The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 24, 2013

Meeting to discuss child poverty

OAK HILL — The time has come for West Virginians to face the crisis of child poverty in their communities, according to a statewide coalition that advocates for youth. They hope a community planning meeting in Oak Hill next week will build momentum for change.

Organizers are asking families, service organizations and leaders from the faith, labor, education and business communities to come out and offer their input on the effects of child poverty in the region and plan for the future.

The statewide “Our Children, Our Future” campaign to end child poverty, sponsored by the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and 126 partner organizations, has so far held almost 50 community meetings across the state to hear what citizens have to say.

“We think child poverty weaves through many of the problems in our state. To really build a better future for the state, you have to address this huge problem that’s affecting a third of our kids,” said Stephanie Tyree of the West Virginia Community Development Hub, a campaign partner that’s hosting the Oak Hill meeting.

The latest numbers show that 30 percent of children 5 and under grow up in poverty in West Virginia and half of the kids in school qualify for free or reduced lunch, said Tyree.

“It used to be that with most jobs, if you worked hard, you’d make enough to support your family, and that’s not true anymore for an increasingly large segment of our population,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.

"One of the things that became clear in these community meetings is that poverty is not something that happens to everybody else. (...) It’s not something that’s happening to those people who aren’t working hard enough, it’s hitting huge numbers of people.”


For 14 years, the West Virginia Health Kids and Families Coalition has focused on advocating for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which ensures health care for children in poverty.

But when their board got together a year ago to do some reflection, they realized that even though poor kids now have health insurance, they are worse off in other ways than when the program began. More parents are incarcerated, addicted and under-employed. The child poverty rate is bad and getting worse.

They also agreed that the political will to make change simply wasn’t there. So they decided to put their shoulder to the wheel and start building that political momentum themselves.

“Imagine for a moment if the most vulnerable kids in the state had the political clout that the coal industry does. We’d live in a different state with different politics and different support systems for kids and families. But that takes time to build and that take grassroots community organizing,” said Smith.

They began with communities and decided to work their way up the ladder to lawmakers.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned from this it’s that the people closest to the issue — the families who are struggling, the religious leaders who are helping their parishioners, the kids — they are the ones who are most creative and are already doing the most innovative and important work,” Smith added.

Step one was to set up community meetings across the state to come up with a political platform from which to build.

Voted on by participants, the platform will soon be released. The No. 1 one issue that came up is proposed cuts to child care that would cut off support from 1,400 families statewide.

Smith said a lot of the other issues came down to supporting and rewarding working families, rather than punishing them.

Step two involves discussing those issues with the public, asking how they are affecting people and whether any additional local issues need to be included. That’s what next week’s meeting in Oak Hill is all about. It’s a chance to offer further input before the platform is taken to decision makers.

The coalition will hold a forum in the spring, asking legislators to support issues that affect the state’s children.

Smith said no one involved in the campaign is fooling themselves into thinking that the issue has an easy fix.

“We’re asking people to sign an and address the crisis over years and decades to come, because it’s going to take that long,” he said.

Though it may feel like an overwhelming problem to tackle, Smith said the alternative is worse.

“The reason we are in the mess that we’re in is because not enough of us are stepping forward,” he said. “What we have now is what happens when people remove themselves from the political process and feel like it’s too much. (...) We can all do better, but we’ve got to actually do it.”


The Fayette County community planning meeting for The Campaign to End Child Poverty will be held Jan. 30 at noon at the Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) Historic Oak Hill School at 140 School St., Oak Hill.

“We’re all aware of the problem, and I think most people have comments and solutions to it that they’d like to see worked on,” said Tyree. “I’d really like this meeting to be a space where it’s a diverse mix of people who are all interested in this idea and working on it together.”

Lunch will be provided and anyone from the community is welcome. Organizers are requesting that interested participants RSVP as soon as possible so enough food can be provided. Contact Tyree at or call 304-465-5447.

Those who can’t make it to the meeting can still be involved in the campaign. A forum on child poverty will be held in the spring.

For more information or to get involved, contact the West Virginia Community Development Hub at 304-465-5447; or the Healthy Kids Healthy Families Coalition at or 304-610-6512.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Local News
  • Concord names Dr. Boggess as new president

    The Concord University Board of Governors has selected Dr. Kendra Boggess as the University’s 12th president, contingent upon approval by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

    April 23, 2014

  • fff Experts help growing entrepreneurs

    For farmers like the Yateses, there’s money on the table. They got to learn what and where some of those resources are at the Farm, Food, Finance seminar held at the Sandstone Visitor Center on Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Trucking association asks drivers to put down phones and drive safely

    As part of National Distracted Driving Month, the West Virginia Trucking Association is asking fellow drivers to put down the phone, according to a press release from the association.

    April 23, 2014

  • Rahall calls meeting on W.Va.’s drug problem

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall says he has arranged a roundtable discussion with federal and West Virginia officials on the state’s prescription drug abuse and trafficking problems.

    April 23, 2014

  • 042314 News APP Power.jpg Utility gets public input for project

    Construction on a $56 million transmission improvement project will begin in Fayette County come November, and representatives of Appalachian Power Company hosted a public workshop Tuesday at Midland Trail High School in order to gather community feedback before construction officially gets underway.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042314 News Burlington Circus Tix.jpg Burlington kids going to circus

    After a donation from a radio station, a group of local kids soon will get to see the wonders of the big top.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lewisburg takes initial step toward ‘Home Rule’

    While the state Department of Commerce touts the success of phase I of the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, a Greenbrier County city hopes to be included in phase II, which will continue until July 1, 2019.

    April 23, 2014

  • United Way to host ‘One Day Without Shoes’ walk

    Everyone is invited to take off their shoes for a walk around town April 29 to raise global awareness about child poverty.

    April 23, 2014

  • Women’s Resource Center to show free film for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

    In effort to bring awareness and prevention, the Women’s Resource Center will host a free showing of the 2012 movie “Bully.”

    April 23, 2014

  • Ask the WVU experts on Facebook

    From graduation to gardening, West Virginia University Extension Service experts will provide their advice to participants’ specific questions during a new, weekly, one-hour question and answer session through its Facebook page.

    April 23, 2014