For Immediate Release
July 30, 2018
CONTACT: CONTACT: Lana Lee, (973) 643-3876 (office) |(609) 651-5855 (cell) | firstname.lastname@example.org
No do-overs in childhood. Babies Count highlights New Jersey’s youngest residents.
What happens during the first few years of life is critically important to a child's healthy growth and development, but data on very young children are often lost among figures describing general child statistics. For the first time ever, the 2018 New Jersey Kids Count report--Babies Count, breaks down the data on child well-being to focus on children under age 3, tracking how well infants and toddlers are doing, who they are and the challenges they face.
According to the report, released today, far too many of the state’s youngest children face daunting odds that threaten their potential to succeed and thrive. Certain racial groups are especially vulnerable, with significant disparities in child protection and health outcomes.
“Our babies are just starting out in life and already have the odds stacked against them,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, who produced the report. “By targeting this age group, policymakers and state leaders have an opportunity to change the trajectory and lead babies on the pathway to a healthy and productive future.”
More than 310,000 children under age 3 call New Jersey home. In 2016, its youngest residents were more likely to be economically disadvantaged than older children, with 35 percent of infants and toddlers living in low-income families, defined as earning roughly $48,678 for a family of four.
“From the time in their mother’s womb through their early years and beyond, we know that living in poverty impacts every aspect of a child’s life,” Zalkind said. “This is an incredible time of growth for babies, but the data shows that the critical supports needed to help families with young children are difficult to access or in short supply.”
Fewer than half of the state’s 4,025 child care centers are licensed to serve infants and toddlers. With 69 percent of children under age 3 with mothers in the workforce—or nearly 190,000 children, this indicates a shortage of center-based care for this age group.
For low-income, working families, finding child care is an even bigger challenge.
New Jersey’s child care subsidies cover a weekly rate of $167 per infant and $165 per toddler for qualifying low-income working families. However, at such a low rate, only 12 percent of licensed child care centers had prices that met the subsidy rate for infant care and 19 percent for center-based toddler care.
Participation in home visitation programs, proven to help new parents build healthy environments for their young children, particularly for at-risk families, benefited a little more than 7,000 families in 2017.
“Babies born to black mothers are more likely to receive late prenatal care, be born with a low birthweight or die before their first birthday than the state average,” Zalkind said.
“What is most startling is that even though a mother’s educational level improves outcomes for their children, the infant mortality rate remains alarmingly high for babies born to black mothers whether she has a college degree or a high school diploma.”
In addition, while black children under 3 years old make up 14 percent of the statewide population within this age group, they represented 36 percent of all children under supervision within New Jersey’s child protection system in 2017.
Other Key Findings.
Demographics. New Jersey’s youngest residents are increasingly diverse. In fact, 57 percent of children under age 3 are children of color. In addition, 41 percent of births in New Jersey are to foreign-born mothers.
Child Protection. Infants and toddlers are also more likely to be victims of abuse and neglect than the statewide child average. They make up 26 percent of the state’s total out-of-home, foster care population and in 2016, 10 out of the 17 child deaths due to abuse and neglect were to children under 3 years old.
Family Leave. New Jersey is only one of four states in the nation with paid family leave, but in 2016, fewer than 27,000 employees filed bonding claims to receive paid time off to spend time with a newborn or adopted child.
Health. In 2016, only 3 percent of children under age 3 were without health insurance. Births to teens continue to decline, and New Jersey’s teen birth rate of 4.4 births per 1,000 teens falls far below the national rate of 8.8.
Last year, ACNJ helped launch Right From The Start NJ with The Nicholson Foundation, the Turrell Fund, and the Caucus Educational Corporation to put birth to three on the public agenda and inform parents and policymakers on the importance of the early years.
“We invest in early childhood as a foundation because we know those first few years of life impact lifelong health and well-being,” said Dr. Arturo Brito, Executive Director of The Nicholson Foundation. “We not only have an obligation to ensure that all children have an opportunity to grow to their potential; it also makes economic sense for the future of New Jersey.”
“As ACNJ continues its advocacy to bring attention to the needs of New Jersey’s youngest residents, Babies Count provides a benchmark to track and measure the state’s progress in providing opportunities for healthy growth and development right from the start,” Zalkind said.
KIDS COUNT is a national and state‐by‐state statistical effort to track the state of children in the United States, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) is a statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.
ACNJ is a proud partner of the national ZERO TO THREE Think Babies Campaign and The Right From the Start NJ Campaign, which is in collaboration with the Turrell Fund, The Nicholson Foundation and the Caucus Educational Corporation.