County children doing well

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 29, 2014

The month of November has typically been set aside as a month for thanks giving and as a time that garners people to turn their attention away from themselves and onto others who may be in need, and this November in Pike County has been no different.

With the annual release of data from Alabama’s Kids Count from VOICES for Alabama’s Children, Pike County seems to be standing in a better place than data from years past had revealed.

Over the course of the last five years, the number of children living in poverty for Pike County has gone down significantly, decreasing from 2,181 to 1,892.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But, Stephanie McKnight with the Department of Human Resources said the numbers could still be better, and DHR provides several different programs to lessen the strain on families living below the poverty threshold line.

“The Food Assistance Division administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP in Alabama,” McKnight said. “The Food Assistance Program’s purpose is to end hunger and improve nutrition by providing monthly benefits to eligible low income households, which helps them buy the food they need for good health. The eligibility rules and benefit amounts, which are based and determined on income and household size, are dictated by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, Food and Nutrition Service.”

McKnight said applications for food-assistive services are available in the Pike County Department of Human Resources.

And while Pike County seems to be doing its part to keep children and families above the poverty threshold line, Alabama’s Kids Count data revealed that the state as a whole is also reporting a decrease in number of children under the age of 18 living below the federal poverty threshold. The decrease was more than 15,000 children, which in part could be due is to the raising of the poverty threshold for a family of four from $17,463 to $23,283.

Other factors that determine a child’s economic well being include being a part of a vulnerable family, or the first births to unmarried teenage mothers who do not finish high school. The number of first births to unmarried teenage mothers has also decreased by almost 400 births per year for the state as a whole, but for Pike County there was a five-people increase for vulnerable families.

McKnight said other family assistance programs were available for those in need, including temporary cash assistance.

“The Family Assistance Program provides temporary cash assistance for basic needs for low income families with children under age 18 or age 19 if he or she is a full time student in a secondary school or in the equivalent level of vocational or technical training,” McKnight said. “Assistance is issued on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or EBT cards. Recipients are not to use EBT cards in liquor, wine or beer stores, casinos or other gambling establishments, strip clubs, tattoo or body piercing facilities or facilities providing psychic services. Benefits are also not to be used to buy liquor, wine, beer, tobacco products or lottery tickets.”

Not only did Pike County see an increase for the number of vulnerable families but the county also saw an increase in children in a single-parent families.

Pike County reported almost 2,500 children belonging to single-parent families, with a majority of the children coming from African American households. But, again, the Pike County DHR has been working to combat the lack of finances in those home, McKnight said.

“The Child Support Enforcement (CSE or IV-D) Program is a joint Federal and State effort to help families establish paternity (when necessary), obtain orders for payment of child support and secure compliance with child support court orders,” McKnight said. “One of the goals of the Child Support Enforcement Program is to help families achieve self-sufficiency because the non-payment of child support is a key factor contributing to the impoverishment of children.”

While assistive programs are available for those in need, McKnight said the application process was strictly enforced to ensure that those in need were the only ones who received the benefits available to them.