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Indiana families in poverty

Experts brainstorm ways to lift poor Hoosiers up

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By Mary Kuhlman

Research finds 22 percent of Indiana's children are poor, and the problem is even greater in the southern part of the state.

Today, those who advocate for children will discuss approaches to help lift Indiana families out of poverty.

Melissa Fry, director of the Applied Research and Education Center at Indiana University, says after declining in the previous decade, poverty in Southern Indiana rose nearly 60 percent from 2000 to 2010.

She says research also shows a growing trend of concentration of poverty.

"It means poor people have less access to economic opportunity, to quality education, to good child care and more likely to see some of the social problems that we associate with poor communities such as crime, substance abuse or unattended children," she explains.

Fry says despite the high poverty rates, there is a strong working population in Southern Indiana, but many people work for low wages and at multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Fry will share data and discuss approaches to reduce poverty with community leaders, educators, counselors and others who work with children at a luncheon at Indiana University Southeast.

A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found how focusing on opportunities for both children and their parents can improve a family's economic situation.

Fry says supporting families begins with helping parents maintain stable employment in a well-paid job.

"Things that we can do in terms of supporting workforce development and supporting transportation and child care help maintain stability for those families and can really make a difference in helping them move out of poverty," she says.

Fry adds research also suggests that small amounts of cash assistance can make a significant difference in a family's daily life and can prevent a lifetime of economic challenges for the children.

"Maybe it means that instead of needing to drop out of high school and work to help support the family, a child finishes high school and potentially then has an opportunity for more skilled training for a better job," she explains.

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