Florida’s tough economy has proved even more challenging for those living on the state’s financial fringes, with poverty, infant mortality and an unmet need for mental health care on the rise, a new report shows.
A study called The Well Being of Florida’s Children — Is Our Future at Risk? shows the poverty rate among Florida’s children has climbed 35 percent between 2006 and 2010, resulting in 1.8 million kids living in low-income households. The state’s rate of low birth-weight infants also is worse than the national average, with 10 percent of Florida children having developmental or behavorial problems.
The number of homeless students in Florida has almost doubled since 2006 and the rate of food insecurity among Florida’s children is worse than the national average, the study found.
The report was put together by Voices for Florida and the Minority Issues Action Council, a pair of advocacy organizations, and financed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
”It is not new that disparities exist,” said Linda Alexionok, co-director of Voices for Florida. “What is new is that disparities are more prevalent today than ever before, and growing. This report dispels the myth that a level playing field exists for all children.”
In the report, project researcher John Hall also found that Florida’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) has declining caseloads and expenditures at a time when the poverty rate has increased.
“It warrants a closer look,” Hall said. “There are considerable needs among Florida’s children that are unmet or addressed minimally due to inadequate funding.”