As heated debates continue about the makeup of the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and next, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) stood up for critical programs that support our most vulnerable children. Langevin joined with federal and state leaders, including Rhode Island's U.S. Senators and Governor, to receive the 2011 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook, which charts improvements and declines in the well-being of children and youth across the state. While some in Congress look to slash programs that assist low-income youth, Langevin has advocated for budget cuts that consider excessive health care and defense spending, and changing unfair and outdated sections of the tax code.
This year's data shows some disconcerting trends, increasing the importance of funding for initiatives like Head Start, which provides educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to poor children. Between 2007 and 2009, 17.1 percent (38,604) of Rhode Island's children lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. Meanwhile, during that same time period, Rhode Island experienced the nation's largest decrease (29 percent) in the number of families receiving cash assistance, despite having the third highest unemployment rate in the nation.
"While we are experiencing tough economic times, we must not trade short-term fixes at the expense of long-term investments in our children," said Langevin. "Providing comprehensive early childhood development services, with a strong emphasis on the involvement of families and the local community, will help these children succeed later in life. I have heard from many Rhode Island groups about cuts to programs such as Head Start and Community Service Block Grants. Please know that I will continue to fight for these initiatives."
Langevin thanked Elizabeth Burke-Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, for her leadership and extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of children and their families.
"I always look forward to this annual event since it is critical for policymakers to understand the state of our children's health and well being," said Langevin. "Through extensive research, Kids Count shows what children and families need and what works.
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is a statewide children's policy organization that works to improve the health, economic well-being, safety, education and development of Rhode Island's children. The organization's Factbook details statistics in each of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns and provides the latest available statistics on 67 different aspects of children's lives, from birth through adolescence. The Factbook indicators are grouped into five interrelated categories: family and community, economic well-being, health, safety and education.