By Chad ingram
Twenty-three per cent of children inHaliburton County come from low-income households.
That sobering stat was thrown at countycouncillors during a report on the poverty reduction strategy for the countyand City of Kawartha Lakes at a March 23 county council meeting.
The report on children and youth was thefifth and final report in the strategy which has been ongoing since 2012.Other reports dealt with housing transportation food security and employmentand education.
While 18 per cent of children in the Cityof Kawartha Lakes come from low-income households that figure for HaliburtonCounty is 23 per cent.
Low-income is defined as having anafter-tax household income that is less than 50 per cent of the median familyincome.
According to Statistics Canada the medianCanadian household income for 2013 was $76000.
In 2015 170000 meals were served by Foodfor Kids at county schools. Those meals are universal – available to allstudents – to reduce stigma.
For the City of Kawartha Lakes that figurewas 585000.
“But what happens during March Break orduring the summer months?” asked Aaron Mulcaster data analysis co-ordinatorfor the Ontario Early Years Centre who presented the report tocouncillors.
The report suggests the expansion ofnutrition programming in the community.
Another finding was no licensed childcare spaces forchildren under the age of 18 months in the county.
“There are 42 in the City of Kawartha Lakesand there are zero in Haliburton County” Mulcaster said. “There are nolicensed daycare spaces for them and their families.” Since many new motherstake a year of maternity leave Mulcaster said the lack of licensed spaces forchildren under 18 months is particularly problematic for those just offmaternity leave.
The poverty reduction strategy reportrecommends an increase in the number of licensed daycare spaces and alsorecommends council advocate for universal daycare.
“It would allow mostly mothers tore-enter the workforce after having a child” Mulcaster said.
The report also emphasizes investment inearly childhood education with Mulcaster pointing out that the first six yearsof life are crucial to brain development and function as well as future academicperformance.
Early development instruments (EDIs) usedto measure development in kindergarten students look at five domains includingphysical health and well-being emotional maturity social competence languageand cognitive development and communication and general knowledge.
For the City of Kawartha Lakes andHaliburton County 28 per cent of students were considered “vulnerable”according to the EDIs meaning they scored in the lowest 10th percentile in atleast one of the domains.
That “vulnerable” figure jumps to 50 percent for children from households with a family income of $30000 or less.
The report shows a direct correlationbetween those EDI results and results for standardized math tests taken at theGrade 3 level.
The high school graduation rate for City ofKawartha Lakes and Haliburton County is 83 per cent.
Other recommendations in the report includefunding and expansion of dental services supporting no-cost and low-costrecreational library and community events for children and families andsupporting and promoting mentorship programs for children and youth.
Haliburton County and the City of KawarthaLakes share social and housing services.