Union County improves in NJ Kids Count

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County now rates at number 11 in the NJ Kids Count County Profile, a statistical report of the quality of life of children in New Jersey, compiled by Advocates for Children of New Jersey. This is a slight improvement from last year’s ranking of 12. The decrease reflects the overall decrease reported for Union County in the recent Crime Data Report that was released for the year 2013-2014.

On Thursday, June 9, an error was found in the NJ Kids Count County Profiles that impacted the number of juvenile arrests in Union County for 2016. However, it was a minor error that only impacted Union County by one place, ranking it number 11 instead of the previously calculated number 12. It has been corrected on the website.

“Yesterday, it came to our attention that there was an error in the calculation of the rate of juvenile arrests in the 2016 Kids Count County Profiles. This has no effect on Essex County’s statewide ranking. This error only impacted the statewide rankings of Union, Ocean, Camden and Salem Counties,” said Lana Lee, Multimedia Coordinator for Advocacy for Children of New Jersey.

“For the first time in more than five years, we saw a statewide decline in the number of children living in poverty. Fewer children were without health insurance and more kids started their school day with a healthy breakfast,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, in a recent press release.

The total child population for Union County remained the same during the past year. Ranking number seven in the state, the number of children has remained steady in Union County. This reflects the total population for Union County, which also remains at number seven. The number of households spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent decreased in Union County, with the ranking increasing from 15 to 14 in the state.
“While this is encouraging, a closer look at the data will show deep pockets of poverty that still persist and disparities in a number of measures of child well-being including child health and safety throughout the state,” Zalkind added to the press release.

The number of children eligible to receive a free or reduced price breakfast in Union County improved, going from 10th place to eighth. However, there was a drop from 14th to 15th for the median income of families with children in Union County. The percentage of unemployed in Union County was 4.5, dropping from 11th in the state to 12th. The percentage of children living in poverty remained the same during the past year.

The number of child abuse and neglect investigations also remained the same during the past year. Children in out-of-home placement were three per 1,000 children under 18, with its rank going from number eight to nine. The percentage of births for females ages 10-19 remained the same. The number of juvenile arrests is nine out of every 1,000 children under 18, and this year Union County’s rank went from number four in the state to seven.

For the data mentioned above that the number of juvenile arrests, child abuse and neglect investigations and out of home placement is the rate per 1,000 children under the age of 18. The school breakfast percentage data is preliminary and based upon the most recent data including school meal eligibility data as of last school year. The number of students chronically absent is unknown for last year, but shows a ranking of No. 10 in the state for this year. This number is consistent with the ranking for the recent school year of 2013-2014.

To help counties use the data to address the needs of children, Advocates for Children will host two Kids Count Regional Forums, one in north Jersey and one in south Jersey, bringing together county, city and state leaders with the people in the community who work with children and families. The north Jersey forum will be held Tuesday, July 19, from 8 to 11 a.m. at APA Hotel Woodbridge, located at 120 Wood Ave. South, in Iselin.

The focus of this year’s Kids Count forums will be developing a children’s platform for the 2017 gubernatorial and legislative elections.

“During the upcoming election campaign season, as candidates talk about their vision and goals for the Garden State, let’s make sure the needs of children and families are part of that discussion,” Zalkind said in the press release. “This is a great opportunity to come together and use data to help develop a platform on how to make New Jersey a better place for kids.”

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