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By Richard Asinof
WARWICK – The number of children in Rhode Island decreased by 10 percent between 2000 and 2010 from 247,822 to 223,956, respectively, according to the 18th annual Factbook released Monday by Rhode Island Kids Count.
Rhode Island was one of only three states to lose at least 10 percent of its child population during this time period.
Only the communities of Central Falls, North Smithfield and West Greenwich recorded slight increases, according to the 2012 Factbook.
The 171-page report, which charts improvements and decline in the well-being of children and youth in each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns, provides a comprehensive compilation of the latest available statistics on 67 different aspects of children’s lives, from birth through adolescence.
More than 500 people attended the breakfast release event, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at the Crossings, including Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, the entire Rhode Island congressional delegation and many policy makers and community advocates.
The event’s keynote speaker was Joan Lombardi, former Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Rhode Island is one of the states leading the nation when it comes to building a strong system of support for its young children,” Lombardi said.
“From improving quality to investing in evidence-based home visiting, and from assuring health insurance to expanding services for at-risk families, Rhode Island stands as a national model for policies and initiatives that protect children and help ensure their future success,” she said.
One of the important features of this year’s Factbook was its inclusion of 2010 Census data, according Elizabeth Burke Bryant, the executive director of R.I. Kids Count.
“We’re excited to release this year’s Factbook, because we have the 2010 Census figures to include in our portrait of children in Rhode Island based on numbers and demographics,” Bryant told Providence Business News.
Bryant also pointed to the report’s findings of persistent poverty, with 19 percent of Rhode Island’s children living below the federal poverty line – $18,123 for a family of three with two children and $22,811 for a family of four with two children.
“Children live in poverty in every Rhode Island community,” Bryant continued. “However, Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls and Woonsocket warrant special attention since more children live in poverty in these four core cities, than in the rest of Rhode Island.”
The report found that in Central Falls, 35.8 percent of children live in poverty, in Pawtucket, 27.3 percent of children live in poverty, in Providence, 35.6 percent of children live in poverty, and in Woonsocket, 34.9 percent of children live in poverty.
On the brighter side, Bryant said the report found that there were fewer youth at the Rhode Island Training School in 2011, at 659, declining from 821 in 2010, and also that the probation caseload had declined.
In addition, Bryant said in terms of child welfare, the number of children in and out of home placement had decreased almost in half between 2006 and 2011.
Teen births also declined, with a rate of 26.8 per 1,000 girls, ages 15-19, compared to 44.7 per 1,000 girls, ages 15-19, in 1991.
“This is a very positive sign that we need to continually work on,” Bryant said.