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Utah events target poor children

Child poverty in Utah is something people know about but most don't really believe, says a University of Utah faculty member who got a dose of reality on the subject by volunteering at Neighborhood House.

"Many children live on one meal a day," said Jennifer Bauman, associate professor of undergraduate studies at the U. "What is sad is that their needs and deficiencies are in all areas, not just food, food clothing and shelter."

Every child welfare study shows that child poverty is increasing in Utah. Most recent data from the U.S. Census show that 14.8 percent of Utah children live in poverty, that's 1.4 percent more than in 2000.

Now that Bauman has put some faces on those statistics, she recognizes that being poor dictates the type of coping skills the children acquire, how time is spent with their parents, how school goes, what goals they set and what dreams they have, she said.

She also recognizes that awareness among a lot more people needs to be raised if solutions are ever to be found.

Bauman has dedicated herself to that effort, and the U. has set aside this week as Child Poverty Awareness Week. The event, sponsored by the Learning, Engagement, Achievement and Progress (LEAP) program, is the first such public discussion of the issue on the campus. All activities are free and open to the public.

A special donation drive for school supplies to benefit the children of the Road Home and Neighborhood House will be under way all week.

On Thursday, the event dovetails with the Utah Issues 35th annual Poverty Solutions Conference, which this year is focusing on children living in poverty.

The daylong conference includes a keynote speech by the Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, a series of panel discussions on childhood development, children's health and the reforms under way in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Most front-line child advocacy groups, several legislators and government officials will be represented on the panels.

"Child poverty is a reality in Utah, and sadly, a common one," Bauman said. "I always think that one day maybe one of the children saved or helped will be the one who ends up saving one of our lives, you just never know."


E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com