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Report: One in Four Arkansas Kids Live in Poverty

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - One in four Arkansas kids live in poverty today.

Since 2010, a new report found 28,000 children have moved out of that statistic. However, Arkansas still ranks in the bottom ten states for poverty and overall child well-being. 

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families works with the Annie E. Casey Foundation every year to create these rankings of at-risk children by state.

A single mother explains why it is so difficult to get that number down to zero. 

"They used to do it like this when I was little," Shayla Porch tells her oldest daughter, Brookelynn, as she gives her a push on the swing at Our House, a shelter in Little Rock.

"My shoe, mama!," the six year old squealed. "It's coming off!"

Porch enjoys these precious playground moments with Brookelynn, Braylen, 2, and Crystal, 1, giggling and playing pretend.

"Can I get a McDouble?," Porch asks them after she knocks on a playhouse her kids turned into a McDonald's. 

But there was a time when necessities, like food, were hard to come by.

"I've basically been a single parent since the age of 18," Porch said. 

She spent her early adult years in and out of jobs and homes, unable to afford child care, with little support from family and friends.

"I knew that wasn't what I wanted my life to be like," Porch said. "It was depressing." 

She saw it having the same effect on her kids. 

"It's traumatic for them, too."

Our House helped Porch pull her kids out of poverty, but 165,000 Arkansas children, one in four, still remain. 

"Twenty-eight thousand fewer kids in poverty in Arkansas compared to 2010, that's huge," said Ellie Wheeler, the senior policy analyst for Arkansas Advocates. "But big picture, we're really far behind where we should be."

Another statistic linked to higher rates of poverty in the state: about 247,000 kids, one in three, live in single-parent households.

To help working parents, like Porch, stay out of poverty, Wheeler is advocating for change in the 2019 legislative session. 

"We'd love to see an earned income tax credit be part of the conversation," she said. 

The legislature's Tax Reform and Relief Task Force has included an EITC in its suggestions, ahead of the report due to the governor in September. 

As that conversation continues at the state capitol, Porch continues to surprise her teenage self. At almost 25 years old, she has given her kids a roof over their heads, a steady income while pursuing nursing school and food, one in particular becoming a new family tradition. 

"Brooke said, 'Mama, we're not worried about nothing.' I said, 'What are you worried about, Brooke?' And she said, 'Cake!,'" Porch remembered, laughing. "She will be like, 'We just can't get enough love from you!'" 

To see how Arkansas ranks in other areas of economic well-being, health, education, and family and community, click here

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