Lewiston's rate of children living in poverty among worst in Maine

AUGUSTA — A growing number of Maine children are living in poverty, and Lewiston continues to be among the most impoverished cities in Maine, according to statistics from the Maine Children's Alliance.

Report: Worst and best states for children

In the annual report Kids Count released Monday about the welfare of children, each state was scored; Maine received an overall score of 13.

Factors that contribute to the well-being of children, and the scores of states, include household income and the state's economy, whether children have health insurance, poverty rates, birth rates, high school graduation rates and the education levels of parents.

The top five scoring states are:

1. New Hampshire

2. Vermont

3. Massachusetts

4. Minnesota

5. New Jersey.

States scoring the worst:

45. South Carolina

46. Louisiana

47. Arizona

48. Nevada

49. Mississippi

50. New Mexico

The Kids Count report is done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/.

The numbers are not new but they illustrate the importance of public resources — state programs, schools, police and nonprofit programs, Maine Children's Alliance research director Claire Berkowitz said Monday.

Statewide, 19 percent of Maine children live in poverty, compared to the national rate of 23 percent, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2013 Kids Count Data Book released Monday. In that report, Maine ranked 13th out of 50 states for the overall score. Maine also ranked first in child health and sixth in the well-being of families and communities.

"Maine leads the nation in child health and we are proud of that ranking," said Ned McCann, executive director of Maine Children's Alliance, which produces the state-level Kids Count reports. Good public policy coupled with hard work at the community level has provided Maine children with health insurance and access to care, McCann said.

But Maine ranks 20th in education and economic well-being, with nearly one in five children living in poverty.

Maine is better off than the nation, but every year the poverty rate goes up, Berkowitz said. In 2005, the rate was 17 percent. The report defines poverty as a family of two adults and two children with an annual income below $22,811.

Lewiston's poverty rate is 30.8 percent for children under age 18, while Auburn's is 18.2 percent and Androscoggin County is 24.3, according to the report and Berkowitz.

“Poverty puts kids at risk for a lot of things: poor academic achievement, health issues, mental health, crime. It's not a good condition to grow up in,” Berkowitz said.

Poverty numbers get worse for Lewiston's youngest children and those living in poor downtown neighborhoods.

The poverty rate for ages birth to five in Lewiston is 43.3 percent, compared to 21.4 percent statewide, Berkowitz said.

Another statistic looks at children living in “concentrated poverty,” or neighborhoods where 30 percent or more of residents are poor.

Auburn has no concentrated poverty pockets, Berkowitz said. Statewide, 9,000 children live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, and Lewiston has a third — or 2,943 children — living in downtown, concentrated poverty neighborhoods, Berkowitz said. Portland also has high concentrations of poor neighborhoods.

High concentration of poverty can be “toxic” to children because it can be more difficult for children surrounded by poverty to escape it. They're more likely to be exposed to crime, violence, have physical and mental health problems, not have quality child care or be able to play outdoors if parents feel it's unsafe.

Community resources that intervene is part of the solution, Berkowitz said.

They include, “investing in early childhood education, stimulating preschool public programs, and making sure there is quality child care available to families,” he said.

Lewiston has a downtown Androscoggin Head Start program which offers a “holistic” program for children and parents. Lewiston public schools offer free preschool programs for 4-year-old children.

A nonprofit Tree Street Youth Center on Birch Street offers a drop-in spot for children to get help with school work and participate in sports, dance and the arts.

The Lewiston Police Department has four officers assigned to community work at the 292 Bates St. substation.

The substation is “wide open,” Sgt. Rob Ullrich said. “Kids come in all the time to talk to us.”

Community officers have a connection with Head Start. Officers patrol on bicycles instead of cruisers. “It's approachability,” Ullrich said.

Resource officers attend biweekly coffee meetings with parents and children at the Hillview Housing project. They take children on summer outings, to Reid State Park or the Gray Animal Farm. Some youth would otherwise never leave the city, he said. In the last two years, Lewiston police has participated in a “Badges for Baseball” program where youth from subsidized housing learn to play baseball in Orono.

Overall, community officers act as counselors, mentors and positive role models. “Some of these kids don't have fathers,” Ullrich said.

That's the kind of work that needs to happen, Berkowitz said. Meanwhile on the state level, Advocates for Children is pushing "to reinstate budget cuts with Head Start home visiting and child care vouchers for families so more kids can be served."


