When it comes to poverty rates, children in America are losing ground. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book, nearly one in four children in 2012 were living in families below the poverty line. That’s the bad news. The good news is that preschool enrollment is up and children are becoming more proficient in reading and math. Locally, Heart of Florida United Way is working to make improvements in all of these areas.
We’ve distributed over $30 million dollars during the past five years to address hunger and homelessness in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. As the Kids Count Data Book clearly illustrates, it’s an intractable problem that we can’t resolve alone. By working with 20 partner agencies, including Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank and the Salvation Army, we are working to help families with immediate crisis needs and with finding longer term stability.
The gains in education cited by the Kids Count Data Book are certainly encouraging. United Way directly funds 95 Orange/Osceola county children that 4C identifies as qualified for childcare financial assistance. 4C then leverages those dollars for greater impact by using them to draw down public funds, allowing an additional 1,500 children to attend pre-school. Additionally, Women’s Leadership Council is funding myOn for ten Title I Orange county schools. MyOn is an ereader program that assists children with their reading skills and tracks their progress. It also provides them free access to a significant online library.
As the Kids Count Data Book clearly shows us, there is still work to be done. But when it comes to child welfare, some inroads are being made.