The 2016 Kids Count Data Book findings point to a need for lawmakers to pay close attention to the needs of children and families — and to make clear their plans for policy improvements, said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
A growing segment of today’s youth are undereducated, underemployed and failing to build a solid economic foundation for their future, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor. These so-called opportunity youth are more likely to require government services, report worse health status and are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, the study found. Within the 16-24 age group, the study found at least 6.7 million (17 percent) could be classified as opportunity youth. Many have dropped out of high school or college and have been unable to find work. According to the report, opportunity youth represent a significant burden to taxpayers.
As families continue to struggle during the economic crisis, record numbers of students are receiving free or low-cost school lunches. Department of Education officials reported that 52 percent of fourth graders are now enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, up from 49 percent in 2009. Last school year, 21 million students received subsidized school lunches, up 17 percent from 18 million in 2006-2007, The New York Times reports. In that same period 11 states saw increases of 25 percent or more as layoffs severely cut into family incomes. The Agricultural Department reports that all 50 states have seen increases in enrollment. Students qualify for free lunches if their families have incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $29,055 for a family of four. In a four-member household with income up to $41,348, children qualify for a subsidized lunch priced at 40 cents.
As I sit down to write a check to cover son number three’s auto insurance payment, I realize my bank account is taking another hit. It’s not the first time, and I’m not the only one. Parents like us have quasi-adult children on economic life support. When we blended our families, my husband and I never intended to become the “Bank of Dad & Mom.” When Steve and I combined our seven sons into one family in 2001, the economy was strong. I thought it’d be a breeze to put my two oldest to work when we packed up our home in Chicago and moved south to Atlanta.