More Clare County kids are growing up in families struggling to make ends meet, according to the 2013 Kids Count in Michigan report, which offers clear steps to a brighter future for those children.
Statewide, the most dramatic change in the report was a 53 percent increase in the rate of young children who qualified for federal food assistance between 2005 and 2012. More than one in every three qualified for nutritional help because their families were living on incomes under 130 percent of poverty (about $31,000 a year or less for a two-parent, two-child family).
Clare County ranked No. 76 of 83 counties (No. 1 has the best, or lowest, rate) with 48.3 percent of young children (ages 0-5) eligible for food assistance, compared with 37 percent statewide.
“It’s especially troubling that young children are growing up in poverty because research shows a deeper lifelong impact of deprivation during early childhood,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.
There were 40 percent of children living in poverty in Clare County in 2011, a jump of 36 percent since 2005. Statewide, the child poverty rate increased 34 percent in that time period. Nearly 560,000 children, about one in every four in Michigan, lived in poverty in 2011.
The Kids Count report also found a big increase – 41 percent – statewide in the number of children living in families investigated for abuse and neglect between 2005 and 2012. Clare County ranked No. 45 with 116.9 children per 1,000 living in homes investigated for abuse or neglect compared with the statewide average of 90 children per 1,000.