More New Jersey kids are living in poverty and children of color are struggling more than white kids on all fronts, according to a New Jersey Kids Count 2015 report released Monday by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).

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The report, which compiled statistics from 2013, the latest they are available, on key measures of child well-being, found that 17 percent of New Jersey children are living in poverty.

Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of ACNJ, said when you look at the numbers by race, 13 percent of black children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,550 a year for a family of four, and overall, more than half of these youngsters live in low income families.

"Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be poor, to have poorer health and education outcomes, and to be overrepresented in foster care and juvenile detention," Zalkind said.

The report also finds there are also disparities when it comes to academic performance, test scores and graduation rates.

"While we've seen all children improve over the years, the percentage of black children and Hispanic children - who pass those tests, who graduate from high school, are always below white children."

In fact, just 38 percent of black fourth-graders passed language arts tests in the 2013-2014 school year. That's in comparison to 42 percent of Hispanic children and 82 percent of Asian children.

The report finds there are also higher levels of black and Hispanic teens not in school, and not working compared to white teenagers.

When it comes to health care, Zalkind said New Jersey is doing a better job of providing health care to minority kids, but minorities continue to fall behind. "The fact remains (that) black children have almost three times the chance of dying before their first birthday than white children."

As for health insurance, black and Asian children are the least likely to be covered under a health insurance policy.

Zalkind pointed out in the area of child protection the state has also made progress because over the last 10 years the number of kids in foster care has decreased dramatically, however black children continue to be overrepresented. The report shows that 42 percent of children in foster care are black and more of them are waiting to be adopted.

When it comes to illegal crimes, whites accounted for 57 percent of all juvenile arrests in 2013, while black children accounted for 41 percent.  Despite the fact that more whites are arrested than blacks, more blacks are likely to be held in a county detention facility in New Jersey.

"Overall, more white kids are arrested than blacks, but when you look at who winds up in detention, a much higher percentage of black children. This remains an issue," Zalkind said.

So why do these disparities exist?

"I think it's very difficult to separate this data out from the economics, but I'm not sure what the answer is, that's why we wanted to start this conversation, to dig a little deeper, and to have an honest conversation about what we can do better," Zalkind said.

Sixty-five percent of minors in county detention in 2013 were black.




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