Risks to Child Well-Being Persist in New York City, With State Budget Cuts Looming

Risks child well-being New York children

Photo: Gift Habeshaw.

Forty-two out of 59 New York neighborhoods have seen risks to children’s well-being increase overall since the previous year, according to a new report released by the Citizens’ Committee for Children (CCC), a nonprofit advocacy group. The report draws on 18 different indicators, most of them drawn from U.S. Census data that runs through 2017.

This year’s report shows that communities in the Bronx, and Brooklyn’s Brownsville, have the most concentrated challenges in economic security, housing, education, youth, family and community. The greatest risks to health, including infant mortality rates, low birth weight and uninsured children, were found in Brooklyn communities stretching from Canarsie to Queens Village along Jamaica Bay, as well as in the Central Bronx and Central Harlem. 

Williamsburg, Ridgewood, Glendale and other neighborhoods that most significantly improved their risk ranking over the last decade all experienced similar demographic changes, including increasing in college-educated and median-income residents, and a decrease in residents with limited English proficiency. The exception is the Rockaways, which improved its risk ranking the most, by 12 spots, but did not see significant demographic change.

On the other hand, neighborhoods that moved toward higher risk saw more mixed indicators. St. George’s ranking fell 12 spots since 2010 despite a slight increase in the college-educated population and median rent remaining flat; its median income decreased nearly 4 percent. In Unionport and Soundview, median income decreased more than 10 percent while median rent rose 11 percent. Median rent rose 16.6 percent in Sheepshead Bay and 10 percent in the Lower East Side, both of which fell in the rankings despite growth in their college-educated population.

The seven community districts found to have the greatest overall risks to child well-being – six in the Central and South Bronx, and Brooklyn’s Brownsville – haven’t seen their position change much from CCC’s 2010 report.

“The disparities are still profound, and they persist even when improvements occur,” said Jennifer March, who has been the executive director of CCC since 2007. “Kids and families in communities where risks cluster, who are primarily black and Latino, are not experiencing the city in the same way as those who live in communities with fewer risk factors.”

According to the report, babies born in East Flatbush are 11 times more likely to die before their first birthday than those born in Midtown. In Mott Haven, three out of five children live in poverty, and less than half have a parent who worked full time in the last year. In University Heights, 40 percent of households spent more than half of their annual income on rent.

The CCC released the report on the heels of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive state budget, which proposes to resolve a projected $6 billion state deficit through cuts and cost-saving measures, including some to programs serving children and low-income communities. City officials project the budget would shift a total of $1.4 billion in costs to the city, including $1.1 billion in Medicaid spending. The state budget pegs the Medicaid gap at $2 billion in FY 2021, one-third of the state’s overall $6.1 billion deficit.

Cuomo’s budget would reduce the state’s rate of reimbursement for child welfare services and several programs that can help prevent the placement of children into foster care, such as child behavioral health services and emergency assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. March says these short-term savings undermine the state’s ability to reduce longer-term costs, particularly in healthcare.

“We need to explore what preventative investments can be made for children at the earliest stages, and consistently throughout their life, so that we’re not constantly worried about the chronic health conditions that drive long-term costs, emergency room visits and hospitalization,” she said. “These investments result not only in positive outcomes for children but better long-term outcomes for all New Yorkers and importantly, such investments are in the best interest of the state’s fiscal health.”

Gov. Cuomo’s budget does allocate $157 million statewide to expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit to low-income families with children younger than 4 years old, with an average annual benefit of nearly $400 per qualifying family.

Megan Conn is a reporter in New York for The Imprint, and can be reached at mconn@chronicleofsocialchange.org.

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