LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One in four Kentucky children live in poverty, and the number is rising.
The Courier-Journal reports those statistics are included in the Kentucky Kids Count 2012 County Data Book.
Kids Count defines poverty as a family of two adults and two children whose annual income falls below $22,113.
The report says more than 240,000 children are living in poverty across the commonwealth.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said poverty is an endemic problem in Kentucky, but the recession has made it worse.
"Kentucky ranks 35th in the country in the overall well-being of children," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, referring to where the state was ranked in the national Kids Count report. "With the big game coming up this weekend, I don't think the fans of the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky would be satisfied if their team was 35th in national rankings."
The annual report is a joint project of Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville.
"The trajectory is not a good one," Brooks said. "Poverty is not new to Kentucky. ... What the recession has done is taken what is already an endemic issue in Kentucky and intensified it."
Some of the hardest hit areas are in Appalachian counties. Wolfe County had the highest child poverty rate from 2006-2010 at 57.9 percent and Elliott County's rate rose to 50.6 percent from 30.8 percent in 2000.
High poverty rates contribute to a multitude of problems including health issues and educational achievement gaps
"You don't want to say a kid in poverty won't achieve," Brooks said, noting that many do. "But the norm is pretty clear — that someone's economic situation permeates every area of life."
Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, said children in poverty need support to reach achievement goals.
"Just because a kid lives in poverty doesn't mean it's not possible to succeed," he said. "Education is the key to making that happen."
Kentucky Board of Education member Mary Gwen Wheeler, who is also executive director of an education initiative called 55,000 Degrees, said parents' education is a significant factor in whether their children will attend college.
"The research says the single most important factor is the educational level of the parent, the mother in particular," she said. "The schools need to wrap their arms around these children — and the sooner the better."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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