What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.




A little history

I keep hearing people complaining about the poor people in Lewiston being government dependent and how awful that is and how we didn't have that in the past. People just lived with poverty or crawled out of it on their own. That is pure fiction. I have lived here long enough to remember AMHI that large mental hospital in Augusta and later in Bangor. I also remember Pineland that large crowded home for the "feeble minded". I also remember huge orphanages that took in children whose parents were too poor to feed here in Lewiston. The patients in those institutions were thrown out onto the streets in the 1950's just about the time the mills closed and we had a lot of available housing. The state was basically throwing the cost of caring for these people onto the local communities, sort of like what is happening today. So many of them ended up filling up the prisons that the Dept. of Human Services began to create programs that were cheaper than incarceration or institutionalization. No surprise that these folks had children who did not always have good survival skills and you ended up with multi-generational dependence. No surprise either that these folks do not always make smart decisions. It should also come as no surprise that throwing these people out onto the communities did not cure mental illness, addiction or mental retardation. So now Republicans are looking for somebody safe to demonize, immigrants, women, black people, Catholics and Muslims having cost them in the last election, so they have found their scapegoats in these folks.

Jeff Kelley's picture

No big surprise there at one

No big surprise there at one time Lewiston was the place everyone came to find work now it is the place to go if you want welfare, and these morons in Augusta can not fix things, you have a Gov. who is about as dumb as stump the only thing he can come up with is a bad punchline, for get jobs lowering taxes and getting not only lewiston but maine back on it's feet and working, It is a shame to see how far we have fallen.

 's picture

"Community resources that

"Community resources that intervene is part of the solution, Berkowitz said."
Yet nowhere did it say that despite the hopes and wishes of the extereme liberal leftists that the best indicator of a child growing up NOT in poverty is having parents that are married to each other (mom and dad, male and female), working, not abusing drugs and booze, and attending Church services. Another indicator is the presence of books in the house and I am not talking about trashy paperbacks. No amount of state or federal aid will help people that have no desire to help themselves. Giving people welfare generation after generation saps the will to do for yourself and just creates a dependency class that is little better than slaves on the government plantation. They are just sheep waiting for the end of their squalid existence with the bureaucratic overseers passing out the feed. It's sickening what the democrats have done.


My kids were raised without a

My kids were raised without a dad because dad was a drunk. I kicked dad out to make a better life for my kids. They had books, quality family time, discipline and yes they had assistance from a number of programs. The result...my daughter is going to be graduating from college in May, my son is going into the 8th grade. They did not need their parents to be married, we did not go to church. Your attitude is part of what is wrong. You label people and add to the problem instead of applauding women for getting rid of the deadbeats or applauding men who got rid of the woman who did not take care of the children. Many of the people you have labeled are not bad people or bad parents. Most of them do what they have to do to make their lives better. You believe the fraud stories but the one thing you do not get to see is the stories about the people who have moved up and off the welfare rolls. Democrats did not cause this problem...society caused it.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Kudos to you Tina

I applaud you. Good job.

Unfortunately, you are the exceptional person in such a situation. Most do not have your will or fortitude, you got you and your kids out of a bad situation. From there, you availed yourself of aid and made a better life for yourself and your children. At that point, many don't have any incentive to make their own lives, because it is just so easy to accept "entitlements" and not use them to better yourself.

You have done well for yourself and your children.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Benjamin Franklin said, "The

Benjamin Franklin said, "The way to lift a man out of poverty is to make him uncomfortable in that poverty". Our liberal handling of the welfare coffers. So much has been spent on tending to the wants of the poor, their needs are being neglected. The kids may be going to school hungry, but the "mom" and "dad" are at home watching their flat screen TV's while texting on their free government provided cell phones.
What the democrats have done with doling out the welfare benefits to the poor, is exactly why we are asked not to feed the animals at the zoo; they become dependent on it.

