ORT WORTH -- More than a quarter of children in Fort Worth are now growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to a newly released report.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Policy Priorities, the percentage of kids growing up in poor Fort Worth neighborhoods has jumped nine percent in the last five years, increasing at a faster rate than other Texas cities as the area's population rapidly grows.
The problem disproportionately affects black and Hispanic children. Thirty-three percent of children in those groups in Tarrant County live in poverty, compared to 18 percent for whites, with lasting consequences.
"The stratification that exists is palpable," said Paul Gravley, executive director at The Parenting Center in Fort Worth, which works to support families. "The data is there. Now the question is what are we going to do with that data?"
"Poverty as a child affects a child throughout the rest of their life," he continued. "Even if they're able to move beyond the social class that they happen to be in, it follows them for the rest of their life and changes them, and often, the research shows, in negative ways."
Zevaeh, 3, and her two brothers live with their aunt Karen Holland in one high poverty neighborhood south of downtown. Zevaeh is a happy, smart little girl who loves playing with her toys and playing in the park, but her aunt worries.
"It's just hard for a kid, and I think we need more in this neighborhood for kids to do," Holland said.
She stepped in to raise the children, trying to support her family of five on a small fixed income. She wants the best for the children, but she also says their home is surrounded by drugs and violence, and she sees the challenges families face every day.
"I wish people could step up and see for themselves how it is over here," she said. "I don't think people understand financially how hard it is in this neighborhood."