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About 500 people attended the 8th annual Community Forum on the Report on the Conditions of Children held Nov. 19 at Cal State Fullerton. Photo By Kelly Lacefield

Poverty on the Rise

More Orange County Children are Facing Financial Hardship

December 1, 2009

By Mimi Ko Cruz

About 500 social service workers, administrators, policy makers, nonprofit agency representatives and health providers convened Nov. 19 to pore over the grim statistics unveiled in the 15th annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County.

Michelle Berelowitz, director of the university’s Center for Community Collaboration, explains the report. Photo by Kelly Lacefield

Among the findings: an increasing number of children are living in poverty; child abuse reports are on the rise; more youths, ages 8 through 18, are joining gangs; and more juviniles are committing crimes and getting arrested.

Those who offer programs for the homeless, sick and needy in the county said their organizations' budgets and services have been cut due to the economic climate and to dwindling donations.

The annual report helps the agancies spot trends and set priorities, said Michelle Berelowitz, director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Community Collaboration. The center and the Orangewood Children’s Foundation produced the report, which is sponsored by the County of Orange and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County.

“Government and community agencies use the report’s data to apply for private foundation grants so that they can help reverse the troubling trends,” Berelowitz said.

One of the forum’s presenters, Michael Riley, discusses some of the findings in the Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County. Photo by Kelly Lacefield

The report is filled with statistics on the health, economic status, safety and education of Orange County’s children. Agencies throughout the county say it helps them determine what can be done to improve children’s lives.

“It helps child advocates and service providers prioritize services, set benchmarks for improvement and track the well-being of children over time to see if their efforts are making a difference,” Berelowitz said.

Michael Riley, chief deputy director of the county's Social Service Agency, agreed: "Whatever we can do to provide services to combat poverty, the better off we’re all going to be.”

This year’s 204-page report can be viewed online. To obtain a copy of the free book, contact the Center for Community Collaboration at 657-278-5681.

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