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Efforts Underway in Wisconsin to Help Black Children Beat the Odds Against Them

Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

Black kids across Wisconsin face an uphill battle, according to yet another study.

The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families found that “Wisconsin’s African-American children not only fare worse than African-American kids elsewhere, but they also suffer extreme inequalities when compared to white kids in Wisconsin.”

WCCF examined 12 indicators of children’s success during each stage of life. The indicators were originally presented in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results report, which cited Wisconsin as the worst state in the nation for the well-being of black children.

The chart below shows black children in Wisconsin are in the lowest quartile on nearly all measures.

Credit Wisconsin Council on Children & Families
The status of Wisconsin's children.

Compared to black children in other states, Wisconsin comes in last for four indicators of child well-being. These include to delayed childbearing (females age 15-19 who delay childbearing until adulthood), young adults ages 19 to 26 who are in school or working, children who live in two-parent families and adults age 25 to 29 who have completed at least an associate’s degree.

When comparing black children to their white peers in Wisconsin, WCCF's report found:

- 30% of Wisconsin's white children live in households below 200% of the poverty level, while nearly 80% of black children do.
- White adults ages 25-29 are three time more likely to have an associate's degree or higher than their black peers.
- White children are nearly six times more likely to be proficient in 8th grade math than black students.

The Wisconsin Council on Children & Families recommends that Wisconsin take steps to reduce its racial disparities. General principles, outlined by the group, to reduce disparities include having a two-generation strategy that supports parents and at-risk kids; don't place blame, instead accept a shared responsibility; and efforts must be driven by urgency and sustained long-term.

The one positive finding from the report is that 64 percent of black kids here now attend preschool.

Neighborhood House of Milwaukee is one place that offers early childhood education. The staff works to give kids a richer start in life.

Phan Sanford, manager of early childhood services, says early childhood education is crucial because it “helps families set the foundation for the children’s learning that extends into kindergarten, elementary years and all the way to their career.”

“At Neighborhood House, we promote life-long learning and the ability to be curious and to continue to learn,” Sanford says. “I think that plants an intrinsic little seed inside children for them to have the internal passion to continue to learn and to continue to explore, ask questions and grow.”

Sanford explains that children with these characteristics are likely to excel in elementary school, pursue higher education and, hopefully, have good careers and contribute to their communities.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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