WASHINGTON – Nearly 4 million children live with parents who had no jobs in the previous year, an increase of 1 million since the beginning of the decade, a national charity says.
That’s 5 percent of all 72.5 million children living in the United States.
In an annual report released today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation said that’s just one reason why children overall are doing worse economically than they were a few years ago. The number of children living in poverty, for example, rose to 18 percent in 2003 from 17 percent three years earlier.
The foundation tracks 10 categories designed to measure the well-being of children, such as teen birth rates and high school dropout rates, two areas that have improved since 2000.
To get more parents working, the foundation recommended that states incorporate into their job training programs counseling for depression, substance abuse, domestic violence and other problems that make it harder to find and keep a job.
“They’ve got to find ways to deal more holistically with the challenges these families present,” said the foundation’s president, Douglas Nelson.
Nelson said welfare reform has moved millions of people into jobs, but it has left behind certain groups who need more than a new job skill.
The foundation said parents who need particular help are those with prison records. An estimated 600,000 people get out of prison each year – and about two-thirds are parents, he said.
“It appears that prisons are providing education and job training to fewer prisoners today than they did 10 years ago,” Nelson said. “We’re saying just the opposite has to happen.”
In some areas, children continued to make improvements. The teen birth rate for girls ages 15-19 dropped to 43 per 1,000 teens in 2002. That’s the lowest percentage in the 16 years the foundation has monitored the category.