TOPEKA — Minority children in Kansas are more likely to live in low-income areas and have limited educational attainment than their white peers, according to a report released Monday.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Race for Results” reports minority children and those born to immigrant parents might face barriers white children don’t. That can mean adverse health effects and poorer educational and economic attainment, said John Wilson, a former state legislator and vice president of advocacy at Kansas Action for Children.
“It’s clear from the research that the places where kids in particular spend their time — where they live, where they learn, where they play — it can have a significant impact on their health,” Wilson said.
In Kansas, 77 percent of the state’s children live in low-poverty areas. That’s true for only 51 percent of black children and 53 percent of Latino children, according to the report.
Wilson said these children are also more likely to face stressers, like parents who have limited economic opportunities or education. They’re less likely to be ready for school. Those children might have physical or mental health problems later in life, or they may struggle in school and have fewer employment options as adults, he said.
“I think the key point is that we need to look at this data and see different outcomes among racial groups and see that we need targeted solutions along those disparities,” Wilson said.
Wilson said lawmakers could address disparities in Kansas by investing in early childhood education and programs aimed at preventing children from entering the child welfare system. He said policies also should prevent immigrant children from being separated from their parents, and he advocated increased access to child care so parents can ensure their children are safe while they’re at work.
“If a child can spend 10 hours a day in a safe place while they’re learning and have high-quality learning, they’re more likely to have healthy brain development,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he thought children nationally faced challenges because of biased institutions, like segregated neighborhoods in the 20th century.
“It’s these structures that have been built over time that seem to magnify disparities.” Wilson said.
Gov. Sam Brownback and the Department for Children and Families were not available for comment.