Sussex County remains steady in 7th for Kids Count rankings

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Sussex County remained steady at 7th place in the annual New Jersey Kids Count rankings, which measure progress in improving the lives of children in 13 critical areas.

The well-being of Sussex County children progressed in several areas, including child poverty and juvenile arrests.

The county lost ground, however, in other areas, including an increase in the percent of households spending too much on rent.

The county also ranked last in the state for providing school breakfast to low-income children.

“While the rankings shift every year, we see certain trends across many counties, including increasing child poverty, unemployment and high housing costs,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which publishes the Kids Count reports. “These statistics should be used to inform local, county and state leaders, as well as community organizations, in their efforts to improve the well-being of all New Jersey children.”

“Sussex County bucked statewide trends with a decrease in child poverty, which is encouraging,” Zalkind said. “But more Sussex families are spending too much of their income on rent, meaning they likely struggle to meet all of their children’s financial needs.”

Some key Sussex County findings follow.

Child Poverty. The percent of children living in poverty decreased from 9 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2011, moving Sussex from 9 to 6 place on this indicator.

Housing Costs. At the same time, families paying too much for rent increased from 59 percent in 2010 to 61 percent in 2011, moving the county from 17 to last place on this measure.

Juvenile Arrests. Fewer Sussex County juveniles were arrested in 2011, dropping from 15 youth per 1,000 children in 2010 to 11. The county moved from 6 to 3 place on this important indicator of child well-being.

School Breakfast. Just 11 percent of eligible children received school breakfast, making Sussex last in the state on this measure of child nutrition. Like most New Jersey schools, Sussex schools can do better by serving breakfast to students in the first few minutes of the school day.

Known as ‘breakfast after the bell,’ this approach significantly increases the number of students starting their day with the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn. Currently, many districts offer breakfast before school — when most students have not yet arrived, resulting in the low participation rate.

In addition to releasing the county rankings, Advocates for Children of New Jersey also released:

New Jersey Kids Count 2013: The State of Our Children, which provides state-level data, including a special section on the well-being of New Jersey’s infants and toddlers.

New Jersey Kids Count 2013: The State of Our Counties, a pocket guide that provides a 5-year comparison of various measures of child well-being, including poverty, health, education and child protection.

To help counties use the data to address the needs of children, Advocates for Children is hosting Kids Count Regional Forums across the state, bringing together county, city and state leaders with the people in the community who work with children and families.

“These forums are designed to foster discussions about the data that result in concrete action at the state, county and local levels,” Zalkind said. “When we use data to drive critical decisions about responding to the needs of children, everyone benefits — children, families, our communities and our state.”

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