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Few bright spots in new TN KIDS COUNT Report

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NASHVILLE - While state unemployment has dropped nearly 2 percent since this time last year, the latest KIDS COUNT report shows that Tennessee children have greater needs for support.

One in four Tennessee families lived in poverty in 2010 - a 4 percent increase since 2007 - according to the report.

Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, says many families still are challenged by income shortfalls.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of children receiving services that are associated with poverty. And this is very important so children have some services and support; so they have adequate nutrition to help them be able to develop and be successful in school."

O'Neal says there's no question that more funding is needed so the state can do a better job of helping children from families with income and education challenges. She says 44 percent of all dollars spent in Tennessee in 2010 and 2011 for children's and youth programs were federal dollars.

"The report really highlights how much the state relies on federal funding to provide essential services and support, so children have the opportunity to be healthy, educated, nurtured, safe and engaged in activities to help them be able to succeed in school and be productive adults."

While the report pinpoints many areas of concern, O'Neal says not all of the news is bad.

"There is some good news we see in the report, as we've had reductions in child death rates and in infant mortality in Tennessee and low birth-weight babies really being stabilized. So, we can try to see some improvements in some of those outcomes."

O'Neal says the state budget is an important tool that determines how Tennessee best uses its resources to ensure that the next generation can grow up healthy and successful. One of her hopes is that pre-kindergarten programs can be funded again as state revenues improve, getting children off to a good start as they enter school.

The KIDS COUNT data is online at tn.gov/tccy.
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Economy, Education, KIDS COUNT, Tennessee, TNNS
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