Harris County Losing Child Poverty Battle

Houston and Harris County are falling behind in the fight against child poverty. That's the word from Children at Risk, which says more local children than ever are living in deep poverty. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

The latest numbers from 2006 showed 23-percent of children in Harris County were living in poverty, defined as a family of four with an income less than $20,000. With a million kids in Harris County, that means 230,000 live in poverty, and nearly one in two children live at near poverty. Bob Sanborn is the president and CEO of Children at Risk.

"When you think that more than 20-percent of our children are living in deep poverty and half of those children are living near poverty where it's going to affect them and affect their future success, it is a crisis. It's a crisis right now. Today it's a crisis that we really need to address that we're seemingly not addressing because you and I when we look at our kids, we think they're doing fine, but we're missing out on that other half of the children that are in Houston."

Twenty-two percent of Texas children lived in poverty in 2006, compared to 17-percent nation-wide. Risk factors for child poverty include single parent households, parents with less than a high school education and parents who don't work. Sanborn says we've lost focus when it comes to child poverty.

"Are we truly keeping Houston's a priority? Are they a priority for us? Right now if we look at the cold numbers, they do not seem like they are a priority. We have lost that focus of what's going on with our kids. We care about our own personal kids, but are we caring about all the children in Houston, and that doesn't seem to be the case."

Helene Stebbins is with the National Center on Child Poverty at Columbia University. She says there are obviously many factors involved with child poverty, like education, early development and the economic climate.

"We need to build an economically secure family setting in order for parents to be good parents because when they are stressed financially is when you start seeing the depression in the parents, or the substance abuse, or the domestic abuse. The financial security underlies all of this."

Stebbins says many economically challenged families don't take advantage of programs available to help them, like free school meals and tax credits. You can find more information about child poverty through a link on our website, KUHF.org.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...