9 facts about RI kids every parent should know

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – From family income levels to student absenteeism, Rhode Island’s leading child advocacy organization released a slew of new statistics Monday about young people across the Ocean State, with the goal of raising awareness about the state’s shortcomings and highlighting its success stories.

You can read the entire report from Rhode Island Kids Count by clicking here, but first here’s an overview of nine key statistics.

1. One in five Rhode Island children live in poverty.
Between 2011 and 2013, 44,833 children in Rhode Island – 21.5% of all kids – lived in families whose incomes fell below the federal poverty threshold, the worst rate in New England but slightly below the national average of 22.2%. For a family of three with two children, that means a household income of less than $19,073; for a family of four with two children, the poverty line is $24,008. Nearly 47% of all poor families in the state are Hispanic, while only about 15% of white families live below the poverty line. About 64% of all poor families live in just four communities: Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.

2. A third of all children live in families where no parent has a full-time job all year.
The percentage of state children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment grew from 30% in 2008 to 34% in 2013, once again the worst rate in New England. Of those families, 91% had a single parent.

Parent unemployment

3. Rhode Island is best in the country for childhood immunization.
The vast majority of children under the age of three in Rhode Island – 82% – have received all of their vaccinations, a rate significantly higher than the national average and best among all states. And while some states have seen a trend of families opting out of vaccinating children, Rhode Island reported just 181 incidents during the 2013-14 school year. Most of those examples were for religious reasons; the rest were for medical purposes. Beginning in August, Rhode Island children in preschool and daycare will also be required to receive an annual flu shot.

4. Including English, 86 different languages are spoken in Rhode Island public schools.
It’s probably no surprise that 77% of students learning English as a second language in Rhode Island speak Spanish, but schools are also reporting students speaking various Asian and African languages, as well as Creole, Patois and Portuguese. The rest speak other or multiple languages. At least 4,817 children under the age of five were born to a mother who does not speak English (as of Sept. 1, 2014).

5. Nearly one in four high school students missed at least 18 days of school last year.
School districts across the state – particularly in urban communities – have placed an emphasis on reducing absenteeism, but 24% of high school students were absent for at least 10% of the school year last year. It’s not just high school either. About 16% of kindergarten students were labeled chronically absent – the term used for students who miss at least 18 days of school in one year.

Chronic absenteeism6. Half of all out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent offenses.
During the 2013-14 school year, about 52% of out-of-school suspensions were for insubordination, disrespect or disorderly conduct, while the rest were for violent incidents such as fighting or harassment. Rhode Island has followed a national trend of cutting out-of-school suspensions – those punishments are down 37% since the 2008-2009 school year – but there are still significant racial disparities when it comes to school discipline. For example, while minorities make up 39% of the state’s student population, they received 57% of disciplinary actions taken by schools.

7. The number of kids at the Rhode Island Training School has been cut in half.
The state has reduced the number of young people in the care and custody of the Juvenile Correctional Services’ Rhode Island Training School from 1,103 to 500 over the last decade, thanks in part to a statewide cap that was placed on the population at the facility in 2008. The majority of kids sent to the Training School spend less than two weeks there, while about 6% of the facility’s population have been in state custody for at least one year.

8. More babies are being born with exposure to alcohol and opioid drugs.
In 2013, 76 Rhode Island babies were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), nearly doubling the total from 2006. About 90% of kids with NAS between 2009 and 2013 were born to white mothers and nearly one in three lived in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence or Woonsocket. During the same period, 16 babies were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which can lead to developmental delays.

9. There were 3,870 approved claims for paid family leave in 2014.
In 2013, Rhode Island became just the third state in the country to approve legislation that grants partial wage replacement for family leave. In the first year of the program, three quarters of all claims were to spend time with a new child and 69% of approved claims went to women.

paid family
Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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