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From the York Dispatch:

York County -- and all of Pennsylvania -- is getting "a mixed bag of results" when it comes to children'seducation and welfare, officials said.

Nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvanian children lived in low-income families in 2008, according to a SchoolReadiness report released earlier this month by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

The fact that the state -- and York County -- has a significant amount of young children in poor homes is "very worrisome," said spokeswoman Kathy Geller Myers.

"Children living in poverty now may lead to poor nutrition, chronic health problems and experience more difficulty in schools," she said. "Economic liability is paramount to a child's success in school.

"The study looked at factors including low-income families, insurance, subsidies for children and education level of mothers, said Myers.

Pennsylvania lost ground on six of the 16 categories analyzed, according to the study, and York Countymirrored those results.

'Poor' result in York: In York County 8,716 children younger than 5 were members of poor orlow-income families in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. That's up from 6,860 inrecorded in 2000.The percentage of children younger than 5 living in poverty in York County increased from 30.2 percent to 33.1 percent.

The income data compared numbers from the 2000 Census and 2006-08 American Community Survey,Myers said, noting the study defines "low-income" as $44,100 for a family of four.

At the same time, the county had 478 fewer children receiving subsidized child care from August 2009 toSeptember 2010, Myers said.

The state's lean budget was to blame for the lack of resources and "tough decisions that had to be made," which included the decline in the number of subsidized child care slots available to theunderserved, said Myers.

"Kids don't get a 'do-over,'" Myers said. "They'll only be 2, 3, 4 years old once. So it's important tocontinue to invest in high quality-early learning experiences for them."

On the bright side: Not all news was bad for York County, according to the report.But even "good news" wasn't all that impressive, said Myers.

The availability of child care slots in York County deemed "high-quality" has expanded slightly from 468 children in 2009 to 511 children in 2010, according to a "snapshot" taken of child care providers in June2009 and June 2010.

Whether child care is considered high-quality is determined by the state or national child care associations, Myers said, noting factors include the number of staff members who hold college degrees.

Although York's numbers of quality providers increased a bit this year, the entire state needs to work onimproving the number of "high-quality" providers made available to children, Myers said."If you look at the state's average, even though York did see an increase, the number is still below thestate's 3.5 percent rate, and not all that impressive," she said.

Services in York

York County provides hundreds of low-income pregnant mothers, infants, toddlers andpre-kindergarten students with free educational, health and social services through Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

The programs, combined, serve 627 children, "but there is still a waiting list in the hundreds," said Jennifer Molloy, director of York County's Early Head Start and Head Start Programs.

"It's definitely worrisome (to see the waiting list), but we're funded federally and by the state so we can only serve the amount of people we have grant money for," she said.

There has always has been more of a demand for early childhood services than Pennsylvania has been able to serve, said Michael Race, spokesman with the state's Department of Public Welfare.He noted that until 2002-03, state funding for the Head Start program didn't exist and that people need to look at the issue from a long term perspective.

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