Child Poverty on the Rise in Delaware - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Child Poverty on the Rise in Delaware

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SEAFORD, Del. - Athena O'Neil is only 8-years old, but already she's gone through more than many adults. She's undergone two open-heart surgeries, and a recent fire has put her family out of their Seaford home. As a result, Athena - along with her extended family of seven others have crowded into a hotel room at the Days Inn on Route 13.

"We can't stand the hotel," she said. "We don't have any money though so we can't go anywhere else. So the hotel is only where we can go."

This is a snapshot of the poverty problem in Delaware. A recent study from the University of Delaware shows that O'Neil is far from alone. The number of kids in poverty has continued to rise steadily, jumping from about 35,000 in 2012 to just about 49,000 in 2014. When you look at percentages, Delaware is just a tick above the national average at 22.1 percent. The national average for childhood poverty is 21.2 percent.

For a family of four, the federal poverty threshold sits at just over $24,000. Meanwhile a one-parent, two-child household has a threshold of just over $19,000.

The rate is even more severe for southern Delaware than upstate. In Kent and Sussex Counties, the combined poverty rate is at just over 24 percent. Meanwhile, the rate is just under 21 percent in New Castle County.

Children of single-family households are particularly vulnerable to poverty, at a rate of just under 41 percent. This compares to a rate of just 10 percent for children in two-parent households.

O'Neil's grandfather Christopher Sanders said he wanted to fight his way out of poverty for the sake of his grandchildren, although he said there are challenges.

"I want to make sure she's happy instead of sad," he said. "I want to move forward with all of them. Make them all happy. Put them in a decent home and that way they can just grow up as kids instead of living out of motels every day."

The report said that childhood poverty is a problem nationwide -- impacting over 20 percent of all children. 

"Low-income children suffer a disproportionate share of deprivation, hardship, and negative outcomes," the report read. "Not only do low-income children have access to fewer material goods than upper or middle-class children, but they are also more likely to experience poor health and to die during childhood."

The report continued, saying that children living in poverty do worse in school as well.

"In school, these children score lower on standardized tests," it read. "And are more likely to be retained in grade or to drop out."

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