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January 23, 2012

By Tiffany Holland/Danville Register & Bee 

Jan. 21, 2012

Danville once again has highest child poverty rate in the
state, according to the non-profit group Voices for Virginia's Children.

In 2010, 41 percent of children in Danville were in poverty -
a 5 percent increase from 2007. This is slightly higher than Petersburg and 5
percent higher than Martinsville. It is almost triple the state average.

How does the city plan to battle the problem?

Dozens of programs are in place for lower income children in
Danville, with many believing education is key to helping them out of
poverty.

"Living in poverty is very stressful and that is not good for
young children," said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, executive director of Smart
Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania in an email. "With parent education programs
like the Incredible Years, we can help parents to cope with stress and minimize
the effects on children ages 3 to 5."

Smart Beginnings is an organization promoting programs to help
youth with early childhood education. The Incredible Years program, which will
be offered this fall, helps teach good behavior in children. Smart Beginnings
also supports programs like Book Buddies with the city and county school
systems. This has volunteers reading with children that need extra help.

Children in poverty does not just affect education, but their
entire life, according to Andy Tyrell, Danville Public Schools assistant
superintendent of instruction.

Therefore the school system is working with a variety of new
programs to help economically disadvantaged children both in school and after
the bell rings.

"When addressing poverty," said Tyrell. "Whether it is
generational, situational or temporary, from a K-12 perspective, it is easy to
focus on the educational implications of poverty, but poverty is a far-reaching
reality that affects the child in all aspects of life - emotional, social and
physical - as well as academically."

One of the major focuses for the school system outside the
classroom is on health and wellness.

A grant-funded program, Project Connect, provides outreach and
enrollment efforts for families who have children in state-sponsored health
insurance programs. There is also the Universal Breakfast Program that provides
free breakfast for all the highest poverty schools.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, 73 percent
of Danville Public School students are eligible for free or reduced-price school
lunches. For a two-person household, a student is eligible for free or reduced
lunch if the annual income is beneath $27, 214.

A large chunk of children in poverty come from single-parent
homes - 28 percent according to the Voices for Virginia's Children results.
Statistics from Smart Beginnings say in the Dan River Region almost 20 percent
of women give birth without a 12th grade education. More than 20 percent of
women will not receive prenatal care in their first trimester and 60-70 babies
are born annually to teens ages 15-17.

With levels of poverty in Danville children so high, community
support from programs like First State Bank's "Fill the Bus Campaign," Title 1
funding and other grant programs are needed more than ever, with many of the
volunteers hoping the children eventually find their way out of a situation they
can't control. Danville once again has highest child poverty rate in the state, according to the non-profit group Voices for Virginia's Children.

In 2010, 41 percent of children in Danville were in poverty - a 5 percent increase from 2007. This is slightly higher than Petersburg and 5 percent higher than Martinsville. It is almost triple the state average.

How does the city plan to battle the problem?

Dozens of programs are in place for lower income children in Danville, with many believing education is key to helping them out of poverty.

"Living in poverty is very stressful and that is not good for young children," said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, executive director of Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania in an email. "With parent education programs like the Incredible Years, we can help parents to cope with stress and minimize the effects on children ages 3 to 5."

Smart Beginnings is an organization promoting programs to help youth with early childhood education. The Incredible Years program, which will be offered this fall, helps teach good behavior in children. Smart Beginnings also supports programs like Book Buddies with the city and county school systems. This has volunteers reading with children that need extra help.

Children in poverty does not just affect education, but their entire life, according to Andy Tyrell, Danville Public Schools assistant superintendent of instruction.

Therefore the school system is working with a variety of new programs to help economically disadvantaged children both in school and after the bell rings.

"When addressing poverty," said Tyrell. "Whether it is generational, situational or temporary, from a K-12 perspective, it is easy to focus on the educational implications of poverty, but poverty is a far-reaching reality that affects the child in all aspects of life - emotional, social and physical - as well as academically."

One of the major focuses for the school system outside the classroom is on health and wellness.

A grant-funded program, Project Connect, provides outreach and enrollment efforts for families who have children in state-sponsored health insurance programs. There is also the Universal Breakfast Program that provides free breakfast for all the highest poverty schools.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, 73 percent of Danville Public School students are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. For a two-person household, a student is eligible for free or reduced lunch if the annual income is beneath $27, 214.

A large chunk of children in poverty come from single-parent homes - 28 percent according to the Voices for Virginia's Children results. Statistics from Smart Beginnings say in the Dan River Region almost 20 percent of women give birth without a 12th grade education. More than 20 percent of women will not receive prenatal care in their first trimester and 60-70 babies are born annually to teens ages 15-17.

With levels of poverty in Danville children so high, community support from programs like First State Bank's "Fill the Bus Campaign," Title 1 funding and other grant programs are needed more than ever, with many of the volunteers hoping the children eventually find their way out of a situation they can't control.