Image on front page: Pamela Marsales and Ute Wright at the wetland area South of Ritchie Falls on the HCRT. Photo by Hugh Taylor

Quarter of kids in county from low ­­­income households

By Chad Ingram

Twenty-three per cent of children in Haliburton County come from low-income households.

That sobering stat was thrown at county councillors during a report on the poverty reduction strategy for the county and City of Kawartha Lakes at a March 23 county council meeting.

The report on children and youth was the fifth and final report in the strategy which has been ongoing since 2012. Other reports dealt with housing transportation food security and employment and education.

While 18 per cent of children in the City of Kawartha Lakes come from low-income households that figure for Haliburton County is 23 per cent.

Low-income is defined as having an after-tax household income that is less than 50 per cent of the median family income.

According to Statistics Canada the median Canadian household income for 2013 was $76000.

In 2015 170000 meals were served by Food for Kids at county schools. Those meals are universal – available to all students – to reduce stigma.

For the City of Kawartha Lakes that figure was 585000.

“But what happens during March Break or during the summer months?” asked Aaron Mulcaster data analysis co-ordinator for the Ontario Early Years Centre who presented the report to councillors.

The report suggests the expansion of nutrition programming in the community.

Another finding was  no licensed child care spaces for children under the age of 18 months in the county.

“There are 42 in the City of Kawartha Lakes and there are zero in Haliburton County” Mulcaster said.

“There are no licensed day care spaces for them and their families.” Since many new mothers take a year of maternity leave Mulcaster said the lack of licensed spaces for children under 18 months is particularly problematic for those just off maternity leave.

The poverty reduction strategy report recommends an increase in the number of licensed day care spaces and also recommends council advocate for universal day care.

“It would allow mostly mothers to re-enter the workforce after having a child” Mulcaster  said.

The report also emphasizes investment in early childhood education with Mulcaster pointing out that the first six years of life are crucial to brain development and function and future academic performance.

Early development instruments (EDIs) used to measure development in kindergarten students look at five domains including physical health and well-being emotional maturity social competence language and cognitive development and communication and general knowledge.

For the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County 28 per cent of students were considered “vulnerable” according to the EDIs meaning they scored in the lowest 10th percentile in at least one of the domains.

That “vulnerable” figure jumps to 50 per cent for children from households with a family income of $30000 or less.

The report showed a direct correlation between those EDI results and results for standardized math tests taken at the Grade 3 level.

The high school graduation rate for City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County is 83 per cent.

Other recommendations in the report include funding and expansion of dental services supporting no-cost and low-cost recreational library and community events for children and families and supporting and promoting mentorship programs for children and youth.

Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes share social and housing services.