Challenges await those who serve children, families

December 27, 2013

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
 A recent “state of the community” study shows emerging trends of children and families in Greater New Britain, providing insight for local communities, service providers and grantmakers.
The study, funded by the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain and facilitated by Connecticut Voices for Children, reveals challenges that local communities, grant makers and service providers face in the areas of demographics, family economic security, school discipline, K-12 education, health, housing and early childhood care. Connecticut Voices, a research-based think tank, works to advance policies that benefit the state’s children, youth and families.
The study focused on the communities of Southington, Plainville, Berlin and New Britain, which the Community Foundation serves.
“There is so much data thrown around—we hope to focus on explaining that data and policies that come out of it,” said Edie Joseph, a senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices. “All of these issues affect children and families.”
One finding in the study was the change in demographics—the number of young people will decline in Connecticut, especially in Plainville. For instance, the dependency ratio in Plainville was 59 in 2010, but will increase to 76 by 2025, according to the study. Joseph said the dependency ratio represents the number of nonworkers (children and retirees) per 100 workers.
In Southington, the dependency ratio also will increase from 72 nonworkers per 100 workers to 81 nonworkers per 100 workers by 2025. With the large rapidly growing age population come greater demands for public services for retirees.
“We should be concerned about senior services,” said Jim Williamson, the president of the Community Foundation, who said the dependency ratio in Plainville struck him. “Plainville is growing older faster than the other communities.”
Although the study recognizes the need to strengthen support for retirees, its findings also recognize the growing importance of investing in children, according to the Community Foundation. Connecticut Voices reported in its study that the state experienced a 30 percent increase in child poverty from 2007 to 2012. In 2011, 10 percent of children in Plainville lived in poverty, 4 percent in Southington, 12 percent in Berlin and 31 percent in New Britain.
In response to the increase in child poverty statewide, Connecticut Voices reported that making strategic investments in effective programs serves as a solution to this problem. For instance, the study noted that expanding access to high-quality early care and education serves as a next step in addressing the issue of poverty. The study reports 30 percent of 3 and 4-year-olds as well as 84 percent of infants and toddlers living in families that earn less than 75 percent of the state median income did not receive subsidized early care and education.
Williamson said the study will help the Community Foundation examine these findings to take a more in-depth look at where funding goes in order to make wise grantmaking decisions. Since 2006, the Community Foundation’s First Years First initiative has invested over a million dollars in early childhood development programming, said the press release.
“This is the continuation of a journey,” said Williamson, adding the data results affirm the foundation’s ongoing “First Years First” investment in early childhood development. “We think we are focused on the right thing, and we will use the study to raise more questions—the more conversations, the more consensus on what needs to be done and how to do it.”
For more information on the “State of the Community” study, visit cfgnb.org.

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