Dec. 9, 2003 Three out of every 10 children in the territory grow up in poverty, and four out of every 10 children in St. Croix are living below the federal poverty line, according to the V.I. Kids Count 2003 report released by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) on Tuesday.
"It is still an astonishingly high level. The (poverty) rates on St. Croix are almost 50 percent," Patricia Rhymer Todman of the University of the Virgin Islands said.
According to the survey, three out of every 10 children on St. Thomas were living below the federal poverty line, while on St. John the figure was one in 10. The disparity between St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John continues to be of concern to the Community Foundation.
"This 14 percent difference translates into 3,350 more children living in poverty on St. Croix than on St. Thomas," the study reported.
The results are "a mixture of good and bad news, and raise many hard questions," CFVI President Dee Baecher-Brown said at a seminar held Monday to discuss the results.
All the news wasnt bad for the Virgin Islands. The statistics for the 2003 report included the most recent data compiled from 2001. Among the improving categories, the infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) dropped from 8.3 in 2000 to 3.4 in 2001. The infant mortality rate is closely linked to poverty and covers deaths of children from birth to age 1. Often children born to mothers who lack prenatal or preventive health care during pregnancy and babies receiving inadequate nutrition or substandard living conditions are most susceptible to death during the first year of life.
Todman said part of the reason the infant death rate may have declined is because of efforts by the V.I. Health Department to address the problem and offer more options to those at risk.
Other good news: Single parent families have decreased slightly from 45.7 percent in 2000 to 43.1 percent in 2001, and the dropout rate of children in the territory decreased from 16.9 to 15.7 among 16-19 year olds.
However, according to the Kids Count report, a large number of children surveyed reported not attending high school, or dropping out of school before completing the eighth grade.
"While this number actually reflects a 13 percent decrease in the dropout rate from the previous year, 1,167 youth between the ages of 16 and 19 did not finish high school, and nearly 500 reported not going past the eighth grade," the report stated.
The median income of families increased almost $9,000 from $28,553 in 2000 to $37,539 in 2001. However, the disparities in earnings by race
and gender are still staggering.
Virgin Islands families still earn much less than U.S. families yet must stretch their dollars to accommodate one of the highest cost-of-living rates in the nation.
Comparable median family income for the United States was $52,113, nearly $15,000 more income available to support children's and family needs," the study stated.
Additionally, there is a large disparity between the earnings of whites when compared with blacks in the Virgin Islands. The median income of a white family living in the Virgin Islands in 2001 was $61,041, while black families in the Virgin Islands earned $35,253 little more than half their white counterparts.
Additionally, men earned a median income of $28,367 compared with women who earned $20,771. The study reported that women were paid 76 cents for every dollar paid to men.
The study also found that a smaller number of children in the territory are growing up in a traditional two-parent household. Only 33 percent of the islands' nearly 35,000 children are living with two parents in a "married couple family."
When compared to 1990s figure of 54.4 percent, the trends are ominous indeed. "Married couple families provide economic and emotional stability for children under age 18. Children growing up in these families are more likely to show higher-education attainment, lower levels of teenage pregnancy and drug experimentation, and decreased risky behaviors," the report states.
Children coping with parental absence of one or both parents may have problems in areas of adjustment and functioning, including health, psychological well-being, and educational attainment and risk behaviors.
In addition to the report, the Community Foundation presented a number
of awards to individuals and organizations helping to make a better life for the Virgin Islands' children. The awards are as follows:
Silverbells and Cockleshells Awards, 2003
Silver Awards (2 Awards of $500)
Program: Lorraine Kidz
Individual: Lorraine Mason, St. Thomas
Program: PASS Project After-School Scholars
Agency: Womens Coalition Inc., St. Croix
Bronze Awards (9 Awards of $250)
Program: Readers are Leaders
Sponsor: Carabana, St. John
Program: Eulalie Rivera Steppers
Sponsor: Eulalie Rivera Elementary School, St. Croix
Program: Friends of the Library
Sponsor: Enid Baa Library, St. Thomas
Program: Future Business Leaders of America
Sponsor: CAHS (Cecilia M. Walters-Smith), St. Thomas
Sponsor: Audi Henneman, St. Thomas
Program: Paternity Project
Sponsor: St. Croix Landmark Society
Program: Camp Arawak Youth Program
Sponsor: Beatrice York, St. Croix
Program: St. Croix Swimming Association
Sponsor: Dolphins Swim Team
Program: St. Thomas Youth Soccer Association
Sponsor: Tanya Ward Benjamin
Five Special Commendations:
Program: Cheetahs Track Team
Sponsor: Dale Joseph
Program: St. Andrews Youth Program
Sponsor: St. Andrews Episcopal Church
Program: We From Up Street (WFUS)
Sponsor: Naomi Monsanto
Program: Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
Sponsor: Dr. Kimberly Moore
Sponsor: St. Thomas Humane Society
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