More N.J. kids living in poverty, annual report finds

 Detail from the cover of the annual 'New Jersey Kids Count' report. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

Detail from the cover of the annual 'New Jersey Kids Count' report. (Phil Gregory/for NewsWorks)

The annual Kids Count report finds the number of children living in poverty is increasing across New Jersey.

More low-income kids are now receiving a nutritious school breakfast, and there’s been progress in reducing the number of uninsured children, said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

However, more kids are living in families that earn too little to ensure their well-being.

“If you’re looking at health issues, if you’re looking at early education, nutrition, even success in school, it’s connected to that,” she said Thursday. “If you’re have families who are struggling to make ends meet, their attention is going to the most immediate day-to-day needs, and children struggle.”

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Poverty is extends far beyond the state’s urban areas.

“We see poverty moving out to the suburbs. We have southern rural counties that are usually at the bottom of the list, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen an increase in child poverty in counties like Bergen and Somerset,” Zalkind said. “So families are struggling across the state.”

The report also finds working parents have fewer child-care options and spend a larger portion of their income for it.

Cynthia Oberkofler, executive director of the Millhill Child and Family Development Corporation with a preschool and counseling services in Trenton, said she worries whether working families will be able to get the child care they need.

“It costs $73,000 for a family of four to cover their basic needs — housing, child care, transportation,” she said. “We have subsidized child care in New Jersey, but it gets cut off if you make more than $44,000 for a family of four.”

Forums planned throughout New Jersey will bring community leaders together to address the needs of children, Zalkind said.

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