Poverty big concern for child-care groups in Grey-Bruce

theenterprisebulletin.com – News/Local
Posted July 7, 2010.   By Paul Jankowski, QMI Agency

Poverty continues to be a major concern for organizations serving children and youth in the area, Lori Wilder, the cochair of the Grey Bruce Children’s Alliance, says.

A profile of child, youth and family health put together for the alliance and released this week notes that in 2005 there were approximately 2,400 children and youth in the two counties — about 7% of those under the age of 19 — living in poverty.

That same year the median family income was $56,190 in Bruce County and $51,482 in Grey County. Both were well below the provincial median of $69,156. The median income for female-led single parent families was $30,605 in Grey and $33,206 in Bruce, the profile says.
One of the focuses of the alliance, an umbrella organization that represent 19 groups ranging from the area’s two children’s aid societies to adult learning centres, has been poverty, Wilder said in an interview Friday, and “poverty certainly stood out” in the profile.

The profile, drawn up over two years with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was put together to identify areas of strength and vulnerability in the younger population to help service providers plan how to respond to vulnerabilities identified and provide a baseline to track changes, a summary of the report says.

One of the strengths found is that both youth (77%) and adults (between 64% and 74%) “really have a strong sense of belonging to our area and that’s not always the case,” Wilder said. “Despite the fact we’ve got some poverty and they’re not making as much money perhaps, they still did have a sense of belonging to our community.”

Among its other findings were:

* In 2006 there were just over 37,000 children and youth (19 and under) living in Grey and Bruce, down 16% from the 43,979 in 1996.

* In 2006, 28% of adults in Grey-Bruce had not completed high school. The provincial average was 22%.

* In 2006, the majority of Grey-Bruce residents owned their homes (Grey 88%, Bruce 83%). The provincial average was 71%.

* The rate of Grey Bruce residents reporting heavy drinking increased from 18% in 2001 to 34% in 2007, numbers that were “significantly higher than rates in Canada, Ontario and other health regions.”
* Families were assessed at the time of a birth for risk factors including violence, substance misuse, social isolation and mental health issues. From 2006 to 2008, about 450 families per year –40% of families screened –were identified as “at risk.”

* Only about one in four students in the 12 to 19 age group consumes sufficient fruits and vegetables.

* 14% of secondary school students report getting no physical activity in school or outside of school and at least one in four students spend three or more hours daily in front of a TV, computer screen or on the phone.

* From 2000 to 2003, motor vehicle collisions were the cause of 79% (26 of 33) of deaths for youth aged 15-19 in Grey Bruce. The Ontario average was 31% and the national average was 35%.

The profile also determined that services to prevent harm to children aged six to 13 “are really lacking . . . We have a lot of preschool stuff and stuff for some kids in secondary, but not the six to 13″ age group, Wilder said.

The alliance is also looking at setting up service hubs to make it easier for young people and families to access the help they need. School seems to be an obvious place for them, she added.

But that carries a financial price because the Ministry of Education charges a fee to rent space despite the fact there is “excess space” in many schools in Grey-Bruce, Wilder said.

“We want to explore that a bit, how we can use that excess space . . . so families don’t have to drive” sometimes long distances to get the service they require.

Article ID# 2656847

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