and how are the children? now available on-line (December 17, 2010)


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WCCC Spotlight     December 17, 2010

A frequent reminder that our kids and families matter!

Bulletin from the
Poverty Institute
RI Works
no longer
limited to
12 months
 poverty institute logoOn November 29th, a Superior Court judge ruled that DHS cannot limit hardship benefits to 12 months.  

    As a result, families who are currently receiving hardship benefits should continue to be able to receive this assistance as long as a hardship exists and the parent is complying with work activities. Hardship benefits are provided for six months for the first period of eligibility and then in three-month increments. Recipients have to reapply for benefits at the end of these periods. 

    Families in need of cash assistance who may have been turned away in the past because they had "used up" 12 months of hardship benefits can reapply for assistance.
    Families denied hardship benefits should contact RI Legal Services: (401) 274-2652 x 131.
   For more information about Hardship Benefits, read the Poverty Institute's fact sheet


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Kids still having a tough time in region,
statistics point to both hope and concern


Though some conditions have improved, a surprising number of children in Washington County still live in significant poverty, witness or experience domestic abuse, require significant mental health and special needs services, and/or need child care, according to an "end-of-decade" report that was released this week.

      The Coalition for Children issued our fourth "and how are the children?" status of children in the region report at Sunshine Child Development Center in North Kingstown.  Sunshine Child Development Center is the region's only KIDS Connect site for therapeutic child care for children with special needs.

      The new 100-page report provides information both by town and county on eleven important economic, health, child care, and housing indicators for children.

      "The Coalition has been monitoring and trying to improve the last decade's statistics regarding children," notes Coalition Coordinator Susan Orban. "We're taking one last look as we prepare for next decade's challenges.

      "On one hand, I think most people will be shocked how much poverty, hunger, unemployment, and abuse exists in pockets of Washington County. On the other hand, we've made some great strides in certain areas. For most people, Washington County is still a wonderful place to live."

Washington County families were hit by the recession

      "One of the first warning signs we look for is family income, and Washington County was not immune from the recession," Orban points out. The County's median family income fell 10.2% from $94,071 in 2008 to $84,505 in 2009.

      Similarly, unemployment rates in Washington County "skyrocketed" during the past three years. In 2009, unemployment in Washington County reached one in 11 people, 9.1%, she adds.

      The number of homeless students in the county's seven school districts is up 82% (twice the national average) from 141 students in 2005-2006 to 257 students in the 2008-2009 school year.

      The new report indicates growing poverty in Washington County given increased enrollment in "safety net programs". Since 2001, enrollment is up:

  • 87.9% in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly Food Stamps (due to both rising needs and less stringent eligibility criteria)
  • 38.4% in the Free/Reduced School Meal Program, and
  • 49.4% in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

      In 2009, 1 in 5 of the county's children were covered by Medical Assistance, an increase of 25.2% since 2001.

      On the other hand, Orban says, stiff new reforms enacted to the state's cash assistance program dropped 67.8% of impoverished children from its rolls since 2001.

Mental health shows significant need, but local partial hospitalization program closes

      The new study reports that during 2008 & 2009 in Washington County:

  • 303 children in crisis received emergency mental health evaluations
  • 130 children and youth were hospitalized for psychiatric reasons

      In 2009 in Washington County:

  • Almost 200 children and youth were served by the new West Bay FCCP (Family Care Community Partnership)
  • 121 area children and youth received CAITS (Child & Adolescent Intensive Treatment Services) from South Shore Center or Family Service of RI

      At the same time, however, due to state budget cuts and reforms, the region's only community mental health center (South Shore Mental Health Center) was forced to cut most of its children's programs, including a partial hospitalization program.  South Shore is currently in the process of rebuilding its children's programs.

Not all Washington County residents are safe in their own homes

      From 2007-2009, state and local police reported:

  • 1,544 arrests for domestic violence
  • 560 visible injuries to victims
  • 214 Restraining Order/No Contact Order violations
  • 472 children witnessing domestic violence incidents

      During the same time period, DCYF reported 606 "indicated" child abuse and neglect incidents, an increase of 45% between 2008-09. DCYF has placed 131 Washington County children out of their homes.

Teen pregnancy declines, but still high in Westerly

      One of the bright spots among the statistics is the drop in youth giving birth to babies. Birth rates to young teens (age 15-17) in Washington County have been declining steadily, from 12.1 in 1996-2000 to 7.0 in 2004-2008. Despite the decline, however, teen births remain high in Westerly. 

Coalition issues "wish list" for Washington County children

      "As we begin with fresh numbers from the 2010 census, the Coalition has put together a "wish list" we hope will be met by the end of the next decade," Orban says.

      The list includes:

  • Provide adequate safety net services for families with children
  • Assure working parents have access to quality child care for their children
  • Protect children from violence
  • Reduce risky youth behaviors
  • Expand continuum of local behavioral health and special needs services
  • Build affordable housing resources, eradicate homelessness among children.

      The full "and how are the children?" report can be downloaded for free here.

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What you need to know about the WCCC

The Washington County Coalition for Children brings together everyone in Washington County who cares about children. The Coalition is known for: 

  • Tracking and publishing the trends in children's issues, and convening public meetings around the needs.
  • Convening monthly meetings that bring together more than 40 organizations
    to tackle the most compelling problems facing children and their families.
  • Establishing a website to help parents of children with mental health and substance abuse problems connect with local treatment providers
  • Sponsoring an annual "How Are the Children?" Forum, a must-attend event
    for anyone working on children's issues: community leaders, advocates, and elected officials.
  • Holding monthly workshops to help doctors and mental health professionals care for children with behavioral health problems and  developmental disabilities.
  • Organizing a holiday gift drive for teens in conjunction with Casey's Grill & Bar in Wakefield.
     The Coalition achieves astounding results, with just one part-time staff person, dedicated volunteers, and administrative support from VNS Home Health Services.
We cover all Coalition costs through voluntary contributions
of Coalition members, grants, and your generous donations.

     For more information about the Washington County Coalition for Children, go to or contact Coalition Coordinator Susan Orban at or (401) 788-2347.