Report: Black children struggling in U.S.


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ST. THOMAS - A new national report on race and children shows troubling statistics for the country's African-American population under 18 years old.

The territory, where 81 percent of the children are black, can use this new data to help create policy and get grant funding to help address the specific challenges that face this demographic group of youngsters.

The "Race for Results" policy report was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which also supports the annual Kids Count report.

While the latest report does not single out the Virgin Islands on its scorecard, the larger issues mirror those faced locally.

"The index scores for African-American children should be considered a national crisis. Although they vary across states, regions and domains, in nearly all states, African-American children face some of the biggest barriers to success," the report said.

In 2012, 14 percent of the total child population in the country was African-American - 10.2 million children younger than 18, according to the report.

In school testing, the data showed that only 18 percent of African-American fourth-graders score at or above proficient levels in reading, and only 14 percent score at or above proficient levels in math.

Only 63 percent of African-American children ages 3-5 are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten, and only 66 percent of them graduate high school on time.

"Children in the Virgin Islands share many of the same risk factors as children of color throughout the nation," said Judith Richardson, co-director of Kids Count U.S. Virgin Islands. "With disproportionately low rates of living in safe neighborhoods, in economically stable families, accessing adequate health insurance and medical care, high-quality education and job-preparedness. They share the same barriers to success that confront many children of color nationwide."

The national data suggests that by 2018, children of color will represent the majority of children in the United States.

"This first-time index shows that many in our next generation, especially kids of color, are off track in many issue areas and in nearly every region of the country," Annie E. Casey Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick McCarthy said. "Race for Results is a call to action that requires serious and sustained attention from the private, nonprofit, philanthropic and government sectors to create equitable opportunities for children of color, who will play an increasingly large role in our nation's well-being and prosperity."

The report highlights the barriers African-American and Latino children are most likely to face and calls for an urgent approach to develop solutions. 

The report makes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential:

- Gather and analyze racial and ethnic data to help form polices and make good decisions.

- Use that data to make investments that yield the greatest impact on children of color.

- Develop and implement promising and proven programs focused on improving outcomes for children of color.  

- Connect vulnerable groups to new jobs and opportunities.

Locally, the Community Foundation used the data it collected for Kids Count to develop initiatives such as The Family Connection, which targets the early childhood needs of children in the territory.

Richardson said The Family Connection has helped secure about $2.9 million in funding, updated child care rules and regulations for the first time in 30 years and developed a Quality Rating Improvement System to improve standards of quality in V.I. child care centers.

The Virgin Islands has been recognized as a Pacesetter Community and continues to work with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to ensure that more low-income children will be reading proficiently by the end of third grade, she said.

"Though important work is under way, there is still much to be done as a community, much of which hinges on the collection of reliable data," Richardson said. "We need to expand data reporting and statistical research on the race and ethnicity of our children to target strategies, investments and policies to improve opportunity for all V.I. children."

For more information, go to www.cfvi.net or www.aecf.org.  

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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