Third Paterson Kids Count Since 2011 Shows Five-Year Gains, Opportunities for City’s Children, Families Report offers unique opportunities for advocacy efforts for Paterson’s children
PATERSON, NEW JERSEY — Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), in partnership with the Paterson Alliance, released its latest report on the well-being of children in the City of Paterson. The report, Paterson Kids Count 2022,offers five-year data trends regarding children and their families on the topics of demographics, family economic security, child health, child protection, child care, education and information regarding teens, comparing the numbers to Passaic County and the state when available. Due to the impact of the pandemic on typical data collection, this report uses American Community Survey five-year estimates as opposed to one-year estimates. These five-year estimates are data collected over five years, providing a larger sample size that yields a more reliable representation of the data.
“ACNJ is excited to be able to offer our third report covering children and youth in Paterson, revealing exciting gains for this diverse population,” states Cecilia Zalkind, President and CEO of ACNJ. “When we first reported on Paterson eleven years ago, we saw mixed results in child well-being. The Paterson Alliance, a collective of nonprofits looking forward to furthering a vibrant Paterson, used that information to help better inform their efforts. We are proud to report that since that initial report, although we see areas where improvements can be made through effective legislation and advocacy efforts, children are faring better than before. While data collection was affected by the pandemic, we are able to get an initial glimpse in some areas of how these children and families were affected over the past two years. This allows us to learn how Paterson is faring compared to their peers across the state.”
The report reveals positive momentum for Paterson children and their families. Recent data show the number of economically disadvantaged children saw a drastic drop, from 8,283 in 2011-2015 to 5,562 in 2016-2020, or a 33% change. New Jersey, in comparison, saw a 24% decrease. The median income of families with children also rose to $41,671 between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020. However, this number is still well below the state’s median income of $106,937.
At a time when housing costs are skyrocketing, the percentage of Paterson residents paying 30% or more of their income on housing costs, whether rented or owned property, is decreasing - offering a small relief at a time when basic necessities are becoming costly. Households across the state saw these numbers drop, but Paterson saw the greatest percentage decrease compared to the state and county levels. Still, 54% of City residents who hold mortgages still spend 30% or more on housing costs, showing room for improvement.
Trends in other indicators also show there is still an opportunity for growth. Based on five-year American Community Survey estimates, slightly over 8% of Paterson children are without any form of health insurance, compared to the state number of 3.9%. However, the number of children receiving NJ FamilyCare is at its highest number since 2018, with over 38,000 children benefiting from this public service. Though Paterson’s infant mortality rate is 4.8%, its Black infant mortality rate is at an alarming 9.9% - double the City’s rate.
“The welfare of our children is personal for me,” states André Sayegh, mayor of the City of Paterson. “My wife Farhanna and I are raising our three children here in Paterson, the city in which I was born and raised. My goal is to make Paterson more family-friendly. The report is particularly timely as we begin to assess the impact of COVID-19 and the state shut down on our community and our families.”
“As we look to the future, it is our hope to build on the strong foundation we have laid with the help of ACNJ and its Paterson Kids Count report,” states Paterson Superintendent of Schools Eileen F. Shafer. “Just as the 2011 and 2015 Paterson Kids Count reports provided data that led to increased access to reliable health insurance for Paterson’s children and increased enrollment in Paterson’s free high-quality preschool, we hope this report will lead to positive changes for our children.”
“Our prior Paterson Kids Counts in 2011 and 2015 gave us data and direction,” states Rev. Carolyn McCombs, board president of the Paterson Alliance. “The data led us to make strides in increasing school breakfast participation by offering ‘Breakfast After the Bell,’ increasing the number of children with health insurance, improving reading proficiency and increasing enrollment in high-quality preschool. We hope the data from our Paterson Kids Count 2022 will give us the opportunity to achieve even more.”
“Paterson Kids Count offers a window for nonprofits to see where we should be driving our work so that we can be the most beneficial to the population of Paterson,” states Inge Spungen, Executive Director of The Paterson Alliance. “Our vibrant City continues to benefit from the good work of changemakers, and we look forward to discussing and discovering the unique ways we can come forward as a community to better cater to the needs of our residents, especially our children.”
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is the trusted, independent voice putting children’s needs first for more than 40 years. Our work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families. And it means that more children are given the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated. For more information, visit www.acnj.org.