Before spewing your ignorance

Before spewing your ignorance you should really check your facts. Those so-called government phones you reference are paid for by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission). Phone companies are required to set aside a certain amount of their service fees to fund the program. People qualify for them based upon their income. Yes there are plenty of people who abuse the system and that is a shame. But why is there a need to label every person who utilizes government programs as just lazy and neglectful? I am an example of a person who has used government programs. However, I work and my children are well taken care of. I used these programs to supplement my income while putting myself through college and working. I am now a college graduate with a good job and am very thankful for the help I was given when I was younger and struggling as a single mother. Not everyone who uses the system abuses it nor do they enjoy having to depend upon government assistance but sometimes it is needed. Comparing people like myself to animals at the zoo is extremely ignorant. I am going to leave you with another quote from Benjamin Franklin:
"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." You must work very hard...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You were doing fine until you

You were doing fine until you lowered yourself to name calling.

I do not see where I called

I do not see where I called anyone names, I simply stated your comments are ignorant...

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And I didn't label everyone

And I didn't label everyone who utilizes government programs lazy and neglectful, either.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And I didn't call everyone

And I didn't call everyone who utilizes government programs lazy and neglectful, either.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture


Your message cannot be delivered to the intended recipient. Please try again later.

Robert McQueeney's picture

There are missing details in this report

" The report defines poverty as a family of two adults and two children with an annual income below $22,811."

Typically, anyone in this situation (I'll go out on a limb here) is very probably also receiving aid in multiple forms. SNAP, Section 8, HEAP, Eligible at food pantries, tax breaks and earned income credit. Add all that their income and they are doing surprisingly well compared to a taxpaying wage earner who is not eligible for any of this. Bear in mind a tax paying wage earner has to avail himself of food clothing and shelter after paying taxes.

I understand that Lewiston has a high concentration of poor in tight areas. But just how poor are these folks, really? Please show a typical cross section of how poor they are and just how much "entitlement" they receive to provide a realistic view on things here. I've seen poor families and also have seen how much aid and entitlement they get, and in some of these cases I gotta say I wish I had that kind of total income ( income and tax free aid) coming in.

It's not necessarily that they are not getting enough aid and income, it is their choices as to what to do with it. And then they keep asking for more, and then there are those who advocate giving even more to them.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Lewiston's rate of children living in poverty among worst . . .

Aminers, 19:15 hst ? Monday
" We have the highest level of low life in the world. " Sen . Ed Kennedy [ R I P ]
In contrast , our governor here in Hawai'i passed what he described as being the ' most important piece of legislation i have signed this year, ' that being increased funding for Head Start and early childhood education hth ? /s Steve
btw - Pay your taxes . The street lights are out in Loystone [ sic. ] right now on Sabbatus Ave . .or thereabouts ...

Sandra Coulombe's picture

We can invest all the money

We can invest all the money in the world and until people control their own breeding practices the poverty rate will not change. We have spent billions on the fight against poverty and it hasn't made poverty rates go down. It can be difficult to get out of poverty without a child involved. Once you have a child it is twice as hard and each additional child decreases the chances you will ever get out of poverty. We need to stop subsidizing people making immature selfish breeding choices and start making them understand children are a responsibility not a ticket to someone else supporting you. Making birth control shots, not pills that can be conveniently forgotten, a requirement to gain any form of subsidy would be a step in the right direction. What's that your religion says its a sin to use birth control, fine your religion can support you not my tax dollars!

Abdi Hassan's picture

Which religion?

""What's that your religion says its a sin to use birth control, fine your religion can support you not my tax dollars!""

Just curious which religion you are targeting here?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Excellently stated, Ms.

Excellently stated, Ms. Coulombe. How'd you like to run for Mayor?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Sandra ? " We have spent

Sandra ? " We have spent billions on the fight against poverty and it hasn't made poverty rates go down."
Yes it has . Just not in Loystone ;)
\/olunteer t o d a y . Goodwill ® , Salvation Army ® , fire depts. , your church , schools , Togus VA hospital and perhaps even
http://www.korashriners.org/ . hth ? /s a school volunteer and his ƒamily

Roger  Cyr's picture


hey to you the guy thats taking up space in Augusta why dont you do ( i know this word is not in your vocabulary) something besides being a bully that likes his booze ...about this.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Roget that ?  All those fat

Roget that ?  All those fat cats • State lawmakers must override veto to avoid shutdown of ME G
By Steve Dosh, verified user — Mon, 06/24/2013 - 23:33
Mainers, 13.06.24 Monday 17:35
Sequester you governor and all the other ƒoolish republicans . .put them in prison . and wait it out ? /s Steve :D


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...