies to reduce backsliding and increase public safety.

Appalachian Center for Equality (ACE) Program Director Lida Shepherd says, “It’s not too late to get involved as we plan our local child poverty forums—inviting legislators, empowering families affected by poverty to speak, engaging youth, and creating a cross coalition base of support.”

For more information, or to get involved, email ssmith@wvhealthykids.org or lshepherd@afcs.org .