Ohio kids feel it. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio www.cdfohio.org produced the Ohio’s Kids Count 2011 Data Book with statistics on children living in poverty, in homes with unemployed parent/s and/or guardian, and other data. The unemployment rate was 8.5% in 2010 for Franklin County and 10.1% in the State of Ohio. There were nearly 4000 children in foster care in this county in 2010, and over 21,000 in Ohio. The report lists 2,507 children abused or neglected in Franklin County, and 23,811 in Ohio for the same year. Births to adolescent mothers were 514 in the county, and 4,391 in the State. In 2010, 25.5% of our children were living in poverty in Franklin County; over 23% state-wide. Over 50% were enrolled in Medicaid in Franklin County and not quite 45% state-wide. However, poverty does not mean neglect. It also does not mean children are not being well taken care of.
There are a host of related factors, such as food insecurity, homelessness, or substandard housing, difficulty covering the basic necessities of life such as water, electric (heating/cooling) and transportation which may impact a child’s sense of well-being. It goes beyond having a PB&J sandwich for dinner-or not. A sense of personal safety is also important. No one wants bullets whizzing into the walls of one’s home- whether the home is rented or bought. Getting to and from school safely is a priority, and having safe recreational zones in and around one’s home and neighborhood.
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services have programs to provide free and reduced lunches, child care, and/or food stamps and assistance with utilities. Many churches also provide food pantries to help with the basic necessities of life. Jacqueline Ringer, MPA/LSW, Executive Director of Marion County Children Service gave a presentation, ‘Why It takes a community to Protect a Child’ at the 23rd annual Wild Child Conference held in Marion, Ohio this past week, where Pomegranate Health Systems was a sponsor. Ringer presented the State’s new screening guidelines for Ohio’s 88 counties, and the ‘old school’ approach vs. the new paradigm which stresses facilitating engagement with each family and working with them to solve problems; and to understand there is help.
According to SAMHSA reports, the incidence of mental and behavioral illness is higher in counties with exceptional poverty. For instance, SED, (serious emotional disturbance) which averages 8%, can be as high 11- 13% in a distressed area, manifesting in higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and incidence of trauma. [SAMHSA’s 2009 estimation methodology comes from the following CMHS publication: Friedman, RM, Katz-Leavy, JW, Manderscheid, RW, & Sondheimer, DL. (1997). Prevalence of Serious Emotional Disturbance in Children and Adolescents.] Rates of crime increase as well, including substance abuse and opiate addiction. A child whose parents spend the last food money for drugs is definitely affected. A child whose parent beats or otherwise harms him/her under the influence, changes a child’s life forever. A child who is bullied going to and from school suffers the affect beyond the actual incident/s.
This Fall, Pomegranate Health Systems will be sponsoring the OACCA conference (Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies) as well as PCSAO (Public Children Service Organizations) training conference. The PCSAO keynote speaker, Dianna Walter, MSPPM, a Policy Associate with Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, is presenting research on trauma’s impact on adolescent brain development and the importance of care, in fostering resilience and healing for those exposed to trauma. And Voices for Children brings together experts across a broad spectrum of governmental and child caring agencies to address hunger, safety, violence, schooling and health. Positive outcomes are possible and vital in producing healthy, productive adults.
[Photo credit: author’s clip art archive Pomegranate Health Systems]