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Child poverty rates rank high in Arkansas

A new report shows that Arkansas has some of the highest child poverty rates in the entire country and some local organizations are working to improve that.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new report that was released by the US Census Bureau has shown that Arkansas has some of the highest child poverty rates in the country.

Some local organizations have been working to improve the lives of Arkansas families.

At Our House, the staff has served hundreds of families and children, and Ben Goodwin, Executive Director, said it's a need that has just kept on growing.

"In the last three weeks alone, we've had to turn away from our shelter 21 families with 49 children," Goodwin said.

He explained that they currently serve more than 300 children. 

"Unfortunately, it's not surprising that Arkansas child poverty rate we've seen consistently, the whole 14 years that I've been in our house," Goodwin said.

Goodwin also said there are multiple reasons why the state has had such a high rate of child poverty. 

"The job losses, the health issues, the mental health challenges, the disruptions and childcare and employment in transportation, the increase in domestic violence," he explained.

He also said more families have been asking for help for the first time. 

"It's reinforced the importance of what we do, and that we, you know, need to be here to meet that challenge head-on," Goodwin said.

The Annie E Casey Foundation has data that has shown how on average from 2016 to 2020,  more than 1 in 5 Arkansas kids were living in poverty,

 That data means that their household's annual income fell below the national threshold.

Brooke Edwards with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families said there are a few ways to improve things on the state level.

"There are a number of research-backed policies, like tax credits for families with children, tax credits for Arkansans who are working and have low-wage jobs, investing in programs and making them more accessible," Edwards said.

Edwards also added that investing in education, hunger programs, and affordable housing can all help. 

"Without making targeted investments in our state, we're going to stay at the bottom. When it comes to child poverty," she said.

"I think if we all kind of take that communal responsibility, and step up to that challenge as a community, I think we can really do something about this," Goodwin said.

According to the US Census Bureau, Kentucky, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama also have some of the highest child poverty rates in the country.

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