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Trenton Kids Count 2019 shows mixed progress in child well-being
TRENTON, N.J.— In the face of pervasive poverty, fewer Trenton infants and toddlers have elevated blood lead levels, more children are enrolled in preschool and the city’s high school graduation rate has improved significantly, according to Trenton Kids Count 2019: A City Profile of Child Well-Being, released today.
However, substantial disparities in education and health outcomes persist, threatening a child’s ability to thrive and succeed.
“More than a quarter of Trenton students are chronically absent – missing 10 percent of enrolled school days – and only 40 percent have plans to further their education in the fall following high school graduation,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), which produced the report.
“Although ACNJ’s data book paints a sobering picture of how the city’s nearly 22,400 children are faring, it provides a blueprint for change and the work that needs to be done. Trenton Kids Count also highlights the ongoing local programs and initiatives that are making a positive impact in the community.”
"It is my hope that readers of this report will feel empowered to use the data to make a difference and move the needle forward for Trenton’s children. I ask residents of Trenton to roll up their sleeves, use the data and join me as we work together to make sure Trenton’s kids count!" said city mayor Reed Gusciora.
Trenton saw promising declines in the number of babies born with low birthweights as well as its rate of infant mortality, but the figures remain far higher than the statewide averages.
Data disaggregated by race tell another story. The rate of babies dying before their first birthday was 11.5 per 1,000 births for Trenton, but among babies born to black mothers, the rate was an alarming 17.3 – nearly four times greater than the statewide figure.
City-wide initiatives aimed at improving maternal and infant health outcomes are working to address these disparities.
“We know that poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life, from health to hunger to academic success. That’s why it is critical that any gains made in child well-being must be maintained with continued investment, ensuring that children and their families have the chance to reach their potential,” said Katherine Nunnally, CEO and executive director of the Smith Family Foundation, co-funder of Trenton Kids Count.
“The Trenton Kids Count report presents data that will be used by policymakers, health experts, non-profits and the public. The report’s findings, spanning issue areas from poverty, unemployment, and housing rates to health care programs and community-led initiatives, provide a powerful opportunity to unite together in order to strengthen systems of care and policies for Trenton’s children and families,” said Atiya Weiss, executive director of the Burke Foundation, co-funder of Trenton Kids Count.
Demographics. Trenton’s child population makes up 26 percent of the city’s total population. Black and Hispanic children comprise the majority of the city’s child population at 54 percent and 42 percent, respectively. With 44 percent of births to foreign-born mothers living in the city, only a quarter are high school graduates; 57 percent have less than a high school degree.
Family Economic Security. Two out of three Trenton households are headed by a single parent and 53 percent of households pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, surpassing the state average of 49 percent. Despite a decrease in unemployment, the median income of families with children fell from $35,215 in 2013 to $31,788 in 2017. Although New Jersey saw a decline in children living below the poverty level from 17 to 14 percent between 2013 and 2017, Trenton bucked the statewide trend with an increase in its child poverty rate from 35 to 40 percent during that same period.
Child Health. The percentage of expectant mothers receiving late to no prenatal care increased from 36 percent in 2013 to 58 percent in 2017. On a brighter note, more children 6-to-26-months-old were tested for lead between 2013 and 2017, and fewer were found to have elevated blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.
Child Protection. Although the number of children reported for abuse or neglect increased slightly between 2013 and 2017, the percentage of reported children with substantiated or established findings of abuse or neglect fell from 17.4 to 5 percent during that period.
Education. Trenton’s graduation rate improved significantly from 53 percent in 2013-14 to 68 percent in 2017-18, but the figure is still far below the statewide average of 91 percent. Moreover, only 40 percent of Trenton Public School students enrolled in college or any other post-secondary educational institution in the fall following high school graduation.
Teens and Young Adults. In contrast to state and county trends, juvenile arrests in Trenton have climbed from 147 arrests in 2013 to 169 arrests in 2016. However, admissions to county detention have decreased by 28 percent, from 145 in 2013 to 105 in 2017.
About Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization. They work with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey's children. For more information, visit acnj.org.