Study: Child Poverty on the Rise in Central Virginia
GREENE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The number of children living in poverty in the commonwealth is on the rise in some counties. According to a national study, Albemarle and Greene Counties saw some of the biggest increases in the last few years.
The study from Kids Count Data Center looks at the number of children who are a few months old to 17 years old living at or below the federal poverty level. Put simply, it's a family of four that makes less than $25,000 a year.
"A weaker economy, its natural you're going to have more people struggling to feed their families, struggling to meet the other needs of their families," said Greene Co. Social Services Director James Howard.
Howard says the number of people applying for food stamps and assistance is increasing every year.
"To me, those numbers of people receiving assistance are too high and we need to do a better job of finding ways to help people in the community become self-sufficient and take care of themselves," he said.
Howard says the obvious solution to ending poverty is to get people employment. However, national researchers say finding a job to support your family is easier said than done.
"Many of the folks who lost jobs during the recession still have not yet found jobs, and that many of the jobs that were created since the recession have been low-wage jobs," said child policy advocate Laura Speer.
Data from 2009 to 2013 shows Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, and Orange Counties as well as Charlottesville have seen increases in how many kids live in poverty.
"There are more children living below the poverty line in 2013 than there was in 2008, which is really kind of the height of the recession," Speer said.
Advocate groups emphasize the importance of working hard to get families with children out of poverty.
"Poverty itself is not abuse and neglect of kids, there are many kids who grow up in families with limited resources who are loved and nurtured and who thrive, but poverty is a powerful stressor," said Alicia Lenahan with Piedmont CASA.
Social Services in both Albemarle and Greene are emphasizing getting parents back to work if they do not have a job. The departments say job training programs have really been a tool in the last few years to get people working and sustaining their kids better.