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States' budget woes hitting programs for kids hard

Now the crisis is reaching the children.

In Arizona, a program that helped blind high school students care for themselves and find jobs is suspended. In South Carolina, all five state-run group homes for kids closed and a program that helped paroled youths get jobs is shuttered. And in Hawaii, a program to reduce child abuse and neglect was cut so much that two years after serving 4,000 families, it now serves 100.

All over the country, the financial crisis has forced states to make historic cuts to close what the National Conference of State Legislatures found was an overall budget gap of $174.1 billion this fiscal year and has lawmakers looking to trim another $89 billion next year. That means slashing services to the one population they've long protected: children.

The scope of the cuts is unprecedented, child advocates say. Hit are programs that addressed everything from childhood obesity to child abuse, and from prenatal care to preschool inspections. Some can't serve as many kids, while others are forced to deal with months-long delays and many programs simply disappear.

"We were really taken aback at just the sheer magnitude of the cuts," said Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, which released a study in January that found programs for children were cut or eliminated in more than 40 states.

And now, advocates worry all the gains they've made in improving children's lives will be lost and juvenile crime, child abuse, child neglect and other problems will climb.

"We will end up with a kid who is killed or will kill someone else," said Karen McLeod, president of Children and Family Services Association-N.C., an organization in North Carolina, where the state's mental health system was cut by $155 million last year. "We are very, very worried about what is going to happen."

In 'Pediatrics' today

• A new analysis of U.S. health data links children's attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables. In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the 1,139 children in the study. Those with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD.

• The number of children hospitalized with dangerous drug-resistant staph infections surged tenfold in recent years, from two cases to 21 cases per 1,000 hospital admissions from 1999 to 2008. Most infections were caught in the community, not in the hospital. The study involved 25 children's hospitals, almost 30,000 children and methicillin-resistant staph infections, called MRSA.

States' budget woes hitting programs for kids hard 05/16/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 16, 2010 10:23pm]
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