Kids Count: Parents finding themselves increasingly without jobs
The number of kids whose parents cannot find secure employment is rising, a study released today says. New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada ranked last in child well-being, which they hope will turn around after investing in education.
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David Hutchinson and his family eventually ended up in Albuquerque. He has been looking for work for months. Finally, he landed a job just this week with a contractor who installs fire suppression systems.Skip to next paragraph
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"If I wasn't so crippled, I'd be doing backflips," he said, pointing to the rod and pins in his forearm, an injury that ended his career in the U.S. Navy.
His wife, Chelsea, said she knows her husband is ready to put aside any pain because the prospect of their family being able to move from Joy Junction, the shelter where they have been staying since December, hinges on a regular income.
William and Elimar Roper are in the same boat. They and their four children have been at the shelter for about a year. William just landed a job in the kitchen and Elimar has graduated from the shelter's recovery program, which helps those addicted to drugs or alcohol.
"We're happy because we've upgraded from being homeless to something that can help us stabilize. It's the first step," Elimar Roper said.
William Roper served in the U.S. Army for nine years and did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the military, he worked as a janitor and then lost his job. The family's savings soon ran out, leaving them homeless.
The Kids Count report shows the percentage of children whose parents don't have secure employment has been increasing. That's more than one-third of children in each of the four states at the bottom of the Kids Count list.
"Growing up in poverty, it just has these terrible repercussions and you see these associations with much lower rates of high school graduation, lower performance overall in school, much lower rates of college attendance and the cycle perpetuates," said Curtis Skinner, director of Family Economic Security at the National Center for Children in Poverty.
Skinner said the center's research is showing a troubling trend in the aftermath of the recession: Poverty rates are rising in what used to be the middle class, in two-parent households and in families where parents have college educations.
While there is a lag in the Kids Count data, officials in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada believe some of their numbers will start to turn around in the coming years thanks to investments in education, particularly pre-kindergarten programs.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has pushed for doubling pre-K funding and funneling more money to early literacy and high school graduation efforts.
"Clearly, doing things the way they've always been done hasn't worked for our kids," said Enrique Knell, a spokesman for the governor. "And reform efforts must include ending the practice of setting our children up for failure by passing them on to the next grade level when they can't read."
The well-being of their children has been the motivating factor for both the Hutchinson and Roper families. They want something better for their kids, and they say things are starting to turn around.
"Finally, being to the point of stabilizing and being able to get the kids out of this environment, that's a good feeling," Elimar Roper said.