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Report: Fewer Arizona teens having babies, more kids living in poverty

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Fewer Arizona teens are having babies – but more Arizona children are living in high-poverty areas.

Those are just two of the latest findings in the 2017 Arizona KidsCount report. The data, compiled and analyzed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, tracks a number of things from teen pregnancy rates to how many Arizona children are in pre-school.

For example, 26 Arizona teens per 1,000 had children in 2015 (the latest year for which statistics are available). In 2010, that rate was 42 teens per 1,000.

The lower teen pregnancy rate thrilled Dana Wolfe Naimark with the Childrens Action Alliance.

“I think [the lowered rate] can be attributed to a combined effort and leadership by families, parents, teenagers themselves – as well as educators and school communities,” she said. “And [also] healthcare providers, and public policy that made healthcare more accessible for young people.”

On the other hand, Naimark says she’s afraid that trend could be reversed.

“The legislature snuck in a little budget change, on the very last day of the legislative session, that changes how Arizona gets federal family-planning funds. [The funds provide] healthcare to young people, to help them prevent pregnancy and to take care of their health.

“That change could make healthcare much less accessible.”

Speaking of healthcare, 8 percent of Arizona’s children have no health insurance right now. That’s well below the 13 percent of 2010. Naimark says again, that could be reversed.

“If the federal government doesn’t refund KidsCare by the end of September, we will lose KidsCare again,” she said.

The KidsCount report also highlights some major problems. For example, the number of Arizona children living in high-poverty areas has gone up. Between 2008-2012, it was 22 percent. Between 2011-2015 it was 24 percent. The national average is 14 percent.

“When children grow up in a family that is poor, there’s certainly risks and negative impacts,” Naimark said. “But when they grow up in a neighborhood that has many poor families, that effect is magnified.

“Arizona’s kids are struggling in a lot of ways; in so many ways, they’re left behind kids in other states. Now is the time we really should be marshaling our forces, focusing our assets on kids, because the payoff is huge.”

To see the entire report, click here.

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