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KAC September Newsletter

Incoming KAC President John Wilson
John Wilson named president of Kansas Action for Children

Kansas Action for Children's Vice President of Advocacy John Wilson has been selected as the group's next president. He will take over in a planned transition from Annie McKay, who will depart KA C on Oct. 31 after seven years, three of them as president.
 
"I'm honored to step up as KAC marks 40 years of working on behalf of Kansas children and families," said Wilson, a longtime nonprofit leader and former three-term state representative. "Our t eam has been busy tackling the big problems facing our state, and we're eager to share solutions that will transform lives."
 
Wilson joined Kansas Action for Children in September 2017 and has worked alongside McKay since then.  He has focused on expanding affordable and accessible child care, restoring and strengthening work and family supports, and building a responsible and robust state budget and tax system.
 
"Children don't need just one thing to succeed," Wilson said. "They need nurturing places and spaces, high-quality early education, and access to routine health care.
 
"Unfortunately, too many Kansas kids - more than 100,000 - live in poverty. They face barriers that block them from success. Those barriers need to come down."
 
During his five years in the Kansas House of Representatives, Wilson focused his efforts on health policy and making the legislative process more collaborative. Over the previous decade, Wilson helped build the Alliance for a Healthier Generation into the leading national nonprofit focused on childhood obesity prevention.
 
Angela Knackstedt, chair of KAC's board of directors, said that Wilson's background and his successes at the organization make him the natural choice to lead.
 
"The board is excited to see John expand the vision of KAC's new strategic plan in the years to come," Knackstedt said. "Kansas needs a confident, passionate voice to educate, engage, and activate champions for children. We have been beyond fortunate to have Annie as that voice, and John will continue to take us to new heights."


In Kansas, 51,000 children lack critical supports in areas of concentrated poverty

More than 50,000 Kansas children live in areas of concentrated poverty, according to "Children Living in High Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods," a new KIDS COUNT® data snapshot released Sept. 24 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Using the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the snapshot examines changes in concentrated poverty across the country during a long period of national economic expansion.
 
The number of Kansas kids living in concentrated poverty has dropped 13 percent, from 56,000 (in 2008-12) to 51,000 (in 2013-17). But the numbers also show that our state's improvement lags 15 other states and the District of Columbia. Our neighbor Colorado, for example, has seen a 44 percent reduction (from 107,000 to 59,000). Arkansas has seen an 18 percent reduction (from 119,000 to 100,000).

"Kansas must do better for kids and families living in high-poverty, low-opportunity areas," said John Wilson, Kansas Action for Children's vice president of advocacy and incoming president. "State policies create barriers for those who struggle to get by. Smart changes would allow us to transform lives and reduce the percentage even further."
 
Growing up in a community of concentrated poverty - that is, a neighborhood where 30 percent or more of the population is living in poverty - is one of the greatest risks to child development. Alarmingly, more than 8.5 million children live in these settings nationwide. That's 12 percent of all children in the United States. Children in high-poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality, and toxins such as lead. Financial hardships and fear of violence can cause chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And when these children grow up, they are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty.
 
The concentrated poverty figure, with its focus on neighborhoods, does not include all Kansas kids in need of economic security. According to the  latest KIDS COUNT data, 104,000 Kansas children overall lived in poverty as of 2017.
 
The snapshot also suggests that harsh limits put in place by the Brownback administration are keeping Kansas kids and families from accessing needed work and family supports.
 
"As KAC team members traveled across the state this summer, we've heard the stories," Wilson said. "Communities understand the toll of poverty on children. If we truly want the next generation to thrive, they need access to high-quality health care, education, and places to live and grow. This next legislative session, we look forward to sharing information with lawmakers about changes we can make."
 
Travels across the Sunflower State



Throughout September, KAC's Director of Government Relations Adrienne Olejnik and Outreach Specialist Mitch Rucker  were touring the state, meeting with lawmakers and community leaders to inform KAC's work and policy priorities. Along the way, they dropped by the Garden of Eden in Lucas and Concordia, home of the Orphan Train Museum.
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