County’s child poverty highest in decade, report says

2011-07-14T00:15:00Z County’s child poverty highest in decade, report saysBy Marga K. Cooley/Associate Editor Santa Maria Times

The number of children in Santa Barbara County who qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches — 54 percent — and those who live below the federal poverty level, were the highest of the decade in 2010, according to a recent report on children’s welfare.

“The data shows what we know, that there’s great economic concern for families in our county, and that’s increasing,” said Joy Thomas, outreach and education specialist for KIDS Network, which produced the 2010 Children’s Scorecard along with the UCSB Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and a variety of public agencies and community-based organizations.

Thomas said many of the numbers are due to the general state of the economy, but some are prolonged, significant issues, such as the achievement gap in student test scores.

“When you break the scores down by income and ethnicity, you see gaps that don’t improve over time,” she said, adding that the report provides a “jumping off point for solutions.”

The report was first published in 1994, and presents data relating to population and income, childcare and preschools, education, physical health, mental health, youth risk behaviors, welfare and safety, and juvenile justice and law.

It is designed to measure how the county’s children stack up against state and national averages.

Pat Wheatley, executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara County, the local arm of a state organization that was created in 1998 to invest tobacco-tax revenues in children’s programs, said the report is critical in making sure that the services they fund address those key needs.

For example, she said, First 5 is a primary sponsor of the Children’s Health Initiative, which provides health insurance for children who wouldn’t qualify for it otherwise.

Data in the report helped First 5 focus its energies on the issue, and as a result, Wheatley said, the number of uninsured children in the county has dropped from an estimated 22,000 in 2001 to 1,500 in 2009.

The report shows that of the county’s Medi-cal enrollees in 2010, 53 percent were in North County — there was no breakdown for children —  while South County and Mid-County had 29 percent and 18 percent respectively.

One of the strengths of the report, said Wheatley, is that the data is a compilation from sources ranging from school districts to the public health department, and is developed on the federal, state and local level.

“This pulls those data sets together so we have a picture of the health and welfare of children in our county,” she said.

In addition to increasing levels of child poverty, and a drop in the number children without health insurance, the report shows:

n  The rates for juvenile felony and violent offenses increased overall since 2000, but dropped in 2010. Most of the offenses did not involve weapons and were committed by youths 14 and older.

n  Child abuse and neglect cases were down from peaks in 2006-07, and were below the statewide rate per

1,000 children. Children under age 1 were consistently most at-risk, while neglect remained the most frequent type of abuse for all ages.

n  That there’s a growing need fore more child care. According to estimated licensed child care availability for children ages 0-12, there were two children in need of care for every space available in the county in 2009, and there was a critical shortage of infant-toddler care.

When it came to school connectedness, however, more students than in the past reported feeling connected to their school. Additionally, over half reported having an adult outside of home and school with whom they have a caring relationship and who had high expectations for them.

The county is still trying to meet federal goals for birth weight, which are not being met by most California counties, according to the report.

While the overall number of infants born at low birth weights is small, 372 babies of the 6,039 births in the county in 2009, they are much more likely to have health problems and account for a significant amount of all money spent on infant health care, the report states.

And, the percentage of youth considered “fit” increased slightly since 2001, but held steady from 2006 to 2010.

To see the complete Children’s Scorecard, go to


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(7) Comments

  1. The Gimlet Eye
    Report Abuse
    The Gimlet Eye - July 15, 2011 12:55 pm
    In Texas, it's the same. Watch out for that Rick Perry:

    NH Tea Party Organization Posts Truth About Candidate Perry

    July 15, 2011

    The NH Tea Party Coalition has posted a blog about Rick Perry:

    As a border state governor, Mr. Perry signed state immigration law in 2001 known as the Texas DREAM Act. Here is an excerpt from a speech Governor Perry gave during the border summit in August of 2001:

    “We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, “we don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.” And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers. That’s why Texas took the national lead in allowing such deserving young minds to attend a Texas college at a resident rate. Those young minds are a part of a new generation of leaders, the doors of higher education must be open to them. The message is simple: educacion es el futuro, y si se puede.”

    In 1988 Perry was Al Gore’s Democrat Chairman in Texas. He was a Democrat until 1989.
  2. WyettEarp
    Report Abuse
    WyettEarp - July 14, 2011 4:36 pm
    >> About that "investing tobacco tax": Which way do you want it -- stop smoking or pay taxes? <

    It was never about stop smoking, it was always about "get the money".

    Same thing with big oil. These liberals are not near as mad at the oil companies for killing pelicans as they would have you believe, they are just trying to leverage that into a big "tax" so they can win another big payday for their causes.

    With the Liberals it always about "get the money" as long as it is "other people's money".
  3. John Q Public
    Report Abuse
    John Q Public - July 14, 2011 1:04 pm
    Shame on the liberals! Their policies will always result in misery, the children deserve better.

    Just saying,


    Restore Parental Responsibility.
  4. veloc13
    Report Abuse
    veloc13 - July 14, 2011 11:59 am
    Why is it the counties or cities responsibility to do what the parent/parents are suppose to be doing? If a kid goes to school hungry, the parent(s) should be hauled in front of the principal and counseled with the police present. Its child abuse pure and simple and the less you hold the parents responsible the more they will be less responsible, because others will do it for them. There is no excuse for kids to go to school hungry and ill prepared to learn, its just sad.
  5. twoout
    Report Abuse
    twoout - July 14, 2011 11:57 am
    This all sounds like more grist for the left-wing mill. I'm sure the Friday 'progressive' diatribe will grab this one and have some sermons to preach.

    About that "investing tobacco tax": Which way do you want it -- stop smoking or pay taxes? You can't have it both ways. The last vote for another tax raise failed. I remember that ballot, and nearly every proposition on it was either a bond issue or a tax, and most of them got voted down.

    The local schools are already so infested with kids who can't speak English that it leaves no doubt as to where the problem is. Zip up the border, and presto, end of problem. Maybe we need Pete Wilson back as governor.

  6. The Gimlet Eye
    Report Abuse
    The Gimlet Eye - July 14, 2011 11:15 am
    Ain't it great livin' in a santuary city and a socialist state, both at the same time, folks?

    These stats just prove what a success the whole venture has been.
  7. xs10shl
    Report Abuse
    xs10shl - July 14, 2011 9:01 am
    "When you break down the scores by income and ethnicity, you see gaps that don't improve over time," she said, adding that the report provides a "jumping off point for solutions."

    I believe that statement to be true, but there ae many who would ignore or deny the solution. Shame on them.

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