Report reveals racial disparities among children in NJ

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Urban News Staff Reports

A report released by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) uncovers how race and location are playing a role in the well-being of children in the Garden State.

Accroding to the report, in New Jersey, nearly a quarter of Black and Hispanic children live in poor families, defined as earning just over $25,000 for a family of four. On average, 14 percent of New Jersey’s children live in poverty, compared to 7 percent of white and Asian children.

“We’ve known for a long time that children of color are more likely to face poorer outcomes in every domain of child well-being and state leaders have become increasingly focused on addressing these disparities,” Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of ACNJ, said. “We commend the state’s efforts to tackle these issues head on and acknowledge that change does not happen overnight. Our hope is that the data dashboard serves as a baseline for policymakers to assess the impact of current efforts to ensure that every child has a pathway to a productive future.”

Statewide reforms have resulted in dramatic declines in both New Jersey’s number of youth admitted to detention centers annually as well as the number of children living in foster care.

Black children comprise 41 percent of the total number of NJ children in foster care, despite occupying less than 15 percent of the state’s total child population. Nearly a quarter of New Jersey’s foster care population are Hispanic.

Black and Hispanic youth make up 63 percent and 23 percent, respectively, of the total statewide juvenile detention center admissions. Atlantic, Burlington, Essex and Mercer have the highest percentages of Black youth admitted to juvenile detention, representing more than 70 percent of admissions. 

Disparities continue in maternal and infant health in the area of prenatal care, infant mortality and low birthweights. Statewide, 8 percent of babies are born with low birthweights, but among black newborns, that figure is 12 percent.

In New Jersey, babies born to black mothers are over three times more likely to die before their first birthday at a rate of 9.6 per 1,000 births compared to white babies at 2.6 per 1,000 births. Three counties, Atlantic, Camden and Mercer, had double-digit black infant mortality rates, at
14.5, 14.2 and 15.1 per 1,000 births.

Between 2013 and 2017, the percentage of expectant mothers receiving prenatal care
beginning in their first trimester dipped from 79 to 75 percent. Among Black and Hispanic
mothers, receipt of early prenatal care fell below the state average at 60 and 65 percent,
respectively. In Mercer County, fewer than half of Black and Hispanic pregnant women received
early prenatal care.

“First Lady Tammy Murphy has prioritized reducing rates of infant and maternal mortality as
well as addressing corresponding racial disparities,” Zalkind said. “And the state has worked
hard to improve systems to help vulnerable and at-risk children and youth. New Jersey’s
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) has significantly reduced the number of youth
locked up without risk to public safety. And the state Judiciary and the NJ Department of
Children and Families have a renewed focus on racial disparities in children in out-of-home
placement.”

Kids Count is a national and state-by-state statistical effort to track the state of children,
sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a
statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.

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